Old West legend John Henry “Doc” Holliday, a Georgia-born dentist turned gunfighter, has been portrayed in movies and on television by Kirk Douglas, Douglas Fowley, Stacy Keach, Val Kilmer, Victor Mature, Dennis Quaid, Cesar Romero, Jason Robards, Kent Taylor and a full house of additional actors.
Some may have come close to capturing the character of the man Wyatt Earp called his friend, while other portrayals ended up, at best, as near misses.
Then, there’s Marc Ferguson, who will recreate Holliday on Memorial Day weekend in Garden City. He is a charter member of the reenactment Guild of America, an organization dedicated to true and accurate historical portrayals of the 19th Century, and he’s promising an honest living history program about the gambler and gunfighter known best for his role with the Earp brothers during the infamous gunfight at the OK Corral in the Arizona town of Tombstone during the same year Garden City was founded.
The occasion is the Finney County Historical Museum’s Fifth Annual “Evening in the Past,” an old-time fried chicken dinner picnic and history reenactment program. The event is set for 6 p.m. May 25 on the museum’s south patio.
Admission is $18 per person, with proceeds benefitting programs and exhibits at the museum. Seating is by reservation only, and reservations are open until noon May 22 or when all 88 seats are sold, whichever comes first.
Reservations and payment may be made 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays at the FCHS offices, accessible through the north door of the museum at 403 S. Fourth in Garden City’s Finnup Park; or 1 to 5 p.m. daily at the museum’s front desk, accessible from the exhibit entrance near the pedestrian arches at Lee Richardson Zoo.
Information is available at (620) 272-3664, and payment by cash or check to the Finney County Historical Society is acceptable. The program will move indoors at the museum in case of threatening weather.
Our guest performer is an award-winning reenactor who lives in Montezuma and manages the Dalton Gang Hideout in Meade. The Evening in the Past program is supported by the Finney County Convention and Visitor’s Bureau and sponsored by the Southern Council of the AT&T Pioneers, the Vernon and Wilma Solze family and Edward Jones Financial Advisor Lora Schneider. In past years, the gathering has sold out in advance and reservations for the 2019 event are filling up quickly.
You can expect our Doc Holliday, based on research, to appear as an educated Southern gentleman in his pre-Tombstone days, nursing resentment over the Civil War, the death of his late mother and the effects of reconstruction.
Characters in previous years have included Santa Fe, Kansas, settler Raymond Boggs, played by Howard Koehn, Copeland; C.J. “Buffalo” Jones, portrayed by Lary Cole, Holcomb; and a frontier brothel madam, interpreted by Marla Matkin, Hill City. In addition, Garden City musician Al Miller presented a musical history of southwest Kansas one year.
This year’s veteran reenactor also has held memberships in the American Federation of Old West Reenactors and the American Frontier Reenactment Guild, as well as the Kansas Alliance of Professional Historical Performers. While his presentation in Garden City will focus on Holliday, he also portrays buffalo hunter and Army scout Billy Dixon and U.S. Deputy Marshal Bill Tilghman. He has earned various regional and national awards for his interpretations of the three Old West figures, as well as directing and performing in a series of Dalton Days Wild West Fest melodramas, plus two plays as part of the Fort Larned Post Players.
He maintains a wardrobe of period-correct clothing for the late 19th Century, as well as reproduction firearms ranging from an 1874 Sharps rifle to a pair of 1873 Colt revolvers. He has managed the Dalton Gang site since 2005 and worked previously at Dodge City’s Boot Hill Museum as head saloon keeper, historian, part-time curator and reenactment gunfighter.
We hope you’ll be among those making reservations for the Evening in the Past, so you can step back in time with us to the 1870s, share in a fried chicken dinner and meet not the fictional character of TV and movie fame, but the real Doc Holliday of the American West.
Steve Quakenbush is the executive director of the Finney County Historical Society. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.