Big Nose Kate's time at the Cochise Hotel

John and Lula Rath hired a woman named Mary Cummings, to be the housekeeper at the hotel around the turn of the century.  In her earlier life Mary Cummings was known as Big Nose Kate, the concubine of the famous gunfighter gambler Doc Holliday.  

In 1876 Mary Katherine Horoney met Doctor John Holliday in Fort Griffin Texas and for the next few glorious years Big Nose Kate and Doc traveled through Trinidad Colorado, Las Vegas New Mexico,

Dodge City Kansas and Tombstone Arizona.  Kate was in Tombstone when the shootout at the O.K. Corral transpired and had dealings with Johnny Ringo and the Cowboy's who opposed the Earps and Doc. The story told in numerous movies and television shows.  

After Doc's death, Kate married George Cummings in Aspen Colorado in 1890.  They moved to Bisbee where Mr. Cummings became an abusive alcoholic and they separated.  In 1899 Mary Cummings went to work at the Cochise Royal Hotel.  During her tenor at the Hotel the tumultuous times at the hotel reigned.  Mary Katheryn Cummings was listed on the 1900 census as a resident of Cochise.

George and Mary Cummings

It is unknown if Lula Rath knew of the illustrious life her housekeeper Mary Cummings lived when she was known as Big Nose Kate.  Lula's father was a member of the Cowboy gang and was bitter enemies with Doc Holliday.  Lula was born, Lula Belle Olney in 1875.  Her father Joseph Olney crossed with the law in Texas and he moved his family to Arizona, changing his name to Joe Hill. The 1882 census lists those present at Joe's home to be John Ringold (aka Johnny Ringo), Ike and Phin Clanton and the seven year old Lula Belle.  Rumor has it Kate was fired by Lula,  for an unknown reason.

Mary Kate Cummings as she looked when she worked the Hotel.  Doc 20 years earlier.

Joe Hill

Just before midnight September 9th, 1899, the Southern Pacific #10 westbound train pulled into the Cochise Station.  The steam engine had just slowed to a stop when a gang of masked men came out of the darkness and held up the train.  The passengers were advised to give up their valuables and no one would be molested.  The Wells Fargo express car was uncoupled from the passenger cars and pulled down the track about a half mile, to the bandit's predetermined point.

A request was made to Charles Adair, the Wells Fargo agent, to open the express car door, but he refused.  The bandits set up a charge of black powder under the Wells Fargo car and the doors were exploded open.  The train robbers jumped aboard the damaged Express car and quickly filled their packs with paper money and gold.  The horses were held nearby and with a parting shot, the thieves made their escape.  The entire event lasted only about a half an hour.

The train backed up, reconnected and continued on to Tucson.  At the Cochise Hotel the townspeople gathered a posse and followed a cold trail that led toward Willcox.  At the same time in Willcox, the Constable, Burt Alvord and his deputies, were engaged in an all night private poker game.  The plan was perfect.  By the time the Cochise posse arrived in Willcox, the gang of Constables had slipped out the window of their poker room, orchestrated the robbery and were back in their seats.  Constable Alvord organized an official posse and headed out to chase the robbers, or actually, themselves.

In February of 1901 another robbery was staged at the Faribank Station, north of Tombstone.  Only this time the Express Car messenger Jeff Milton made a fight of it.  Although he was killed he thwarted the bandit's attempts and wounded one of the thieves, Three fingered Jack Dunlap.  The rest of the robbers left Dunlap to die, but before he did, he gave up his partners and confessed the robbery was planned by Burt Alvord, the same man who pulled off the Cochise train robbery in the year earlier.  He also implicated deputies Billy Styles, Matt Burts and William Downing.  Styles was captured and confessed.  Downing and Alvord were brought to Cochise and held in the hotel until a train could transport them to Tombstone where they would be incarcerated.  There was an escape and a man hunt and they were all eventually imprisoned in the Yuma prison.  Alvord served his sentence and moved to Central America where he died in 1910.

Wyatt Earp                  Warren Earp                  Virgil Earp

The Cochise Station was not only a shipping hub for ore, it was also the popular spot to ship cattle, plenty full due to the lush grasslands of the Sulphur Springs Valley.  Many cowboys stayed at the Cochise Hotel including Warren Earp, the youngest of the famous Earp brothers.  Warren worked for the Hooker Ranch as a cattle detective rooting out the rustlers and cattle thieves.  Warren and his Hooker cowboy pals celebrated the July 4th celebrations in Willcox and went on a drunken binge.  In the early morning hours of July 6th, 1900, Warren Earp was in the barroom of the Headquarters Saloon when began an argument with his close friend Johnny "Shorty" Boyett.  Some men playing cards overheard Warren say to Johnny that he had learned Boyett had been paid $150 to kill him.  Johnny answered that he wasn't looking for trouble to which Warren taunted, "Go get your gun!".  Boyett yelled "I'm not afraid" and stormed out of the saloon.  Earp, meanwhile, ducked out the back.  Minutes later Boyett burst through the front door of the Headquarter Saloon, gripping a Colt in each hand and shouted "Where is that son of a bitch Earp".  Warren would have been wise to stay away but he walked back in the back door.  Shorty Boyett fired a warning shot as Warren advanced toward him.  Three more shots were fired at Warren's feet, as he continued to advance.  Just as Warren reached out to disarm Boyett, a final shot was fired that found Warren's heart, killing him instantly.

In an interview with Big Nose Kate sometime later, she stated: "Warren Earp's death in Willcox was the result of an altercation between two individuals involved in an unnatural male relationship."                   Wild West Magazine   February 2014 by Phyllis de la Garza

Railroad Ave. Willcox Arizona

It is rumored that by August of 1900, Wyatt Earp traveled from Alaska and met up with his brother Virgil Earp at the Cochise Hotel, to investigate the murder of their brother Warren.  Wyatt was still wanted for warrants issued 20 years earlier, for the killings involved in his vendetta ride.  Therefore he was careful to remain anonymous while in Arizona.  With Big Nose Kate working at the Cochise Hotel it gave the Earps cover to come and go as they please into Willcox.  After their investigation they discovered their brother to be a bully of a man and deserved what he got.  They left without a trace.

Willcox Arizona

After working at the Cochise Hotel, Big Nose Kate met a man named John J. Howard.  She became his housekeeper and moved to Dos Cabezas,  just across the playa from Cochise.  She is registered there in the 1910 census.  When Mr. Howard died in 1930, Kate was the executrix of his estate.  She went to Tempe Arizona and met with his daughter to settle the inheritance.  In 1931 the 80 year old Kate contacted her friend, Arizona Governor George Hunt, and applied for admittance to the Arizona Pioneer Home in Prescott.  The home had been established in 1910 by the State for destitute and ailing miners and male pioneers of the Territory.  It took Kate six months to be admitted, since the home had a requirement that residents must be American citizens.  She was admitted as one of the first female residents of the home.  She lived there and became an outspoken advocate for other residents.  She died on November 2nd, 1940, seven days before her 91st birthday.  Kate was buried on November 6th at the Arizona Pioneer Home Cemetery in Prescott, under the name Mary K. Cummings.