You being one of the leading experts on the Old West, I was hoping you could answer a question for me about Tombstone. This I find interesting but I don’t know that I believe the story, and there is no documentation the newspapers of the day. I think it nothing more than a myth. I’m sure you have heard the story of Gold Dollar and Margarita. As the story goes Billy Milgreen was playing poker in the Bird Cage Theater Saloon. Margarita the soiled dove was in his lap, when in walks Gold Dollar, who stabbed her to death with a stiletto and escaped just as the sheriff arrived. Hmmm … sounds fishy. The story goes on that Gold Dollar fled, throwing the knife somewhere. She was later arrested and brought before a judge, who stated that there was no weapon so she could not be charged. Really? Lizzie Borden was charged. Supposedly Gold Dollar and Billy Milgreen left town, never to be heard from again. Then supposedly, in 1982, when they excavated an old privy behind the Birdcage the stiletto used by Gold Dollar was found.

I called the Bird Cage. The current owners said the stiletto is on display there. But I also talked to someone who had recently been there and they say it’s not on display. I really doubt the veracity of the Gold Dollar – Margarita story, as there is nothing in any of the newspapers (Tombstone Epitaph or otherwise). Also, in the census records there is no Billy Milgreen, and nowhere but on the Internet can you find anything of this story. It is my opinion that when they cleaned up boot hill and repainted the headstones a bunch of stories were made up, including “Lester Moore 4 slugs from a 44, no less, no more.” I know Lester was a real person, but I think the epitaph was made up after the fact.

Of course all of this is just my opinion. I would like your expertise on the matter.

Thank you,

John Hewitt

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Dear Mr. Hewitt,

Thankee kindly for the flattering endorsement, but if I was truly a leading expert on the Old West, I would be editing Wild West … which is what Greg Lalire does, because he happens to be one, too. That said, I have to admit that the sordid saga of Billy Milgreen, Gold Dollar and Margarita is hard to confirm, considering we don’t know the last names of the ladies involved and cannot be absolutely sure that Billy Milgreen wasn’t an alias (like William Henry McCarty Jr. or William Bonney or Kid Antrim, or … you know). The discovery of a stiletto around the Bird Cage in 1982 provides an intriguing, if terribly belated, shred of evidence, provided it is really the murder weapon in question, considering that there was a century for someone to drop it where it was found. While the scenario is plausible (my retired Merchant Marine brother can confirm that prostitutes in South American ports can still be passionately possessive of their regulars to a sometimes deadly degree), whether or not the Gold Dollar-Margarita murder really took place is very much a case of Tombstone’s word against anyone and everyone who might dare dispute it. But if you go there lookin’ to do so, you better be ready to back up your play, ‘cause out there disputin’ historical honesty is fightin’ words.



Jon Guttman
Research Director
World History Group
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