I recently bought Bob Boze Bell’s The Illustrated Life & Times of Doc Holliday and read about Lottie Deno. What do we know about her?

John Crawley

Salem, Oregon

Lottie was born Charlotte Thompkins in Warsaw, Kentucky, in 1844. She was a beautiful, buxom young woman with dark eyes and flaming red hair. After her family lost its fortune during the Civil War, she met up with a gambler. They worked on the riverboats on the Ohio and Mississippi. When they split in 1863, she headed for San Antonio, Texas, where she became house gambler at a local club. There she met and fell in love with Frank Thurmond. They were an on-and off-again item for years.

She eventually landed in Fort Griffin, where she began calling herself Lottie Deno. During those years she operated bordellos, but her real love was gambling. Among the men who sat at her table was Doc Holliday.

In 1877, she rejoined Thurmond, and they operated gaming rooms and restaurants in Kingston and Silver City, New Mexico. They were married in Silver City on December 2, 1880. From 1882 until her death in 1934, the Thurmonds made their home in Deming. They lived well, as Frank got into mining and land sales, eventually becoming a bank president, while she got religion and became a founding member of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church of Deming. She died on February 9, 1934; her body is buried next to Frank’s in Deming.

Lottie was the prototype for Miss Kitty in TV’s Gunsmoke and Laura Denbow in John Sturgis’s 1957 film Gunfight at OK Corral. Texas author Jan Devereaux is currently writing a book on Lottie.

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