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Big Nose Kate's Saloon Sign
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Big Nose Kate’s Saloon is today one of the loudest and most active places in Tombstone Arizona. It is also not the original building and Big Nose Kate never owned a Saloon in Tombstone. The Saloon sits on what was once the site of The Grand Hotel. The Grand opened in September 1880 but then burned down during a catastrophic fire on May 25th, 1882. During its run though it was billed as one of the most luxuriant hotels in the nation, with thick carpet and hand carved furniture. The Lobby featured three huge chandeliers, and the hotel’s saloon, which was in the basement featured a long bar which survived the fire and is now used in Big Kate’s.

Another thing that survived was the Hotels Handyman, who was known only as “The Swamper.” Swamper was a friendly chap, who was given a small room in the basement to live in. Swamper kept to himself when alone, and would not allow anyone else access to his room. No one even though to ask or wonder what he did in there at night. Swamper’s room was very close to the mine, and he knew it, what he was doing there late at night was digging a shaft of his own, in search of his own treasure.

Big Nose Kate's Saloon

They say that he found that treasure, but didn’t know how to sneak it out of this hidey-hole past both the downstairs bar and the upstairs hotel. When he passed away, they found his tunnel, but they did not find where Swamper hid his treasure. That is why they say that Swamper has hung around, to protect his treasure. It is said that young men are particularly unwelcome down around Swamper’s tunnel. He will push and poke them until they leave his place alone.

He seems to enjoy making messes for who work at Kate’s, delighting in causing others to do the work that he once had to do. Broken glasses are commonplace in any bar, but at Kate’s they seem to be broken by unseen hands as well as when they are mishandled by staff or customers. Visit Kate’s, it’s a fun place to drink and socialize, just be careful what you say about treasure if you go into the basement, Swamper’s watching!


Updated August 2nd, 2009