Legendary Lawman Wild Bill Hickok

So much has been written about Wild Bill that the facts sometimes blend with the fiction.


Others claim that Hickok won notoriety when he and David (or Davis) Tutt had it out in the middle of the public square in Springfield on July 21st, 1865. Apparently they had a disagreement over a card game and concluded that guns were the only way to settle their differences. At 50 yards, both men drew their pistols, Dave was quicker but missed his mark. Bill struck Tutt in the heart and was charge but later acquitted after pleading self defense. This was the first recorded instance of two men dueling in quick-draw fashion (that I've ever found), rather than walking paces with guns already drawn.

By 1866 Bill was making a living as a gambler and had come to the attention of a writer, George Ward Nichols. The subsequent article appeared in the February, 1867 edition of Harper's New Monthly Magazine. Many newspapers of the time claimed gross inaccuracies in the article. Notably when asked how many men he had killed Bill replied, "I suppose I have killed considerably over a hundred." 1867 saw Bill become sheriff of Hays City, Kansas. The city had a reputation as lawless and wild and of course Bill set out to clean it up. He shot Bill Mulvey in a gunfight in August 1869 and the following month killed Samuel Strawhun. The townsfolk began to fear Hickok and replaced him with Deputy Peter Lanihan.

1871 saw Bill as the Marshal of Abilene, Kansas. By this time Hickok spent most of his time playing poker and shooting stray dogs (he received 50 cents per). Following an incident in October when he shot and killed two men, Officer Mike Williams and Phil Coe, the city council voted to remove him from office. Many claimed Bill was too fast to the gun, but remember Hickok claimed, "No, by heaven I never killed one man without good cause." He did regret the shooting of Deputy Williams, as Williams was running toward him apparently to assist.

There is so much written about Wild Bill Hickok that I cannot do justice in this space. The notable instances in his life are too numerous to mention here (some of which are probably true). One thing we have as definitive fact is the manner in which he died. Hickok was shot on August 2nd, 1876 in the back of the head while playing poker. It seems that Bill had not heeded his own rule of never sitting with your back to the door. It would be his fatal mistake. The hand he was playing showed a pair of Aces and Eights. The final card remains a mystery.

According to the Black Hills Pioneer (Deadwood Dakota's only newspaper) on August 5th, 1876:

"On Wednesday about 3 o'clock the report stated that J.B. Hickok (Wild Bill) was killed. On repairing to the hall of Nuttall and Mann, it was ascertained that the report was too true. We found the remains of Wild Bill lying on the floor. The murderer, Jack Mc Call, was captured after a lively chase by many of the citizens, and taken to a building at the lower end of the city, and a guard placed over him. As soon as this was accomplished, a coroner's jury was summoned, with C.H. Sheldon as foreman, who after hearing all the evidence, which was the effect that, while Wild Bill and others were at a table playing cards, Jack Mc Call walked in and around directly back of his victim, and when within three feet of him raised his revolver, and exclaiming, "damn you, take that," fired; the ball entering at the back of the head, and coming out at the centre of the right check causing instant death, reached a verdict in accordance with the above facts."


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