Wild Bill Hickok was a legend in his own right.
He was born James Butler Hickok on May 27, 1837 in Troy, Illinois to William Alonzo Hickok and Polly Butler Hickok. He had four brothers and two sisters. His parents were God-fearing Baptists, who were also Abolitionists who aided runaway slaves as part of the Underground Railroad. These early tenets of faith and morals was something that Hickok carried within him throughout the expansion of his life. As a man, he had worn the hats of several professions: marshall, scout, gunslinger, gambler, station master, and entertainer.

He was a skilled shootist, who was often forced to showcase his talents with guns, by killing those who dared to oppose him in a face off. Wild Bill did not willingly seek out these altercations, but he did not back down when he was called out by someone. To call him a coward was a mistake. He was a man of honor and courage who despite his loathed moniker, tried to live his life according to his own ethics.

Wild Bill’s first taste of violence came when he and his father were chased by law officials, who suspected that the Hickoks carried more than hay in their wagon. When he was 14 years old, his father was killed, because of his abolitionist views.

He met William F. Cody in Kansas when he was eighteen years old and driving a stagecoach on the Santa Fe and Oregon Trails. Wild Bill put his markmanship to good use during that time, as the stagecoach line came under attack time and again by renegade Indians and notorious outlaws.

In 1860, he became a station master for the Rock Creek, Nebraska, Pony Express waystation. It was there in 1861, that he faced one of his most deadly encounters with David McCanles and his gang of men. It was sometime later that Hickok moved on.

In Sedalia, Missouri, on October 30, 1861, he signed up to be a wagon master and scout for the Union Army. Wild Bill saw much action during his time with the army, and is said to have become great friends with George Armstrong Custer. Fate alone kept him from being a member of the 7th Cavalry at the Little Big Horn.

On April 15, 1871, Hickok became the marshal of Abilene, Kansas. It was here that he met John Wesley Hardin and took the notorious murderer under his wing. They ate, drank, and visited brothels together. It was believed that Hickok kept Hardin close so that he could keep a watchful eye on the other man, and it seemed to have worked since Hardin was careful not to do anything to get on the business end of the marshal’s Colts.

Once his stint of marshal was up, Hickok signed up to be a performer in Buffalo Bill Cody’s “Scouts of the Prairies,” where he made a decent wage. A short time later, Hickok gave up the single life and married Agnes Lake Thatcher on March 5, 1876.

He soon grew tired of both acting and marriage, and set out to Deadwood, South Dakota where he met Calamity Jane, and a short time later, his death.

The fateful night was August 2, 1876. He sitting with his back facing the door of the Nuttall and Mann’s Saloon, when Jack McCall came in, drew his gun and shot Hickok in the back of the head, killing the famous gunslinger instantly.

Advertisements