James Butler Hickok
James Butler Hickok was born in 1837, May 27 and was destined to become one of the best remembered character from The Old West era.
James is much better known as Wild Bill Hickok, one of the most written about and enigmatic figures in Old West Stories. He is quite probably the most famous person ever to be a resident of Deadwood, which is saying something.
He was born in Homer, Illinois and his birthplace has a place known as the Wild Bill Hickok Memorial.
It is difficult to separate historical truth from the fiction that has arisen from the life of this man. His appearances as a hero in novels, newspapers, television, movies and even comic books has clouded the matter to a significant degree.
His story includes times when he was portrayed as a gun fighter for hire and a killer with the cold blooded attitude of the legend that surrounds Billy the Kid.
In other places the legend extends to describe him as the magnificent old west lawman in the style of Wyatt Earp.
In 1855 he first met another of Old West Stories most interesting characters, William Cody (later to become known as Buffalo Bill). Cody was only 12 years old at the time.
1858 – March 22 – Hickok was elected as a Constable in Monticello, Kansas and experienced his first time as a lawman.
1859 – Hickok joined the “Russell, Majors and Waddell Freight Company”. This business later formed the basis of another eternally remembered story of the old west, the famous “Pony Express”.
1861 – Hickok got in to a fight and has been credited with the shot that killed a man. If it is true that Wild Bill fired to fatal shot, this is the first time Hickok is reputed to have killed a man but would not be the last.
1865 – July 21 – Hickok was involved in an incident in Springfield, Missouri during which he killed Davis Tutt in a classic quick draw duel. Whilst movie fiction portrays this as typical of Old West Stories from much earlier, this incident may well be among the first such actual incident that fits the movie description. Go to the Wild Bill page for more detail on this incident.
Legendary Story of The Old West
1869 – September 24 – Hickok killed Bill Mulvey, who apparently got the drop on him. Hickok reportedly used the ruse of telling a nonexistent man not to shoot him in the back. Mulvey looked and this gave Hickok the advantage; the encounter ended with Mulvey’s death.
Did All Old West Lawman Heroes Do This?
1871 – April 15 – Hickok was appointed to the position of Marshal for Abilene, Kansas. During this time an incident occurred that mirrored Wyatt Earp’s famous befriending of Doc Holliday. He became friends with John Wesley Hardin, a notorious outlaw of the time.
1873 – William Cody invited Hickok to join him in a play called the “Scouts of the Plains”. William Cody (Buffalo Bill) later formed his famous Show “Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show” in 1882.
Wild West Death in the Classic Style of Old West Stories – Dead Man’s Hand
1876 – August 2 – Wild Bill Hickok died on this day. During a card game, John McCall walked in unannounced. When within a few feet on Hickok, he is reported to have drawn his pistol and shot Hickok in the back of the head.
It is said that at the time of his death, Hickok was holding a poker hand consisting of a pair of eights and a pair of aces. The fifth card had not yet been discarded and replaced by the dealer. This hand has became famous, known as the “Dead Man’s Hand”. Click on the picture to read more about this incident and detail on the life and times of Wild Bill Hickok.