“Wild Bill” Hickok (1837-1876)

Wild Bill Hickok


  • James “Wild Bill” Butler Hickok was born on a farm in Illinois.
  • His varied frontier careers included time as a drover, stage coach driver, Union soldier, spy, scout, lawman, gunfighter, gambler, showman, and actor.  Hickok was one of the first American pop culture celebrities.
  • On both sides of the law, Wild Bill was involved in numerous notorious shoot-outs.
  • He was an outstanding pistol-shot marksman.
  • In 1860, Hickok was badly injured in a bear attack while driving a freight team to Santa Fe.  He suffered a crushed chest, shoulder, and arm injuries.
  • As a gun-slinger, he killed several men.  His infamous shootout with Davis Tutt is thought to be the first recorded quick-draw duel.  Wild Bill also made several justified killings in his capacity as a law man.
  • During the Indian wars he acted as a scout, sometimes working for General George Custer’s 7th Cavalry.
  • Hickok accidentally killed Deputy Marshal Mike Williams during a deadly street brawl – an error that haunted him for the rest of his life.
  • For some time he acted in Buffalo Bill’s play, Scouts of the Plains.
  •  In 1876 he married a 50-year-old circus owner called Agnes Thatcher Lake.
  • Shortly after that, he headed out on the Black Hills gold rush.  He joined the wagon train from Fort Laramie to Deadwood, where he met up with Calamity Jane.  Jane was besotted with Wild Bill, and at one time claimed to have been his wife.
  • Hickok was shot in the back and killed by Jack McCall in Deadwood, during a game of poker.
  • The cards he was holding have since been memorialized as the Dead Man’s Hand.  It included the ace of spades, the ace of clubs, the 8 of spades, and the 8 of clubs:


  • Wild Bill is buried in Deadwood, next to Calamity Jane.


McNab. Gunfighters and Their Weapons. California: Thunder Bay Press, 2005.

Rosa, Joseph G. Age of the Gunfighter. Nebraska: U of Omaha P, 1993.

Wikipedia, “Wild Bill” Hickok at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/%22Wild_Bill%22_Hickok

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