James Butler hickok, better known as wild Bill Hickok , was a well known folk hero of the old west. He is best known for his work across the frontier as a drover, Wagonmaster, soldier, spy, scout, lawman, gunfighter, gambler, and showman. He earned a great deal of fame in his time, most of it because of his over exaggerated and often outlandish stories that were fabricated up of unrealistic circumstances. Which leads us to wonder what events of his life are real or just fantastic stories. It is a unfortunate situation but not a uncommon one for historians. e often times find ourselves in this predicaments not knowing what is true, what is based on the truth, and what is just a flat out lie. James butler Hickok was born May 27 1837, in Homer Illinois to William Alonso Hickok, A farmer and abolitionist and his wife Polly butler. James was the fourth of six siblings.
William unfortunately died in 1852 when James was only 15. James flaming red hair and a temper to match it! He was recognized as a very good shot locally from a young age, he was a outstanding marksman with a pistol. his time it was incredibly common for there to be much criminal activity around the farm because of “bandit of the Prairie”. Hickok was drawn to the bandit lifestyle that many men around him had decided to take. in 1855 at only 15 years old he fled Illinois after a fight with Charles Hudson, during which both fell into a canal (each thought, that he had mistakenly killed the other). Afterword Hickok moved to Leavenworth in the Kansas territory, where he joined “general” Jim lanes free State army (also known as the Jayhawkers), A vigilante group active in the new territory.
While H a hooker he met a 12 year old boy name William Cody (later known as Buffalo Bill), Who despite his young age spent two years as a scout in the US army during the Utah war. But he left soon after and moved along to the next place he put his sites on. While in Nebraska, James Hickok was derisively referred to as “Duck Bill” for his long nose and protruding lips. He grew a mustache and began referring to himself as wild bill. The Jayhawks also referred to him as “Shanghai Bill” because of his tall height and incredibly slim build. James B. Hickok used the name William Hickok from 1858 and William Haycock during the Civil War.
He was arrested while using the name Haycock in 1865. He afterward resumed using his given name, James Hickok. Most newspapers referred to him as William Haycock until 1869. Military records after 1865 list him as Hickok but he was also known as Haycock. In 1860, he was badly injured by a bear while driving a freight team from Independence Missouri to Santa Fe New Mexico. According to Hickok’s account, he found the road blocked by a cinnamon bear and her two cubs. Dismounting, he approached the bear and fired a shot into its head, but the bullet ricocheted off its skull, infuriating it.
The bear attacked, crushing Hickok with its body. Hickok managed to fire another shot, wounding the bear’s paw. The bear then grabbed his arm in its mouth, but Hickok was able to grab his knife and slash its throat, killing it. Hickok was severely injured, with a crushed chest, shoulder and arm. He was bedridden for four months before being sent to Rock creek station in Nebraska territory to work as a stable hand while he recovered. On July 12, 1861, David McCanles went to the Rock Creek Station office to demand an overdue property payment from Horace Wellman, the station manager.
McCanles was said to have threatened Wellman, and either Hickok (who was hiding behind a curtain) or Wellman killed him. Hickok, Wellman, and another employee, J. W. Brink, were tried for killing McCanles but were found to have acted in self-defense. Although we can’t be sure, McCanles may have been the first man Hickok killed. A friend of Hickoks told this to a newspaper after the incident. “”At ne of this affair was at a station farther west and reached this station just as Wild Bill was getting ready to go to Beatrice for his trial.
He wanted me to go with him and as we started on our way, imagine my surprise and uncomfortable feeling when he announced his intention of stopping at the McCanles home. I would have rather been somewhere else, but Bill stopped. He told Mrs. McCanles he was sorry he had to kill her man then took out $35 ($933 in 2017 dollars] and gave it to her saying: This is all I have, sorry I do not have more to give you. ‘ We drove on to Beatrice and at the trial, his plea was self-defense, no one appeared against him and he was cleared. The trial did not last more than fifteen minutes. ”
In April 1861 the Civil War began, James Hickok became a teamster for the union army. By the end of 1861, James was a wagon master, but in September he was discharged for mysterious reasons. He then joined General James Henry Lanes Kansas brigade. While serving he saw his friend Buffalo Bill Cody,Who was serving as a scout at the time. It is unknown what it Hickok was doing for the next year, although it was never confirmed it was rumored that he was a spy in Confederate territory for the union army. He left because he hadn’t been a paid for his time, so Hickok left and went to springfield.
He began to gamble excessively,and was described as “by nature a ruffian , a drunk, and a swaggering fellow who delighted in scaring nervous man and timid women” While in Springfield, Hickok and a local gambler named David tutt had several disagreements over unpaid gambling debts and their mutual affection for the same women. Tutt stole a watch belonging to Hickok, who demanded that Tutt return it immediately. They had agreed not to fight over the watch, but then Hickok saw Tutt wearing it, he warned him to stay away or else, but Tutt didn’t heed the warning.
On July 21, 1865, the two men faced off in Springfield’s town square, standing sideways before drawing and firing their weapons. Tutt’s shot missed, but Hickok’s struck Tutt through the heart from about 75 yards (69 m) away (But many people wonder if it was really 75 feet away). Tutt called out, “Boys, I’m killed” before he slumped to the ground and died. Two days later that was arrested for murder. They later decided to reduced the charges to manslaughter. He was placed on a $2000 bail and his trial date was set for August 3,1865.
The jury voted to clear Hickok, resulting in public backlash and criticism of the verdict. Hickok was said by some to be “an inveterate hater of Indians”,perhaps to enhance his reputation as a scout and Indian fighter, but it is difficult to separate fact from fiction in this cast considering his recruitment of Native Americans to cross the nation in order to appear in his own Wild West show. Witnesses confirm that while working as a scout at Fort harker,Kansas on May 11, 1867, he was attacked by a large band of Indians, who fled after he shot and killed two.
In July, Hickok told a newspaper reporter that he had led several soldiers to hunt for Indians who had killed four men near the fort on July 2. He was said to have returned with five prisoners after killing ten. Witnesses confirm that the story was true to the extent the party had set out to find whomever had killed the four men,but the group returned to the fort “without nary a dead Indian, [never] even seeing a live one”. Several weeks later, an interview Hickok gave to Colonel George Ward Nicholas, a journalist known as the creator of the Hickok legend,was published in Harpers new monthly magazine.
Under the name “Wild Bill Hitchcock”, the article relived the “hundreds” of men whom Hickok had killed himself and other overly exaggerated stores. The article was controversial as far as Hickok was known, and several frontier newspapers wrote rebuttals about the assortment of stories in the article. In 1867, Hickok reportedly was involved in a dispute with drunken cowboys inside a saloon in Jefferson county, Nebraska. One of them shoved him, causing him to drop his drink. Hickok punched the man, and four of his friends rose with guns in hand.
Hickok convinced the men to step outside where he faced all four at 15 paces, or about 40 feet (12 m). The bartender counted down and Hickok killed three of the men with a bullet to the head and wounded the fourth with a shot through the cheek bone. Hickok was wounded in the shoulder. In December 1867, newspapers reported that Hickok had come to live in Hays city Kansas. He became a Deputy U. S. marshal, and on March 28, 1868, he caught eleven Union Army deserters who had been charged with stealing government property.
Hickok was appointed to convey the men to Topeka for trial, and he requested a military escort from Fort Hays. He was assigned William F Cody, a sergeant, and five privates. They arrived in Topeka on April 2. Hickok remained in Hays through August 1868, when he brought 200 Indians to Hays to be viewed by “excursionists” Hickok became the sheriff in hays Kansas, he shot many men while sheriff but never got in trouble. Samuel Strawhun, a cowboy, who was causing a disturbance at 1 AM in a saloon on September 27 when Hickok and Lanihan went to the scene. Strawhun “made remarks against Hickok,” and Hickok illed him with a shot through the head. Hickok said he had “tried to restore order”.
At the coroner’s investigation into Strawhun’s death, despite “very contradictory” evidence from every witnesses present, the jury found the shooting somehow justifiable. Later Hickok was relieved of his duties as marshal less than two months after accidentally killing Deputy Williams, this incident being only one of a series of highly questionable shootings and misconduct. On March 5, 1876, Hickok married Agnes Thatcher Lake, a 50-year-old circus proprietor inCheyenne, Wyoming Territory.
Hickok soon after left his new bride, joining Charlie utter’s wagon train to seek a fortune in the gold fields of South Dakota. Martha Jane Cannary, known more commonly as Calamity Jane, wrote in her autobiography that she was married to Hickok and had divorced him so he could be free to marry Agnes Lake, but no records have been found that support her account. It is possible that the two met for the first time after Jane was released from the guardhouse in fort Laramie, and joined the wagon train in which Hickok was riding to go find gold.
The wagon train arrived in Deadwood in July 1876. Jane confirmed this account in an 1896 newspaper interview, although she claimed she had been hospitalized because she was sick rather than in the guardhouse, but we don’t know if this is true or not. Shortly before hickoks death he wrote a letter to his wife Agnes, part of the letter said. “Agnes Darling, if such should be we never meet again, while firing my last shot, I will gently breathe the name of my wife-Agnes—and with wishes even for my enemies I will make the plunge and try to swim to the other shore. “