Wild Bill Hickok: Pistoleer, Peace Officer and Folk Hero | HistoryNet

Wild Bill Hickok: Pistoleer, Peace Officer and Folk Hero

6/12/2006 • Personalities, Wild West

James Butler Hickok’s reputation as the Old West’s premier gunfighter or ‘man-killer’ made him a legend in his own lifetime–a distinction shared by few of his gunfighting contemporaries. Thanks to an article in Harper’s New Monthly Magazine in February 1867 and some other colorful accounts published in the mid-1860s, Hickok, or rather ‘Wild Bill,’ as he was generally called, was soon elevated from regional to national status. And since his death in 1876, he has achieved worldwide fame.

This woodcut of Hickok appeared in the February 1867 Harper’s New Monthly Magazine as the lead illustration for a George Nichols article that helped make Wild Bill famous.
But even without such publicity, Hickok would have made his mark, for he was a man whose personality, strength of character and single-mindedness set him apart. Lieutenant Colonel George Armstrong Custer described him as a’strange character, just the one which a novelist might gloat over… a Plainsman in every sense of the word… whose skill in the use of the rifle and pistol was unerring.’ Many others besides Custer regarded Wild Bill as the best pistol shot on the Plains–a man whose quick-witted reaction to danger enabled him, according to one account, to draw and fire his Colt Navy revolvers ‘before the average man had time to think about it.’

Credited with the deaths of 100 or more badmen, Hickok emerged as perhaps the most prolific man-killer of his generation. But when some of his critics branded him a ‘red-handed murderer,’ his reaction was predictable. Hickok admitted his flaws and vices as do most people, but he reckoned that being called a red-handed murderer was going too far. In February 1873, it was widely reported that he had been shot dead by Texans at Fort Dodge in Kansas. Worse, it was suggested that, like all men of his kind, he had died with his boots on. Wild Bill broke his silence of some years and wrote angrily to several newspapers, declaring, ‘No Texan has, nor ever will `corral William.” He also demanded to know who it was who prophesied that he and others should die with their boots on. ‘I have never insulted man or woman in my life, but if you knew what a wholesome regard I have for damn liars and rascals they would be liable to keep out of my way.’ Two years later, in conversation with Annie Tallant, one of the first white women to enter the Black Hills, Hickok again denied that he was a red-handed murderer, but admitted that he had killed men in self-defense or in the line of duty, adding, ‘I never allowed a man to get the drop on me.’

Sadly, it is Hickok’s pistol prowess and his image as the slayer of innumerable badmen that is best remembered today. Indeed, many seem unaware of his deserved reputation as a great Civil War scout, detective and spy; Indian scout and courier; U.S. deputy marshal; county sheriff; and town marshal. Wild Bill himself hated his desperado reputation, and he may well have regretted his famous alias, though it had been fastened upon him during the Civil War and he had no reason to feel ashamed of it. Nevertheless, he must have realized too late that once he pulled the legs of the likes of Colonel George Ward Nichols of Harper’s New Monthly Magazine and Henry M. Stanley of the St. Louis Weekly Missouri Democrat, he became a target for the press, sensationalists and reputation seekers.

The real Hickok, however, was in complete contrast to his newspaper-inspired desperado image. Rather, he was gentlemanly, courteous, soft-spoken and graceful in manner, yet left no one in any doubt that he would not ‘be put upon,’ and if threatened would meet violence with violence. Wild Bill could be generous to a fault and, though slow to anger, would willingly defend a friend or the fearful if they were under threat. When angered, however, he became an implacable enemy and sought out and faced down those who insulted or challenged him. This man-to-man approach, rather than involving brothers or close friends in gunfights, feuds or disputes, earned him respect among his peers, especially when it was known that he only became ‘pistoliferous’ as a last resort, and on occasion was known to slug it out with antagonists fist to fist and toe to toe.

It could be argued that Wild Bill Hickok’s alleged exploits as a city marshal or as acting county sheriff inspired the image of the lone man who, thanks to novels and the movies, walked tall and tamed cow towns, mining camps and indeed any other Western habitat where law and order was in short supply. This is nonsense: In reality, it took more than one man to clean up, civilize, or enforce and uphold the law, and city councils hired deputies to assist the marshal.

Colonel Custer’s statement that Hickok was both courageous and able to control others by threatening to settle disputes personally if they refused to back off reflected contemporary opinion. Old-timers in such places as Hays City and Abilene recalled that his presence did much to keep the violence down. In the latter Kansas cow town, the cry ‘Wild Bill is on the street!’ is said to have curtailed many a drunken brawl–or aided a harassed mother anxious to persuade an unruly child to do as he was told! An announcement that appeared in the Coolidge, Kan., Border Ruffian of July 17, 1886, is worth repeating because the character sought sums up the legendary Wild Bill’s own alleged attitude toward so-called evil-doers:

A man for marshal, with the skin of a rhinoceros, a bullet proof head, who can see all around him, run faster than a horse, and is not afraid of anything in hades or Coolidge–a man who can shoot like [Captain Adam] Bogardus, and would rather kill four or five whisky-drinking, gambling hoodlums before breakfast than to eat without exercise. Such a man can get a job in this town at reasonable wages, and if he put off climbing the golden stair for a few years may get his name in a ten-cent novel.

Despite its humor, the foregoing opinion was shared by citizens in Kansas who were either the victims of, or feared, drunken desperadoes or the murderous Texas cowboys in their midst. For many knew that once Hickok assumed his position of authority, ordinary folk felt a sense of security. He never tried or succeeded in eradicating lawlessness, but he helped control it. Indeed, on November 25, 1871, the Topeka Daily Commonwealth, in a feature devoted to Wild Bill’s bloodless head-on clash with some roughs from a train (which was copied verbatim by the Abilene Chronicle on the 30th), stated that the citizens of the state should thank him for ‘the safety of life and property at Abilene, which has been secured, more through his daring than any other agency.’ A Leavenworth paper, following his death, added that his memory would be cherished by those whose peace and security he had sought to preserve.

Hickok did not wear a badge for long in Hays City (chosen Ellis County’s acting sheriff in a special August 23, 1869, election, he was defeated in the regular election that November) or in Abilene (city marshal from April 15 to December 13, 1871), but it was time enough for him to make his mark. Like most of his contemporaries, he was not a professional policeman but did what he was paid for. To suggest, as one recent writer has, that today Wild Bill would have difficulty getting a job as a dogcatcher is unfair to Hickok. There is no comparison between a 19th-century frontier marshal and one of today’s professionally trained law enforcers. Each must be judged by his own time. Hickok commanded respect and was vilified, based as much on hearsay as on fact. His legendary life has long been subject to eulogizing and deflation. But what of the real man?

In appearance at least, Hickok matched his myth. He was a broad-shouldered, deep-chested, narrow-waisted fellow, over 6 feet tall, with broad features, high cheekbones and forehead, firm chin and aquiline nose. His sensuous-looking mouth was surmounted by a straw-colored moustache, and his auburn hair was worn shoulder length, Plains style. But it was his blue-gray eyes that dominated his features. Normally friendly and expressive, his eyes, old-timers recalled, became hypnotically cold and bored into one when he was angry. Around his waist was a belt that held two ivory-handled Colt Navy revolvers, butts forward, in open-top holsters. Worn in this fashion, his six-shooters could be drawn underhand and spun forward for the Plains or reverse draw, or for a cross-body draw. Either way, the weapons were readily and easily available.

An anonymous admirer in the Chicago Tribune of August 25, 1876, wrote that in his rapid and accurate use of his Navy pistols, Wild Bill had no equal. He then said: ‘The secret of Bill’s success was his ability to draw and discharge his pistols, with a rapidity that was truly wonderful, and a peculiarity of his was that the two were presented and discharged simultaneously, being `out and off’ before the average man had time to think about it. He never seemed to take any aim, yet he never missed. Bill never did things by halves. When he drew his pistols it was always to shoot, and it was a theory of his that every man did the same.’ Charles Gross, who knew Wild Bill in Abilene, recalled years later that he watched Hickok shoot and was impressed both by his quickness and accuracy. He also said that Hickok told him one should aim for a man’s ‘guts’–it might not kill him, but it would put him out of action.

Hickok’s real and imaginary shooting skill had fascinated the public ever since Colonel Nichols in his Harper’s article described how Wild Bill pointed to a letter ‘O’ on a signboard some 50 yards away that was ‘no bigger than a man’s heart,’ and ‘without sighting the pistol with his eye,’ fired six times, and each ball hit the center of the ‘O.’ Others later upped the distance to 100 yards, and soon amazing stories of Hickok’s marksmanship circulated that had him hitting dimes at 50 feet, driving corks through whiskey bottle necks 20 feet away, and other near-miraculous feats that are now legion.

Some of those alleged feats have been duplicated by modern gun experts. Although tests carried out during the 1850s had proved that Colt’s Model 1851 Navy revolver was accurate in the hands of an expert at 200 yards, Wild Bill, like most of his contemporaries, was more concerned with its accuracy and reliability at 10 or 20 feet. As the anonymous writer for the Tribune and others have pointed out, Hickok’s ability to get a pistol or pistols into action ‘as quick as thought’ furthers the awe-inspiring image of a pistoleer who had no equal in the Wild West.

Besides Hickok’s obvious liking for Colt Navy revolvers, at various times he was armed with, or proficient in the use of, Colt’s Model 1848 Dragoon. By the early 1870s, however, the introduction of centerfire and rimfire revolvers to replace the still popular percussion, or cap-and-ball, arms was led in the United States by Smith & Wesson. That company’s No. 3 model in .44 rimfire, which broke open to load or eject its cartridges, was superseded by Colt’s New Model Army revolver, the ‘Peacemaker.’ Hickok did not get his hands on the latter, but when, in March 1874, he left Buffalo Bill’s theatrical Combination, William ‘Buffalo Bill’ Cody and Texas Jack Omohundro presented him with a pair of Smith & Wesson No. 3 ‘American’ revolvers. Later that year it was reported from Colorado that Hickok carried them, but by the time he reached Deadwood in Dakota Territory, they had disappeared and he either had the old cap-and-ball Navy revolvers or perhaps a pair of Colt’s transitional rimfire or centerfire revolvers known as ‘conversions’ .

Although he never met or fought them, Hickok was well aware that there were better shots, and deadlier men, on the frontier. Nonetheless, he must have realized the potential of his awesome reputation and, understandably, when it suited him, turned it to his own advantage, ever conscious that while drunken bravado rarely matched action, there was always some gunman eager to prove himself superior to Wild Bill. But Hickok’s speedy reaction to danger was backed by the killer instinct. Without it, or the state of mind needed to react instinctively when threatened or under fire, even the best shots could hesitate and go down before a drunken desperado or someone coldbloodedly determined to kill or be killed.

Despite his awesome gunfighter reputation, Wild Bill did not draw his six-shooters in serious confrontations as often as one might think. Certainly his tally was considerably lower than the ‘hundreds’ of badmen he tongue-in-cheek claimed to have laid away. In fact, the authenticated killings number six known victims with a possible seventh–if one accepts that he also killed David C. McCanles at Rock Creek in 1861. However, those six victims do serve to pinpoint the difference between a newspaper reputation and reality.

As we have said, much of Hickok’s real and mythical reputation as a fighting man can be laid at the door of border scriveners who elevated Wild Bill into a kind of demigod. Some were genuine admirers, some tongue-in-cheek and others malicious, or they thought it was what the public wanted. Whatever the reason, Hickok typified the era of the man-killer or shootist, better known today as the gunfighter–a term in use as early as 1874 but not popularized until post-1900. Back in 1881, however, a Missouri editor was to write that the gentleman who had ‘killed his man’ was quite common, and if ‘his homicidal talents had been employed in the enforcement of law and order, he would be ranked as a `great Western civilizer.” Predictably, some writers have eagerly seized upon the word ‘civilizer’ to explain Hickok’s role in the control and eradication of the badmen who infested many frontier towns and habitats, ignoring the fact that when acting in an official capacity, every time he drew and fired his pistols and a man was killed, he was answerable to the coroner and not necessarily applauded for ridding them of such characters.

We will probably never know how Wild Bill really felt about gunfighting. Old-timers recalled his bravery under fire, or deadly purpose when he drew and fired at another man who was as intent on killing him. Buffalo Bill Cody, in one of his last interviews, said that Hickok cocked his pistols as he drew–which gave him a split-second advantage–and was always ‘cool, kinda cheerful, almost, about it. And he never killed a man unless that man was trying to kill him. That’s fair.’ The first recorded shootout involving Hickok was the so-called McCanles Massacre at the Rock Creek, Nebraska Territory, station on July 12, 1861, when, according to Harper’s, Wild Bill killed 10 ruffians in a desperate fight that left him with shot and stab wounds. In fact, only three men died, and the fracas has been a controversial issue ever since. The fight occurred following a row between former owner David C. McCanles and Russell, Majors & Waddell, the company that had bought the place from him for use as a Pony Express relay station. After making a down payment and promising to pay the remainder on a regular basis, Russell, Majors & Waddell went bankrupt. McCanles demanded his money or his property back or he would take it by force.

Hickok, who had turned up at the station in late April or early May 1861 and was employed as a stable hand or handyman, was not involved when the station keeper, Horace Wellman, who had failed to get money for McCanles or at least a promise to pay, returned empty-handed from the company office at Brownville, Nebraska Territory. McCanles and Wellman then had an argument, which ended with McCanles and two of his men dead and his young son William Monroe escaping to give the alarm. It has been alleged that Hickok shot McCanles, but it could well have been Wellman. However, Hickok, Wellman and one J.W. ‘Doc’ Brink were arrested and taken before a justice of the peace, who accepted their plea of defense of company property and released them. To date, despite the lurid account in Harper’s and a mass of published material, no one knows for sure who killed McCanles.

If we ignore Hickok’s Civil War service, during which he is reported to have killed a number of bushwhackers and guerrillas, it was 1865 before he was again involved in a face-to-face shootout. This was between himself and his friend Davis K. Tutt, an ex-Confederate turned Union man who, like Hickok, was an inveterate gambler. The pair played cards on the night of July 20 in Springfield, Mo., and Hickok lost. Tutt claimed he was owed $35, and Hickok said it was $25. Dave took Wild Bill’s Waltham watch pending payment. The pair then spent most of the 21st arguing over the amount. Hickok stated that Dave had loaned him money many times in the past, but he did not believe that he owed his friend $35 and they should compromise. But Tutt stormed off and reappeared on the public square at 6 p.m. sporting the watch. When Hickok told him to stop, Tutt drew his pistol, and Hickok did the same. Seventy-five yards apart, both men opened fire, the shots sounding as one. Tutt had turned sideways (in dueling fashion) and missed, but Hickok’s ball entered Dave’s right side and exited through his left, piercing his heart. Arrested and put on trial for manslaughter, Hickok was found not guilty by a jury influenced more by the judge’s remarks on one’s rights of self-defense than by the opinion of the prosecuting counsel. Tragically, neither man had wanted the fight, which is a far cry from the anti-Hickok statements made in the 1920s by men who claimed to have witnessed the shootout, some of whom had not even been born when it took place.

It was to be another four years before Hickok again killed another white man (Indians did not count in those days), during which time the press had been busy building up his reputation both as a man-killer and pistol dead shot. Following his election as acting sheriff of Ellis County in August 1869, Wild Bill shot dead Bill Mulvey, who when drunk had refused Hickok’s order to disarm and continued shooting at anyone who moved. A month later, Wild Bill was called to a saloon where Sam Strawhun and friends were raising a ruckus and threatening to shoot anyone who stopped them. Whether Strawhun threatened to shoot Wild Bill or thrust a broken glass into his face is hotly debated, but Sam was buried the next day, unmourned, and Hickok received congratulations for ridding Hays City of such a character. Wild Bill still lost the November election to his deputy, Peter ‘Rattlesnake Pete’ Lanahan.

Almost a year later, in July 1870, when Hickok paid a visit to Hays City, either on personal business or in his guise as a U.S. deputy marshal, he was set upon in a saloon by two troopers of the 7th Cavalry, Jeremiah Lonergan and John Kile. During the scuffle, Lonergan pinned Hickok down and Kile pushed his pistol into Wild Bill’s ear, but it misfired, by which time Hickok had his hands on a six-shooter. Lonergan received a ball in the knee and Kile, who was shot twice, died the next day. Hickok, meanwhile, hid out on boot hill, determined to sell his life dearly if other troopers fancied their chances.

It was more than a year later, on the evening of October 5, 1871, when a number of Texans were roaming the streets of Abilene, carousing and drinking, that City Marshal Hickok heard a shot and found himself facing more than 50 armed and drunken Texans led by gambler Phil Coe. Coe said that he had fired at a dog, and then fired twice at Hickok, one shot hitting the floor and the other passing through the marshal’s coat. Hickok’s first two shots thudded into Coe’s stomach, and he may have hit others in the crowd before he shot at another armed man rushing toward him out of the shadows. To his horror, Wild Bill later discovered that the man was a former jailer and now friend, Mike Williams, who, in trying to help Hickok, ran into the line of fire. Williams was the last known man to be killed by Wild Bill. Hickok paid for Mike’s funeral and later told his grief-stricken wife what had happened and why. That gunfight brought to an end Hickok’s career as a law officer. When the cattle season ended, the town officials decided to get rid of the cattle trade and had no further use for a highly paid marshal, so on December 13, Wild Bill was fired.

Wild Bill now left it to his reputation to deter most would-be rivals, while the legend builders eagerly spread the word. But it is doubtful even they realized how much Hickok’s murder at the hands of the back-shooting coward Jack McCall in a Deadwood saloon in August 1876 would immortalize Wild Bill Hickok as a Western legend.

This article was written by Joseph G. Rosa and originally appeared in Wild West. For more great articles be sure to subscribe to Wild West magazine today!


49 Responses to Wild Bill Hickok: Pistoleer, Peace Officer and Folk Hero

  1. […] biography of the famous U.S. Marshall and western hero, Wild Bill Hickok.Read More… These icons link to social bookmarking sites where readers can share and discover new web […]

  2. K. Wood says:

    Enjoyable reading – the author transfers an air of credibility with an intelligent, as well as, enjoyable style of communicating the tale of Wild Bill. In plain talk … good writing.

  3. […] biography of the famous U.S. Marshall and western hero, Wild Bill Hickok.Read More… Share and Enjoy: These icons link to social bookmarking sites where readers can share and […]

  4. Bill Parry says:

    A number of people in Deadwood commented that they observed WBH practising in Charlie Utter’s camp where he was staying, and that his accuracy was terrific. How is this possible if his eyes were so bad? If he had to practice why not ride out into the hills being that he was trying to keep a low profile (Example, his use of #10 at the end closest to his camp). Is it possible they pulled a fast one? Also, what became of his skill at cards? he seemed to be losing a lot, and owed many people money. Was this a usual practice for him? Finally, not getting his ‘Special Stool’ would that have made him more cautious when someone entered through the front door, since he supposedly had a quarrel with McCall/Sutherland, the day before?

    • David F says:

      Hickock is speculated to have had glacoma, which doesn’t necessarily translate to poor vision. Remember he was only 39 when he was killed so if he indeed had glacoma, it’s not likely that it was advanced. Hickock practiced in front of people because he was an excellent marksman, and he knew it. Better show off his skills and deter a would be opponent. Of course this may have lead to his being shot from behind, during his trial McCall tried making the case that facing Hickock was suicide.

  5. jerry agro says:

    is it true that wild bill was freinds with crazy horse of the sioux indians!!!

  6. […] excerpt from an article about him on History.net puts into words the way I imagined the […]

  7. Jim Sullivan says:

    It was Wild Bill’s time to die! He had a legendary short life but he still lives on today in Deadwood, South Dakota. I visited one of the #10 saloons that he was killed in. No one knows for sure which saloon he was killed in due to a fire that destroyed all records. There is still an re-enactment of his shooting and the trial of Jack McCall in Deadwood.

    I have read different accounts about why Jack McCall killed Wild Bill! One–states that Wild Bill killed Jack’s brother , Lew (Jack didn’t have a brother according to another account). The other is that Jack McCall lost all of his money to Wild Bill the night before which angered McCall. To make things worse, Wild Bill gave McCall back some of the money that he won from him so he woldn’t be broke! This infuriated Jack McCall so much that he decided to kill him!

    • Neal Hilt says:

      Hi Jim, There’s even another account why Jack McCall killed Wild Bill. The corupt individuals of Deadwood may have paid Jack to kill Bill. They knew that Bill might eventually become the law there which might foil some of their miss dealings. I was in Deadwood in around 1968. If I remember Bill was buried in the middle of main street with a Iron fence around it. Saloon #10 was the original spot but the shooting but was moved or burned down. There are pics of #10 in old photos. Somewhere I read that in Deadwood Bill had expressed his feeling saying something like- I don’t know of any enemies I may have, but I feel my time is up.

      • Joe says:

        No, Neal, he was buried in the city cemetery which is on a hill overlooking the town of Deadwood. He isn’t in the ground on Mainstreet. There is an iron fence around his grave, though, and Calamity Jane is buried right next to him.

  8. tyler says:

    west sider was rhis true a bout him

  9. Alexandra says:

    Wild Bill is my great, great, great… grandfather.

    • scot.dodsworth@yahoo.com says:

      Wild Bill had no children he is my great uncle Wild Bill didn,t marry untill about 48 and his wife was 50 years old in1876 no way she had kids. My aunt led me to believe he was my grandfather also until I investigated more I thought the same.

      • Becky says:

        Well, we are cousins! Wild Bill is my great great grandmother’s cousin.

      • Michael says:

        James Butler Hickok is also in my family ancestry through the marriage of Samuel Hickok and Elizabeth Bostwick. ( My Mothers maiden name is Bostwick)

      • Alec says:

        Interesting thing to claim that you are his relative, and make incorrect statements about the man. James Hickok could not have married at about 48 considering that he died when he was 39.
        While it is true that he did not marry the 50 year old Agnes Lake until only a few months before his death, that doesn’t make it impossible for him to have had children.

      • David F says:

        Hickock had relations with many women, so we will never know with certainty if he ever had children, there is just no way to prove it one way or the other.

  10. al says:

    wondering if account of hickock’s ivory handled colt navy revolvers being stolen in burglary of funeral parlor before his burial is true?

    • David F says:

      Wild Bill Hickok’s engraved 1851 Navy Colt on display in the
      Autry Museum of Western Heritage located in Los Angeles, California.
      One of a pair of matching presentation Colts,the other one resides in the Buffalo Bill Museum located in Cody, Wyoming.

  11. austin says:

    Is it true that “Bill” remained an abolitionist all his life and that many of the men he’d killed inTexas & Kansas/Nebraska Territory
    had abused Negros?

  12. brett says:

    does any 1 know the names and or accounts of the men he was playing with the night he was shot? how much did he bet? did he like his hand so much and intent on the draw was slow to watch his back?
    what about the bar tender?
    isn’t he the one who actually said he was holding aces and 8s?
    who cleaned up the cards?
    did they keep playing?
    did he win?
    who took the pot?

  13. Paula says:

    /In answer to Austin’s questions, please read Rosa’s book “They Called Him Wild Bill.” I think your questions would be totally answered. Wild Bill was an interesting character, one who did not like to be approached, and who could blame him as he did have enemies that wanted him dead. It seems to me that much was not thought of to kill a human in the 19th century — much hasn’t changed except for the sophistication of the weaponry these days — and gambling and whiskey were to blame for most of the wild west of those days. I think I would have liked Wild Bill if I had ever met him — he was a kindly gentleman as well.

  14. George says:

    To answer one of your questions…
    Hickok as playing cards with one of the saloon’s
    owners, Carl Mann, and Captain Frank Massey
    and Charlie Rich.
    The place was Nuttall & Mann’s Number Ten
    Saloon and the time was 4:15 in the afternoon.

  15. jon macvean says:

    are there any historical documents that could tell me if jesse james robbed any banks in michigan in 1800 era and if he buried the money in caches in michigan any books on michigan treasures thanks jon macvean

  16. required says:

    one example to explain the accuracy of a person like hicock despite his failing eyesight, would be like putting your key in a familar door lock.

  17. Danny Davis says:

    James Butler Hickock had a protruding upper lip. While still in his teens, the men he worked with began calling him “Duck Bill”.Hating the nick-name, and hearing it once to often, he became infuriated and severely beat the name caller, almost to death. Durring that encounter, an onlooker shouted “Go Wild Bill” The name stuck, James Hickock grew a mustache, and moved on as “Wild Bill”.

  18. […] 1876, Wild Bill Hickok was shot and killed in Deadwood, South Dakota. It wasn’t in a gunfight though. Hickok was […]

  19. Neal Hilt says:

    If you study closley the picture where Bill is standing with the ivory butts forward and knife in union belt..The gun butts are facing slightly outward where the top of the butts are even with the bisecpt of his arms. In my opinion this kept the guns close, and hard for someone to take em’. When Bill drew the colts his knuckles were facing each other then grasping the butts lifting while carefully turning and cocking the pistols to the firing postion. I don’t think he cross drew because theres to much room for getting tangled up and would be a slower draw.

  20. ty says:


  21. SERTWY says:

    Bil Hickock found a knife in his jail cell cut the rope and used it to kill the guard. after that he took the guards clothes.

  22. SERTWY says:

    he had great accuracy

  23. josie says:

    i am somehow related to him

  24. josie says:

    he is my great grandpa

  25. anita hickok says:

    Hi my name is anita hickok, and i am related to wild bill hickok.i love the articles and stories about him

  26. Neal Hilt says:

    Sertwy, Wild Bill was arrested for vagrancy a couple of times but I doubt he found a knife in a jail cell and killed a guard. People are still trying to belittle J.B.H. As to my previous comment on the draw- he practiced the twist draw and had his guns out of a sash and firing in a tenth of a second.

  27. scot.dodsworth@yahoo.com says:

    Wild Bill Hickok had no children of his own.He didn’t marry untill about 46 yrs old .His wife when he did marry (Agnes Lake) was 50 when they married no way 100yrs ago she had a kid at 50 . He is my great uncle and recently I’ve looked into that exact topic being my Aunt led me to believe he was my great grand father.My Great Grandfather,WB Hickok brother was present at the trial of Jack McCall

    • Alec says:

      Oh this time he was about 46 when he got married? He still died at age 39. He was 38 when he was married in March of 1876 by the way.
      For someone claiming to be his relative and making absolute statements, you don’t seem to know much about him. You also need to explain that part to me about how people need to be married to have children . . .

  28. jim says:

    I have doubts about a 36 navy colt penetrating and exiting a mans body sideways at 75yds, even 50 as some state,
    good shot at either distance, maybe the distance is wrong, 25 sounds more likely

    • David F says:

      Two small brass plaques are still inlaid into the pavement on Park Central Square to mark the locations of both Hickok and Tutt during the famous shootout in Springfield. There were eyewitnesses, newspaper accounts and trial. The distance of the shot is an unquestionable 75 yards….not 25. It was a remarkable shot considering Tutt was also reknown as an expert marksman. So Hickock made the killing shot with a .36 calibre black powder cap and ball pistol while under fire.

  29. […] Hickok bragged about the number of men he had killed (hundreds), he likely exaggerated (six, maybe seven). But his expert marksmanship needed no embellishing. In a February 1867 interview, Harper’s […]

  30. LuRose says:

    Wild Bill toured almost all of the Ellsworth Kansas-Hays City and Abilene Kansas area. He was born back east and came west at the beginning of the civil War. When he killed Mr. Coe and probably other outstanding characters in Ellsworth, he moved on to Hays City Kansas, meeting up with a Mr. Thomas Martin. They went to Missouri for a while then drifted on down to Central Texas.

    There is not a lot of history here of Mr Hickok but the Martins became long standing pioneers in and around Kyle Texas. Martin was a very good marksman and I am sure that is why he and Wild Bill joined up together..This story was corroborated thirty years after it was told. A Newspaper man from back east was reading the San Marcos Free Press in June 2, 1881 which confirmed the shooting of William Melton and Baker. In the same paper in Kyle on June 9, 1881, there was an item which told the story of the people of Kyle presented TG Martin a pair of fine revolvers as a token of appreciation for what he had done in protectim the town from the outlaws..The cost of revolvers a $53.00..

    Melton and Baker are buried in the Kyle Cemetery under the Hanging Tree…Tom Martin is buried there as well…The geneology of the Martin family is very lengthy and I am sure the descendants are living on the ranch here even today.

    I am unable to find other information of the friendship of Wild Bill and Thomas Green Martin here in Texas..Perhaps Wild Bill did not come South.

  31. john tamblyn says:

    Hi Joseph,
    I have two small india ink sketches (2.5 x 3″) that I inherited from my great, great grandfather, a salesman whose territory included “the wild west” in the middle to late 1800’s. They are head and shoulders portraits of a man and a woman, signed “Hickok” and family lore has it that they were in fact the work of Wild Bill Hickok.
    Do you know anything about his career as an artist? I can’t seem to find anything about Hickok’s drawings.
    Many thanks!

  32. Jeff F. says:

    I’m not related to wild Bill but I sure wouldve loved to live back in those days and to be able to have met the man. Thru learning of america’s history I have came to the conclusion that he was one of the corner-stones of what is now Law Enforcement. I too am a Law Enforcement officer and I admire the man very much.

  33. John K Naugle says:

    WBH vision and nerve disorders equate to secondary and tertiary syphilis

  34. William Cameron says:

    Pistols were back then were set in aim at 100 yards ( Like a common unrifled musket), so a 75 yard shot was ‘normal’. a .36 was what we now call a .38, so it was no big deal to put a ball through a man’s body. .36 was considered back then as a good man killing ball. Ball up to 100 yards, slug up to 125 yards. It was not a wonder shot that killed Tut, just a very good one.

    Hickok lost a target shoot to Bartel* & North and(Bartel was the cousin of *Danny Pierce the best shot of the Missouri gorillas. ie the best in the west..who retired after the war. The best shot in the west.) North was second; only because he beat Bartel; who was not as good as Pierce). Hickok was only a very good shot, no where the best. Good enough to kill you at a fair distance of 75 yards, with one shot. Folks practiced at 100 yards with a pistol, because a pistol was a 100 yard gun.
    I remember reading where some jerk in a good gun mag back in days of yore, complained his antique SSA Colt shot too high at 25 yards; so the ignorant jerk, filed the sight down from 100 yards to 25.
    Any pistol .36, .44 or .45 back in Hickok’s day were 100 yard pistols.

  35. […] August 1, 1876, lawman, gunfighter, and folk hero James Butler “Wild Bill” Hickok was at Nuttal & Mann’s Saloon playing a few rounds of poker. As the players at his […]

  36. Thomas Buhr says:

    Did Wild Bill Hickok ever own a shooting gallery in Atlantic City? Did he known a man named Solomon John Roach? One story I’ve heard is that Roach beat him in a shooting contest and WBH was so distraught that he headed to Deadwood and his destiny. I don’t believe it, but I’m doing my due diligence on the tale.

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