Posted by: Ron DuBour | October 17, 2014

American Heroes~James Butler Hickok (1837 – 1876)~by rldubour

Friday!!!! time for another post of an American Hero, today we go to the wild west and look at:


James Butler Hickok (1837 – 1876)

Unknown to most he was one of

The earliest champions of equal rights.

At a young age on his father’s farm

Against anti-abolitionists he learned to fight.


Born on May twenty-seventh

In Troy Grove, Illinois.

A stop for the Underground Railroad

Was his farm when just a boy.


In fifty-five a stagecoach driver

They nicknamed him “Duck Bill.”

To “Wild Bill” it was changed

Because of his gun fighting skills.


In fifty-seven was Constable

The first of Monticello Township.

Sixty-one was in Nebraska

Was the law, jury and judgeship.


A skilled scout for the Union

When the Civil War began.

In sixty-seven a U.S. Marshal

Increased fame was with this man.


On August second in seventy-six

At Nuttal & Mann’s saloon.

A man they called Jack McCall

Would end Hickok’s life too soon.


While Bill was playing poker

In his hand were aces and eights.

Became known as the “Dead Man’s Hand”

To die in Deadwood was his fate.


Buried in Deadwood’s original graveyard

That was in the eighteen-eighty’s

Interred at the Mount Moriah Cemetery.

Along with Calamity Jane a lady.


By his grave a U.S. flag

That fly’s twenty-four hours a day.

One of the few places in America

That the flag is allowed to fly this way.


Better known as Wild Bill Hickok

A legend in the American Old West.

A gunfighter, lawman, scout and soldier

His name ranks high among the best.



AUTHOR NOTES: James Butler Hickok was born in Troy Grove, Illinois on May 27, 1837. His birthplace is now the Wild Bill Hickok State Memorial, a listed historic site under the supervision of the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency. While he was growing up, his father’s farm was one of the stops on the Underground Railroad, and he learned his shooting skills protecting the farm with his father from anti-abolitionists. Hickok was a good shot from a very young age. Unknown to most, he was one of the earliest champions of equal rights for blacks during the latter days of slavery. In 1855, he left his father’s farm to become a stage coach driver on the Santa Fe and Oregon Trails. An early record refers to him as “Duck Bill” (perhaps in reference to his big nose), but his gun fighting skills changed his nickname to “Wild Bill”. His killing of a bear with a bowie knife during a turn as a stage driver cemented a growing reputation as a genuinely tough man who feared nothing, and who was feared for more than carrying a fast gun. In 1857, Hickok claimed a 160 acre (65 ha) tract of land in Johnson County, Kansas (in what is now the city of Lenexa) where he became the first constable of Monticello Township, Kansas. In 1861, he became a town constable in Nebraska. He was involved in a deadly shoot-out with the McCanles gang at Rock Creek Station, an event still under much debate. On several other occasions, Hickok confronted and killed several men while fighting alone. Hickok invented the practice of “posting” men out of town. He would put a list on what was called the “dead man’s tree” (so called because men had been lynched on it) while constable of Monticello Township. Hickok proclaimed he would shoot them on sight the following day. Few stayed around to find out if he was serious. When the Civil War began, Hickok joined the Union forces and served in the west, mostly in Kansas and Missouri. He earned a reputation as a skilled scout. After the war, Hickok became a scout for the U. S. Army and later was a professional gambler. He served for a time as a United States Marshal. In 1867, his fame increased from an interview by Henry Morton Stanley. On August 2, 1876, while playing poker at Nuttal & Mann’s Saloon No. 10 in Deadwood, in the Black Hills, Dakota Territory, Hickok could not find an empty seat in the corner, where he always sat in order to protect himself against sneak attacks from behind, and instead sat with his back to one door and facing another. His paranoia was prescient: he was shot in the back of the head with a .45-caliber revolver by Jack McCall. Legend has it that Hickok, playing poker when he was shot, was holding a pair of aces and a pair of eights. The fifth card is either unknown, or, as some say, had not yet been dealt. “Aces and eights” thus is known as the “Dead Man’s Hand”. Wild Bill was originally buried in the Ingelside Cemetery, Deadwood’s original graveyard. The graveyard filled quickly and was in an area that could be better used for the constant influx of settlers to live on, so all the people buried there were moved up the hill to the Mount Moriah Cemetery in the 1880s. Hickok is currently interred in a ten-foot (3 m) square plot at the Mount Moriah Cemetery, surrounded by a cast-iron fence with a U.S. flag flying nearby, one of the few places in the country allowed to fly the US flag 24 hours a day. A monument has since been built there. In accordance with her dying wish, Calamity Jane was buried next to him. Potato Creek Johnny, a local Deadwood Celebrity from the late 1800’s early 1900s is also buried next to Wild Bill. Shortly before Hickok’s death, he wrote a letter to his new wife, Agnes Lake Thatcher, which reads in part: “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” and “My dearly beloved if I am to die today and never see the sweet face of you I want you to know that I am no great man and am lucky to have such a woman as you”. James Butler Hickok (May 27, 1837 – August 2, 1876), better known as Wild Bill Hickok, was a legendary figure in the American Old West. His skills as a gunfighter and scout, along with his reputation as a lawman, provided the basis for his fame, although some of his exploits are fictionalized. His moniker of Wild Bill has inspired similar nicknames for men named William (even though that was not Hickok’s name) who were known for their daring in various fields.

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