JAMES BUTLER HICKOK
Born May 27, 1837 - Troy Grove, Illinois
Died August 2, 1876 - Deadwood
Wild Bill Hickok James Butler Hickok, who became known as Wild Bill Hickok, was born May 27, 1837 in Troy Grove, Illinois, just southeast of Mendota. He was the fourth son of William Alonzo and Polly Butler Hickok. By the age of 17, he was an excellent marksman.
In 1855, at the age of 18, he left to become a part of the growing American West. He drove freight wagons and coaches. During the Civil War, he served as a wagon master, scout, detective, courier, and spy. It was during the war he became known as Wild Bill. Appointed a deputy US marshal in Kansas, he was an express messenger and scout for the cavalry. He never killed without good reason.
It was fourteen years, in 1869, before he returned to Troy Grove to see his mother who was ill. He had received a letter from his sister, Lydia, telling him of his mother's illness and her wishes to see him. During his visit, he stayed at the Passenger House in Mendota, and had a photograph taken by Wilbur Blakeslee, a local photographer.
Becoming bored in Illinois, he returned to Kansas, serving as the sheriff of Ellis County and town marshal of Hays. He then went to Topeka, Fort Harker, and Abilene where he was a US marshal. During 1873-1874, he was with Buffalo Bill in a stage show, but he was unhappy with show business. He went to Cheyenne and Denver, but returned to Cheyenne where he renewed an acquaintance with and married Mrs. Agnes Thatcher Lake. Two weeks later, he set off for the gold fields of the Black Hills with Charlie Utter and his brother Steve.
On August 2, 1876, Wild Bill entered a poker game in a saloon in Deadwood, Dakota Territory and for the first time sat with his back to an open door. Jack McCall put a bullet through the back of Wild Bill's head at 4:10 p.m. His card hand held an ace of spades, ace of clubs, two black eights - clubs and spades - and the jack of diamonds. This became known as aces and eights - the dead man's hand.
Funeral services were held at Charlie Utter's camp and at the head of the grave was placed a large board or stump on which was deeply cut "A brave man: the victim of an assassin, J.B. (Wild Bill) Hickok, age 48 years; murdered by Jack McCall, August 2, 1876." (Note the error - actual age was 39.) Two years later his body was moved to Mount Moriah, South Deadwood.
McCall was found not guilty in 1876 at an illegal trial. Deadwood was an outlaw town and any "acts of justice" were not recognized. Retried in Yankton, Dakota Territory, he was found guilty. Wild Bill's older brother, Lorenzo, was in attendance at the trial. McCall's death was by hanging on March 1, 1877.