Wild Bill Hickok is undoubtedly a name that rings a bell for everyone who enjoys reading tales set in the American Wild West. He was a legendary figure during his time period, both for his prowess with a firearm and his dexterity at the poker table. His daring way of living has been dramatized in a variety of well-known works of literature and films.
Please read this comprehensive biography of Wild Bill Hickok if you are interested in learning more about him and discovering why, over 150 years after his death, people are still talking about him.
The Beginning Years
On May 27th, 1837, James Butler Hickok entered this world. Hickok had four brothers and two sisters, making him the fourth oldest of a total of seven children. In the charming community of Homer, Illinois, the family made their home on a vast farm. The story goes that the family utilized their home as a stop on the Underground Railroad; however, this claim has never been substantiated by any evidence.
In light of the intensity with which the Hickok family advocated for the abolition of slavery, we cannot in good conscience rule out the possibility.
When James Butler Hickok was a little boy, he learned how to fire a handgun from his father. Hickok was a fantastic marksman from the very beginning, with very few instances in which he missed his aim. These are the kinds of talents that would serve him well down the road.
Hickok lost his father at the young age of 15, and the circumstances surrounding his death are unclear.
His father’s passing caused him to reevaluate how he wanted him to spend the remainder of his life and caused him to change his plans for staying at home and taking care of the family farm. After a few years had passed, he uprooted his life and relocated to Kansas in order to pursue a career as a stagecoach driver along the Santa Fe and Oregon Trails. During his stay there, he made the acquaintance of William Cody, also known as “Buffalo Bill,” who would go on to become a close friend of his.
The Legend That Was Wild Bill Hickok
On the trails, David McCanles and his two associates encountered Wild Bill Hickok and tried to rob him. Hickok narrowly escaped capture. Hickok, infuriated, took out his revolver and, within a few short minutes, managed to shoot and kill all three of the other guys. This tragedy, which would eventually come to be known as the McCanles Massacre, is when the mythology of Wild Bill Hickok first starts to take shape. (Hickok choose this name for himself in remembrance of his father, William, who had passed away.)
His account was published on the cover of a number of newspapers and periodicals, the majority of which exaggerated the severity of the slaughter while describing it to their readers. According to one story, he ended up killing more than ten people that day. Not much time passed between the publication of that tale and the revelation of the next one. Hickok had lately interacted with a bear in some kind. He took out a little knife that was just six inches long and used it to put an end to the bear’s life. Most reasonable individuals would have fled from the bear in those situation. The story went on to say that Hickok was so powerful that no one, not even an animal, could defeat him.
By the time Hickok participated in the Civil War in 1961, he had already established a reputation for himself. He joined the Union Army as a civilian scout at first, and then worked his way up through the ranks to become a provost marshal. During the course of his military career, he was a Union spy in the service of the Confederate Army at one time. Because Hickok was able to transmit notice of many separate Confederate assaults before they occurred, the Union was able to better prepare for the conflict.
After the war was over, he uprooted his family and headed to Abilene, Kansas, where he was offered the role of City Marshall. It was really a respectable pay for the time period, consisting of $1800 per year in addition to a 25% commission on all of the penalties he handed out. Hickok had a reputation for always maintaining order in his community, regardless of the consequences. Hickok intervened and began shooting his revolver when Phil Coe, the proprietor of a bar in the town, began leveling his gun at an angry patron. During the intense shootout, one of Hickok’s deputies tragically lost his life. Hickok was compelled to resign from his employment as a result of the terrible event, and he went on to seek a new line of work instead.