Famous last words
"Back to you"
James Butler Hickok was born in Troy Grove, Illinois, in 1837. His father, Bill Hickok, played an active role in the Underground Railroad that helped slaves escape from the Deep South.
Hickok moved to Kansas in 1855 and at the age of 20 was elected constable of Monticello. In 1861 he was working as a wagon master in Montana. On 12th July, 1861, Hickok opened fire on three unarmed men. David McCanles was killed and James Woods and James Gordon were seriously wounded and later died of their injuries. Hickok was also employed as a guide on the Santa Fe Trail. Later he worked on the Oregon Trail.
During the American Civil War Hickok was employed as a scout for the Union Army. After the war came to an end Hickok became a professional gambler in Springfield, Missouri. Also, for a brief time he served under General George A. Custer in his 7th Cavalry.
Hickok's reputation as a gunfighter began when he killed David Tutt in the public square of Springfield on 21st July, 1865. The two men had quarrelled over cards and decided to have a gunfight. At 6pm Hickok and Tutt arranged to walk towards each other. When they were about 50 yards apart both men drew his gun. Tutt fired first but missed. Hickok's shot hit Tutt in the heart. This was the first recorded example of two men taking part in a quick-draw duel. The following month Hickok was acquitted after pleading self-defence.
Percy Ebbutt, Emigrant Life in Kansas (1886)
One day we saw "Wild Bill," a noted desperado or "border ruffian," shooting quails in a stable yard in the city (they were
so plentiful and tame). Wild Bill was a fine-looking fellow, with long curly hair hanging down his back, and was dressed in a rather dandified fashion. He was said to have twenty-seven nicks cut on the handle of his revolver, each signifying a man whose life had been taken by him. And yet he walked the streets as free as any man, and perhaps with more security than a less desperate criminal would, for he would have to be a plucky man to arrest "Wild Bill." He was afterwards actually elected "sheriff" of Wichita, a town down south, which was frequented by the Texas "cowboys," and he was killed at last in some saloon brawl.
Ellis County Star (11th May, 1873)
We learn from recent dispatches that Mr. J. B. Hickok, (Wild Bill), well known to the older citizens of Hays City, was shot in the head and instantly killed, by a man named Bill Sutherland, while playing cards in a saloon in Deadwood Gulch, Wyoming. From the report it seems that Bill had killed a brother of Sutherland's in this city, several years ago, and in revenge the latter shot Bill, taking him unawares.
This is the long-looked for ending of the career of one who deserved a better fate. For nearly his whole life time Bill was on the frontier, a portion of the time acting as scout, and then as an officer of the law in some frontier town. He was elected Sheriff of this county in 1868, and did good service in keeping order. While here he killed several men; but all their acquaintances agreed that he was justified in so doing. He never provoked a quarrel, and was a generous, gentlemanly fellow. In person he was over six feet tall, broad-shouldered, and a specimen of perfect manhood throughout.
He was a dead shot, wonderfully quick in drawing and shooting, the latter faculty filling his enemies with a very wholesome respect, when in his presence.
Living as he did in constant fear of his life, he always kept his revolvers with him, and had the fellow that shot him given him a fair fight, and not taken the cowardly advantage that he did. Wild Bill would not have been killed.