1837 – born – May 27th, Troy Grove, Illinois. His real name was James Butler Hickok. He took part in the Kansas struggle preceeding the Civil War, was a driver of the Butterfield stage line, and gained fame as a gunfighter.
1855 – he left his father’s farm to become a stage coach driver on the Santa Fe and Oregon Trails.
1860-1861 – Like his friend Buffalo Bill Cody, he was a rider for the Pony Express in his youth.
1861 – He served as a Union scout in the Civil War.
1866 – After the war he became deputy U.S. marshal at Fort Riley, marshal of Hays, Kans. (1869), and marshal of Abilene, Kansas (1871).
1867 – his fame increased from an interview by Henry Morton Stanley. Hickok’s killing of Whistler the Peacemaker with a long-range rifle had influence in preventing the Sioux from uniting to resist the settler incursions into the Black Hills. That rifle shot helped cement Hickok’s legend as a master of weapons.
1871-72 – While working in Abilene, Hickok and Phil Coe, a saloon owner, had an ongoing dispute that later resulted in a shootout. Coe had been the business partner of known gunman Ben Thompson, with whom he co-owned the Bulls Head Saloon. On October 5, Hickok was standing off a crowd during a street brawl, during which time Coe fired two shots at Hickok. Hickok returned fire and killed Coe. Hickok, whose eyesight was poor by that time in his life from early stages of glaucoma, caught the glimpse of movement of someone running toward him. He quickly fired one shot in reaction, accidentally shooting and killing Abilene Special Deputy Marshal Mike Williams, who was coming to his aid, an event that affected him for the remainder of his life.
-Coe, who supposedly stated he could "kill a crow on the wing", is one of the West’s most famous sayings (though possibly apocryphal): Hickok’s retort "Did the crow have a pistol? Was he shooting back? I will be."
1873 – Hickok was reported by some to have appeared with Buffalo Bill in a stage play titled "Scouts of the plains".
1875-76 – His reputation as a marksman in desperate encounters with outlaws made him a figure of frontier legend. After a tour of the East with Buffalo Bill, Hickok went to Deadwood (now in S.Dak.) where he was murdered.
1876 – On August 2, 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.
1876-1877 – The motive for the killing is still debated. McCall may have been paid for the deed, or it may have been the result of a recent dispute between the two. Most likely the killing was apparently over McCall’s drunken resentment of an act of generosity by Hickok, Hickok having offered McCall money to buy breakfast after McCall had lost it all playing poker the previous day. McCall claimed at the resulting two-hour trial, by a miners jury, an ad hoc local group of assembled miners and businessmen, that he was avenging Hickok’s earlier slaying of his brother which was later found untrue. McCall was acquitted of the murder, resulting in the Black Hills Pioneer editorializing:
- "Should it ever be our misfortune to kill a man … we would simply ask that our trial may take place in some of the mining camps of these hills"
1877 – McCall was subsequently rearrested after bragging about his deed, and a new trial was held. The authorities did not consider this to be double jeopardy because at the time Deadwood was not recognized by the U.S. as a legitimately incorporated town because it was in Indian Country and the jury was irregular. The new trial was held in Yankton, capital of the territory. Hickok’s brother, Lorenzo Butler Hickok, traveled from Illinois to attend the retrial. This time McCall was found guilty and hanged. After his execution it was determined that McCall had never had a brother.
1879 – at the urging of Calamity Jane (with whom he had a baby girl in 1873 called Jane), Utter had Hickok reinterred 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. A monument has since been built there. In accordance with her dying wish, Calamity Jane was buried next to him.
-Unknown to most, he was one of the earliest champions of equal rights for blacks during the latter days of slavery.
1879 – Hickok was inducted into the Poker Hall of Fame.
Hickok told the writers that he had killed over 100 men. This number is doubtful, and it is more likely that his total killings were about 20 or a few more. Hickok was a fearless and deadly fighting man, versatile with a rifle, revolver, or knife. His story of fighting a grizzly bear, which he claims mistook him for food because of his greasy buckskins, personified a man who feared nothing. According to Wild Bill, he killed the bear with a Bowie knife after emptying his pistols into the bear.
Television & Movies
1937-Portrayed by Gary Cooper in the movie The Plainsman.
1951-59 – Portrayed by Guy Madison in the TV series (The Adventures of) Wild Bill Hickock.
1996 – Portrayed by Jeff Bridges in the movie Wild Bill.
2004 – Dramatized in the HBO series Deadwood, in which he is portrayed by Keith Carradine.