Wild Bill Hickok was born in Troy Grove, Illinois in 1837. He died in 1876 in Deadwood, South Dakota. Hickok is a name of infamy for the US. He first gained recognition as a frontiersman and army scout. He was also known as a marksman and gambler. It is perhaps his legend that is further known than his actual feats at this stage. Hickok gained notoriety as a marksman due to gunfights and his own shows. In 1856, Wild Bill left Illinois to farm in Kansas, but joined the Free State Movement believing that slavery was wrong. He became a village constable for a short time. When working as a teamster he killed Dave McCanles in Nebraska. It was a large gunfight according to the history books. It is this fight that gave rise to his fame, but it is suggested the tales were mostly exaggeration. Hickok scouted for the Federals during his time in Springfield. He was up on murder charges for Dave Tutt, but acquitted.
In 1871, Hickok became marshal in Abilene, Kansas. He’d adopted a Prince Albert style coat and wore a black hat. His hair was shoulder length and blonde. He never cut his hair above shoulder length, which might have given rise to some of his “wild” appearance. He worked for the Union as a scout and spy during the Civil War. By 1872, he was a retired scout, marshal, and teamster. He started his Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show, which ran until 1874. For two years he drifted around before marrying Agnes Lake, a widowed actress.
Hickok was not known for staying very long in one place. He left her in Cincinnati before moving on to Black Hills, South Dakota. He went because of the gold rush. There he met with trouble and gambling. Throughout his life, Hickok spent time at gaming tables. He often went to a bar and gaming place in Deadwood, which became his downfall. Tim Brady and Johnny Varnes were leaders of a gang in Deadwood. They plotted to kill Hickok, worried he would be appointed marshal of the town. Jim Levy and Charlie Storms were asked to be a part of the plot, but they turned it down.
At this point Hickok was starting to suffer from bad eyesight. It was not widely known and probably a good thing since other killers might have gone after him. His fame as a marksman protected him somewhat.
Hickock entered Carl Mann’s Saloon at 4pm on August 2nd 1876. He had a conversation with Henry Young before sitting down at a table with Charles Rich, Con Stapleton, Carl Mann, and Captain Willie Massie.
Hickok had his back to the back door, but then asked Rich to change seats. Rich laughed and refused. Jack McCall, a local bum casually moved toward the back door. McCall opened fire with a .45 calibre killing Hickok who was holding a pair of aces and eights. It is the dead man’s hand. Jack McCall was hanged in 1877.