Wild Bill Hickok Established his Reputation as a Gun Fighter (July 12, 1861)

Jul 7, 2014 - 0 Comments


by Michael Thomas Barry


What happened on this week July 14-20, in crime history. Mary Surratt and the other Lincoln assassination conspirators were executed (July 7, 1865); Terrorists attack the London transit system (July 7, 2005); Warren Earp, the youngest of the famous gun fighting brothers was murdered in Wilcox, Arizona (July 7, 1900); Francis Gary Powers was charged with espionage (July 8, 1960); Soapy Smith, one of the most notorious con men of the West was murdered (July 8, 1898); Exxon Valdez captain, Joseph Hazelwood’s conviction was overturned (July 10, 1992); Old West gunslinger “Buckskin” Frank Leslie murdered a prostitute (July 10, 1889); The Barefoot Bandit was captured in the Bahamas (July 11, 2010); The Moors Murderers began their killing spree in England (July 12, 1963); Wild Bill Hickok established his reputation as a gunslinger by shooting three men in Nebraska (July 12, 1861); Last woman executed in Britain for murder (July 13, 1955); Jean Paul Marat was assassinated in Paris (July 13, 1793).


Highlighted crime of the week


On July 12, 1861, Wild Bill Hickok begins to establish his reputation as a gunfighter after he coolly shoots three men during a shootout in Nebraska. Born in Illinois, James Butler Hickok moved to Kansas in 1855 at the age of 18. There he filed a homestead claim, took odd jobs, and began calling himself by his father's name, Bill. A skilled marksman, Hickok honed his abilities as a gunslinger. Though Hickok was not looking for trouble, he was always ready to defend himself, and his ability with a pistol soon proved useful.


By the summer of 1861, Hickok was working as a stock tender at a stage depot in Rock Creek Station, Nebraska Across the creek lived Dave McCanles, a mean-spirited man who enjoyed insulting the young stockman. Hickok took his revenge by secretly romancing McCanles' mistress, Sarah Shull. On July 12, 1861, the tension between the two came to a boiling point when McCanles learned about the affair between Shull and Hickok. He arrived at the station with two other men and his 12-year-old-son and exchanged angry words with the station manager. Then McCanles spotted Hickok standing behind a curtain partition. He threatened to drag "Duck Bill" outside and give him a thrashing. Demonstrating remarkable coolness for a 24-year-old who had never been involved in a gunfight, Hickok replied, "There will be one less son-of-a-bitch when you try that."


McCanles ignored the warning. When he approached the curtain, Hickok shot him in the chest. McCanles staggered out of the building and died in the arms of his son. Hearing the shots, the two other gunmen ran in. Hickok shot one of them twice and winged the other. The other workers at the station finished them off. The story of Hickok's first gunfight spread quickly, establishing his reputation as a skilled gunman. In 1867, Harper's New Monthly Magazine published a highly exaggerated account of the shoot-out which claimed Hickok had single-handedly killed nine men. The article quoted Hickok as saying, "I was wild and I struck savage blows." Thus began the legendary career of "Wild Bill." For the next 15 years, Hickok would further embellish his reputation with genuine acts of daring, though the popular accounts continued to exceed the reality. He died in 1876 at the age of 39, shot in the back of the head by a young would-be gunfighter looking for fame.





Michael Thomas Barry is the author of numerous books that include the award winning, Murder and Mayhem 52 Crimes that Shocked Early California, 1849-1949 (2012, Schiffer Publishing). The book was the WINNER of the 2012 International Book Awards and a FINALIST in the 2012 Indie Excellence Book Awards for True Crime.  


Visit the author's website for more information: www.michaelthomasbarry.com. The book can be purchased from Amazon through the following link:  


Amazon - http://www.amazon.com/Murder-Mayhem-Shocked-California-1849-1949/dp/0764339680/ref=la_B0035CPN70_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1361552464&sr=1-3


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