Today on Days to remember we celebrate how on April 15th 1871, “Wild Bill Hickok became the marshal of Abilene Kansas.
Wild Bill Hickok is remembered for his services in Kansas as sheriff of Hays City and marshal of Abilene, where his ironhanded rule helped to tame two of the most lawless towns on the frontier.
He is also remembered for the cards he was holding when he was shot dead, with a pair of black aces and a pair of black eights, which is now known as the dead man’s hand.
Following his Civil War service, Wild Bill Hickok moved to Kansas where he was appointed sheriff in Hays City and marshal of Abilene. Both towns had become outposts for lawless men before Hickok arrived and turned things around.
If you never seen Wild Bill Hickok before today’s YouTube video presentation brought to you by user name, (John Boda) gives you a beautiful demonstrated slide show of the many faces of Wild Bill Hickok.
How did Wild Bill Hickok get his infamous nick name?
Hickok used the name William Hickok from 1858 and William Haycock during the Civil War and was arrested as Haycock in 1865. He afterward resumed using his real name of James Hickok. Most newspapers continued to use the name William Haycock when referring to “Wild Bill” until 1869. Military records after 1865 used his correct name, although acknowledging that he was also known as Haycock.
While in Nebraska, Hickok was derisively referred to as “Duck Bill” (especially by business acquaintance David Mc Canles and his associates).
He grew a moustache following the Mc Canles incident and in 1861 began calling himself “Wild Bill” another Hickok nickname before 1861 he was known as, “Shanghai Bill”, given to him by the Jayhawkers because of his height and slim build.
On April 15, 1871, Hickok became marshal of Abilene, Kansas. He replaced former marshal Tom “Bear River” Smith, who had been killed on November 2, 1870. It was here that his confrontations took place with John Wesley Hardin and Phil Coe.
Being a lawman back then was quite different to today’s lawman, and losing lawman over a gun fight was quite common, but did Will Bill have any family during his lawman years?
Legendary gunfighter and lawman James Butler (Wild Bill) Hickok had a brother, nicknamed Tame Bill. His brother’s name was Lorenzo Butler Hickok.
“Wild Bill” Hickok’s story is frequently entwined with another legend of the Old West, Calamity Jane. Calamity Jane was known to have boasted of an affair with Hickok, but there seems to be no historical proof that the two were anything other than casual associates. Calamity Jane was buried next to “Wild Bill” Hickok in Deadwood, but Hickok had no say in the matter, having died 27 years earlier.
Shortly before Hickok’s death, he wrote a letter to his new wife, which read in part, “Agnes Darling, if such should be we never meet again, while firing my last shot, I will gently breathe the name of my wife, Agnes, and with wishes even for my enemies I will make the plunge and try to swim to the other shore.”
Whose Agnes you may ask?
A young Agnes Mersman married circus performer William Thatcher Lake and began to train for the circus, eventually perfecting her skills as an equestrian and wire walker.
In the meantime, she mourned the deaths of at least two infants and adopted several children. Her husband was tragically shot in Missouri during a circus performance, leaving Agnes to manage the circus they owned.
While on the road with her circus, she met the legendary Bill Hickok in Abilene, Kansas, just after he became marshal of the town in 1871.
They began a courtship through correspondence that resulted in their marriage in 1876. After only five months, an assassin took Bill’s life, leaving Agnes a widow once again.
By this time, she had sold her circus and retired. However, she continued to accompany her talented daughter Emma to her circus performances.
Unfortunately Will Bill and Agnes didn’t have any children of their own.
Written & Designed by JD Mitchell