Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Nebraska History - Wild Bill Hickok

Nebraska History – Wild Bill Hickok

James Butler Hickok was born on May 27, 1837, in Troy Grove. Illinois. As a young man he came west on a stagecoach and became a carbon copy of the stereotyped cowboy.

He wore a broad brimmed hat, buckskins that smelled like the wild, had shoulder length hair and Indian moccasins were his usual footwear. Hickok’s weapons were two cap and ball Colt 1851 .36 Navy Model pistols. They were silver plated with ivory handles and were engraved J.B. Hickok. He wore his pistols backwards in a belt or sash seldom using holsters.

James Butler Hickok came west on a stagecoach in 1855, at age 18, and roamed the Kansas Nebraska territories. According to lore his legend actually began in the Nebraska territory

In 1860 Hickok was an assistant at Rock Creek Station. Rock Creek Station was a supply and mail stop on the Oregon Trail. It was located in what is now Jefferson County, in southeastern Nebraska on the Blue River.

A David McCanless had owned Rock Creek Station but sold it on a note to a company called Russell, Major and Wadell, who were involved with the Pony Express.

The due date on the note came and passed and McCanless was not paid. So, he and nine cohorts rode to Rock Creek Station to collect the money. The station was managed by Horace Wellman and his wife, an aide J W Brink and an assistant James Butler Hickok.

When McCanless and his crew arrived Wellman informed them he didn’t have the money, but would get it. Wellman said it would be a 10 day trip and McCanless agreed.

Wellman left but didn’t return in the allotted time with the money. After 10 days passed McCanless, thinking Wellman’s wife had hidden him, confronted her and a loud threat filled argument ensued.

The story goes Hickok heard the argument went to see what was happening and became involved in a heated argument with McCanless. Hickok was pushed grabbed a shotgun off the wall and shot and killed McCanless.

The men with McCanless heard the gunshot came running and were shot by Hickok as they entered the room. Hickok, though, ran out of bullets grabbed his Bowie knife shouting he would kill them all, which he did a total of 10.

Hickok staggered out of the building full of buckshot, a few lead slugs and had been cut 13 times but was alive.

The story about the fight spread via the wagon trains that stopped there. Legend says James Butler Hickok was dubbed Wild Bill Hickok because of the fight at Rock Creek station in the Nebraska territory.

In all fairness there is another version to the fight. It says Hickok killed McCanless in a gun fight out in the street there were no other killings, and Hickok nicknamed himself Wild Bill.

Nevertheless, Hickok, Wellman’s wife and J W Brink were tried for murder and found innocent because the killing or killings were in self defense.

A new legend was born, though. James Butler Hickok rode out of the Nebraska territory as Wild Bill Hickok and into fame as a scout, lawman and professional gambler.

Jefferson County, Nebraska – Wild Bill Hickok –

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