Bikernet Blog Search Bikernet
Ride Forever -
Tuesday Edition

The Deadwood Diaries

Wild Bill Hickock Murdered

By news sources and Wikipedia

Share this story:

“Wild Bill” Hickok, one of the greatest gunfighters of the American West, was murdered in Deadwood, South Dakota.

Born in Illinois in 1837, James Butler “Wild Bill” Hickok first gained notoriety as a gunfighter in 1861 when he coolly shot three men who were trying to kill him.

A highly sensationalized account of the gunfight appeared six years later in the popular periodical Harper’s New Monthly Magazine, sparking Hickok’s rise to national fame.

Other articles and books followed, and though his prowess was often exaggerated, Hickok did earn his reputation with a string of impressive gunfights.

After accidentally killing his deputy during an 1871 shootout in Abilene, Kansas, Hickok never fought another gun battle. For the next several years he lived off his famous reputation.

Occasionally, he worked as guide for wealthy hunters. His renowned eyesight began to fail, and for a time he was reduced to wandering the West trying to make a living as a gambler. Several times he was arrested for vagrancy.

In the spring of 1876, Hickok arrived in the Black Hills mining town of Deadwood, South Dakota. There he became a regular at the poker tables of the No. 10 Saloon, eking out a meager existence as a card player.

On this day in 1876, Hickok was playing cards with his back to the saloon door. At 4:15 in the afternoon, a young gunslinger named Jack McCall walked into the saloon, approached Hickok from behind, and shot him in the back of the head. Hickok died immediately. McCall tried to shoot others in the crowd, but amazingly, all of the remaining cartridges in his pistol were duds. McCall was later tried, convicted, and hanged.

Wild Bill and Buffalo Bill Cody.
Wild Bill and Buffalo Bill Cody.

Dead Man’s Hand

For other uses, see Dead man's hand (disambiguation).
"Aces and eights" redirects here. For other uses, see Aces and eights (disambiguation).

The card hand purportedly held by Wild Bill Hickok at the time of his death: black aces and eights.

The makeup of poker's dead man's hand has varied through the years. Currently, it is described as a two-pair poker hand consisting of the black aces and black eights.

Bill was originally buried where Bandit currently resides, but due to increasing workers in the mines, the city decided to move the cemetery to the top of Moriah.
Bill was originally buried where Bandit currently resides, but due to increasing workers in the mines, the city decided to move the cemetery to the top of Moriah.

The pair of aces and eights, along with an unknown hole card, were reportedly held by Old West folk hero, lawman, and gunfighter Wild Bill Hickok when he was murdered while playing a game.

No contemporaneous source, however, records the exact cards he held when killed. Author Frank Wilstach's 1926 book, Wild Bill Hickok: The Prince of Pistoleers, led to the popular modern held conception of the poker hand's contents.


James Butler Hickock (Bio)

James Butler Hickok (May 27, 1837 – August 2, 1876), better known as "Wild Bill" Hickok, was a folk hero of the American Old West known for his life on the frontier as a soldier, scout, lawman, gambler, showman, and actor, and for his involvement in many famous gunfights. He earned a great deal of notoriety in his own time, much of it bolstered by the many outlandish and often fabricated tales he told about himself. Some contemporaneous reports of his exploits are known to be fictitious, but they remain the basis of much of his fame and reputation.

Hickok was born and raised on a farm in northern Illinois at a time when lawlessness and vigilante activity was rampant because of the influence of the "Banditti of the Prairie".

Drawn to this ruffian lifestyle, he headed west at age 18 as a fugitive from justice, working as a stagecoach driver and later as a lawman in the frontier territories of Kansas and Nebraska. He fought and spied for the Union Army during the American Civil War and gained publicity after the war as a scout, marksman, actor, and professional gambler. He was involved in several notable shootouts during the course of his life.

In 1876, Hickok was shot and killed while playing poker in a saloon in Deadwood, Dakota Territory (present-day South Dakota) by Jack McCall, an unsuccessful gambler. The hand of cards which he supposedly held at the time of his death has become known as the dead man's hand: two pair, black aces and eights.

Hickok remains a popular figure of frontier history. Many historic sites and monuments commemorate his life, and he has been depicted numerous times in literature, film, and television.

He is chiefly portrayed as a protagonist, although historical accounts of his actions are often controversial, and much of his career is known to have been exaggerated both by himself and by contemporary mythmakers. While Hickok claimed to have killed numerous named and unnamed gunmen in his lifetime, according to Joseph G. Rosa, Hickok's biographer and the foremost authority on Wild Bill, Hickok killed only six or seven men in gunfights.

Share this story:

Back to In History, Special Reports

Reader Comments

That is what I call history . I thought Deadwood would be a creative environment for the infamous Bandit, and I was right. You research stuff at a micro level and that's way cool.

I did not know it was just two pairs and I assume the last high card was either a red card ace or a red card eight. I know it is off the biker story line, but these guys were the original 1 percenters, living by their own rules. Don't want to be messed with and don't poke their noses into somebody else's business unless asked or paid for.

Thanks and real good story.

Torrance, CA
Thursday, July 23, 2020
Editor Response More history to come... You inspired me to get off the dime. I can't wait to research the Chinatown aspect of Deadwood. Plus, there's a murder mystery.
And today's lesson is to always sit with your back to the wall.

Thursday, July 23, 2020
Editor Response That's protection 101.

Your thoughts on this article

Your Name
Anti-Spam Question:
Please enter the words you see in the box, in order and separated by a space. Doing so helps prevent automated programs from abusing this service.