Anniversary of Wild Bill Hickok's Death | Black Hills Travel Blog

Anniversary of Wild Bill Hickok's Death

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The fateful shot was fired 134 years ago today - August 2, 1876. The shot that rang throughout Deadwood and left its mark forever in Old West history. It was the gunshot that killed James Butler 'Wild Bill' Hickok.

Some folks say that Wild Bill knew his days were numbered and that he had told his friend,'Colorado Charlie' Utter,  that he knew Deadwood would be his final camp. Wild Bill, although only 39 years old, had lived a colorful life.

Of the stories told about Wild Bill Hickok, just as many tend to be fiction compared to those that are fact. What can be verified as true is that he made his fame and living as a lawman, military teamster, showman, gunfighter and gambler. Wild Bill's pursuits took him from his birth state of Illinois to the plains of Kansas and Missouri and eventually to the western frontier regions of Wyoming and South Dakota.

After living an adventurous and often questioned lifestyle as a no-holds-barred lawman, Hickock finally made his way to Deadwood Gulch in July of 1876, possibly hoping to quietly live out his days at the poker tables of the booming gold town. And that was the case - for just a couple of weeks.

On August 2, 1876, Wild Bill Hickok was playing poker at Nuttal & Mann's Saloon No. 10 in Deadwood. Hickok always played by a personal rule that he had to have a chair with his back to the wall.

This day was different.

Because all of the other chairs at the card table were filled and players weren't willing to give up their seats, Hickok was forced to sit in a chair with his back to the door of the saloon.

Eventually, while Hickok was still playing poker, Jack McCall quietly roamed into the bar and made his way to Wild Bill's back side. McCall raised a pistol, cursed Hickok and shot him directly in the back of the head - killing him instantly. Hickok's body slumped forward, revealing his poker hand containing two pair - black aces and black eights.

McCall ran out of the saloon but was quickly caught by Deadwood citizens just a couple of blocks down the street. Hickok was buried in Deadwood's Inglewood Cemetery and later moved up the hill to Mt. Moriah Cemetery, where a memorial of him remains today.

His poker hand of aces and eights became known as the 'Dead Man's Hand' and the supposed chair he was shot in is on display in the Old Style Saloon No. 10, across the street from the original watering hole. Daily re-enactments of Hickok's last card game and shooting take place in the back of the Old Style at 1:00, 3:00, 5:00 and 7:00 every afternoon during the summer season.

It was on this very day that Hickok's luck ran out in Historic Deadwood, but yours could be just beginning. Come to town, see the sights, take in the history and visit legendary Mt. Moriah Cemtery on the hill above town.

It's an experience you'll never forget in a town like no other!

About the Author

Joe is a resident of Spearfish, S.D. He grew up in the tall-corn state of Iowa, where he developed an early interest in all things outdoors. After high school he moved to Vermillion, S.D., where he earned his bachelor’s degree in public relations and advertising.

During his college years, two things caught his attention: the beauty of western South Dakota’s Black Hills and a girl from those Black Hills. After graduating from college, Joe traveled across the country as a recruiter for the University of South Dakota. He saw the sights from Pittsburgh to Las Vegas and everywhere in between, but it was the Black Hills (and the girl) that kept drawing him back.

He and wife moved back to the Black Hills in 2008. He's an avid hiker, mountain biker and road cyclist whose future plans include trying to fit a pair of kayaks into the spare bedroom.

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