James Butler Hickok, the renowned “Wild Bill”, remains perhaps one of the most famous of all western gunfighters. His exploits as a Civil War operative, frontiersman, and peace officer have been celebrated often in print, in movies and on television. But, despite all this attention throughout the years, we know very little about the man himself. Vintage photographs, haunting and mysterious, span the mist of time. We wonder - who was Wild Bill Hickok?
The man who became marshal of Abilene, Kansas on April 15, 1871, was a frontier dandy. He stood 6 foot 3 in his custom made boots. His riveting gray eyes, set off by a drooping mustache, seemed to look right through people. Beneath the hat with the sweeping brim, blonde hair tumbled to his shoulders and a Prince Albert frock coat showed off broad shoulders and a narrow waist.Phil Coe, co-owner of the Bull’s Head Saloon, on the evening of October 5, 1871, along with some other Texans went on a shooting spree. When ordered to disperse by Hickok, Coe made the mistake of drawing against the marshal. Both men fired. Coe missed but Hickok put two bullets into the Texan. Mike Williams, Hickok’s deputy and friend, came running to the marshal’s aid. Hickok’s failing eyesight caused him to believe that this was a cohort of Coe’s and his guns blazed again before he realized it was his own deputy.
Wild Bill Hickok, the stone-cold killer, wept openly at the sight of his deputy and friend as he lay mortally wounded in the street. Hickok paid the funeral expenses for Williams, probably the last man he ever killed.
The Arizona Gunfighters recreate this famous confrontation with a professional costumed cast of over 30 gunfighters.
View a video of the Wild Bill Hickok Show