Free-State Army, General Custer, jayhawker, Deadwood, dead-man’s hand
James Butler Hickok (May 27, 1837 – August 2, 1876), was an Illinois man on the lam when he first arrived in Kansas in 1855, joining up with the Free State Army and settling a large acreage in what is now Lenexa, Kan. Barely 18, this was only the first adventure of a long and storied ride. Details in Hickok’s life are oft-debated, some written off as tall-tales and others outright lies. In the matter of a year, Hickok alternated from an outlaw to a sheriff. Varied accounts recall Hickok as a Union spy, a participant in the first quick-draw duel, a scout for General Custer, an actor, a gambler, a drinker, and a Jayhawker. By the time Hickok was gunned down by Jack McCall on Aug. 2, 1876 at the Nuttal & Mann’s Saloon in Deadwood, South Dakota—at the poker table, holding his infamous “dead man’s hand” of black aces and eights—he was already a mythic figure. Fact or fiction, as the story goes, Wild Bill Hickok is the embodiment of the Wild West. He rests in Mount Moriah cemetery in Deadwood, named after all the dead trees dotting the surrounding valleys.