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employ of Government as a detective and is probably better acquainted with
the plains than any other man living, of his age.

Hickok was a deputy United States marshal when he wrote this
letter which the Hays Daily News reprinted on March 17, 1957:


March 28, 1868

Comdr Post of Fort Hays, Kans.


I have the honor to request that a guard of a Corpl and five men be de-
tailed to assist me in conveying the prisoners of the U. S. Marshal now in the
Post Guard House to Topeka, Kans. I should respectfully call your attention
to the number and character of these prisoners and the feeling in their behalf
in this community which renders a guard of U. S. soldiers absolutely necessary.
I am, Captain, very respectfully

Your obd't servant


Dept U. S. Marshal.

The prisoners were, with the help of W. F. "Buffalo Bill" Cody,
taken safely to Topeka. The Topeka Weekly Leader, April 2, 1868,


W. F. Cody, government detective, and Wm. Haycock Wild Bill deputy
U. S. Marshal, brought eleven prisoners and lodged them in our calaboose on
Monday last. These prisoners belonged to a band of robbers having their head-
quarters on the Solomon and near Trinidad, and were headed by one Major
Smith, once connected with the Kansas 7th. They are charged with stealing
and secreting government property, and desertion from the army.

Seventeen men, belonging to this same band, were captured eleven miles
from Trinidad, on the 13th of March, and sent to Denver, Colorado Territory,
for trial.

Hickok was still in Hays, or again in Hays, in August, 1868. Re-
porting the adventures of a western excursion, a writer in the
Leader, August 13, 1868, related:


. . . Hays city, three hundred miles west of State line, is the present live
town of the plains. The first man we saw was "Wild Bill." He was ready,
waiting to give welcome to the excursionists. Gentle William said he had
brought two hundred of the nastiest, meanest, Cheyennes to Hays that we might
get a sight at the red men who did most of the murdering and scalping during
the troubles of the past two years.

Hickok was again hired by the army on September 1, 1868. This
time he was carried on the rolls as a guide and was paid $100 per
month. He was hired by the 10th U. S. cavalry "near Skimmerhorne
Ranche [probably on Elkhorn creek in present Elkhorn township,


Lincoln county], Kansas." Available records reported Hickok em-
ployed thusly through the remainder of 1868. 5

In July, 1869, the St. Joseph Union reported that Hickok had been
shot. The Leavenworth Times and Conservative reprinted the
article on July 17. Unfortunately no details of the shooting were

The St. Joseph Union is responsible for the following:

WILD BELL, of Harper notoriety, was shot three times in Colorado the other
day. Wounds not mortal. If the enthusiastic admirers of this old plainsman
could see him on one of his periodical drunks, they would have considerable
romance knocked out of them.

Within a couple of weeks Hickok was seen in Hays. The Junction
City Weekly Union, July 31, 1869, in an article reporting an excur-
sion to "end of track," mentioned him:


On Monday last, a party, consisting of Richard Bowne, Esq., a prominent
member of the New York bar; Mrs. Bowne; Misses Eliza and Annie Bowne;
Mr. T. C. Bowne; Mr. E. W. Parsons, of New York city; Mr. Charles E. Alioth
of Lausaune, Switzerland; and Mr. and Mrs. Boiler of this place, started on a
trip to Sheridan, the present terminus of the Kansas Pacific railway. . . .

At Hays City, the excursionists had the pleasure of meeting "Wild Bill," of
Harper's Magazine notoriety; and were besides greatly impressed with the air
of respectability which characterized all the inhabitants of that wealthy and
flourishing metropolis. . . .

Toward the end of August, 1869, Wild Bill was elected sheriff of
Ellis county. Although the county was organized in 1867, it had
difficulty from the first, in retaining its peace officers. It is known
that Tom Gannon was elected sheriff on December 5, 1867, 6 but it
is possible that at least two other persons held the office within the
next 18 months. By the summer of 1869, Ellis county was in need
of still another sheriff. On July 7, 1869, several citizens of Hays
petitioned Gov. James M. Harvey to appoint R. A. Eccles to the
post. 7 Though no record of the governor's reply has been preserved,
he apparently did not appoint Eccles since a special election was
called and Hickok was chosen. The Leavenworth Times and Con-
servative, September 2, 1869, reported:


HAYS CITY, Aug. 31, 1869.

At the election held here a few days ago . . . J. B. Hickok, familiarly
known as "Wild Bill," [was] elected Sheriff of the county.

On September 27, 1869, Sheriff Hickok shot and killed Sam
Strawhim, a Hays city ruffian. Previously the Junction City


Union, July 31, 1869, had reported a shooting involving Strawhim,
Joe Weiss, and A. B. Webster:

A special from Hays City to the Leavenworth Commercial states that Joe
Weiss, formerly of the Leavenworth penitentiary, and lately of the plains, was
shot through the bowels Friday afternoon, by A. D. [B.] Webster. The affair
occurred in the post office, in which Webster was a clerk, and was a most
justifiable act. Weiss, together with another ruffian named Strawhan, threat-
ened Webster's life because he served upon them a notice to leave town, by
order of the viligance committee. They entered the post office about 3 p. m.,
abused, slapped, and finally drew a revolver upon Webster, who was too quick
for them, with the above result. Webster has been acquitted.

Weiss, whom the Leavenworth Times and Conservative, May 4,
1869, had called a deputy U. S. marshal, apparently died from
this wound or else within a year received another wound which
proved fatal. (See the U. S. census extract below.) Now, in
September, it was Strawhim's turn to die. The Times and Con-
servative, September 28, 1869, carried this telegraphic report:



HAYS CITY, Sept. 27.

A man named Sam'l Stranghan was shot and instantly killed by "Wild Bill/'
(J. B. Hickok) Sheriff, at one o'clock this morning. It appears that Stranghan
and a number of his companions being "wolfing" all night, wished to conclude
by cleaning out a beer saloon and breaking things generally. "Wild Bill"
was called upon to quiet them. In the melee that followed Stranghan was
killed. The Coroner's verdict this morning was justifiable homicide. Stranghan
was buried this afternoon.

The Lawrence Kansas Daily Tribune, September 30, 1869, re-
printed the news from the Leavenworth Commercial:


The Leavenworth Commercial of Tuesday has a special dispatch from
Hays City, dated September 27th, which says:

"About twelve o'clock last night a difficulty occurred in this place at the
house of John Bittles, between a party of roughs and the proprietor. Policemen
Hickok and Ranahan [probably Peter Lanihan, deputy sheriff] interfered to
keep order, when remarks were made against Hickok Wild Bill. In his
efforts to preserve order, Samuel Stringham was shot through the head by
him, and instantly killed. Justice Joyce held an inquest on the body to-day,
six well-known citizens being selected for the jurymen. The evidence in one
or two instances was very contradictory. The jury returned a verdict to the
effect that Samuel Stringham came to his death from a pistol wound at the
hands of J. B. Hickok, and that the shooting of said Stringham was justifiable. 8

Sometime shortly before Wild Bill killed Strawhim in Hays, a
murder, which eventually involved Hickok, had been committed
near Fort Wallace. The Times and Conservative, September 16,
1869, reported:


James Butler "Wild Bill" Hickok bringing in the reticent Abilene city councilman (see p. 429). This
is the picture for which Mayor Joseph G. McCoy was censured by the Abilene Chronicle, May 18, 1871.



Mammoth Circus!

Tb nut thoroughly orialMd nd complete
the world, nnder tb mnfn*nt of


Wild Bill Hickok as depicted by Harper's New Monthly Magazine, February, 1867. Several who knew
him said the sketch was a good likeness, but they voted the accompanying story "not easily credited

Right, a portion of the Lake circus advertisement in the Junction City Union, July 29, 1871. The circus
also played Abilene, where Mrs. Lake met Wild Bill. They later were married.






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The report of a Wichita police committee in 1876 (see p. 322) which voted two to one that
the marshal should "enforce the vagrant act in the case of the 2 Erps." One of the Earps so
designated presumably was Wyatt. The original report is in the city clerk's archives at Wichita.




A telegram was received here this morning from Fort Wallace to arrest a
man named Bob Conners for the murder of a drover named Hammy. Before
there had been time to deliver the telegram Conners passed through town, and
Marshal Ferguson, accompanied by California Bill, half an hour later gave
chase and came in sight of him at Gopher Switch, talking with section men.
As soon as Conners saw he was pursued he put spurs to his horse, and soon
left Mr. Ferguson, who was too poorly mounted to pursue him further.

Conners had been in the employ of Mr. Hammy. Last night Hammy was
awakened and caught Conners with his hand under his pillow. This morning
Hammy discharged Conners, and when paying him, Conners said "I will show
you how to accuse me of stealing!" at the same time shooting him and killing
him instantly.

There were several in the employ of Mr. Hammy, and it is believed it was
their intention to kill him and take his stock. He had 1,300 head of sheep
and some horses.

Conners is following the track east. His description has been sent to all
the telegraph stations along the road, and he will probably be taken before he
gets off the plains.

On September 18, Jack Bridges captured Connors in Hays. The
Times and Conservative, September 21, 1869, reported:



HAYS CITY, Sept. 20

Robert Connors, the man who shot the sheep drover at Fort Wallace a few
days ago, was captured here Saturday, on an extra train, on his way east. He
got on the train at Buffalo Station, eighty miles west of here. He attempted
to get on an A. Anderson extra train, which came down same day, but they
would not let him on. He was delivered over to the commanding officer at
the Fort for safe keeping, and it is thought that he will be sent to-morrow to
Sheridan or Topeka for trial. He took a horse belonging to the murdered man,
which he sold at Buffalo for eighty dollars.

Within a few days the commandant telegraphed the governor
of Kansas for instructions regarding the prisoner and on October
3 reported his actions in accordance with those instructions:

October 3rd 69

The Governor of Kansas


If you will be pleased to recollect I telegraphed you on the 24th day of

Sept last asking you whether I should deliver a certain Bob Connors to any

one but the parties who had placed him in my Guard House for safe keeping.

Bob Connors is charged with being the murderer of a Drover near Pond



City several weeks since, and was arrested by Deputy U S Marshal Bridges
& Asst of Hays City. They claiming the use of my Guard House in order to
protect him as they alledged from threatened violence at the hands of some
of the citizens of Hays.

It having been represented to me that in all probability Connors would be
Lynched, were he taken back to Sheridan I deemed it to be my duty to urge
upon his Captors (by letter, a copy of which I have carefully preserved on
file) that justice demanded that they should take him to Topeka and confer
with your Excellency in regard to the proper disposition to be made of him
under the circumstances.

Up to the present moment they have made no formal demand for him.

In reply to my telegram you directed that Connors should only be given up
to the proper legal authorities.

This morning about 10 o'clock Mr. J. B. Hickok (commonly known as Wild
Bill) presented himself at my office accompanied by an Asst whom he called
Pete [Deputy Sheriff Peter Lanihan?], and made a formal demand for Connors,
handing me what he claimed to be a Warrant for the arrest of said Connors
signed by John Whitteford claiming to be a Justice of the Peace for the County
of Wallace, Kansas. The document in question did not bear upon its face any

Inasmuch as the Warrant directed Mr. Hickok as Sheriff of Ellis County to
make the arrest I demanded to see his Commission which was not produced,
he acknowledging that he had never been Commissioned by you. Under the
circumstances I deemed it to be my duty to decline turning him over. Further
I had no evidence that there was any regularly constituted Justice of the Peace
for Wallace County.

Acting then purely agreeable to your instructions I have the honor to request
that should any State Official endeavor to interfere with me in regard to my
non Compliance in this case that you will at once interpose your strong arms in
my behalf.

With Sincere respect
Yr Excellency's Obedt Servant
Major 5th Inf
Bt Lt Col USA
Comdg Post 9

The contemporary records fail to show what disposition was
finally made of Robert Connors.

At the regular election for county officers, held November 2, 1869,
Hickok was defeated for re-election by his deputy Lanihan. A cor-
respondent of the Times and Conservative reported the result of the
balloting in the issue of November 5, 1869:


HAYS CITY, Nov. 3, 1869.

The vote in Ellis county stands as follows:

Sheriff, J. B. Hickok, independent 89; Peter Lannihan, Democratic, 114.


In the Leavenworth Times and Conservative of November 21,
another correspondent described the young town and mentioned
that "Wild Bill is sheriff and makes a good officer." The correspond-
ence was dated November 16.

Wild Bill visited Topeka on November 17. The Kansas Daily
Commonwealth mentioned him twice in its November 18, 1869,

"Wild Bill," whom they have attempted to kill, but who has the inexorable
will to perambulate the earth still, and who is always ready for a "mill," save
when he may chance to be ill, yesterday came up the Topeka hill to get a
stomach fill.

Sheriff Hickok, of Ellis county yclept, in many a well-known story of
border-life, "Wild Bill," is in town, registered at the Topeka House. Long may
he at Hays,

"Shake his ambrosial locks and give the nod,

The stamp of fate, the sanction of a god!"

At the same election in which Hickok was defeated, the chosen
candidate for Ellis county representative was accused by his de-
feated opponent of irregularities of conduct. Acting in his capacity
as sheriff of the county, Hickok served certain legal papers on J. V.
Macintosh, the accused. Hickok certified, through his deputy, the
deliverance of the papers with this statement which was included
in the evidence gathered by the house of representatives and pub-
lished in the House Journal for 1870:

Served the within notice at Hays City, Kansas, on the 9th day of December,
A. D. 1869, by delivering a certified copy of the same, at the usual place of
residence of the within named J. V. Macintosh.



Deputy Sheriff.

The same day the papers were served, December 9, 1869, the
Topeka Commonwealth mentioned that "Hays city under the guard-
ian care of 'Wild Bill' is quiet and doing well/'

On December 20 Hickok sent a buffalo to the proprietor of the
Topeka House. The Commonwealth, December 21, 1869, reported:
"Jas. B. Hickok, alias Wild Bill sent a whole buffalo to McMeekin
yesterday, from Hays city. Mac serves up buffalo roasts and steak
to-day with the usual etcetras."

This was the last record found which located Wild Bill in Hays.
Sometime during his stay in that place he wrote this letter or bill for
services rendered:




To J B Hickok Dr
To Services as policeman 1 month & 19 days at $75.00 per Month $122.50

I certify that the above account is correct and remains due and unpaid.

J. B. HlCKOK.ll

In concluding Hickok's record at Hays, the following from the
1870 United States census, is of interest because it fails to list Bill
Mulvey and the "several" troopers of the Seventh cavalry whom
Wild Bill has oft been reported to have killed there during the time
covered by the report.

SCHEDULE 2. Persons who Died during the Year ending 1st June, 1870, in
Hays City, in the County of Ellis, State of Kansas, enumerated by me, M. E.
Joyce, Ass't Marshal.

Name of every
person who died
during the year
ending June 1,
1870. ...





The Month
in which
the person



Ryan, Michael
Weia Joseph





March [July?]



Straughn, Samuel. . .
Murphy, John ......

. 28



N. Y.




I certify that the above return was taken according to law and instruction.


Asst. Marshal
Total number of deaths, 4. ...

REMARKS: The above embrace all the names of persons who died in my dis-
trict during the year ending June 1st 1870. The three persons reported shot
were killed in fights on the street. The one reported "from Whiskey" died
while drunk and supposed to died from the Effects of liquor.

By February, 1870, Wild Bill was in Topeka. The Common-
wealth, February 8, reported: "Wild Bill was up before Judge
Holmes yesterday, and fined five dollars for striking straight out
from the shoulder and consequently hitting a man." On April 29,

1870, the paper mentioned that " 'Wild Bill' is in the city again."
No other contemporary records were found locating Hickok until

the spring of 1871 when he was hired as city marshal of Abilene.

Since the November 2, 1870, death of Chief of Police Tom Smith,
Abilene had been without a chief law enforcement officer. In April,

1871, the newly elected city government, spurred by the approach-
ing cattle season and its attendant increase in lawlessness, appointed
a city marshal within days of its election. The man chosen was Wild
Bill Hickok, and on April 15 he was sworn into office. 12 Hickok's


pay in this capacity was to be $150 a month plus one-fourth of all
fines assessed as a result of arrests made by him. 13

The first recorded excitement of Hickok's Abilene career occurred
on May 8, 1871. The city clerk noted the episode in his minute book:

At an adjourned meeting of the Mayor & Councilmen of the City of Abilene
all members were present. On motion of G. L. Brinkman the order of busi-
ness was suspended and the resignations of members considered. Moved by
G. L. Brinkman that both resignations of councilmen be considered at once
motion unanimously carried. Moved by G. L. Brinkman that the resignations
of Messrs. L. Boudinot and [Samuel] Carpenter be accepted, carried. S. A.
Burroughs voting against. S. A. Burroughs left the Council without permis-
sion and on motion of Mr. Brinkman the Marshal was instructed to compell his
attendance. Mr. Burroughs brought in by the marshal and immediately left
the council. On motion of G. L. Brinkman the marshal was instructed to again
bring Mr. Burroughs back which order was executed. 14

V. P. Wilson, editor of Abilene's only newspaper, the Chronicle,
was a leading critic of Mayor Joseph G. McCoy. The council epi-
sode made McCoy an apt target for Wilson's editorial cannon. On
May 18, 1871, Wilson ran this article in the Chronicle:

THE PICTURE MAN. A short time since our Mayor, J. G. McCoy, ordered
the Marshal to arrest and bring into the meeting of the council, only two mem-
bers being present, one of the members who did not wish to be present. The
councilman was arrested and carried into the room by the Marshal. There was
not the least shadow of law for such a proceeding, there being no ordinance
to compel the attendance of councilmen. Of course the Marshal simply obeyed
orders whether legal or not and is not to blame. But our silly mayor goes
down to Topeka, publishes his exploit in the papers, gets up a picture which
pretends to represent the transaction, carves upon it in big letters, "Who's
Mayor now," and sends them all over the country to be hawked about and
laughed at as a standing disgrace to his own town. If boyish silliness can beat
such a small trick we'll acknowledge that Abilene is blessed with a mayor of
prudent sense. If you wish to see such nonsense continued vote McCoy's ticket
for councilmen on next Tuesday; but if you prefer a council that will oppose
the eccentricities and extravagances of our picture mayor, be sure to vote for
Boudinot and Carpenter. They are men of good sense, and will do what they
think is right.

In June Wild Bill posted notices that the carrying of weapons in
the city would be forbidden. The Chronicle, June 8, 1871, said:

FIRE ARMS. The Chief of Police has posted up printed notices, informing
all persons that the ordinance against carrying fire arms or other weapons in
Abilene, will be enforced. That's right. There's no bravery in carrying re-
volvers in a civilized community. Such a practice is well enough and perhaps
necessary when among Indians or other barbarians, but among white people it
ought to be discountenanced.

But the ordinance was disregarded by some and on June 22, 1871,
the Chronicle reported a shooting:


A shooting affray occurred this morning on First Street, between two men.
It seems that hard words passed between them, when one drew his revolver,
and No. 2 remarked "you know you have got the advantage of me." No. 1 then
put back his weapon, whereupon No. 2 drew a Derringer and fired at No. 1
who also managed to draw his six-shooter. Each fired two shots; one was hit
in the wrist and the other in the shoulder. The police were promptly on hand
and arrested the parties in time to prevent one or both from being killed. The
men are, at this writing, having a hearing before Judge Barber. Each party
violated the law by carrying weapons while in town. As to which one is to
blame for the shooting we are not advised but the slight value that some men
place upon human life is a sad commentary upon the custom of carrying fire-
arms among people who claim to be civilized. And the cowardly custom of
shooting at a man when he is not prepared to defend himself is far from being
in accordance with the "code of honor" observed by all men who lay claim
to bravery or chivalry. To stand up and shoot at a man ? who has an equal
chance with you, indicates that you are not a coward, but to fire at a man when
you know that he is defenceless and can't return the compliment, is next to
the lowest species of cowardice known among men.

If a man is doing any good in the world, his life is worth preserving but
if he is of no use to himself or anybody else, then it don't make much difference
how soon his body is put under the ground. And yet, life is sweet to all and
ought to be held sacred by people who are not completely buried in moral

Online LibraryKansas State Historical SocietyThe Kansas historical quarterly (Volume 26) → online text (page 49 of 59)