Illinois native, James Butler Wild Bill Hickok, was known as a frontiersman, Indian fighter, buffalo hunter, tracker, and sheriff of several rough western towns with a somewhat self-glorified image of himself. He had at one time wowed audiences in “Buffalo Bill” Cody’s Wild West Shows with his shooting prowess. He had been an excellent Army scout and the Marshall of Abilene, Kansas. Many admired him, but along the way, he made many enemies, including those who wanted to challenge him to bolster their own reputations.
After several controversial shootings in his official capacity, he left Kansas joining his friend Charlie Utter’s wagon train for the Black Hills gold fields of the Dakota Territory. Gold had been discovered in the Black Hills in 1874 and Hickok, like many others, planned on getting rich. However, like many, this did not work out. At the age of 39, diagnosed with vision problems, Bill was trying to support himself by playing poker on a daily basis.
A Game of Poker
On the evening of 2 August 1876, “Wild Bill” Hickok entered Nuttall and Mann’s #10 Saloon on the main street of the Deadwood mining camp to join a poker game. His usual habit was to sit with his back against the wall so he could watch any approaching adversary or enemy that might wish to harm or kill him. He was even known to play cards with his left hand so that his right hand (gun hand) would always be able to defend himself. When he approached the poker table a fellow Deadwood resident, Charlie Rich, was seated in Bill’s preferred seat against the wall. Bill asked him to give up his seat but Mr. Rich refused. Bill reluctantly took a seat at the side of the table where he could still have a good view of the front door. However, the saloon also had a side entrance, which was to Bill’s back.