On September 27 back in 1869, Ellis County Sheriff Wild Bill Hickok and his deputy responded to a disturbance by a local ruffian named Samuel Strawhun and several of his drunken buddies at John Bitter’s Beer Saloon in Hays City, Kansas. Hickok ordered the men to stop, Strawhun turned to attack him, and Hickok shot and killed him.

This was typical of Wild Bill’s approach to a confrontation. As one cowboy said, Hickok would stand “with his back to the wall, looking at everything and everybody under his eyebrows–just like a mad old bull.”
But some Hays City citizens wondered if their new cure wasn’t worse than the disease. Shortly after becoming sheriff, Hickok shot a soldier who resisted arrest, and the man died the next day. Then, a few weeks later Hickok killed Strawhun. Even though his ways were effective, many Hays City citizens were less than impressed in that after only five weeks in office he had killed two men.

During the regular November election later that year, the people expressed their displeasure, and Hickok lost to his deputy, 144-89. Though Wild Bill Hickok would later go on to hold other law enforcement positions in the West, his first attempt at being a sheriff had lasted only three months.

Filed under: Old West History

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