Wild Bill Hickok Married

Wild Bill Hickok had lived the life of a free-spirited man hunting buffalo, being a lawman, gambling and even a stint as an actor. By the time he was 38 Wild Bill’s eyesight was going bad. For his own safety and the safety of others, he gave up being a lawman. And his attempt to be an actor was a failure. About the only thing left for Wild Bill was gambling. So then Wild Bill Hickok, married? 
           
In 1871 Wild Bill met a widow named Agnes Lake. At the time Agnes was the owner of a traveling circus, in which she also performed as a trick rider.
               
Agnes evidentially sparked something in Wild Bill… Because, even though they went their separate ways, they continued corresponding.
 
The two of them met up in Cheyenne, Wyoming and decided to get married. As an aside, there are those who say that Wild Bill had earlier married Calamity Jane. But there is no evidence to confirm this.
 
So, on March 5, 1876 Wild Bill and Agnes Lake got married. Even though they had been corresponding for five years, the marriage surprised most of their friends. Even Reverend W.F. Warren, the Methodist minister who conducted the ceremony wrote in the church register, “I don’t think they meant it.”
 
They went to Cincinnati, Ohio for a couple weeks honeymoon. Alone, Wild Bill then headed for St. Louis. From there he went to Cheyenne, Wyoming and finally to Deadwood, South Dakota where he was killed.
 
In less than 6 months after their marriage, with them being together only 2 weeks of those 6 months, Agnes Lake Hickok was once again a widow.      
Wild Bill Hickok Married

Old West Book Review: Comanche Jack Stilwell

Comanche Jack StilwellComanche Jack Stilwell, Clint E. Chambers and Paul H. Carlson, University of Oklahoma Press, $24.95, Paperback, Non-fiction, 288 Pages, 2 Maps, 26 Illustrations, Notes, Index, Bibliography.

When Arizona history buffs hear the name “Stilwell,” we immediately think of Frank Stilwell, killed by Wyatt Earp at the Tucson, Arizona train station in 1882.  However, Frank had an older brother “Comanche Jack Stilwell” who led a far more productive and adventuresome life than his younger brother, but not in Arizona.

This book delves into the life and times of Jack Stilwell, beginning with his family history and looking into Jack’s running away from home in Kansas when he was thirteen years old.  Unhappy about the separation of his parents due to his father’s infidelity, young Jack decided to head West with a freight outfit lumbering along the Santa Fe Trail.  A family story says he went to the local water well where he met a group of lusty men with wagons filled with goods, and the boy signed on.

Thus began years of adventures first as a freighter crisscrossing the vast prairies, learning to speak Spanish as well as several Indian languages, including Comanche, earning him the nickname “Comanche” Jack.  He eventually found work as a civilian scout for the U.S. Cavalry.

The Battle of Beecher Island comes up frequently in Stilwell’s biography.  This event took place in September 1868 in northeastern Colorado.  The fight lasted nine days between Cheyenne, Lakota and Arapaho warriors against soldiers of the Ninth Cavalry.  During fierce fighting, Major Forsyth requested that Stilwell try to make the ninety-mile run for help to the closest army fort.  On foot, draped in blankets, living on raw horse meat, Jack somehow got through enemy lines and is forever remembered as the hero of the Battle of Beecher Island.

Stilwell met Custer and scouted for him, was a friend of Buffalo Bill Cody, and knew many other famous westerners including Quanah Parker and Frederick Remington.  Everyone seemed to like him, speaking and writing favorably about his willingness and good disposition.  When his health began to fail he quit scouting and became a cowboy for several years.

In 1882 his younger brother Frank, who lived near Tombstone, Arizona was shot and killed by Wyatt Earp.  Jack came to Arizona only long enough to settle his brother’s estate before returning home.  With his health deteriorating badly, but still determined, he studied law, became a sheriff, and eventually a judge.  Late in life he married a woman half his age.

His health continued to fail, and after a long series of painful issues related to his many years of hard outdoor living, he died February 17, 1903, probably of Bright’s disease.  Today he lies buried at Old Trail Town, on the west side of Cody, Wyoming, and is remembered as a true Old West frontiersman.

This book goes into great detail about this man’s personal history, and is a fitting tribute to Comanche Jack Stilwell, “army scout and plainsman.”

Publisher’s Notes. The reviewer, Phyllis Morreale-de la Garza is the author of numerous books about the Old West, including Death For Dinner, the Benders of (Old) Kansas, Silk Label Books, P.O. Box 399, Unionville, New York, 10988. Ph. (845) 726-3434. www.silklabelbooks.com

*Courtesy of Chronicle of the Old West newspaper, for more click HERE.

The Cowboy Kid

Johnny Baker was born on January 12, 1869. While still a young kid he met and became enthralled with Buffalo Bill Cody. At the age of 9 little Johnny would hold Buffalo Bill’s horse, and run errands for him. At this time Buffalo Bill was appearing on the stage and the subject of many a dime novel. About five years later Buffalo Bill came up with the idea of starting a Wild West show. Johnny Baker was only 14 years of age… but he talked both his parents and Buffalo Bill into letting him join up. It was discovered that Johnny was a pretty good shot. So he became the shows trick shot expert under the name “The Cowboy Kid.”
The Cowboy Kid, Johnny Baker
One of the features of the Wild West show was a shootout between Annie Oakley and The Cowboy Kid. Whether planned or not, the Cowboy Kid never won.
 
Even after the Wild West show closed, Johnny remained loyal to Buffalo Bill. And, after Buffalo Bill’s death Johnny tried resurrecting Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show. But it didn’t last long. Still wanting to be a part of the circus atmosphere, he went to work for the Miller 101 Shows, which were more like a rodeo. For a while Johnny was their arena director. And then they closed their doors.
 
Johnny still yearned for the excitement he experienced while traveling with Buffalo Bill. He started working with the town of Denver, Colorado to open a museum. And in 1921 the Buffalo Bill Memorial Museum was opened.
 
Johnny Baker ran the museum until his death. It stands today, not just a monument to a great showman, but also an indication of the love Buffalo Bill’s unofficial foster son had for the showman.

The Wild West Story of S. F Cody & Maud LeeA Pair of Shootists; The Wild West Story of S. F Cody & Maud Lee, Jerry Kuntz, University of Oklahoma Press, (405‑325‑3200) $29.95, Hardcover. Photos, Notes to the Chapters, Index.

This carefully researched book brings to light the story of S. F. Cody, a Wild West performer who was in no way related to the famous Buffalo Bill Cody.  Included in this book is background information regarding many of the Wild West performers and the numerous shows that featured cowboys, Indians, acrobats, wild horse stampedes and the carnival atmosphere surrounding the entertainment of long ago.  Beginning around 1888, these shows became popular and grew in number. Touring every state in the Union, they hauled horses, cattle, equipment, Indians, trick riders and shootists who dazzled audiences with their derring‑do.

The forerunner of the Wild West shows actually began around 1883 when various sharpshooters held public contests to see who could out‑shoot the other using moving targets.  In the beginning live birds were used, but eventually the sport graduated to glass‑ball targets.  Soon these shooting contests added wild horse races, stagecoach holdups, and circus acts.

In this book, Samuel F. Cowdery is the central figure.  Born in Davenport, Iowa in the 1870s, he traveled Out West seeking adventure and became an experienced buffalo hunter, horse trainer, cowboy and miner.  In the late 1880s he joined the Forepaugh’s Wild West Show.  His name was shortened to S. F. Cody by show promoters who were not bashful about fooling people into thinking Cowdery was either Buffalo Bill himself, or, at least Bill’s son.

There was no question that S. F. Cody could ride hard and shoot straight.  He even looked like Buffalo Bill with his long hair, distinctive moustache and fringed buckskin garb.  Next came Maud Maria Lee, a sixteen year old girl in 1888 who hailed from Norristown, Pennsylvania. Maude was the same size and shape as the famous Annie Oakley.  An attractive brunette, Maud had some gymnastic training, loved the circus life, rode horses and was a crack shot.  Also a member of the Forepaugh Wild West Show, it did not take long for Maud to meet Cody, and it did not take long for the Forepaugh promoters to seize upon the opportunity to make audiences believe that Maud Maria Lee was Annie Oakley.

The story tells of the pair’s travels with various touring groups, their trip to Europe with the Wild West extravaganza complete with advertising posters done in England bragging that S. F. Cody was the son of Buffalo Bill.

Long travel, harsh weather conditions, serious injuries, and the vagaries of salary payment took their toll.  Maud began using narcotics to ease her pain and she gradually slid into mental instability.  Maud returned to her parents in America while Cody took up with a new lady partner for his shooting act as well as in real life. While still in England, Cody developed an interest in the early airplane experiments.  Certain the airplane would be invaluable for war, he even worked for a time for the British government.  Cody was killed in 1913 in a crash with his biplane, and is buried in the military service cemetery at Thorn Hill.

After drug use, arrests, lawsuits, and brushes with the law, Maud was committed by her parents to the Norristown State Hospital, a mental institution where she died in 1947 from heart failure at age seventy‑five.

The wild west story of S. F. Cody and Maud Lee is not a happy one.  Their best years together were those few when they first met, when the world was young, when they were the center of attention.  Crowds cheered, the horses were fast, the shooting was usually straight, but they were never really Buffalo Bill or Annie Oakley.  They had to settle for second best, and until now have been mostly forgotten.

A haunting story, this book is filled with good information heretofore overlooked. 

Editor’s Note: The reviewer, Phyllis Morreale‑de la Garza is the author of numerous books including the novel Silk and Sagebrush; Women of the Old West, published by Silk Label Books, P.O. Box 700, Unionville, New York 10988‑0700.

*Courtesy of Chronicle of the Old West newspaper, for more click HERE.

Cheyenne Dog Soldier Chief Tall Bull

Cheyenne Dog Soldier Chief Tall BullTall Bull was a fairly common name for the Cheyenne, had by several braves. But the Tall Bull known by the whites of the Old West was Cheyenne Dog Soldier Chief Tall Bull. And under his leadership, they became one of the toughest foes of the United States government in the bloody Plains Indian Wars.      
 
Tall Bull and his Dog Soldiers spent the winter and spring of 1867 attacking stages and stage stations. Although, in no way defeated, they agreed to talk peace that fall. Even though the treaty they signed stated differently, they had a verbal agreement to be able to hunt the grounds above the Arkansas River as long as there were buffalo there.          
 
The next spring Tall Bull took his warriors above the Arkansas to hunt, and while they were there, they also did some raiding. With soldiers pursuing him, Tall Bull was successful in attacking them on several occasions. So, the army put together a special force under General Eugene Carr to get Tall Bull.
 
On July 11, 1869, believing he had outdistanced the pursuing force, Tall Bull and his warriors made camp at Summit Springs, Colorado. But, Carr’s Pawnee scouts had found the village, and the soldiers were able to get next to the village, undetected, before attacking. 
 
During the battle Tall Bull, and many Dog Soldiers were killed. Although the Cheyenne fought for another ten years, because of this battle, the Dog Soldiers were never again a major force. 
        
Incidentally, even though, Carr’s civilian guide, Buffalo Bill Cody, claimed to have killed Tall Bull, others in the battle say there was no way to tell who killed him, because everyone was shooting at him.  
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