Go West Book Project

By Jack Keith

"Wild Bill Hickok Tames the West" Stewart H. Holbrook

Wild Bill Hickok

Bill Hickok was born in 1837 and raised in Illinois. As a kid he loved hunting and that was a big factor to is amazing marksmanship that kept him alive later in his life. When Hickok was 17, he left for Kansas. Hickok traveled to Kansas by working for a free ride on a riverboat on the Mississippi River. After that, Hickok took part in the dangerous job of getting a shipment of several hundred Sharps rifles out of St. Louis and to the Free-State town of Lawrence, Kansas. At age 21, the settlers of Monticello, Kansas, elected him constable, a small town police officer. This was the start of his career in law enforcement in the West. As his reputation grew, Hickok would move from town to town to help tame the West. Eventually, his reputation worked against him as two men paid Broken-Nose-Jack McCall to get rid of Hickok. At the age of 39, Wild Bill Hickok was shot in the back of the head as he played cards at a local saloon in the town of Deadwood City, South Dakota.

What Kinds of Obstacles did the Pioneers Face on Their Journey?

Common Obstacles

The most common obstacles that come up on the topic of Westward Expansion include extreme weather, illnesses, injuries, starvation, navigating through mountains and rivers, and the well documented struggles with Native Americans. Few were expecting that the towns that they were so eager to get to had their own dangers.

A Different Kind of Obstacle

One of the more complicated obstacles that pioneers had to face on their journey west was the lack of government in the new western towns. In the book "Wild Bill Hickok Tames the West" by Stewart H. Holbrook, Wild Bill didn't travel west to settle down or for a better life, he, as the title states, looked to tame the west. Many of the towns he stayed in did not have an organized government or law enforcement.

Wild Towns for Wild Bill

In Hays City, Kansas, honest citizens were constantly battling 'gangsters' that were taking over the town. A delegation of citizens asked Wild Bill to be the town's City Marshall. His reputation in town seemed to calm things for little while, but it would not stay that way as thousands of settlers moved through the town every few days. This was a hostile environment that kept Hickok busy for years, until he finally 'tamed' Hays City and was ready to move on. Wild Bill's reputation as a courageous lawman got him the job of City Marshall after the Mayor of Abilene Kansas sought him out. Abilene was overrun by "cowhands" that often celebrated their successful roundups. One story tells of Hickok stopping a hundred cowhands on horses by standing in front of a saloon saying "Clear Out!" Wild Bill's reputation often made him seem powerful and dangerous to anyone who tried to break the law.
Wild Bill Hickok gunfight

Wild Bill Hickok's Armory