- The legendary Wild Bill Hickok passes this week, in this notable installment of our old west history series.
1881: On this day, Missouri Governor Thomas Crittenden put a combined $10,000 bounty on the heads of Frank and Jesse James, the among the most infamous of all old west outlaws. This nearly unprecedented bounty - worth a quarter of a million dollars today - undoubtedly helped lead to Jesse's violent end less than a year later.
1874: The terrible Kansas Grasshopper Plague began on or around this date. The swarms are said to have blotted out the sky, and fields were covered several inches deep in the insects. Unable to cope with the crisis alone, money and food aid poured into Kansas from across the nation, often carried by rail lines for free.
1876: On this day, in Deadwood, Wild Bill Hickok relieved a man named Jack McCall of all his money in a poker game. Despite Hickok offering to loan the man money for food, McCall stormed off, vowing revenge for the incident. Most of us know what happens next.
1876: Wild Bill Hickok died today at a poker game, shot unawares in the back of the head by Jack McCall. According to accounts, Hickok was holding two pair, Aces and Eights in all black, giving rise to the legend of the "Dead Man's Hand." McCall was actually tried twice for the crime, and was hanged for the murder on March 1, 1877.
1877: Old west "po8" and gentleman bandit Black Bart left the following bit of doggerel at the site of a stage heist in Sonoma County:
I've labored long and hard for bread,
For honor, and for riches,
But on my corns too long you've tread,
You fine-haired sons of bitches.
1859: On this day, Fort Larned, Kansas, was established on the Santa Fe Trail to protect travelers from native raids. It operated until 1878, but was retired in remarkably good condition. In 1964 it was designated a National Historic Site and has since operated as a popular tourist attraction to this day.
1873: The brutal Battle of Massacre Canyon, in the Nebraska Territory, occurred to day. Some 1,000 Sioux ambushed a much smaller group of traveling Pawnee, killing sixty-nine. The slaughter helped convince the Pawnee to accept the protection of a US reservation.
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