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Jack McCall - Cowardly Killer of Wild
McCall, also known as "Crooked Nose” Jack, would probably have never
been remembered in history if he hadn’t shot
South Dakota. Not specifically an "outlaw,"
was more notorious for his drunkenness and stupidity, and perhaps as a
scoundrel. However, as he utilized several aliases throughout his
lifetime, there may very well have been more dastardly deeds in his past
of which we are unaware.
Born around 1850 in
he was raised there along with his three sisters.
drifted west as a young adult and was working in the
with a group of buffalo hunters by about 1869. Later he
was known to have been in
before arriving in
in 1876, going by the name of Bill Sutherland.
described him as having thick
chestnut hair, a small sandy moustache, a double chin and crossed
Bill Hickok in
on August 2, 1876.
Soon after his
Deadwood, he was drinking at the bar at Nuttall and Mann’s No. 10
Saloon on August 1, 1876. Getting steadily drunk, he watched as
Hickok played poker at a full table. When one of the players
quickly took his place. Drunk and overmatched,
lost hand after hand until he had not a dime left in his pocket.
some money to buy himself something to eat and advised him not to play again until he could cover his losses. Though
McCall accepted the money, he
Wild Bill entered Nuttall & Mann's
Saloon he found Charlie Rich sitting in his preferred seat. After
Wild Bill joined the game, reluctantly seating
himself with his back to the door and the bar---a fatal mistake.
McCall, drinking heavily at the bar, saw
Hickok enter the
saloon, taking a seat at his regular table in the corner near the
door. Seeing an opportunity to
avenge himself of the insult, and perhaps to make a name for himself,
came up behind
pointed his .45 caliber revolver at the back of his head and pulled
the trigger as he shouted, "Damn you, take that!” Hickok,
holding a hand of Aces and Eights, fell instantly dead to the floor.
ran immediately from the saloon and attempted to escape on someone
else’s horse that was tethered nearby. However, because the
saddle had been loosened, he fell to the ground. He then ran
down the dusty street and hid in a butcher’s shop, but within minutes,
he was found by a large crowd.
The very next day, the mining camp
assembled a miners’ court, convening at the McDaniels/Langrishe
Theater. Though the City of
Deadwood had no legal jurisdiction, they went about appointing a
defense attorney, prosecutor, and judge and began
trial for murder.
McCall claimed he had shot
Wild Bill in revenge for killing his brother back in Abilene,
Kansas and maintained that he would do it all over again given the
chance. In less than two hours the jury returned a "not guilty”
verdict that evoked this comment in the Black Hills Pioneer:
"Should it ever be our misfortune to kill a
man ... we would simply ask that our trial may take place in some of the
mining camps of these hills."
McCall lingered about
Deadwood for several days, until a man called
California Joe strongly suggested the air might be bad for
McCall got the message and believing he’d escaped punishment for his
crime, headed to
Wyoming bragging to anyone who would listen that he had killed the
Wild Bill Hickok. Less than a month later, the trial held in
Deadwood was found to have had no legal basis,
Deadwood being located in
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boasting would literally be the death of him when a U.S.
Deputy Marshal in Laramie,
Wyoming heard his bragging and arrested him on August 29th.
Charged with murder, he was taken to Yankton,
South Dakota to stand trial.
Hickok traveled from
Illinois to attend the trial of his brother's murderer which began on
December 4, 1876 and was gratified when
McCall was found guilty on December 6th.
March 1, 1877,
Jack McCall was marched up the platform where he kneeled with a priest
with his arms and legs tied. When he stood up the black hood was drawn
over his head and
asked the marshal for just one more moment of prayer.
the noose was placed around his neck and
allegedly said, "Draw it tighter, Marshal." At
10:10 a.m. the trap was sprung and
McCall was hanged, the
first to be
legally executed in Dakota Territory. As to
McCall's earlier claim of having shot
Hickok out of revenge for his brother, it was discovered that
Jack McCall never had a brother.
was buried in the southwest corner of Yankton’s Catholic cemetery.
In 1881, when the cemetery was moved to make
room for the Territorial Insane Hospital, his body was exhumed and it was
discovered that he had been buried with the noose still around his neck. Though his remains were reburied in an unmarked grave in the Yankton
Cemetery, the exact location was lost over time and remains unknown today.
of America, updated March, 2010.
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