HBO’s Deadwood – Fact & Fiction

Across the street at  657 Main Street is the recreated Old Style Saloon #10. Here, you will not only find a real saloon, restaurant, and gambling den, but also a “saloon museum” where historical and mining camp artifacts, spanning over 100 years, are exhibited along the walls. One display shows what is allegedly the original “death chair” where Hickok was shot, but according to our sources, it is actually one that is similar. The saloon also features a Bill HickokJack McCall and the other players recreating the shooting every day at 3:00 p.m.

Yet to Come?

There are other important events in Deadwood’s history that have not yet been shown. We can only wish that we could see how the series would have handled these events.

  • In June 1877 George Hearst, who had earlier sent an agents to offer a bond to owners of the Homestake claim, buys the 4 ½  acre claim for $70,000.
  • George Hearst and his partners incorporated their holdings as The Homestake Mining Company in California on November 5, 1877.
  • After losing the election in 1877 for Justice of the Peace, he and his family stayed in Deadwood only about one more year before relocating to Chicago, Illinois.
  • Obviously not satisfied with the current state of law enforcement, vigilantes begin to take the law into their own hands in 1878.
  • A new preacher, Father Mackin, comes to town to replace the dead Preacher Smith.
  • Martha Bullock introduces art and culture to the town.
  • Dan Doherty and Al Swearengen have a falling out and Dan opens his own saloon.
  • The Bella Union shuts down in 1878, the building becomes a grocery store and meeting room.
  • By 1878, Al Swearengen’s brother, Winfield, is also living in Deadwood.
  • In 1879 a disastrous fire destroys 300 buildings in Deadwood including the Gem Theater and Star & Bullock’s hardware store. Both businesses are rebuilt.
  • Sol Star becomes mayor of Deadwoodin 1884.
  • Sol Star and Seth Bullock buy a section of land, begin ranching and start a new town called Belle Fourche.
  • Seth and Martha Bullock have two more children. (They already have a small daughter, who has not appeared in the series.)
  • Seth Bullock meets Theodore Roosevelt in 1884
  • On July 3, 1889, Al Swearengen marries Odelia Turgeon. However, by December of that same year, she has obtained a warrant for his arrest after he repeated struck and choked her, and threatened her life. Al skips town, but later returns and the case against him is dropped. By July, of 1890, Al files for divorce against his wife on the grounds of adultery.
Seth Martha Sophia HBO

Seth, Martha & Sophia. Courtesy HBO’s Deadwood Series.


HBO Deadwood Series Cast:

HBO Character Actor Description/Diversion From History
Aunt Lou Cleo King George Hearst’s cook in the series. In actual life, Lucretia “Aunt Lou” Marchbanks worked at the Grand Central Hotel and other places before starting her own boarding house.
Silas Adams Titus Welliver One of Al Swearengen’s henchmen in the series, no record of him actually exists in Deadwood’s history.
Martha Bullock Anna Gunn Martha Bullock was married to Seth Bullock. In the series she is the mother of William Bullock, who never actually existed, nor was she ever married to Seth’sbrother. The couple actually had three children.
Seth Bullock Timothy Olyphant Co-Owner of Star & Bullock Hardware, sheriff, rancher, and owner of the Bullock Hotel. No affair with Alma Garret, no step-son named William.
William Bullock Josh Eriksson On the series, William is the deceased stepson of Seth Bullock and biological son of Martha Bullock and Seth’s brother Robert. William Bullock actually did not exist.
Johnny Burns Sean Bridgers Gem Saloon worker/henchman. A “real life” character, history shows him to actually have been a worse man than he appears to be on the series.
Calamity Jane Robin Weigert Frontier woman who often followed Wild Bill Hickok. Calamity Jane was, in real life, just as drunken and foul-mouthed as she is in the series.
Doc Cochran Brad Dourif The physician of the camp. A Dr. Cochran did not exist in Deadwood. Perhaps patterned after Dr. Lyman F. Babcock or Dr. F.S. Howe.
Andy Cramed Zach Grenier Gambler who brought Small Pox to Deadwood, turns minister. No history for anyone by this name in the “real” Deadwood.
Dan Dority W. Earl Brown Henchman to Al Swearengen at the Gem. Though his last name was spelled differently, he did work with Al.
Wyatt Earp Gale Harold The legendary lawman from Dodge CityKansas is actually noted to have been in Deadwood in 1876.
Ellsworth Jim Beaver Prospector, manager of Homestake Mine, marries Alma Garret. Non existent in real life.
E.B. Farnum William Sanderson Innkeeper of the Grand Central Hotel and Deadwood Mayor in the series. In real life, did not own hotel, but owned a retail business. He was elected as the major. Was married with children.
Samuel Fields Franklyn Ajaye General of African American troop and works in the livery stable. Real life Fields was seemingly just a flamboyant as the one of the series. Obviously, not a “real” general in the Civil War.
Alma Garret Molly Parker Widow of claim seeker, now married to prospector Ellsworth. Though typical of many naive people in the early camp, Alma Garret did not exist in the “real” Deadwood.
George Hearst Gerald McRaney Successful California businessman and mining industrialist. Actual person who purchased Homestake Mine. Not known to have been ruthless as in the series.
Wild Bill Hickok Keith Carradine The Old West gunslinger was murdered by Jack Mcall at Nutall’s #10 saloon.
Hostetler Richard Gant Runs the camp’s livery stable in the series. No known person like this appears in Deadwood’s history.
Hugo Jarry Stephen Tobolowsky Commissioner for Lawrence County, Dakota Territory.
The Huckster Gill Gayle Con man, known for his prize soap sell swindle. Based on the real life “Soapy Smith.” Though Smith was a widely known conman who often worked the mining camps of the west, there is no record that he was in Deadwood.
Miss Isringhausen Sarah Paulson Tutor to Sofia Metz, secretly a Pinkerton. Though there were probably Pinkerton Agents in Deadwood, no one by this name is known.
Jewel Geri Jewell Handicapped cleaning woman at the Gem. No record of anyone in like this in Deadwood’s history.
Jack Langrishe Brian Cox Stage promoter and theatrical troupe manager. Did exist in real life, but rather than being gay, he was married.
Leon Larry Cedar Worker for Cy Tolliver at The Bella Union. No known man by this name in Deadwood’s history.
Maddie Alice Krige The deceased madam of the Chez Amis did not exist in real llife.
Jack McCall Garrett Dillahunt Unemployed, classless camp member, murdered Wild Bill Hickok in Nutall’s #10Saloon.
A. W. Merrick Jeffrey Jones Editor of the Deadwood Pioneer newspaper. Actual historic figure. Married with children in real life.
Sofia Metz Bree Seanna Wall Adopted daughter of Alma Garret and sole survivor of the Metz Family Massacre. She did not exist in real life; the only survivor of the massacre was an adult man.
Tom Nuttall Leon Rippy Owner of Nutall’s #10 Saloon. True in history. Would later run the Bella Union.
Pete Richardson Ralph Richeson The cook at the Grand Central Hotel is a fictional character.
Reverend Smith Ray McKinnon Deceased minister of Deadwood. Actually existed but did not die in the same manner.
Con Stapleton Peter Jason Worker for Cy Tolliver at The Bella Union. Was actually Deadwood’s first marshal.
Soloman Star John Hawkes Co-owner of Star & Bullock Hardware. Would later become Deadwood postmaster and mayor. Was not part of any Deadwood bank.
Joanie Stubbs Kim Dickens Former hostess of the Bella Union, started her own brothel called the Chez Amis until selling it to Jack Lagerishe. Did not exist in Deadwood’s history. May be loosely based on a madam named Mollie Johnson.
Al Swearengen Ian McShane Owner of the Gem Saloon. Was actually as bad in life as on the show. Was also married.
Cy Tolliver Powers Boothe Owner of rival saloon, The Bella Union. No actual existence of anyone by the name of Cy Tolliver in Deadwood’s history. Bella Union was owned by a man named Tom Miller.
Trixie Paula Malcomson Former prostitute at the Gem Saloon.
Charlie Utter Dayton Callie Owner of a freight business and sometimes travel companion of Wild Bill Hickok. Was married when he was in Deadwood.
Francis Wolcott Garrett Dillahunt Sociopathic geologist who worked for George Hearst and committed suicide by hanging. There was no Francis Wolcott in Deadwood’s history; however, Hearst did send investigators to Deadwood prior to his arrival.
Mr. Wu Keone Young Though Wu is representative of Tong leaders in the camp, there is no record for anyone by that name in actual Deadwood history. In the series, he is the leader of the Chinese camp.


1 thought on “HBO’s Deadwood – Fact & Fiction”

  1. OK but there’s no explanation on the internet why the hell the “Cornish” (there never has been such a country, just a regional population) are speaking some other language than English. They are f&*%ng English. Cornish was a dead language 100 years past. What the hell language?

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