Capt. Jack Lloyd
In August of 1945, a grizzled old frontiersman visited our city. His name was Capt. Jack Lloyd. He made an appearance at the old Temple Theater and held his audience entranced, as he described how in his own lifetime he had bridged the time between the really "Wild West" and the world as it was then, at the end of World War II.
Jack had been a boy of nine, in 1876. He lived in the wide open, bawdy town of Deadwood, South Dakota, and made his way by selling papers to the miners in the saloons -- and there were a lot of saloons in Deadwood in 1876.
On Aug. 2, 1876, Jack was delivering his papers at the Nuttall & Mann's Saloon No. 10. There were several tables of poker players in the room. At one of them sat James Butler Hickok, better known as Wild Bill Hickok. At that time Hickok was already a legendary, larger-than-life character in the Old West. He had made a considerable reputation as a buffalo hunter, Army Scout, marksman, gun fighter, actor, lawman and professional gambler. At times, his duties as lawman and professional gambler overlapped, but in those days "conflict of interest" was not much considered, especially in Deadwood.
At any rate, he was well-known in Deadwood, and Jack Lloyd looked upon him as a genuine celebrity.
Wild Bill was constantly on his guard, and it was his custom to always take his seat at the gambling table with his back to the wall, facing the door, so he could see who might be coming in. This time he had arrived late for the game and the only seat at the table available was the one which placed Wild Bill's back to the door. Twice he had asked another of the players at the table to change places with him. Both times they refused.
Jack Lloyd described how he was just loafing in the saloon, watching the game, when he saw a young fellow slip through the crowd around Hickok's table and edge quite close behind Hickok's chair. Suddenly the fellow drew a gun and with one quick motion shouted, "Take that!" and fired one shot into Hickok's head. Hickok died instantly.
With that bullet, Wild Bill Hickok's legendary status was cemented into the lore of the Old West. The poker hand Hickok was holding, a pair of aces and a pair of eights, is known to this day as "A dead man's hand."
Sentiment in Deadwood ran deep after Hickok's death, and Calamity Jane, who has been linked romantically to Bill Hickok, was reported to be devastated over Hickok's murder and was leading a mob of vigilantes to lynch McCall immediately.
That mob was dispersed, and McCall was hauled into an impromptu court at the McDaniel's Theater. Jack McCall claimed that he had shot his victim because the sometime lawman had killed his brother in a shoot-out in Abilene, Kansas. Even though there had been numerous witnesses to the shooting, after some two hours of deliberation a jury, made up of miners and Deadwood businessmen, found McCall innocent of any crime and he went free.
The verdict prompted the Black Hills Pioneer to editorialize, "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 in these hills." (Note: McCall left Deadwood after his trial and headed to Wyoming, where he continued his life as a drifter, well lubricated with alcohol. When drunk, he would brag incessantly about his being the man who brought down the great Wild Bill Hickok.
Eventually he was tried a second time, this time in a Federal Court, for Hickok's murder. He was found guilty and was hanged at Yankton, Dakota Territory, on March 1st, 1877, at the age of 24. McCall became the first person to be executed in Dakota Territory. In western lore he is frequently referred to as "Jack McCall, the dirty little coward who shot Wild Bill Hickok.")
Capt. Jack Lloyd grew to manhood and went on to have many adventures in the Old West. He served for several years as an Indian Scout in the Dakota Territory. In Texas he was associated with the colorful Roy Bean, The Hanging Judge, "The Law West of the Pecos." Mr. Lloyd claimed that at least one of Jack London's stories about the Alaskan Frontier, in Gold Rush Days chronicled Lloyd's own adventures in the New Frontier.
Whether or not all of Capt. Jack's adventures were precisely true, no one in attendance that night really cared. It was the consensus of the folks who heard Lloyd's lecture that night that they were getting a first-hand glimpse of an exciting era, now long gone, by a man who could really tell a spell-binding story.
There were other connections of these historical characters with folks in Southwest Nebraska. William S. Fitch, a very early settler in Red Willow County had a small trading post Southwest of McCook, on his farm, which he called "Walnut Grove" on account of the large number of trees, which he had planted.
Wild Bill Hickok and Buffalo Bill Cody were frequent visitors to Mr. Fitch's store, and Fitch regarded the two men as friends. Mr. Fitch and Wild Bill Hickok later had a falling out, and Fitch came to dislike Hickok a great deal after he saw Hickok shoot an Indian in the back, simply because he wanted the Indian's horse.
Another connection came between Gail Baldwin, the Sheriff in Hitchcock County and the assassin, Jack McCall. In fact, McCall nearly did not live to have his date with notoriety in Deadwood. But that is a story, unto itself, which we will bring you next week.
Source: McCook Gazette Nebraska Centennial Edition 1967, Gazette Centennial 1882-1982