Aces Over Eights

After our time with Rock ‘n Roll history, Laura and I headed for the Black Hills of South Dakota. If you have read past posts, then you know I have a thing for the history of the Wild West. Laura and I both have a thing for the HBO show ” Deadwood,” which is a fictional story using the real town of Deadwood and real people in that town as the characters to tell it. We just could not help ourselves being so close to Deadwood, we had to go. So we pointed the covered wagon–well, the travel trailer–to the gold rush town of the 1800’s.

In 1878 the town of Deadwood was born. Prospectors from all over the country came hoping to strike it rich mining for gold in the Black Hills. Along with them came gamblers, pimps, and gun fighters also hoping to profit off the miners’ good fortune. The most famous was a well-known gunfighter by the name of Wild Bill Hickok. Hickok arrived in Deadwood to prospect and play poker. Bill upset a man by the name of Jack McCall at a game of cards. Bill had beaten McCall badly, then offered McCall money to go buy breakfast; McCall took this as an insult. Jack McCall entered the Nuttal & Mann’s Saloon # 10 the next day where Wild Bill was playing five card draw and shot Bill in the back of the head. The hand Wild Bill was said to have been holding when he was killed was a pair of aces over a pair of eights, now infamously known as “The Deadman’s Hand.”

Jack McCall went on trial the next day in Deadwood for the murder. He was acquitted of the murder at that trial because he said Bill had killed his brother. Jack McCall later was put on trail again in Yankton for the same murder. It was not considered double jeopardy because Deadwood was in Indian territory. He was found guilty at that trial  and put to death.

The grave of Wild Bill. Calamity Jane’s grave can be seen in the background.

After the shooting of Wild Bill, Deadwood became famous throughout the country as more than just a gold rush town. There were calls for law and order through the entire Western USA. This leads us to another one of Deadwood’s famous citizens of this time, Seth Bullock.

Seth Bullock arrived in Deadwood the day before Wild Bill’s murder. Bullock had a background in law and became Deadwood’s first sheriff. Mr. Bullock owned many businesses in Deawood and later became very close friends with Teddy Roosevelt. After Roosevelt’s death in Janurary 1919, Seth Bullock created a monument named Friendship Tower on Sheep Mountain, which was renamed Mount Roosevelt, on July 4, 1919. Seth Bullock died of colon cancer that same year on September 23, 1919. You can visit the tower with a short walk on a trail right outside of Deadwood.

Deadwood’s streets are so full of history. So many of the famous characters of the Wild West have played a role in this gold rush town. So many stories are told when one walks through Mount Moriah Cemetery, where so many dark heros were laid to rest. It is well worth the trip to the historic town, but one will have to look past a lot of neon lights and loud sounds. In 1988 gambling was legalized in Deadwood as a way to save the town and bring in more tourists. I’m sure it has helped with revenue for the town, but it has killed something for me. It was hard to walk into a historic hotel in Deadwood to see slot machines lining the walls. It was something we just had to look past.

There is so much more history to Deadwood. If you are anywhere near the area you should pay a visit. Not only because of the beauty and history of Deadwood, but because it is in the middle of some awesome sights. We spent a few days here traveling to other places of interest just an hour away in every direction. We will tell you all about it…

Until next time,



One thought on “Aces Over Eights

  1. Laura: Ummmmm…I can’t believe you forgot to mention my epic win on the Deadwood casino circuit! And my extremely chill response to winning at roulette, exclaimed through an ear-to-ear grin while jumping up and down: “Gambling is AMAZING! I LOVE this…it’s so EASY! How could anyone not LOOOOVE this?!” Total Pro.


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