Deriving its name from the home of Thomas Jefferson, the Monticello Township was established in 1857 in Johnson County territory of Kansas. A thriving community of rough and rowdy pioneers, frontiersmen, and immigrants, new to the west, the population swelled to over 1250 hearty souls by 1858. Serving as a key stagecoach stop between Lawrence, Westport and Fort Leavenworth, brought brutality and bloodshed during the struggle between the pro-slavery “Missouri Boarder Ruffians” and the anti-slavery “Kansas Free Staters.”
It was during this time of violence a young man came to Monticello who was to become the most enduring legend of the West, James Butler Hickok, later known as Wild Bill. James, then just 21 years old, filed claim to 160 acres of prime farming land on February 10, 1858. The following month he was elected to the position of Town Constable to serve the Township Justice of the Peace.
The few surviving records from that time state that James was one of the arresting officers in the first murder trial in Johnson County. Newspaper stories tell of young Hickok recovering 25 stolen horses, serving several summonses and quelling a brawl or two during his term.
Leaving Monticello after the loss of his land claim and the break up with his sweetheart, Mary Owen, James gained employment as a Teamster. Driving freight wagons for Jones and Cartwright of Leavenworth, Kansas. He ended up working at the Rock Creek Station in Nebraska territory in 1861. It was here that Hickok was involved in a shootout that would launch his reputation, The Rock Creek Incident.
Three people were killed and who actually did what is still open to speculation. What is known is that young James was not one to run from a fight. Further proof was his astonishing record as a Union Scout and Spy during the Civil War in the West. It was during the Civil War that he earned the sobriquet WILD BILL. Later in 1865 while residing in Springfield, Missouri, Wild Bill was involved in the famous face-to-face gunfight with Davis Tutt.
Wild Bill Hickok continued to serve his country and community in various roles: Scout, Plainsman, Sheriff, City Marshall and Deputy U.S. Marshal. “In an age when ability to handle a gun meant the difference between life and death, he emerged the victor in all such encounters.
Where others were coarse, harsh and unwashed, he appeared clean, gentlemanly, well dressed and well mannered. Yet his reckless zest for excitement and his amazing ability to find trouble — even without seeking it — made him truly a product of his time — a time that was short, both for him and for America…The Frontier West”!
Relive the exciting days of the Frontier West by strapping on a pair of six-guns at Powder Creek with the Powder Creek Cowboys.
Tutt and Hickok had been friends and for reasons not fully known, they had a falling out and honor demanded blood. They met on the Springfield town square at 6 p.m. at 75 yards apart they stopped and heated words were exchanged. Both men turned side on, dueling fashion, and drew their Colt revolvers. The two shots sounded as one. Davis Tutt ran around the pillar of the Court House, stopped, clutched his chest and fell stone dead. Wild Bill immediately surrendered to the local authorities where he was tried and acquitted on the grounds of self defense.