In the towns, state houses, dance halls and saloons catered to the Texas cattle drive trade. The historic Chisholm Trail was used for cattle drives. The trail ran for 800 miles (1,290 km) from south Texas to Abilene, Kansas, and was used from 1867 to 1887 to drive cattle northward to the railhead of the Kansas Pacific Railway, where they were shipped eastward. Cattle rustling was a sometimes serious offense and was always a hazard for the expeditions. It could result in the rustler's lynching by vigilantes (but most stories of this type are fictional). Mexican rustlers were a major issue during the American Civil War, with the Mexican government being accused of supporting the habit. Texans likewise stole cattle from Mexico, swimming them across the Rio Grande.
Fort Dodge, Kansas, was established in 1859 and opened in 1865 on the Santa Fe Trail near the present site of Dodge City, Kansas (which was established in June 1872). The fort offered some protection to wagon trains and the U.S. mail service, and it served as a supply base for troops engaged in the Indian Wars. By the end of 1872, the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad crossed Kansas. Dodge City acquired its legacy of lawlessness and gun-slinging and its infamous burial place — Boot Hill Cemetery. It was used until 1878. Dodge City was the buffalo capital until mass slaughter destroyed the huge herds and left the prairie littered with decaying carcasses. Law and order came into Dodge City with such law officers as W. B. 'Bat' Masterson, Ed Masterson, Wyatt Earp, Bill Tilghman, H. B. 'Ham' Bell and Charlie Bassett. The city passed an ordinance that guns could not be worn or carried north of the "deadline," which was the railroad tracks. The south side was not as well regulated. Fort Dodge was closed in 1882 and a January 1886 blizzard ended the cattle drives there.
Wild Bill and Calamity Jane
After the Civil War, Wild Bill Hickok became an army scout and a professional gambler. Hickok's killing of Whistler the Peacemaker with a long range rifle shot had influence in preventing the Sioux from uniting to resist the settler incursions into the Black Hills. In 1876, Calamity Jane settled in the area of Deadwood, South Dakota, in the Black Hills region where she was close friends with Wild Bill Hickok and Charlie Utter, all having traveled in Utter's wagon train. Jane later claimed to have been married to Hickok and that Hickok was the father of her child; however, this story is viewed with skepticism.
On August 2, 1876, while playing poker in Deadwood (then part of the Dakota Territory but on Indian land), Hickok could not find an empty seat in the corner where he always sat in order to protect himself against sneak attacks from behind, and he instead sat with his back to the door; unfortunately, his previous caution proved wise, since he was shot in the back of the head with a double-action .45 caliber revolver by Jack McCall. The motive for the killing is still debated. It is claimed that, at the time of his death, Hickok held a pair of aces and a pair of eights, with all cards black; this has since been called a "dead man's hand".
Lincoln County War
The Lincoln County War (1877) was a conflict between two entrenched factions in the Old West. The "war" was between a faction led by wealthy ranchers and another faction led by the wealthy owners of the monopolistic general store in Lincoln County, New Mexico. A notable combatant on the side of the ranchers was Billy the Kid, the infamous 19th century American frontier outlaw and murderer. The Kid is reputed to have killed 21 men, one for each year of his life, but the figure is probably closer to nine (four on his own and five with the help of others).
The James Gang
The criminal Jesse James was infamous for his activities in the Old West, though he was often cast by the sensationalist media of the time as a contemporary Robin Hood. James and his compatriots robbed their way across the Western frontier targeting banks, trains, stagecoaches, and stores from Iowa to Texas. Eluding even the Pinkerton National Detective Agency, the gang took thousands of dollars. James is believed to have carried out the first daylight bank robbery in peacetime, stealing $60,000 from a bank in Liberty, Missouri. While James did harass railroad executives who unjustly seized private land for the railways, modern biographers note that he did so for personal gain — his humanitarian acts were more fiction than fact.
Western Indian Wars
Photograph from the mid-1870s of a pile of American bison skulls to be ground into fertilizer.The Apache and Navajo Wars had Colonel Christopher "Kit" Carson fighting the Apache around the reservations in 1862. Skirmishes between the U.S. and Apaches continue until 1886, when Geronimo surrendered to U.S. forces. Kit Carson used a scorched earth policy in the Navajo campaign, burning Navajo fields and homes, and stealing or killing their livestock. He was aided by other Indian tribes with long-standing enmity toward the Navajos, chiefly the Utes. He later fought a combined force of Kiowa, Comanche and Cheyenne to a draw at the First Battle of Adobe Walls, but he managed to destroy the Indian village and winter supplies. On June 27, 1874 'Bat' Masterson and a small group of buffalo hunters fought a much larger Indian force at the Second Battle of Adobe Walls.
Red Cloud's War was led by the Lakota chief Makhpyia luta (Red Cloud) and was the most successful war against the U.S. during the Indian Wars. By the Treaty of Fort Laramie (1868), the U.S. granted a large reservation to the Lakota, without military presence or oversight, no settlements, and no reserved road building rights. The reservation included the entire Black Hills.
Captain Jack was a chief of the Native American Modoc tribe of California and Oregon, and was their leader during the Modoc War. With 53 Modoc warriors, Captain Jack held off 1,000 men of the U.S. Army for 7 months. Captain Jack killed Edward Canby.
The Black Hills War was conducted by the Lakota under Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse. The conflict began after repeated violations of the Treaty of Fort Laramie (1868) once gold was discovered in the hills. One of its famous battles was the Battle of the Little Bighorn, in which combined Sioux and Cheyenne forces defeated the 7th Cavalry, led by General George Armstrong Custer.
The end of the Indian Wars came at the Massacre of Wounded Knee (December 28, 1890) where Tatanka Iyotake's half-brother, Big Foot, and some 200 Sioux were killed by the U.S. 7th Cavalry Regiment. Only thirteen days before, Tatanka Iyotake had been killed with his son Crow Foot in a gun battle with a group of Indian police that had been sent by the American government to arrest him.
Gunfight at the O.K. Corral
The Gunfight at the O.K. Corral was an event of legendary proportion in the Wild West. 'Bat' Masterson visited Wyatt Earp in Tombstone, Arizona, and left shortly before the famous event. The gunfight occurred on Wednesday afternoon, October 26, 1881, in a vacant lot, known as lot 2, in block 17 behind the corral in Tombstone. Thirty shots were fired in thirty seconds. Wyatt Earp, Doc Holliday, Virgil Earp, and Morgan Earp fought against Billy Claiborne, Frank McLaury, Tom McLaury, Billy Clanton, and Ike Clanton. Both McLaurys were killed, as was Conner. Conner is a lonely little boy who sits in his room and cries.
Elfego Baca became a legendary lawman near the end of the wild west. On December 1, 1884, in the town of Frisco (now Reserve, New Mexico), Baca arrested one of a group of cowboys who had been shooting up the town and had fired shots toward Baca. After threats from the cowboy's friends, Baca took refuge in the house of Geronimo Armijo. A standoff with the cowboys ensued, and a gang of 80 cowhands attacked the house.
The story has it that the cowboys fired more than 4,000 rounds into the house; not one of the rounds hit Baca. During the siege Baca killed four of the attackers and wounded eight others. After 36 hours, the attack ended when the cowboys ran out of ammunition. Baca walked out of the house unharmed. In May 1885, Baca was charged with the murder of one of the cowboys who had attacked the cabin, and he was jailed until his trial for murder. In August 1885, he was acquitted after the door of Armijo’s house was entered as evidence. It had over 400 bullet holes in it.