Lawman Dies at the Hands of Outlaws
Frontier legend James “Wild Bill” Hickok was one of the most highly regarded gunmen of his day. Wild Bill had built an early reputation as a deadly shot who was quick to the draw. Numerous men met their end trying to outshoot Hickok and his ivory handled Colt Navy revolvers, usually carried in the reverse draw position. He was known as a gambler, a drinker, and, on occasion, a lawman. He served as a Deputy US Marshall, a Sheriff, and a City Marshall at different points in his storied life.
His employment as the Marshall of Hays, Kansas was a short lived and bloody affair. It ended in tragedy for his successor, Peter “Rattlesnake Pete” Lanahan.
Hickok was elected Sheriff of Hays on August 23, 1869. Within a month he had shot and killed two cowboys who were drunkenly shooting their guns in the middle of town. Both were seen as justified but unnecessary. In July of 1970, Marshall Hickok got into a fight with two off duty soldiers. It turned into a gun battle that Hickok naturally won, leaving one soldier dead and another wounded. His numerous conflicts as Marshall soured many citizens to his brand of policing.
Hickok lost his re-election bid to his Deputy, Pete Lanahan. The people of Hays were looking for a lawman who was a little more professional and a little less likely to dispatch lawbreakers to the great beyond.
Several people in Hays were mad at Lanahan for unseating Hickok. Hickok had left town, eventually winding up in Abilene Kansas. Those opposed to Lanahan organized a plot to kill him. The plotters staged a fight at the 10th Street Saloon. Lanahan responded and was shot twice by Charles Harris. Before falling Lanahan got a shot off that struck Harris directly in the head, killing him instantly.
Lanahan was brought to a nearby hotel to be treated by a doctor. He succumbed to his wounds on July 18, 1971. He was not the first lawman to be killed in the wild Kansas frontier, and unfortunately, he would not be the last.
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