Ask the Marshall

Who was the man Wild Bill Hickok shot and killed in Abilene, Kansas?

Who was the man Wild Bill Hickok shot and killed in Abilene, Kansas?
John “Arizona” Crawley
Salem, Oregon

Mike Williams was a former bartender from Kansas City who went to Abilene to earn some extra money. He was working as a special deputy marshal to Wild Bill Hickok—primarily overseeing the jail.

On the night of October 5, 1871, he rushed to Hickok’s aid when the lawman got into a fracas with gambler Phil Coe. The marshal fatally shot Coe and then accidentally killed Williams as the deputy ran to the scene.

Williams was due to return to KC later that night, but instead was shipped home to his wife in a box. Hickok paid for the funeral and visited his widow to explain what had occurred that fateful night.


Marshall Trimble is Arizona’s official historian. His latest book is Wyatt Earp: Showdown at Tombstone. If you have a question, write: Ask the Marshall, P.O. Box 8008, Cave Creek, AZ 85327 or e-mail him at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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