Was Mike Williams an Abilene, Kansas, deputy at the time of the gunfight between Wild Bill Hickok and Phil Coe?

ask-the-marshallGeorge Bourbeau

Calhan, Colorado

I went straight to the source himself, Joe Rosa, to get the straight skinny on this. He examined available records and newspapers. (The coroner’s report was reportedly destroyed in a courthouse fire in the late 1870s.)

Council minutes show that Mike Williams acted as one of the two city jailers during the summer of 1871, but he was never on the police force as such. On the evening of October 5, 1871, he was preparing to leave for Kansas City to visit his ailing wife.

Hickok emerged at about 9 p.m. from the Alamo Bar when Phil Coe fired a shot outside. Hickok confronted Coe, who had some 50 cronies around him.

Coe claimed he was shooting at a dog, but he pulled his gun on Hickok and fired twice—one bullet hit the sidewalk and the other went through the marshal’s coat. Hickok drew two pistols and shot Coe in the stomach, a wound that proved fatal. At that moment, a pistol-wielding figure ran into the harsh glare of the kerosene lamps. Hickok instinctively turned and fired, killing Williams, who had come to assist the great pistoleer. Only later did Hickok learn it was his friend. He paid for Williams’ funeral and visited Williams’ wife in Kansas City where he explained to her what happened.

The Kansas City and Abilene press praised Hickok’s actions against Coe and the Texas drovers, and it was generally agreed that the shooting of Williams was a tragic accident. He was the last man killed by the legendary Wild Bill.

Marshall Trimble is Arizona’s official historian. His books include The Arizona Trilogy and Law of the Gun.

If you have a question, write:

Ask the Marshall PO Box 8008, Cave Creek, AZ 85327

or e-mail him at marshall.trimble@sccmail.maricopa.edu

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Marshall Trimble

Marshall Trimble is Arizona’s official historian and the Wild West History Association’s vice president. His latest book is 2018’s Arizona Oddities: A Land of Anomalies and Tamales. Send your question, with your city/state of residence, to marshall.trimble@scottsdalecc.edu or Ask the Marshall, P.O. Box 8008, Cave Creek, AZ 85327.