Updated: Apr 2
[The first in a series about the men in this picture.] Eugene Beauharnois Overton is the easiest to track down of the three men who joined a hunt with Texas Jack, Buffalo Bill, and Wild Bill in the summer of 1873. He was from Brookhaven, on Long Island in New York, and his father owned a prosperous farm and raised race horses.
In 1865, Eugene was working for Brooks Brothers, and had just boarded a train into the city in what is now Jamaica, Queens. Moments later, the Hunter's Point Train and the Greenpoint Train collided. "The eastern bound train was completely run through and crushed to pieces by the superior weight of the other," newspapers reported. "The scene was so frightful that some fainted with terror at the appalling sight. Men were hanging suspended beneath the wreck by lacerated tendons of their legs, both which had been torn away in the collision. Others were suspended by the throat. Others were beneath tons of the wrecked cars, moaning out the few brief moments of life remaining to them on earth."
Five people were killed and many more were injured. Both of Eugene's legs were broken, and the injuries would bother him for the rest of his life. Months later he sued the Long Island Railroad Company for $50,000 in damages on the grounds that they had sold more tickets than they had seats, forcing passengers to stand in aisles and on platforms, where he was standing when the collision occurred. The New York Supreme Court found in Overton's favor, awarding him $5,000, the equivalent to just over $79,000 in 2020.
Overton opened and ran several restaurants in New York City, including one on 9th Street, west of Broadway. When Buffalo Bill Cody and Texas Jack Omohundro made their Broadway premier on March 31, 1873 and played that city for two weeks, they rented rooms above Overton's restaurant, where the three soon became friends.
After joining Cody and Omohundro's 1873 hunt, Overton was featured in one of Ned Buntline's stories about the pair, a story titled Buffalo Bill's Last Victory; or, Dove Eye the Lodge Queen.
In 1887, Eugene joined the staff of Buffalo Bill's Wild West for their trip to England and then Europe. When he returned, he managed a restaurant at 13 Thomas Street in New York, while also helping his brother run a restaurant in the city called the "Pewter Mug." He eventually opened another restaurant on 10th Street, but the pain in his legs from the railroad accident forced him to retire at the age of 43.
The New York Sun newspaper of December 1, 1895, reported his death:
"Eugene B. Overton, once a well-known hotel man and restaurant keeper, and later the friend and employee of Buffalo Bill, was found dead yesterday afternoon in a little attic room under the sloping roof of the quaint, old-fashioned house at 21 East Fifteenth street. Two gas jets, unlighted, were open, and it is evident that the man committed suicide, for he was poor and apparently friendless, and illness had made him despondent."
Eugene's older brothers and his sister buried him next to their parents at Bellport, New York.