Life After Leadville?
Texas Jack Omohundro died in Leadville, Colorado, on June 28th, 1880 at the age of 33. He left behind his loving wife, the Peerless Giuseppina Morlacchi, who mourned him until her own death six years later. His best friend and stage partner Buffalo Bill Cody visited his grave in 1908, paying for a permanent memorial to honor his "part of the plains for life." Nine years later, Buffalo Bill passed through Leadville one last time on the way to Denver, where he died just days later.
But what if Jack didn't die there in Leadville? What if Texas Jack was simply tired of life in the public eye and made a decision to give it all up for a long retirement?
In Norfolk, Nebraska, in 1927, a reunion was held for many of the old frontier scouts, now advancing in age and having outlived men like Wild Bill Hickok and Buffalo Bill Cody. Deadwood Dick (Richard W. Clarke) was there, as was Texas Jack's old friend Lute North. Major Gordon W. Lillie, also known as Pawnee Bill, left his Oklahoma buffalo ranch to make the trip. Diamond Dick (Richard Tanner) was there for the occasion, and Doctor William Frank Carver, the "Evil Spirit of the Plains," made one final trip to the Nebraska prairie to be a part of the final gathering of the old-time scouts.
One Norfolk native, George Church, was away during the event on a trip to Hot Springs, South Dakota. When he returned, he expressed his disappointment that the great scout Texas Jack Omohundro hadn't been invited to the gathering. The July 7th, 1927 issue of the Norfolk Press carries the details:
TEXAS JACK, AGED SCOUT, STILL LIVES
George E. Church, visiting in Battle Creek at the home of his son, answers the question of the New York World, "And Texas Jack Omohundro, where is he? He must be many years in his grave by now."
Mr. Church has been at Hot Springs, S.D., for several months, and on noticing the clipping from the World which appeared in the Enterprise last week, he comes with authentic information relative to the old-time scout who was not at the Norfolk reunion.
He says Texas Jack is very much alive, having for years found a home at the National Sanitarium in Hot Springs. On a recent visit to the sanitarium, Mr. Church met Texas Jack, once scout under Buffalo Bill, and enjoyed a long visit with him. The old gentleman, he says, is in the best of health, and aside from being almost totally deaf, he appears to suffer none of the infirmities of old age. With snow-white hair reaching almost to his shoulders, Texas Jack now presents as picturesque a figure as he did in the days when he trailed the redskins. He retains his memory to a remarkable degree and from the photos of Deadwood Dick, Pawnee Bill, Doc Carver, Diamond Dick, and others who met at Norfolk, he pointed to a number of personal acquaintances with whom he had served at various times.
That Texas Jack was not at Norfolk was due perhaps to the fact that the committee did not know of his existence and consequently he was not favored with an invitation to the Norfolk meeting.
Sadly, this single article is the only suggestion that Texas Jack didn't die tragically at the age of 33, but instead became an octogenarian in South Dakota. No census records or other newspaper articles support this story, so we must conclude that some handsome long-haired fellow at the sanitarium decided to yank Mr. Church's chain.
But that doesn't stop us from wondering what people might think when they hear the name Texas Jack today if he hadn't died in Leadville. Would he have reunited with his friend to form Buffalo Bill and Texas Jack's Wild West? Instead of a group of cowboys riding with Buffalo Bill to rescue the settlers from Indian attack at the end of each show, would Omohundro and Cody have fought them together, like they once did on the prairies of Nebraska? It is a shame we can never know. But we can imagine.