Families stuffed with turkey, cranberry sauce, and pumpkin pie on the last Thursday of November in 1873 couldn't turn on the tv and watch the Cowboys and Redskins play football, but they could see cowboys and Indians shooting at each other at their local theatre. The Scouts of the Plains—Buffalo Bill, Texas Jack, and Wild Bill—spent Thanksgiving of 1873 at work, producing their stage show for appreciative audiences that packed Elliot's Academy of Music in Williamsport, Pennsylvania.
The following are brief sketches of the scouts from the November 25th and 26th issues of the Williamsport Sun-Gazette newspaper:
November 25, 1873:
Tomorrow evening three prominent frontiersmen, Buffalo Bill, Texas Jack, and Wild Bill, will appear at the Academy of Music, with a troupe of eighteen Indians, producing a sensational drama representing frontier life. General Custer in “Life on the Plains,” in the entries of April 1872, speaks of J.B. Hickok (Wild Bill), chief scout of his expedition under General Hancock, as follows:
Among the white scouts were numbered some of the most noted of their class. The most prominent man amond them was “Wild Bill,” whose highly varied career was made the subject of an illustrated sketch in one of the popular monthly periodicals a few years ago. “Wild Bill” was a strange character, just the one which a novelist might gloat over. He was a Plainsman in every sense of the word, yet unlike any other of his class. In person he was about six feet one in height, straight as the straightest of the warriors whose implacable foe he was; broad shoulders, well-formed chest and limbs, and a face strikingly handsome; a sharp, clear, blue eye, which stared you straight in the face when in conversation; a finely-shaped nose, inclined to be aquiline; a well-turned mouth, with lips only partially concealed by a handsome mustache. His hair and complexion were those of the perfect blond. The former was worn in uncut ringlets falling carelessly over his powerfully formed shoulders. Add to this figure a costume blending the immaculate neatness of the dandy with the extravagant taste and style of the frontiersman, and you have Wild Bill, then as now the most famous scout on the Plains. Whether on foot or on horseback, he was one of the most perfect types of physical man I ever saw. Of his courage there could be no question; it had been brought to the test on too many occasions to admit of a doubt. His skill in the use of the rifle and pistol was unerring; while his deportment was exactly the opposite of what might be expected from a man of his surroundings. It was entirely free from all bluster or bravado. He seldom spoke of himself unless requested to do so. His conversation, strange to say, never bordered either on the vulgar or blasphemous. His influence among the frontiersmen was unbounded, his word was law; and many are the personal quarrels and disturbances which he has checked among his comrades by his simple announcement that ‘this has gone far enough,’ if need lie followed by the ominous warning that when persisted in or renewed the quarreller ‘must settle it with me.’ Wild Bill is anything but a quarrelsome man; yet no one but himself can enumerate the many conflicts in which he has been engaged, and which have almost invariably resulted in the death of his adversary. I have a personal knowledge of at least half a dozen men whom he has at various times killed, one of these being at the time a member of my command. Others have been severely wounded, yet he always escapes unhurt. On the Plains every man openly carries his belt with its invariable appendages, knife and revolver, often two of the latter. Wild Bill always carried two handsome ivory-handled revolvers of the large size; he was never seen without them. Where this is the common custom, brawls or personal difficulties are seldom if ever settled by blows. The quarrel is not from a word to a blow, but from a word to the revolver, and he who can draw and fire first is the best man. No civil law reaches him; none is applied for. In fact there is no law recognized beyond the frontier but that of ‘might makes right.’ Should death result from the quarrel, as it usually does, no coroner's jury is impaneled to learn the cause of death, and the survivor is not arrested. But instead of these old-fashioned proceedings, a meeting of citizens takes place, the survivor is requested to be present when the circumstances of the homicide are inquired into, and the unfailing verdict of ‘Justifiable,’ ‘self-defense,’ etc., is pronounced, .and the law stands vindicated. That justice is often deprived to a victim there is not a doubt. Yet in all of the many affairs of this kind in which Wild Bill has performed a part, and which have come to my knowledge, there is not a single instance in which the verdict of twelve fair-minded men would not be pronounced in his favor.
November 26, 1873:
Tonight those celebrated scouts of the West, Buffalo Bill, Texas Jack, and Wild Bill will appear at the Academy of Music, with a troupe of righteous Indians, producing a drama showing how affairs are conducted upon the plains, where it is a word and a revolver, the revolver first. In yesterday’s issue we gave a brief sketch of Wild Bill, taken from General Custer’s “Life on the Plains,” and today refer to the two remaining scouts who head the combination that will appear at the Academy this evening.
Mr. Cody (Buffalo Bill) has been on the plains since he was ten years of age. The title of Buffalo Bill was given him years ago for his efficiency as a hunter of the wild bison on the plains. His remarkable skill gave him the name, and in the great Ducal buffalo hunt with Alexis, he proved himself worthy of the fame. From among all other scouts, Mr. Cody was chosen to be the representative to show His Highness, and pilot the hunt, and surely there can be no room for doubt when thousands have already proclaimed him so able a representative, dramatically, of aboriginal life. Mr. Cody was elected to the Legislature of his State (Nebraska) by an almost unanimous vote in his district.
Texas Jack (Mr. J. B. Omohundro) is non the less to be praised for his prowess and daring. He has fought and traded with the Indians for years and years, lived months at a time in their villages, and rendered signal service in time of peace and war with the “noble red men of the forest.” Volumes could be written of the scout’s adventures and none who really know him thoroughly attempt to rob him of one blushing honor. He belongs to a class of men justly termed “the link between civilization and savagery, men who held their lives at a pin’s fee,” endured hardships and danger to protect the borders from renegades and savages, and now travel to contrast city life with prairie existence, serving a purpose fitly in illustrating to the uninitiated, who like youths at a school read histories of battles past from a theory, without stopping to think that the Indian of today is a more formidable foe to face than twenty times his number in the days of our forefathers.