Deadwood is the kind of tourist stop that puts up dubious historical markers everywhere. Among the town's many claims to fame is the site where James Butler "Wild Bill" Hickok was shot and killed during a poker game on August 1, 1876.
This is the map provided by the Chamber of Commerce & Visitors Bureau. The town is situated in a narrow valley, and two graves are prominently noted—Wild Bill and Calamity Jane sit on the hillside above in the Mount Moriah Cemetery (right side of the map).
So we know where Wild Bill was buried (cue the old Groucho Marx bit about Grant's Tomb). Where did he die?
The saloon on the main drag where he was allegedly murdered was at that time called Nuttal & Mann's. It was later renamed the No. 10 Saloon.
They are awfully proud of the fact that ol' Wild Bill met his untimely demise here at age 39. A man named Jack McCall, insulted over his losses to Hickok the day before, simply walked into the saloon and shot the man in the back of the head at point-blank range. McCall was executed for the crime the following spring.
But here is where things get confusing. There is a second No. 10 Saloon down the block, on the opposite side of the street. The facade sports an unusual log cabin look which really makes the bar stand out from both the building it occupies and the rest of the block. Intentional?
The inside is a classic example of the bar-as-grandma's attic—crowded floor to ceiling with all manner of historical "artifacts," hunting trophies, actual antiques, props, bric-a-brac, nick nacks, and dust catchers. And a chair. This second (imposter?) No. 10 Saloon claims to possess the actual chair that Will Bill was shot in. They say you can still see the blood on it, just like Lincoln's Death Chair. It sits inside about the entrance doors, protected by plexiglass (it was too dark to catch a photo). Of the bar staff I spoke to, no one could confirm the authenticity of the chair. But they all seemed to "believe in the belief."
The original building which housed Nuttal & Mann's burned down in 1879. A new structure was erected on the site nineteen years later. It has hosted over the years a variety of businesses—a clothing company, beer hall, inn, tavern, and a casino. The current owners bought the building (which had been vacant for some time) in 2013, and decided to turn up the volume on the Will Bill connection. They sought to reclaim the ORIGINAL LOCATION OF SALOON NO. 10 moniker, despite the other No. 10 Saloon with all of its Will Bill memorabilia, including the Death Chair, just down the street.
The blurring of lines between fact and fiction, myth and tradition, hagiography and biography; all are typical at places like Deadwood. I've begun to think of them in terms of amalgamated space and amalgamated time. More on this to follow.