You are here

Hanging of Jack McCall


PIERRE, S.D. – Jack McCall was born around 1853 in Jefferson County, Kentucky and died March 1, 1877 in Yankton, Dakota Territory. He was hanged for the killing of James "Wild Bill" Hickok, shooting him from behind while he was playing poker at Saloon #10 in Deadwood in 1876.

McCall was raised in Kentucky and drifted west to become a buffalo hunter and was living in Deadwood by 1876. The killing was over McCall's drunken resentment. The day before the killing, Hickok offered McCall money to buy breakfast after McCall had lost it all playing poker. McCall claimed the killing was retribution for Hickok having killed McCall's brother in Abilene, Kansas, or perhaps it was that Hickok was cheating at cards.

McCall then fled to Wyoming, where he bragged about the details of how he had killed Hickok in a gunfight. Authorities refused to recognize the result of his first trial on the grounds of Deadwood being Indian Territory at the time and contended McCall could legally be tried again. Deadwood was an illegal settlement, with no legally constituted law enforcement or court system. The federal court in Yankton declared that double jeopardy did not apply and he was tried and hanged there.

McCall was hung on March 1, 1877 at the age of 24. He was the first person to be executed by United States officials in Dakota Territory. After his execution, it was determined that McCall never had a brother.

He was buried in the old Catholic cemetery not too far away from the hanging. When the cemetery was moved in 1881, McCall's body was unearthed. According to the local newspaper: "In removing the bodies from the old Catholic cemetery to the new one, the grave of Jack McCall was opened and the body removed with the coffin. It was discovered that McCall had been buried with the rope around his neck that strangled him." 

The precise location of McCall's grave is unknown.

The site of the hanging is marked by a historical plaque at the intersection of Highway 81 and Highway 50, located in the parking lot on the south end of the HumanServicesCenter in Yankton.

The Marks of History series is a project of the South Dakota Office of Tourism designed to highlight historic markers all across South Dakota. Click on the special “Marks of History” link at to access the complete list of articles.

The Marks of History series is part of Goal 1 of the 2010 Initiative to double visitor spending in South Dakota and Goal 4 to enhance history and arts as a tool for economic development and cultural tourism in South Dakota. The Office of Tourism serves under the direction of Richard Benda, Secretary of the Department of Tourism and State Development.


Media Notes:
Information for this release was obtained from “Brevet’s South Dakota Historical Markers”.
The South Dakota Office of Tourism is not responsible for the text included on these markers. Some of the language used at the time of production may not be appropriate by today’s standards. Please view the markers at your own discretion.