Billy Dixon

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For other people of the same name, see William Dixon (disambiguation).
William "Billy" Dixon
Billydixon.jpg
William "Billy" Dixon as an Army Scout
Nickname(s) Billy Dixon
Born (1850-09-25)September 25, 1850
Ohio County, Virginia
Died March 9, 1913(1913-03-09) (aged 62)
Cimarron County, Texline
Place of burial Cimarron County, Texline
Allegiance United States of America
Rank Civilian Scout
Battles/wars Second Battle of Adobe Walls
Battle of Buffalo Wallow
Red River War
Awards Awarded Medal of Honor as a civilian
Other work Hutchinson County Sheriff, Postmaster, and Justice of the Peace

William "Billy" Dixon (September 25, 1850 – March 9, 1913) scouted the Texas Panhandle for the Army, hunted buffalo for the train companies, defended the Adobe Walls settlement against Indian attack with his legendary buffalo rifle, and was one of eight civilians in the history of the U.S. to receive the Medal of Honor.

Early life[edit]

Dixon was born in Ohio County, Virginia, (now West Virginia), on September 25, 1850. Of European and Native American ancestry[1][2] he was orphaned at age 12 and lived with an uncle in Missouri for a year before setting out on his own. He worked in woodcutters' camps along the Missouri River until he started working at age 14 as an oxen driver and a mule skinner for a government contractor in Leavenworth, Kansas.

He was a skilled marksman and occasionally scouted for Eastern excursionists brought by the railroads. In 1869, he joined a venture in hunting and trapping on the Saline River northwest of Fort Hays in Kansas.

He scouted Texas as far south as the Salt Fork of the Red River when the buffalo hunters moved into the Texas Panhandle in 1874. He and his group hunted along the Canadian River and its tributaries.

Second Battle of Adobe Walls[edit]

Dixon led the founders of Adobe Walls to the Texas Plains, where he knew buffalo were in abundance. The group of 28 men and one woman occupied the outpost of five buildings 15 miles northeast of Stinnett.

The outpost was attacked on June 27, 1874 by a band of 700 to 1200 Indians, and that is when Dixon went into the history books for firing "The Shot of the Century" which effectively ended the siege. Although Billy Dixon states in his biography that it was a "scratch shot", he is still honored to this day with competitions in England and the US which attempt to match his skill.

The stand-off continued into a third day, when a group of Indians were noticed about a mile east of Adobe Walls. It is said that Dixon took aim with a quickly borrowed .50-90 Sharps (as, according to his biography, he only had a .45-90 Sharps and felt it could not reach) buffalo rifle and fired, knocking an Indian near Chief Quanah Parker off his horse almost a mile away on his third shot. The Indians then left the settlement alone. Commemorative "Billy Dixon" model reproduction Sharps rifles that supposedly recreate the specifications of Dixon's famous gun are still available today.

Army Scout[edit]

A Kiowa ledger drawing possibly depicting the Battle of Buffalo Wallow in 1874, one of several clashes between Southern Plains Indians and the U.S. Army during the Red River War.

Billy Dixon quit buffalo hunting and, the following August, became an army scout. In September 1874, just three months after Adobe Walls, an army dispatch detail consisting of Billy Dixon, another scout Amos Chapman, and four troopers from the 6th Cavalry Regiment (United States) were surrounded and besieged by a large combined band of Kiowas and Comanches, in the Battle of Buffalo Wallow. They holed up in a buffalo wallow located in Hemphill County and, with accurate rifle fire, held off the Indians for three days. An extremely cold rainstorm the last night discouraged the Indians, and they broke off the fight; every man in the detail was wounded and one trooper killed. For this action Billy Dixon, along with the other survivors of 'The Buffalo Wallow Fight', were awarded the Medal of Honor (for Gallantry in Battle). The medal is presently on display at the Panhandle Plains Historical Museum in Canyon, Texas. A Texas Historical Marker documents the battle site.

Later years and death[edit]

Billy Dixon's grave marker at Adobe Walls

In 1883, Dixon returned to civilian life and built a home near the Adobe Walls site. He was postmaster there for 20 years and also was the first sheriff of the newly formed Hutchinson County, Texas. He served as state land commissioner and a justice of the peace.

In 1894, he married Olive King Dixon of Virginia, who for nearly three years was the only woman in Hutchinson County. They had seven children. In 1902, the family moved to Plemons[3] for schooling for their children. In 1906, they moved to Oklahoma.

Dixon died from pneumonia at his Cimarron County homestead in 1913 and was buried in Texline. On his deathbed he told Olive his complete life story which she penned and later published. In 1929, his body was reinterred at Adobe Walls near where he stood when he first saw the Indians riding up the valley.[4]

Dixon Creek in southern Hutchinson County was named for him, as is the Billy Dixon Masonic Lodge in Fritch. A plaque commemorating his Medal of Honor was formally dedicated in 1992. The Historical Breechloading Smallarms Association of Lancashire, England holds a shooting competition to commemorate his incredible long distance shot. Known as the Vintage Rifle Open Long Range Championships, it is shot at a distance of 1000 yards using black powder cartridge rifles of that era, and is strongly contested from shooters all over the United Kingdom.[5]

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