Wild Bill Hickman

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For other people with similar names, see Wild Bill (disambiguation) and William Hickman (disambiguation).
Picture of William Adams Hickman, circa 1860

William Adams "Wild Bill" Hickman (April 16, 1815 – August 21, 1883) was an American frontiersman. He also served as a representative to the Utah Territorial Legislature.

Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints[edit]

Hickman was baptized into Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in 1839 by John D. Lee. He later served as a personal bodyguard for Joseph Smith, Jr. and Brigham Young. Hickman was reputedly a member of the Danites.

In April 1854, Hickman was asked by Brigham Young to go to Green River and establish a ferry under church ownership. Hickman found the area to be overrun by ferries, along with a growing uneasiness between Mormon ferrymen and mountain men. Instead, Hickman established a prosperous trading post at Pacific Springs near South Pass, twenty-six miles east of Green River.[1] Hickman was appointed sheriff and county prosecuting attorney, assessor and collector by Judge Appleby in 1854 at Fort Supply, twelve miles south of Fort Bridger.[2] In August 1854, Hickman was elected to the Utah Territorial Legislature for the area of Green River.[3]

On 8 February 1856, Hickman, along with Porter Rockwell, and at the request of Brigham Young, carried the mail from Independence, Missouri to Salt Lake City. Porter Rockwell carried the mail from Fort Laramie to Salt Lake, and Hickman from Laramie to Independence. The trip took Hickman nearly four months to complete. .[4]

He was an important figure in the Utah War. Hickman torched Fort Bridger and numerous supply trains of the Federal Army.

Excommunication and later life[edit]

Hickman, a practicing polygamist, was excommunicated from the LDS Church in 1868.[5] Shortly thereafter, nine of his ten wives left him. According to his autobiography, Hickman's excommunication immediately followed his refusal to commit an assassination at Brigham Young's request.[6]

Around September 1871, while under arrest for the murder of Richard Yates years earlier, Hickman wrote an autobiography in which he confessed to having committed numerous murders. Years later, his autobiography was given to J.H. Beadle, who published it under the sensational title Brigham's Destroying Angel. It's unclear how much of the account is factual and how much is exaggerated, but in his confessions Hickman implicated Brigham Young as being the one who ordered Yates' murder, as well as most of the other murders to which Hickman had confessed. Federal law enforcement authorities at the time gave Hickman enough credence to hold off charging him with any murders so that he could be a material witness in a case they were attempting to build against Young. During this time, Hickman was held at Fort Douglas, where he was guarded by the military, because federal authorities believed Hickman needed witness protection from a perceived threat by the Danites.

Nothing ever became of the case against Young. Hickman, who had struck a deal with federal law enforcement to testify against Young if he were ever to be brought to trial, was never convicted of the crimes to which he confessed, although he lived the remainder of his life as somewhat of a pariah.[citation needed]


Hickman had ten wives. He married his first wife, Bernetta Burchartt on 30 Aug 1832, second wife was Sarah Elizabeth Luce, married in 1849. Third wife was Minerva Emma Wade, married on 1 May 1849. Fourth wife was Sarah Basford Meachem, married in August 1850. Fifth wife was Hannah Diantha Horr, married in 1853. Sixth wife was recorded only as an "Indian woman" and seventh wife was Sarah Eliza Johnson, married to both women on 28 March 1855. Eighth wife was Mary Lucretia Horr, married in March 1856. Ninth wife was Martha Diana Case Howland, married in November 1856, and his tenth wife was Mary Jane Hetherington, married in 1859. Online genealogical records of the LDS Church show he fathered 36 children.[citation needed] Another source lists 39.[citation needed] Hickman was the grandfather of Mormon metaphysical and inspirational author Annalee Skarin. Hickman was also the grandfather (through Minerva Emma Wade) of the esteemed Mormon and Western artist, Minerva Teichert.[citation needed] His is also the great-great-grandfather of speculative fiction author Tracy Hickman. He died in Wyoming in 1883.

Hickman was re-baptized by proxy into the LDS Church on May 5, 1934.[7]


  1. ^ Hilton 1988, pp. 36.
  2. ^ Beadle 1988, pp. 100–101.
  3. ^ Hilton 1988, pp. 53.
  4. ^ Hilton 1988, pp. 61–66.
  5. ^ Hilton 1988, pp. 119–121.
  6. ^ Brigham's Destroying Angel; p .[page needed]
  7. ^ Hilton 1988, pp. 137–138.


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