Gunslingers James "Wild Bill" Hickok and Wyatt Earp are two of the most recognizable names among Old West sheriffs. The list of famed lawmen also includes Bill “Bat” Masterson, Bill Tilghman, Harry Wheeler, John Hughes, Pat Garrett, Seth Bullock and Wyatt Earp’s two brothers, James and Morgan Earp.Continue Reading
Wild Bill Hickok had an appropriate name, as he was quick to resolve disturbances of the peace by whipping out his gun. He served as sheriff in several counties, a couple times being removed because of his violent solutions to small-scale crimes, although he usually did bring about order.
Wyatt Earp began his lawman career in 1876, going after criminals in Wichita, Kansas before his famous stints in Dodge City and Tombstone. In Tombstone, he, his two brothers James and Morgan, and gunfighter Doc Holiday took on a gang of out-of-control cowboys in the famous Gunfight at the OK Corral, which the Earps won. After Morgan Earp was killed in retaliation, Wyatt formed a band of gunfighters and then hunted down and killed most of the cowboys.
Although not as well-known as Hickock and Earp, Bill Tilghman is considered by many to be the greatest sheriff of the Old West. He started his lawman career as a deputy sheriff to "Bat" Masterson. Tilghman was a masterful gunfighter, but he was an expert at finding ways to make criminals surrender instead of killing them. His most famous accomplishment was taking down the Doolin Gang--even making their leader turn himself in without a fight.Learn more about US History