Thursday, July 29, 2010

The Killing Of George Summer & Peter Welsh.

Hickok was chosen sheriff by special election of Ellis County, Kansas in 1869; Hays City had just been founded and was the largest town in the county, serving the nearby military post of Fort Hays. After serving the town efficiently -- but apparently visciously -- he was defeated for re-election in 1869. Still in Hays in July of 1870, Hickok got into a dispute with two members of the 7th cavalry from nearby Fort Hays, killing one and wounding another. This photograph is meant to record the aftermath.

Rosa, provides an extensive, and well-documented description of the incident and reports that Hickok shot Private Jerry Lonergan in the wrist and knee, and that he eventually recovered and returned to active duty. The other trooper, Private John Kile was shot in the waist and died in the Fort Hays hospital on July 18th. Given these facts this image shows two distinctly dead souls, the image cannot be a record of the infamous gunfight, but rather a clever marketing ploy by Carter. Both bodies in the image are clothed in military apparel, thus the question remains: what gunfight does the scene record?

Hickok authority William Rosa personal communication, May 8, 2007) provided the answer, suggesting the following catalog entry: "The bodies of two dead soldiers laid outside a saloon in Hays City, Kansas. Although claimed to have been shot by Wild Bill Hickok, they were in fact the victims of a fellow 6th Cavalry trooper named David Roberts who shot privates Peter Welsh and George H. Summer in a drunken row on September 6, 1873. Roberts fled, but later gave himself up on the advice of his father. The original glass plate is now owned by the Church Archives of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City, Utah." A fine example of the mystique and mythology that was part of Hickok's life -- and death.

George Henry Summer or Sumner.
Birth: October 6, 1849, Beverly, Essex, MA.
Death: September 5 or 6, 1873, Hays Kansas.
Father: Benjamin Clough Sumner
Mother: Abigail Ramsdell

Pvt Peter Welsh.
Birth: Unknown.
Death: Sept. 6, 1873.

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