Deadwood History Link

Thursday, 06 May 2004 05:44

Changes for the Trial of Jack McCall

The Trial of Jack McCall is a true Deadwood historic artifact. It is a fictional recreation of the trial by a miners’ court of Jack McCall for the murder of Wild Bill Hickok.

The play has been performed six nights a week during the summer for almost 80 years. In that time period, there have probably been between 750,000 and 1 million people who have seen the play, many more than once. For many people, the Trial of Jack McCall is an essential part of their visit to Deadwood.

The Deadwood Historic Preservation Commission was presented with the opportunity to purchase the play and preserve it as an historic artifact. Production of the play had evolved over the years to meet changing conditions, so Deadwood Alive! was given the opportunity to put together a new play based on the same trial that would be more historically accurate. The original play will be presented occasionally by Deadwood Alive! and substantial portions of that play are incorporated in the new Trial of Jack McCall. The trial of Jack McCall will be presented six nights a week, free of charge at the Masonic Temple on Main Street.

The Trial tells the story of the local miners’ court that found Jack McCall not guilty of the murder of Wild Bill Hickok in 1876. McCall was later tried in a federal court in Yankton, found guilty and hanged, his body buried in an unmarked grave. He could be tried a second time for the same crime because the miners’ court in Deadwood was not a legitimate, recognized court of law.