The nation’s first one-on-one quick draw duel took place on Springfield's town square between J.B. “Wild Bill” Hickok and Davis K. Tutt, on July 21, 1865.
What began as an argument over gambling debts turned deadly when Tutt seized a prize watch of Wild Bill’s as collateral. Warned against wearing the watch in public to humiliate Wild Bill, Tutt appeared on the square on July 21, prominently wearing the watch. The two men then unsuccessfully negotiated the debt and the watch’s return.
Hickok returned to the square at 6 p.m. to again find Tutt displaying his watch. Wild Bill gave Tutt his final warning. “Don’t you come around here with that watch.” Tutt answered by placing his hand on his pistol.
Standing about 75 yards apart and facing each other sideways in dueling positions, Tutt drew his gun first. Wild Bill steadied his aim across his opposite forearm. Both paused, then fired near simultaneously.
Tutt missed. Wild Will’s shot passed through Tutt’s chest. Reeling from the wound, Tutt staggered back to the nearest building before collapsing.
Wild Bill was acquitted of manslaughter by a jury after a three-day trial. Nothing better described the times than the fact that dangling a watch held as security for a poker debt was widely regarded as a justifiable provocation for resorting to firearms.
Downtown Audio Tour
City of Springfield former Assistant Public Works Director Jonathan Gano became interested in the legend of Wild Bill Hickok in Springfield and his most famous act: shooting Davis Tutt on the town square, while reinventing Park Central Square. Gano uncovered the coroner's inquest in the Greene County archives and thought it would make a good audio story. The inquest provides the only surviving eyewitness accounts of the notorious event. A courthouse fire destroyed all other firsthand accounts.
Teaming up with the City's Department of Public Information, Public Works created a QR code tour that places markers at the nine locations believed to be where the testimonies were taken. Greg Burris, Phil Broyles, Jim O'Dell, Mike Peters, Vince Crunk, Ric Buchanan, Tina Stob and Bob Willenbrink provided the voices behind the retelling. PIO illustrator Mark Montgomery created visuals of what these eyewitnesses might look like (no illustrations are known to exist). Look closely: the illustrations resemble their vocal counterparts.