Need some ideas for unit studies this month? I am participating in the Birthday Lessons in May hop that features fun unit studies on famous people that were born in May. Please click on the link or picture above to find the entire set of lessons!
“Wild Bill” Hickok was born May 27, 1837. He is most famous for his gun-fighting, but many don’t know that he was also a lawman, wagon driver, union soldier and scout, and a celebrity.
His story was perfect for us because of his significance to the state of Kansas. Since we will be studying the Civil War and its impact on the Midwest territories, I decided to use Wild Bill as a starting point.
Introducing “Wild Bill”
I found a great video about Wild Bill Hickok that we watched together.
The girls colored this Wild Bill Hickok stamp, and we stopped the video to record the locations mentioned on our notebook page (download the entire set at the bottom of my post).
Research James Butler Hickok
Here are some websites that give more information about Hickok:
Locations to Explore
The first page of my notebooking set includes a map and graph where you can record the locations you study and their significance in the life of Wild Bill.
Topics to Discuss
Civil War– Hickok’s life spans three important eras in American History.
He was born and raised during the tensions between the North and South and his parents were rumored to house slaves on their way through the Underground Railroad.
During the peak of his life, he served for the Union Army and fought in one of the most significant battles of the war.
After his service to his country, Hickok lived in yet another tense era- the Reconstruction. The harsh reality of seeing those you fought against in every town might have driven some of the self-destructive behavior and willingness to kill in Wild Bill.
The Wild West– Wild Bill was the epitome of the Wild West. His many occupations show the way the west required a sense of adventure and danger from its citizens.
He was a wagon driver for the founders of the Pony Express. He served as marshal and lawman. He was a compulsive gambler, as well as a lover of gold.
He was well acquainted with some of the other famous characters of the west as well. Along with Buffalo Bill Cody, who he toured with later in life, other names on his list include General Custer and Calamity Jane.
Books to Read
We checked out several books from the library about the frontier, cowboys, and the Wild West:
- You Wouldn’t Want to Live in a Wild West Town!
- Scouts (Wild West in American History)
- If You Lived at the Time of the Civil War
Plus I have listed a number of free public domain resources about Wild Bill over at Homeschool Commons.
I printed off several pages from the Wild Bill section of the book Famous Scouts to read together.
We discussed whether the account was an accurate depiction of the events in Wild Bill Hickok’s life, based on the research we had done, or whether it was a mixture of truth and fiction.
It seems that not much is pure fact in the account of Wild Bill. There was so much leniency in reporting and story-telling back then that it is hard to say.
I have created a set of Wild Bill notebooking pages to go along with this unit study. Click the download button below to be taken to the file page on my Google docs.
Feel free to share them with a link back to my site!
Keep an eye on Homeschool Commons the rest of the week as I will be sharing more public domain resources that tie into our Wild Bill Hickok unit!
More famous birthdays in May:
- Justinian the Great at Jimmie’s Collage
- Elijah McCoy at Mama Jenn
- Johannes Brahms at Confessions of a Homeschooler
- James Barrie at Hodge Podge
- L. Frank Baum at Walking By the Way
- Patrick Henry at Mom’s Mustard Seeds