Bill Markley

Topics: American Old West, History, Literature, Writing

Community: Pierre

Program Types: Pre-recorded Program Video, Speakers Bureau, Virtual Program(s)
Author | (605) 224-5322

A Search for Truth in the Old West
Who wanted Crazy Horse killed? Were Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane lovers? Did Buffalo Bill ride for the Pony Express? Who fired first at the gunfight at the O.K. Corral? Could Custer have survived the Battle of the Little Big Horn? Were the cattle barons justified in starting Wyoming’s Johnson County War? Why did the James/Younger Gang raid Minnesota’s Northfield Bank? Markley presents both sides of these and other topics he and coauthor Kellen Cutsforth researched for their book, Calling Down the Thunder: A Search for Truth in the Old West released by Globe Pequot Press in October 2018. In October 2021, Markley and Cutsforth sequel Standoff at High Noon will be released with additional topics: How did Davy Crockett die? Where and when did Sacagawea die? Were the Donner Party really cannibals? Why did Jack McCall kill Wild Bill Hickok? Did General George Crook doom Custer and the Seventh Cavalry? Did Robert Ford actually kill Jesse James? Sitting Bull’s two graves. The Lost Dutchman Mine. Was Tom Horn guilty or Innocent of murder? Did Butch Cassidy die in Bolivia? 

Deadwood, the First Months
Deadwood Dead Men is the title of Markley’s first historical novel based on actual events in Deadwood in August 1876. Markley discusses his research into Deadwood’s past, its characters, and the events that unfolded in the mining boomtown. Markley also discusses the processes of writing fiction and nonfiction.

Dances with Wolves
2021 marks the 31st anniversary of the release of “Dances with Wolves” filmed in South Dakota. Markley was involved as a reenactor in its filming. Scenes that he participated in were the opening Civil War scene, the Fort Hays scene where Dunbar was sent further west, and the final scene where the cavalry was searching for the Lakota village in Spearfish Canyon. Markley kept a journal while working on the film and has published it as “Dakota Epic”. Markley also discusses the process of journaling.

The Lawmen Wyatt Earp & Bat Masterson, the Outlaws Billy the Kid & Jesse James, and the Native American Leaders Geronimo & Sitting Bull
These are names of legendary characters of the Old West. Markley has written a book comparing the lives of Wyatt Earp and Bat Masterson, and a second book on Billy the Kid and Jesse James, and a third book being released in May 2021 on Geronimo and Sitting Bull. He can tailor his presentation to talk about the lives of any of these people. 

Dakota Territory as Well as Civil War History
Markley can discuss a variety of historical topics, including sites associated with the life of Sitting Bull, the quarries at Pipestone, Minnesota, Lewis and Clark’s Corps of Discovery up the Missouri River, Kenneth McKenzie -King of the Upper Missouri, the Choteau Family fur trade along the Missouri River, the Fort Pierre to Deadwood Trail, Fort Dilts in North Dakota, the murders of Bummer Dan, Spotted Tail, Wild Bill Hickok, and Di Lee – Deadwood’s China Doll. The South Dakota Cultural Heritage Center has a guidon flag that most likely was from the Battle of the Little Big Horn. Markley discusses his research into the guidon and why he believes it is from the battlefield. He has also researched a variety of Civil War topics that he can tailor to the needs of the audience.

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South Dakota Humanities Council
1215 Trail Ridge Road, Suite A
Brookings, SD 57006
(605) 688-6113