Agnes Thatcher Lake: Circus Bride of Wild Bill Hickok


Circus artist Agnes Thatcher Lake (nee Mersman, 1826-1907), was born in Alsace, France and immigrated with her family to Cincinnati at age four. When she was 16 she eloped with a circus clown named Bill Lake Thatcher and became skilled in the circus arts, working as a professional tightrope walker, lion tamer and equestrienne for many years. Her husband (known professionally as Bill Lake) was killed in 1869, shot dead while trying to eject an unruly customer from the Big Top. Agnes took over the show. It was during their stop-over in Abilene Texas that she first met the man who was to become her second husband — Wild Bill Hickok. Agnes met Bill again while both were performing in Rochester, New York in 1873. They met up again in Cheyenne, Wyoming in 1876 and that is where they tied the knot. Agnes set up a house for them back in Cincinnati, and Bill headed out for the gold fields of the Dakota Territory, where he was famously shot and killed in the town of Deadwood in 1877. Her second husband to have been stolen from her by gunplay. I wonder what her opinion was of Annie Oakley! Agnes died in New Jersey, thirty years after Wild Bill.

To find out more about the history of old time show businessconsult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.

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