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Shawnee just installed a 13-foot sculpture of Wild Bill Hickok. Here's the story behind it

 The 13-foot-tall statue of Wild Bill Hickok astride his horse Black Nell was installed Jan. 24 at a new park at Shawnee Mission Parkway and Nieman Road.
Roxie Hammill
Shawnee Mission Post
The 13-foot-tall statue of Wild Bill Hickok astride his horse Black Nell was installed Jan. 24 at a new park at Shawnee Mission Parkway and Nieman Road.

Wild Bill Hickok was a figure in Shawnee history in the 1850s. The artwork, which was installed on Shawnee Mission Parkway and Nieman Road, depicts Hickok astride his legendary horse, Black Nell.

A 13-foot-tall sculpture of Wild Bill Hickok on his horse – created with the recommendation of Shawnee artist Charles Goslin – was installed at a prominent point along Shawnee Mission Parkway on Tuesday, just two days after Goslin’s death at age 91.

Although the original concept for the large bronze statue was put forward by Goslin two years ago, he nominated Olathe artist Maretta Kennedy to execute it.

Kennedy had worked with Goslin and other artists at local art foundries and has a particular expertise in bronze and in sculpting horses.

The artwork, titled “Trail Scout,” depicts Hickok astride his legendary horse, Black Nell, holding the reins in one hand while waving his hat with the other.

It is meant to be a companion piece to a relief sculpture of a wagon train nearby at Pioneer Crossing Park, 10406 Shawnee Mission Parkway.

Olathe artist Maretta Kennedy worked on the Wild Bill Hickok sculpture for more than three years, originally at the behest of Shawnee artist Charles Goslin, who died earlier this week.
Shawnee Mission Post

The Hickok piece is positioned to appear as if he is waving at the wagon train.

Trail Scout Park is a relatively new park created to enhance the redevelopment of the Nieman Road corridor.

The horse and rider are displayed atop a rock pedestal.

The all-bronze statue is about 2,300 pounds and 13 feet tall from the tip of the hat, Kennedy said.

The installation at the northeast corner of Nieman Road and Shawnee Mission Parkway came off without a hitch, she added.

Hickok was a figure in Shawnee history in the 1850s, when he began working with a wagonmaster, according to historical research done by Goslin.

His first law enforcement job was as constable for Monticello Township, a one-time town that later merged with Lenexa and Shawnee.

Hickok became known as “Wild Bill” a few years later, after relocating to Nebraska.

Kennedy has done extensive work sculpting in bronze, particularly of horses.

“I think that’s why Charles chose me because I would be able to do a good job with the horse involved,” she told the Post.

She said she used her background working in foundries and with veterinarians and show horses in the depiction of Black Nell.

Hickok’s horse was the stuff of legends and was said to once have climbed onto a pool table in a bar at Hickok’s behest.

Work first began on the concept in 2019, with preliminary work done by Goslin. But a year later, he stepped back and supported Kennedy to do the sculpting.

Originally, the plan was for the two to collaborate with hopes for completion by the end of summer 2019.

But the project ended up taking over two years, Kennedy said, because of the coronavirus and her own cancer diagnosis, treatment and now recovery.

The spread of COVID-19 resulted in temporary closures of the foundries, and also kept the two artists from much collaboration, she said.

Kennedy said she understood Goslin had seen photos of the sculpture but died before getting a chance to see it in person.

“Because of his age and with COVID, I actually wasn’t able to interact with him much,” she said. “That’s unfortunate, but I believe he was happy with it.”

The city originally budgeted $150,000 for the work, but Kennedy’s bid came in under that, at $135,000, according to city documents.

This story was originally published on the Shawnee Mission Post.

Roxie Hammill is a freelance journalist in Kansas City. Contact her at roxieham@gmail.com.
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