The McCanles were known as an outlaw gang in the early 1860s that was wanted for alleged train robbery, murder, bank robbery, cattle rustling, and horse theft.
However, there are questions surrounding the veracity of this. Some of its members were killed by Wild Bill Hickok in 1861 although many claim they were innocent and their only crime was to cross paths with "Wild Bill" Hickok.
The legend of "Wild Bill" Hickok began, as reported in Harper's Monthly, at Rock Creek Station, a stagecoach and Pony Express station in southern Nebraska. Hickok single-handedly killed the nine members of "desperados, horse-thieves, murders, and regular cutthroats" known as the McCanles Gang "in the greatest one man gunfight in history".
During the battle Hickok, armed with only a pistol, a rifle, and bowie knife, suffered 11 bullet wounds. However, the McCanles Gang legend seems to be traced to an incident between Hickok and a local rancher David C. McCanles, who was known as a local bully, having previously been in an argument with Hickok over a woman.
McCanles, who had recently sold his ranch as a relay station to a stage company, arrived with his 12-year-old son, his cousin, and another employee returning to the ranch demanding to see the relay station manager Horace Wellman. McCanles, who had not received payment from the company, began arguing with Wellman when he was apparently shot by then-24-year-old stock tender Bill Hickok while hidden behind a calico curtain.
McCanles' son immediately rushed into the building, where he ran to his father. The two other men, who, like McCanles, were unarmed, were killed by other members of the relay station (although there is evidence Mrs. Wellman may have taken part in the attack); one was killed by a shotgun blast and the other was hacked to death with a hoe. During the attack the son was able to escape, although the McCanles had not fired a shot, and Hickok was not reported wounded. Hickok, along with Wellman and J.W. "Doc" Brink, were charged with the murders; however, it is unknown whether the case was ever brought to trial.