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John Baker Omohundro was bom July 26,1846, near Palmyra, in Fluvanna County, Virginia. Like many youngsters during this era, Jack was particularly interested in the outdoors. While still a boy, he became a skilled hunter, fisherman, and horseback rider.
By 1861, Jack had made his way to Texas in hopes of working on a cattle ranch. Soon after the Civil War began, Jack received news that his older brother, Orville, had joined the Confederate Army. Jack returned to Virginia and attempted to enlist also, only to be turned down because of his age. However, he did serve as a courier for General John B. Floyd.
In 1864, Jack enlisted as a private in Orville's company. Despite his gaining notoriety in Virginia as the Boy Scout of the Confederacy, 1864 proved to be a dismal year for Jack: General J.E.B. Stuart was shot and killed just moments after Jack delivered him a message. Five weeks later, Jack himself was wounded. But it was during the fall, when the Confederate Army was losing ground that Jack heard the worst possible news: his mother had died after a long illness.
Following the war, Jack returned to Texas and the cattle ranches. For the next two and a half years, he continued his cattle drives, mostly along the famous Chisholm Trail. Late in the summer of 1869, one such trek took Jack further north into Nebraska, along the Platte River. After the drive was completed, he decided to settle in the small prairie city of North Platte on the river. It was here that he met a man whose life paralleled his own so closely that a lasting friendship bloomed.
Buffalo Bill Cody had arrived in the Platte Valley about four months before Jack. Serving as a scout with the U.S. Army, Bill had recently been assigned to Fort McPherson, about seventeen miles down river from North Platte. At Bill's request, Jack moved down to the fort later that winter.
Jack tried his hand at bar-tending and also became a teacher for children at the fort. As an ex-Confederate soldier, it was nearly impossible for him to get a government job. Through his friend's perseverance, Jack finally received his official appointment as United States Scout.
Whether hunting, scouting or dealing in Indian affairs, Jack had established himself as one of the most popular men west of the Mississippi and the equal of his friend, Buffalo Bill. Due to his Indian blood, Jack was able to communicate and empathize with Native American tribes. He was the particular favorite of the gentle Pawnee tribe.
His fame, like Buffalo Bill's, soon spread east, kindled by the popularity of the dime novel. The exploits of Buffalo Bill and Texas Jack, related by popular authors such as Ned Buntline, reached a wide audience through these small books crammed with easy-to-read adventures.
Inspired by the success of his dime novels, Buntline decided that if he could get these famous plainsmen on stage with one of his western scripts, audiences everywhere would flock to see them. Buntline realized that people considered Buffalo Bill and Texas Jack the living embodiment of the American West.
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