|Birth place:||United States|
|Date of death:||1868|
|Occupation:|| Former slave|
Former cut crewman
Former walking boss
Former Chief of Railroad Police
|Relatives:||The Master - father|
|Relationships:||Eva - fiancee|
|Behind the scenes|
|Portrayed by:|| Common|
Amadou Diallo (young Elam)
|Seasons:||1, 2, 3, 4|
|Last episode:||"Elam Ferguson (Episode)"|
|Appearances:||32 episodes (see below)|
Elam Ferguson was a recently freed slave and exoduster who found work with the Union Pacific Railroad. He is the former Chief of Railroad Police and friend to Cullen Bohannon.
Ferguson was a former slave who is half-black and half-white; his father being his former owner.
Growing up, his owner illegally educated Elam on how to read, believing it to be simply a parlor trick, not believing that Elam knew the deeper meaning of the words he read. Literacy amongst slaves was illegal, but when found out, it would be the slaves punished for their literacy, rather than their owner. After all, the master would only have to proclaim that they attained literacy by subterfuge and smuggling of texts as none would believe a slave's word over the slave's owner's.
It is clear, however, that as a child Elam affected a stilted and unskilled manner of reading when entertaining the Master and his guests so as not give himself away beyond the "parlor trick": It is later shown that Elam read the Bible to other slaves fluidly and without any impediment at all.
Being of mixed races, Ferguson struggles between both worlds.
- Main article: Season 1
Upon the arrival of Cullen Bohannon and his hiring as walking boss over the all-black crew, Elam is placed under his control. He becomes indignant towards his supervisor after learning that he was a former slave owner.
William, Elam's friend, is killed by a kick in the head from Foreman Daniel Johnson's horse, cracking his skull. Upon returning to his tent, Ferguson sharpens his knife in preparation of killing Johnson. Bohannon warns Elam that such an act will result in his hanging, which Elam responds to with a threat to kill Bohannon instead. In the end, Elam backs down. Later, upon discovering Johnson holding Bohannon at gunpoint, Elam slits his throat, thinking he has saved Bohannon.
When Bohannon slips from the grasp of the Swede, he asks Elam to remove his chains who reveals that irony of the situation, a former slave releasing a former master from the chains of bondage.
Later, Elam volunteers his all-black crew to do make-up for the work of men being conscripted by the Swede to find the missing Lily Bell, much to the chagrin of his fellow crewmen, especially Psalms who accuses Elam of trying to be the "white man.
Fueled by Psalms' words, Elam begins to test his freedom and defies restrictions placed against the black workers by going into local cathouse. Gregory Toole, an Irish walking boss, takes notice and calls Elam out. Eva, one of the prostitutes, taunts him in front of the men, forcing Elam to leave in disgrace, Later she makes an agreement with Elam that he will be her private customer. On their first rendezvous, they bond over the fact that they were both slaves and devalued as humans.
When the pay for the railroad is late, the workers begin to complain. Thomas Durant tells Bohannon to pay the walking bosses in order to keep control over the men, though it is to be done secretly. Elam comes forward and demands that he gets paid also stating that he is the walking boss over the all-black crew. Bohannon refuses prompting Elam to walk off the job. Bohannon tries to bring him back resulting in a brawl. Durant, witnessing the event, calls on the two to battle it out in the evening. Later in the day the fight begins in the Starlight Saloon. The fight initially goes Bohannon's way, but only because Elam refuses to fight back. Only when Psalms reminds him of who he really is does he fight back. Sean McGinnes gives Psalms pepper-soaked gauze which he wraps around Elam's hands, though this is not known to Psalms or Elam. Elam manages to land a blow to Cullen's eyes, blinding him. Elam is declared the victor, much to the chagrin of the white audience with the exception of Eva. On the next day, Bohannon begrudgingly hands Elam his pay.
Elam is put in charge of supervising the work crew while Bohannon provides security during the peace talks between the Cheyenne tribesmen and Senator Jordan Crane and Thomas Durant. Elam and Bohannon speak about the fight and Bohannon accuses Elam of cheating with the pepper juice, though Elam denies knowledge of this. That night, Elam spends some time with Eva, but they are interrupted by Toole and an angry mob. Toole and his band beat Elam and drag him outside to hang him.
Upon dragging Elam out of his tent, Gundersen steps forward and allows the Irishmen to hang their captive as entertainment. At the Starlight Saloon, the racist band a hangman's noose around Elam's neck and throw it over the rafters. Psalms and his all-black group enter the saloon, armed in order to save their friend. The Irish draw their revolvers. Elam tells Psalms to back down and asks Toole to form a deal with him: he can hang Elam as long as Psalms and the rest of the freedmen go unharmed. Toole agrees, Psalms leaves, though very reluctantly. Just as the Irish begin to hang Elam, Bohannon arrives on horseback and saves Elam. The two ride on horseback and find refuge in the woods. Elam and Bohannon make camp and speak about their lives: Elam about his life on the plantation, being from both the free and slave worlds but belonging to neither, and Bohannon about his family's murder. Though Bohannon thinks that Elam does not care, Elam is visibly moved by story.
In the morning, Bohannon trains Elam in marksmanship, as he has never had cause to use a gun until now. Elam misses his shots, but Bohannon continues instructing, saying that he should count the rounds his enemy has fired and shoot back when he is reloading. The two men stage an ambush on Toole, Dix, Bolan, and a few of Toole's friend, who have persued them under the orders of the Swede. While Bohannon fights all but Toole, who Elam chases after into the woods, where the men engage in a firefight. Elam counts all the rounds Toole has fired and gains the upper hand. He points out that Toole has fired all his bullets. Though Elam gives Toole the opportunity to say his last words, he cuts him off and shoots him in the mouth. After the battle, Bohannon asks if he should read a part of a scripture over the dead men. Elam suggests Psalms 23 and the two recite it together, Elam from memory. The two take to their horses and ride.
Upon returning to Hell on Wheels Elam has newer respect as he now carries a gun, as killed a man, and as taken Eva has his paramour. Later, a wounded Mr. Toole shows up at his tent to apologize as he 'found god' and apologizes to Eva as well.
Elam takes work with Durant doing dirty work for him, such as scalping the Indians that attacked and killed a railroad worker. He asks Eva to be his, which she takes to mean marriage. She realizes that was not what he mean, as he wants to maintain his freedom, money, and keep working with the railroad, while she wants stability, to be married, and not be a whore any longer. She decides to stay in town with Mr. Toole, as he wants the same thing.
- Main article: Season 2
Bohannon, after running from the law, has been robbing UP trains of their payroll. After several robberies, Durant hires Elam to protect the train. Bohannon encounters Elam and decides not to shoot him and leaves without the payroll. Elam informs Durant of the situation. He enounters Eva, living in Durant Nebraska, with her new husband Mr. Toole.
After Sioux Indians attack Durant, Nebraska, Elam wants to be part of the rescue group headed there, but Durant makes him stay in Hell on Wheels to protect his railroad. When Eva arrives back in Hell on Wheels, she finds a prostitute friend of hers was murdered by a client. She asks Lily to ask Elam to find and kill the murderer, which he does for Eva. Eva and Elam start an affair after Mr. Toole becomes the new railroad foreman.
A while later Eva tells Elam she is pregnant with his baby. He leaves without a word to her. He later shows up to apologize, as he was scared his freedom would be taken away again. However he is now scared for Eva's life, carrying a black man's baby, and asks her to get an abortion. She disagrees and says it is between her and her husband now.
When Cullen's former robbery compatriots arrive in town to steal the payroll directly from the safe, Elam defends the town but has trouble doing it himself and needs Cullen's help. The town shuns him for this, calling him a coward. Eva agrees to attend to Durant on his trip to Chicago as he was injured in the gunfight. Elam begs her not to go but she goes anyways.
Elam helps the McGuinnes brothers take the saloon in exchange for a plot of land. He quits the railroad and builds himself a house for him and Eva. Durant tells him he cannot quit and the only way he can keep his land is to kill Lily Bell, which is almost does.
Later, while showing Eva his new house Mr. Toole shows up. Angry at finding them together yet again he shoots himself right in front of them. Now a widower. Eva refuses to evacuate town ahead of the impending Indian attack, instead opting to hide it out at Elam's house. Elam helps defend the cat house at Eva's request and then comes to save Eva as Indians attack and burn down his house.
Elam and Eva spent the winter months in Omaha, Nebraska. Bohannon approaches Elam for his help getting the railroad back up and running. Though he is reluctant to leave a very pregnant Eva, she encourages him to go with Bohannon. When Elam finds out that part of Bohannon's reason for bringing him along was to play the part of a "gentleman's gentleman" and make look Bohannon look more respectable. This irritates Elam greatly and the two get into a scuffle that is only broken up by a telegram from Eva that informs him that she has given birth to the baby.
When Elam gets the baby back, he admits to Bohannon that he knows that the baby is not his but that she is part of his family nonetheless.
Psalms asks why they haven't named the baby, Elam tells Psalms that everything he has named has been taken away from him. He does relent and says her name is Rose, not knowing that Eva was, at that moment, giving the baby to Declan to raise in New York City.
When Elam learns what Eva has done, he is left heart broken and in a fit of rage he kicks out Eva. Feeling that he had lost everything, Elam goes on a drinking binge. At night he woke up Psalms, telling him that they needed to go to New York to find the baby. Psalms responded by saying that Rose is gone and he won't get her back.
Bohannon enlists a drunk Elam to come with him to Cheyenne for protection, during a meeting with Durant. They make their way to Cheyenne by horse with Ezra with them. They are attacked by armed men led by Aaron Hatch, but are able to make it to the town. They get pinned down in the towns hotel and they decide to make a run for the telegraph, only to find it destroyed. Together Elam and Bohannon make their back to the hotel and find Durant and Palmer tied up. Durant tells them that the attackers took Ezra, so Elam and Bohannon go out into the open and they find Ezra being held at gun point by Bohannon trades himself for the boy and goes with Hatch.
Having made Bohannon a promise to keep the railroad going Elam returns to the railroad and tells the to they will rescue Bohannon after they get to Cheyenne. Elam then motivates the men to get to Cheyenne and together they lay rail after rail.
After getting the railroad to Cheyenne, Elam is pushed to find Bohannon and he believes that he is being held at Fort Smith. Before leaving to rescue Bohannon he goes to see Eva and tells her what he is going to do, she pleads for him not to go but Elam goes anyway. On his way to Fort Smith, Elam runs into Indians. He kills most of them and continues his quest. When Elam gets to Fort Smith, a bear appears and Elam tries shoot it, but has runs out ammo so he draws his knife as the bear attacks. It is shown that Elam killed the bear, but he is seen laying on the ground severely wounded and appearing lifeless.
- Main article: Season 4
Two Comanche braves find Elam Ferguson, barely alive, near the carcass of the bear that attacked him. The braves take him back to their village. A Comanche medicine man's wife, Smiling Crow, heals him (taking out a giant bear tooth out of his head) and nurses Elam back to health, even though he loses vision in his left eye and has hallucinations.
Elam continually fights a brave called White Feather for ownership of Charlotte, a white woman brought from a raid whom Elam, not in his right mind, thinks is Eva. Later, Elam is taken to the village's sweat lodge, where the medicine man unites him and White Feather by blood. Elam is taught how to say his new name, Bear Killer, in Comanche.
Jimmy Two Squaws arrives in the village on business and recognizes Elam, but Elam doesn't recognize him. Although he thinks Elam's mind has been damaged, Jimmy nonetheless tells him that a Cavalry regiment is looking for Charlotte. He also tries to get Elam to go to Cheyenne, but Elam stabs him. Major Bendix and two others escape a Comanche raid with injuries, while Elam and the braves take souvenirs.
Later, Charlotte begs Elam to sell her so he can get Eva back. White Feather carries her away, and Elam kills and scalps him, then leaves the village with Charlotte and Jimmy's two wives. Charlotte tries to escape, but he catches her. She accuses him of being an animal, worse than the Comanche, for killing Jimmy. Weeks later, the four arrive at some railroad tracks.
Elam arrives in town, looking to sell the women as slaves. Campbell seeks to have marksmen kill the seemingly crazed Elam, but Cullen asks for some time to reason with his friend. He reminds Elam of their friendship and history, but nothing can help Elam, not even Eva nor Psalms, neither of whom Elam recognizes. Cullen wrestles with Elam, and is forced to stab and shoot him. Cullen later digs Elam's grave alone, afterwards wailing in grief.
|Season 1 appearances|
|"Pilot"||"Immoral Mathematics"||"A New Birth of Freedom"||"Jamais Je Ne T'oublierai"||"Bread and Circuses"|
|"Pride, Pomp and Circumstance"||"Revelations"||"Derailed"||"Timshel"||"God of Chaos"|
|Season 2 appearances|
|"Viva La Mexico"||"Durant, Nebraska"||"Slaughterhouse"||"Scabs"||"The Railroad Job"|
|"Purged Away with Blood"||"The White Spirit"||"The Lord's Day"||"Blood Moon"||"Blood Moon Rising"|
|Season 3 appearances|
|"Big Bad Wolf"||"Eminent Domain"||"Range War"||"The Game"||"Searchers"|
|"One Less Mule"||"Cholera"||"It Happened in Boston"||"Fathers and Sins"||"Get Behind the Mule"|
|Season 4 appearances|
|"The Elusive Eden"||"Escape from the Garden"||"Chicken Hill"||"Reckoning"||"Life's a Mystery"|
|"Bear Man"||"Elam Ferguson (Episode)"||"Under Color of Law"||"Two Trains"||"Return to Hell"|
|"Bleeding Kansas"||"Thirteen Steps"||"Further West"|