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Postcard from the Past - Col. Cody Promotes Wyoming

Written by Dick Perue

Half of the front page of the Nov. 13, 1903 issue of the “Grand Encampment Herald” was devoted to an exclusive interview with Col. W.F. Cody.

Following is more of the thoughts and history of Buffalo Bill as outlined in that interview.

Watched Wyoming grow

Col. Cody loves to talk about the progress of Wyoming and prophesy for its future. He landed here in ’67 and should be an authority.

“Wyoming has changed a little at least since the days of the bull trains, which used to freight across the great American desert of the past,” said the Colonel with his characteristic earnestness. “The Union Pacific got as far as Cheyenne in ’67, the same year that I wintered at old Fort Bridger, and aside from a few settlements along the trail, there were few towns in the territory. That same year found me with the bull trains, and I happened to be at Ham’s Fork when the Mormons burned our train – a historic event on the frontier. The following year I was pony express rider on the Sweetwater route. My most interesting trip in Wyoming was in 1870 with Prof. Morse of Washington on a fossil hunting expedition into the Big Horn country, where not a white man lived at the time. I was then employed as chief of scouts for General Sheridan.

“I was in Wyoming again in 1876 during the Sioux War under Sitting Bull, the summer Custer was killed. My scouting career covered a long period and a big territory, and I remember well the landmarks about Grand Encampment, for I was here 29 years ago on a scouting expedition out of Rawlins, from which we were starting military operations north. While at Rawlins I took a party over the southern part of the county looking for a band of Sioux who were in the vicinity visiting the Utes.

“Great changes in Wyoming since then,” added the veteran. “I first commenced to build up Wyoming in 1896, when I became the pioneer operator under the Carey Act, started the building of a 40-mile ditch and put the town of Cody on the map. That ditch irrigates from 30,000 to 40,000 acres of land, and I believe with the several new ditches built and those contemplated, we will have 400,000 acres under irrigation around Cody in a few years.”

Had to change

Asked why the name of Stinking Water River was changed to Shoshone, Col. Cody said that he could not get a single settler to come into the Big Horn Basin as long as that name was on the map. People did not propose to take water from the stinking water for any purpose whatsoever, and he was obliged to go before the state legislature and have the name of the river changed.

“By the way,” he remarked, “there is more water in the Shoshone than in all the rivers of eastern Colorado combined.”

The Great West

“All we need in Wyoming is capital,” . . . but, then, that will be our next investment.