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The following story of how W.F. Cody got the nickname Buffalo Bill appeared in the Nov. 13, 1903 issue of the “Grand Encampment Herald.”

Buffalo Bill

Upon being questioned, Col. Cody repeated the oft-told tale of how he was given the title of Buffalo Bill.

He said, “The name was given to me by the hoboes who helped to build the Union Pacific. When the rails reached the buffalo country, the Indians were pretty thick and pretty bad on the whites, and desiring a change from salt meats, the company employed me to hunt buffalo for the men. I had quite a reputation as a buffalo hunter and so was put on the force as the meat man. I was a welcome visitor in camp upon my first few return trips, and the men used to yell out, ‘Here comes Bill with some nice buffalo meat.’

“The company found that it was cheaper to feed buffalo than to import salt meat, and the rations were limited to that. Thus the men wearied of a good thing, and they got to saying, ‘Here comes Bill with some more of that tough buffalo meat.’ My association with buffalo and a gang of hoboes who always nicknamed people gave me the title of Buffalo Bill.”

The Wild West show

Col. Cody talked at length about the great Wild West show of which he was the founder and which has made him famous throughout the world. Following a suggestion, he said that he did not believe any other man would have had the courage to launch such a show.

“People thought that a show without clowns, without snakes or elephants would not be a drawing card, but the fact is that the show has been on the road for 21 years and has traveled more miles, showed in more countries, played to more people and played before more royalty than any other show ever organized in the history of the world. I take great pride in the fact that the show is educational and therefore above all others.

“Wyoming and the West are pictured as they are and without exaggeration. One lives an hour in the West when he sees the show. When I hire a western cowboy to ride for the season, I tell him not to buy new chaps – the gaudy kind for show – but to report for business in the chaps he has worn while in the saddle, on the round-up and on the plains. I want the cowboy just as he is at home, and that is the way I present him to the world.”

“When will you promise to bring the show to Grand Encampment?” he was asked.

“Well,” replied the Colonel, “I will not show at Cody or Grand Encampment for another year at least, but I will tell you that the show takes well here at home. In 1892, I took the show – 70 cars, 600 people and 600 animals – all over my old scouting trails, starting at the Dakotas, through Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, Utah, Washington, Oregon, California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas and Louisiana and back across the Mississippi, a distance of 14,000 miles, the greatest number of miles ever traveled by a show in one season. I met with the greatest approbation and success in the country where I had scouted for years.”

Next week, we will learn more about Buffalo Bill and his partner White Beaver.

While researching material for another project, I came across this unpublished manuscript in the Bob Martin/Dick Perue collection and pass it along to the readers of the “Postcard of the Past.” Enjoy this article, believed to have been written in the 1930s by an A.S. Gillespie of Rock River.

A cairn by the roadside where the highway north out of Fort Collins crosses into Wyoming notifies the wayfarer that he is passing the grave of “Old Blue.” Taut barbed wires confine the heap of stones marking the last resting place of the former Warren Ranch cow pony. The spot is hallowed in the memory of many a cowboy who knew and admired Old Blue in his working days.

A weather-beaten painted sign bears a tribute to the departed equine. A tenderfoot wrote it and put it up. The epitaph is noted with curiosity by passing motorists, and many are the inquiries as to the story of the famous horse.

Fred E. Warren, son of the late Senator Warren and manager of the Warren Ranches in Wyoming, gives an account briefly as follows:

“The horse was a blue roan cow pony of average appearance but of unusual wisdom. In his early years, he was used for ordinary work on the range but later found his calling in the education of colts. He was the horse that would drag them into the barn when they were first roped. Then, with the recalcitrant colt tied in the stall, he would be sent in alongside of the plunging animal so that the help could get to the head of the young horse without getting the eternal daylights kicked out of them.

“When we had horses to break for driving, Old Blue was the horse that was harnessed with the youngster to sit on the singletree when the youngster felt like running away and to jump to the collar and drag him ahead by main strength when the colt felt balky.

“As he grew older he seemed to know what was expected of him and furthermore he seemed endowed with quite a sense of humor. If a new man came in the spring and fancied himself as a rider Old Blue was saddled up and given to him as his means of transport. On such occasions, the rascal would look back to size up his rider and then crow-hop around to discover whether the man could really ride or not. As soon as he felt his man slipping he would look back and almost wink his eye as he stopped dead still.

“At other times it was the custom to have the new hands lead Old Blue to water from the barn to a little stream that ran by a short distance away. On such occasion, he would invariably bury his nose in the stream and apparently drink with great gusto, regardless of the fact that only a few minutes before perhaps two or three of our new hands had led him at different times to the same place. In short, he was the universal pet on the ranch, and when the time came for him to cash in his chips, there was much grief in the bunkhouse.

“We had on the ranch at that time a young follow who had at one time fallen into considerable money which was promptly spent on various kinds of whoopee, which won him the title of ‘million dollar cowboy.’ The million dollar cowboy in his grief over the loss of the horse felt that the occasion called for an elaborate funeral service, and so on a Sunday the horse was buried with considerable ceremony. Appropriate sermons were delivered, and I think the boys even tackled a hymn.”

The headboard, with the following inscription, was made at the time and has never been changed although it has many times been repainted.

Erected to the Memory

of Old Blue

The Best Old Cow Pony

That Ever Pulled on a Rope

by the Cow Punchers of the 7XL Outfit

Rest in Peace

At first there was only a small pile of stones placed upon the grave, but for sometime afterwards, it used to be the custom when driving raw colts with the breaking cart to pick up stones along the way, bring them to Old Blue’s grave and pile them up until there was quite a cairn made up of stones from miles around – and incidentally, I suspect that it contained most of the section corners within range of the ranch – at least they have all disappeared.

A recent newspaper headline declares, “Wyoming icon ‘Buffalo Bill’ to be inducted into Business Hall of Fame.” An article that follows noted that William F. Cody was a businessman and entrepreneur during pioneer days of Wyoming.

Several newspaper articles in the Nov. 13, 1903 issue of the “Grand Encampment Herald” declared that fact in an interview years ago, and we pass that information along to our readers through these news items:

The Great West

“All we need in Wyoming is capital. In America there are 80 millions of people, and the western half of the country has only 15 millions of them while it is capable of sustaining 100 million more. This fact is just becoming known. Why, many people who live in the far East think that when they get west of the Missouri River they will find nothing but rocks, sagebrush and desert, but in the face of that sentiment the most progressive and enterprising people in the country are those who come West. They venture out and seek new fields.

“Fact is, right in Congress, the brightest senators and representatives are those from west of the Missouri. And it is also true that the Wyoming senators and our congressman are closer to President Roosevelt and the administration than the statesmen of any other state in the union. Take Congressman Mondell, for instance. It takes a pretty progressive state to produce a man his equal; you cannot give Mondell too much credit.”

This is a quote from Col. Cody in 1903 “Grand Encampment Herald.”

About railroads

Asked about the railroad situation in Wyoming, Col. Cody said:

“It won’t be long before there will be a north and south railroad through the state to connect with the Burlington at Cody. Why, people laughed at me when I started the town of Cody. I told them I would have a railroad there in six years and got it in four. Railroads will come where the business is, and the central part of Wyoming is rich in a score of industries.

“Only a few years ago there was not a railroad west of the Missouri. Today there are six trans-continental lines and a network of roads between Wyoming and the East. Do you think railroad building will stop? Not on your life. They are going to keep coming.”

Removing the capital (sic)

Col. Cody was asked his opinion of Mr. Emerson’s scheme to build a new city in central Wyoming and make the city of Emerson the state capital (sic). He replied...but, then, that’s a crazy scheme for our next “Postcard.”

The business expertise of the famous showman Buffalo Bill is shown in this exclusive interview of Col. W.F. Cody in the Nov. 13, 1903 issue of the “Grand Encampment Herald.” Excerpts from that interview continue this week.

Removing the capital

Col. Cody was asked his opinion of Mr. Emerson’s scheme to build a new city in central Wyoming and make the city of Emerson the state capital. 

He replied, “I would not think bad of the scheme if Mr. Emerson can build up an agricultural community about his new town. That is a great consideration and something that Cheyenne does not have.” 

Assured that Mr. Emerson had taken into consideration this important feature, the Colonel said that it was not a scheme to be disregarded.

“I admire Mr. Emerson very much. I have read several of his speeches in the Herald and have noted his energy building up Grand Encampment. His energy is something wonderful, and he is a great organizer. I wish Wyoming had more like him.”

The Copper Giant

Speaking of his mining interests here, Col. Cody said, “Yes, I am a heavy stockholder in the Copper Giant. I am well pleased with same and have no stock for sale.

“Mr. Waterbury and Col. Powell have built a magnificent tunnel, of good proportion and well timbered and are still driving. It is the best tunnel I have ever seen, and I have seen many. The tunnel is in 900 feet, with a depth almost as great as the length, and I understand that it is the longest tunnel with the greatest depth in the district.”

Buffalo Bill

Upon being questioned. Col. Cody repeated the oft told tale of how he was given the title of Buffalo Bill. . . . But, then that’s a tale to be told later.

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.