I live in Houston and have worked as a nurse. I have a lifelong passion for traveling, nature, and photography (preferably all together!).
Who Is Buffalo Bill Cody?
While visiting my aunt and uncle in Bettendorf, Iowa, one year, they graciously decided to show my mother and me a bit of the surrounding countryside, which included, among other sites, Buffalo Bill Cody's boyhood home. The address is 28050 230th Ave, at Bluff Road in Scott County, Iowa.
This site was interesting because many people worldwide have heard about this famous fellow who has been memorialized in books, television shows, on Broadway, and primarily because of his showmanship and his famous Wild West Show.
William Frederick Cody was born in Iowa near LeClaire on February 26, 1846. Born in an era when wagon trains were heading west, Indian wars were still taking place, and the Civil War, William Cody would eventually participate in all of that and more.
My mother and I were surprised at the Cody homestead's size as it was a large and well-appointed residence. It overlooked open lands where donkeys and cattle still graze as they would have in days of yesteryears. William Frederick Cody was a small child when he lived there with his family.
Tickets only cost $2 for adults, and children 16 and under are free to tour this home and grounds in Princeton, Iowa. There is a replicated log cabin schoolhouse on the grounds, which is similar to one attended by some Cody children.
William Cody's parents came from a family background of Quakers. The belief practices of Quakers included, among other things, equality among people. Thus they were firmly opposed to any form of slavery. His father paid a lethal price for his speaking out against the practice of slavery, as did William Cody in a different way.
His father eventually succumbed to his stab wounds and died from being assaulted by a pro-slavery opponent; little William had to start earning a living to help support his mother and siblings at the young age of eleven.
As a boy, William Cody rode horses well. He started working to support his family by bearing messages between pioneers heading west in those long and dusty wagon trains.
As he aged, he reputedly also did a myriad of jobs, including such things as becoming a wagon-master, stagecoach driver, Pony Express rider, and bison hunter. His nickname of "Buffalo Bill" originated because of his supplying meat to the Kansas Pacific Railroad workers by supposedly killing many thousands of American bison (also called buffalo). Despite his history of hunting and killing, Buffalo Bill Cody was to become a well-known conservationist in later years.
Fighter and Soldier
Buffalo Bill Cody became the chief of scouts for the 3rd cavalry during the Plains Wars and received a Medal of Honor in 1872 for "gallantry in action." Sadly, the Plains Wars' primary reason between the native Americans and the European settlers was the rampant killing of the buffalo, which supplied the native Americans with their way of life. During the Utah War, he was a fighter and was an American soldier fighting for the North during the Civil War.
Just as he had become a conservationist in later life concerning the decimated herds of buffalo and other wildlife, William Cody also advocated rights for the native Americans and extended it to women's rights.
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Buffalo Bill's Wild West
What made William Cody famous was his ultimate showmanship. After being introduced to the stage and starting this portion of his life in 1872 by joining James Butler's Famous Wild West Shows, with people like "Wild Bill" Hickok appearing in it, William Cody started his own Wild West show in 1883.
Nebraska would be the premier of Buffalo Bill's Wild West, which would eventually travel across the United States and even appear in Europe. It was a circus-like show with horses, cattle, covered wagons, costumed Indians, campfires, and marksmanship.
Another famous person, Annie Oakley, and her husband performed in Buffalo Bill's Wild West and dazzled the crowds with her accurate hitting of targets using guns. Millions of people saw this show at Madison Square Garden in New York between 1886 and 1887 during the summer and early fall season.
The Wild West would forevermore be engraved into Europeans' minds and others not familiar with the real thing because of this branding by Buffalo Bill and his troupe of actors.
"It was because of my great interest in the West, and my belief that its development would be assisted by the interest I could awaken in others, that I decided to bring the West to the East through the medium of the Wild West Show."
— Buffalo Bill
William Cody founded the town of Cody in Wyoming in 1895. It became incorporated in 1901. As his fame and fortunes increased, William Cody acquired more land, eventually owning about 8,000 acres in this country's beautiful area.
He started a hotel in the town, had an ever increasingly sized ranch, grazed cattle, and entertained people by offering camping and hunting trips, among other things. He loved that part of the country but also had a home in North Platte, Nebraska.
The Buffalo Bill Center of the West in Cody, Wyoming, was previously known as the Buffalo Bill Historical Center. Visitors can learn much more about this famous man and see five different museums portraying the American West's art and history.
Shaping of a Life and Legacy
Looking at the boyhood home of William Cody, his family was certainly doing well financially. What would have happened had his father survived the stab wounds?
William Cody would not have had to take on the mantle of wage earner at the young age of eleven. He would probably never have had all the life experiences which led him to the nickname of Buffalo Bill and, ultimately, the world stage. Would he have become a gentleman farmer and rancher? We will never know.
William Cody died on January 10, 1917, with much of the fortune that he had earned over the years gone. His gravesite is on Lookout Mountain in Golden, Colorado.
Two different United States Postage Stamps honor the man known as Buffalo Bill. His legacy continues to live on even to this day and time, and he has become larger than real life in many people's minds due to the hype of shows like Buffalo Bill's Wild West and other entertainment media sources.
Wild West Show in Disneyland, Paris
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2010 Peggy Woods