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Buffalo Bill Cody

The Commonwealth, Friday Morning, August 14, 1874.
Another “Buffalo Bill.” A writer in the Chicago Times says: “Now they are endeavoring, and with some show of success, to show that the Hon. William Cody is not the true Buffalo Bill, but that William Matthewson, a modest man of muscle, is entitled to the distinction of which the man of the melodrama has robbed him. Matthewson was born in New York, and at the age of ten ran away to the pineries of his native state. Seven years later he had established a trading post in Southwestern Kansas, away out on the frontier. He was in the buffalo range, and always kept a season’s supply of the meat hung up in his ranche, to which the freighters were always welcome. In 1860 the famine raged in Kansas, and that he might secure meat for his suffering fellow-men, Matthewson did not hesitate to push right into the midst of hostile Indians in search of buffalo. Wagons were laden with his charity offerings, and all the early settlers and immigrants, recognizing his good and timely work, called him “Buffalo Killer,” changing the sobriquet substantially to Buffalo Bill. He rode unaccompanied among savage Cheyennes, Arapahos, and Kiowas, inviting them to meet in council and accept reservations. The Indians respect him highly, though they call him “Sin-pah-zil-bah,” the dangerous long beard. He has always been a friend of humanity, making no distinction between white and red men. All had a share of his bounty.
Winfield Courier, Thursday, June 7, 1877. Front Page.
How Buffalo Bill Married a Couple. After serving for years on the frontiers, Cody settled at Fort McPherson, Nebraska, and in 1872 was elected Justice of the Peace, and the following year was chosen a member of the legislature. A good story is told of how he performed a marriage ceremony while he was Justice of the Peace. It was his first attempt, and the applicants were of the true western type. They called upon Cody in the log cabin where he held his Justice office. Bill had a book of forms, which he took down and studied attentively to get some idea of how he should tie the knot. But though there were forms for nearly every transaction of life, he failed to find what he was looking for and finally slammed the book down and observed to the parties: “You two fellers join hands;” and the “two fellers” did so. Then he said to the groom, “Are you willing to take this woman to be your lawful wedded wife, to love her, to honor her, and obey her?” “You bet your butes,” was the response of the bashful hairlifter. “And you, miss, are you willing to take this here man to be your wedded husband, to love him, honor him, and support him?” She giggled and nodded in the affirmative; but this didn’t suit Bill, who said: “See here, miss, we’ve got to have this thing on the dead square, and we can’t marry folks by halves in this country. We are bound to go the whole hog. If you want this man for a husband, you must speak out and say so, as though you meant it shure. I’ll ask you again. Will you take this here man to be your lawful wedded husband, to love him, to honor and support him?” This time the lady responded bravely, “Yes, sir, I will.” This satisfied his honor, and he remarked: “That settles it. Now look here, you are man and wife, and whoever Bill Cody and God Almighty have joined together let no man put asunder.” “And now,” added Bill, “let’s take another sip of tarrantular juice, and drink to the happiness of the happy couple,” which everybody, with true western unanimity, proceeded to do.
Letter to Chicago Times.

Arkansas City Traveler, July 11, 1877. Front Page.
                                                     A NOTABLE SCOUT.
Incidents in the Career of Hon. Wm. Cody, Better Known as “Buffalo Bill”—How He Obtained His Sobriquet—Adventures in Indian Campaigns.
                                                [From the San Francisco Call.]
Nearly everyone, male or female, young or old, is tinged with a love of adventure and admiration of those few whose daring deeds on flood or field have made them famous. One cannot help respecting bravery, whether moral or physical, and where it is aided by indomitable will, keen perception, strict integrity, unassuming modesty, and unfailing good humor, this respect merges into a still warmer feeling for the fortunate man who possesses so many good qualities.
William T. Cody, better known as “Buffalo Bill,” is fully entitled to this character, as any army officer with whom he has served during the past 20 years will bear witness. Cody is AN EXCEPTIONAL MAN, for, with every disadvantage of education and early training to contend against, he has steadily advanced upon the road which chance engineered for him, keeping clear of the pitfalls, and passing, one after another, all his competitors, until he stands today the foremost scout in America. This is no fulsome flat­tery, for everyone who knows Cody acknowledges his worth and feels honored in claiming him as a friend.
The writer of this article has had many opportunities to judge the man’s character, and has always found him courageous, keen witted, and absolutely faithful to his friends. When serving as a scout, he is the associate, not the inferior, of the officers, is always a welcome visitor to their tents, and holds receptions in his own camp second only to those of the General in command. Or course, his roving, vagabond life has given little opportunity for the acquirement of society polish, or of educa­tional improvement, and his manner lacks the refinement of the carpet knight; but that ingredient of the true gentleman, which instinctively avoids any word or deed that might wound the feelings of another, that self-denial for the sake of others, and that almost reckless generosity toward those who are in trouble, are found in Cody, and prove him to be one of those rare phenomena, a nature’s nobleman.
Will Cody was born in Iowa, Scott County, in 1838, and is therefore 39 years of age. While he was yet an infant, his father, whose pioneer instincts always carried him to the far­thest frontier, became an Indian trader in Kansas and Nebraska, and it was in that wilderness and under such untoward circum­stances that “Little Billy,” his then nom de plume, picked up the rudiments of education from the kindly wives of officers at different forts and trading posts.
In 1855 the boy started in life on his own account, and drove an army team until 1857, when he VOLUNTEERED FOR THE MORMON WAR, and made the campaign under Sidney Johnston. During 1860 and 1861 he was employed as pony express rider on some of the most dangerous portions of the overland route.
Early in 1862 he joined that celebrated band known as Gen. Blount’s “Red legged Scouts,” and served with them in Kansas and Western Missouri until the close of the war, when he went out to the plains as government scout and dispatch carrier.

In 1867 he was appointed chief hunter of the Kansas Pacific Railroad Company, and it was in their service that he gained his sobriquet of “Buffalo Bill,” on account of the immense number of bison that fell to his rifle.
When the Indian war broke out during that year he served with the army under Generals Hancock and Custer, and in 1868 was appointed Chief of Scouts for the Department of the Missouri. He remained in service until 1871, when he had the management of the Grand Duke Alexis’ hunting party.
In February, 1872, he paid his first visit to the East. Being then taken in hand by theatrical managers, who scented a fresh sensation in a good looking frontiersman, Cody made HIS DEBUT AS A FOOTLIGHT SCALPER, and since that time has passed his winters in paint and tinsel on the stage, his summers in patched buckskin on the plains. So far superior to music is his love of actual warfare that at the outbreak of the Sioux war last year he forfeited an engagement in the East, and hurried to the front, where he was at once appointed chief of scouts, first to Gen. Crook’s command and after to the joint commands of Crook and Terry. Toward the close of the campaign, Cody performed a remarkable feat of physical endurance, and the writer can vouch for the truth of the following descrip­tion.
Believing the war practically at a close, so far as any actual fighting was concerned, when the command reached the Yellowstone River, he resigned his position and started for the Missouri on a steamer, the commands meanwhile marching back into the Bad Lands on their bootless (fruitless) search for the unfindable Sitting Bull.
The steamer was delayed for two days some few miles below the late camp, and as he was starting out on the second after­noon, met a steamer coming up from the settlement with dispatches for Terry and Crook. There were several well known scouts on board, but Gen. Whistler made a special request that Cody should carry the dispatches through, offering him, in case he should accept the task, the use of his own blooded mare.
The mission was not only difficult, but dangerous. Diffi­cult, because the command was known to be at least thirty miles distant, and the intervening country to be as scarred and rugged as the face of a volcano; dangerous, on account of the small war parties of Indians that were scattered all through the district.
Of course, Cody undertook the mission, leaving the steamer at 5 a.m. He returned shortly after midnight with counter dispatches from the twin commands, and so great had been the exertion that General Whistler’s mare died during the night.
Finding that a fresh batch of orders must be sent forward, Cody insisted upon carrying them, as he had already crossed the country and could make better time. At one o’clock, after only three-quarters of an hour’s rest, he started off upon a fresh horse into the dark night, for it was raining, and the darkness seemed impenetrable.

At 11:00 a.m. the next morning he appeared mounted upon the third horse, for the second one also had broken down. His face looked haggard, and his step was weary as he came across the gang plank to be greeted by rousing cheers from rank and file; but he quickly handed over the dispatches and said, “If you don’t need me longer, General, I’ll take a nap.” Within six hours he was up again, apparently as bright and fresh as on the previous day, and that after riding more than 120 miles over a land that is truly named “God-forsaken.”
                                             HOW BUFFALO BILL LOOKS.
Cody is a splendid looking specimen of humanity, over six feet in height, weighing nearly 200 pounds, and admirably propor­tioned, while his aquiline features, somewhat outre style in dress, and long dark brown hair, which falls in masses of curls over his shoulders, make him a center of attraction among the puny dwellers in cities.
A couple of anecdotes, as told by him to the narrator, told over the campfire and vouched for by gentlemen present, will give a fair idea of the life this adventurous man has passed, of his endurance in time of suffering, and desperate courage in the hour of danger.
“Look here, Will,” said one of the officers as he kicked the glowing embers into a blaze, “spin us a yarn about yourself and shut up about other people.” The request was unanimously ap­proved, and one officer remarked: “Tell them about that rough spell on the Republican, for they have probably not heard it.”
Will shook the last drop out of his canteen (it was only alkali water with a dash of lemon in it) and said: “I’m not much of a hand at blowing this sort of a trumpet, but if you want to hear HOW ONE MAN STUCK TO ANOTHER, when he was on the ragged edge, I’ll tell you how George Hanson stood by me.
In the winter of 1859, and it was a winter, George and I were trapping on a branch of the Republican River. The Indians were pretty much friendly at that time, and it was too cold for them to be browsing around much anyhow, so we felt cozy as pie in a little dug-out we’d made in the side of the bluff. One day while George and I were skylarking on the ice, I fell and broke my leg, or rather, I splintered the shin bone. That sort of thing isn’t the pleasantest in the world, even if you are at a post where there’s a doctor to look out for you, and when it happens on the plains in mid-winter, you feel like saying your prayers.
George took it very rough, almost worse than I did, and he just hustled around me as though I was a baby. He made some splints, and set the bone as well as he could, and then he got a lot of firewood and piled it in the dug-out, laid in a supply of meat, and as much water as we had cans to hold, and then he said: “I must get you to the settlement, old boy.” Our horses saw nothing for them to eat thereabouts, so had wandered away some time before. George piled our blankets and pelts together, and laid me on them; then he took a pull at his belt, picked up his rifle, and started out a foot.

To say I felt lonely wouldn’t express it, but you see I knew he ought to be back in twelve days, and I just counted the hours. The twelve days passed, somehow or other, then came the thir­teenth, but George didn’t turn up. All the wood I could get was gone by this time, so I couldn’t melt the ice or cook the meat, and had to be content with raw flesh frozen and icicles or snow. Day after day passed and still he didn’t come, and I knew he was dead or had come to grief somewhere, for that sort of a man don’t leave a friend in the lurch, cost what it may. I tell you, gentlemen, you can hear the wolves now if you listen, but you are used to it and don’t mind them, nor did I until that time; but when my fire was gone, they’d get around that dug-out at nights, and howl like dogs over their dead master. It wasn’t cheerful at the start and didn’t grow more comfortable as THE DAYS TURNED INTO WEEKS.
But you see a man hates to die like a wounded bear, so I just held on for all I knew. Twenty days and nights had passed, and I began to reckon up what I had done in this world and the time I had left to stay in it. I got through that night somehow or other, but I guess my head was a little off next day, for I seemed to hear voices all around, and didn’t feel the bitter cold as I had before. All of a sudden I heard footsteps crackling on the ice outside, but couldn’t call out for the life of me. It was George. He crawled slowly into the dug-out and came along side of me, where I lay with my eyes shut, for I couldn’t look up at first, and when I did then—well, didn’t either of us say anything for awhile.
You see he had reached the settlements all right, and started back alone with an ox team—people didn’t care about traveling around much that winter. On the second day out, an awful snow storm commenced, and he struggled and blundered against it till his team wouldn’t go any further. He didn’t give up, however, but fought his way along whenever he could get a start out of his team, although he made up his mind at last that he’d find nothing of me but the bones; and this is how he came to be so late. He took me down to the nearest fort on the cart, and there they set the leg over again. You can see the lump on it still. No, that’s a bullet wound, and that’s where an arrow struck.
                                                 A TICKLISH SITUATION.
On another, but similar occasion, Will told the following story.

“We were coming back from the Mormon scrimmage, when Sidney Johnson had command, you know, and I was sort of assistant in the wagon train. I was quite a lad then. Lou. Simpson was Brigade Wagon master, and had charge of two trains, which traveled about 15 miles apart, and his second in command was George Woods. About noon one day Simpson, Woods, and I started from the hind­most train to overtake the one in front. Knowing there were Indians about, we kept the sharpest kind of a lookout, but didn’t see anything until we got near Ash Hollow, on the North Platte, some eight miles from the train we’d left, when a band of about sixty Indians rose out of a gulch a half mile off and came for us. Simpson, who understood that sort of business, made us jump off and put our mules together, head to tail, in the shape of a triangle, and he then shot them dead in their tracks with a revolver. This made an all around breast-work, behind which we lay. Each of us had a heavy muzzle loading rifle and two Colt’s revolvers, so we made it pretty warm for the reds; but it was right on the smooth prairie, and they charged up within a few yards of us, hitting Woods hard at the first fire. He couldn’t do any more fighting, poor fellow, but he lay on his back and loaded while we did the shooting. The Indians didn’t have any guns at that time, and they didn’t charge right over people as they sometimes do nowadays, but they’d ride up within a few yards, pop off their arrows, and circle away, throwing themselves on the off side of their ponies. After keeping up this business until almost sundown, they gave it up and squatted out of range, evidently determined to starve us out, and so we had no way of getting water. They, of course, thought we were stragglers from the train they had seen pass. During that afternoon we killed twelve Indians, besides wounding a number, for they would ride up so close that we could give it to them with a revolver in each hand. In the morning they made a few charges, just enough to keep us excited, but the holding on policy is what they meant. At eleven o’clock that day the train hove in sight, and the Indians, whooping like devils, made one final charge, and left in short order. This is about the tightest scrape I ever got caught in, and it did not make me love the Indians any better, you may be sure.”
Cody’s Bluff in Indian Territory...
Winfield Courier, October 9, 1879.
Died. The noted outlaw and desperado, Jim Barker, who with his band has been a terror to the border for some months, was cap­tured by a posse of men near Cody’s Bluff in the Territory on the 25th of September, and has since died of wounds received at the time. He was chief of the gang which robbed Caneyville, and his party murdered Captain Secrist and his comrades in the nation.
Arkansas City Traveler, May 3, 1882.
Mr. Charles H. Burgess, of Columbus, Nebraska, spent last week at this place in one of his mysterious visits. Mr. Burgess, for the past four years, has been traveling with Hon. William Cody (Buffalo Bill), with an Indian troupe which has met with universal success throughout the entire East.
Arkansas City Traveler, June 7, 1882.
                                                       Buffalo Bill Robbed.
Denver, Colorado, June 1. Hon. W. F. Cody (Buffalo Bill) was robbed last night of his money and his personal jewelry, in all, valued at $2,000. Mr. Cody, wife, and daughter are stopping in this city with his sister. Mr. Cody says that there is no doubt but he will get the $1,000,000 of property on Euclid avenue, Cleveland. The property was his grandfather’s homestead and embraced 260 acres of ground. Fifty acres was the portion of Elijah Cody, Buffalo Bill’s father. The uncle of Buffalo Bill forged the deed which transferred it out of the family.
Winfield Courier, June 1, 1882.
Geo. Cody, who claims to be a cousin of the famous Buffalo Bill, is now confined in the Atchison County Jail on a charge of burglary.
Arkansas City Republican, July 25, 1885.
Bill Cody, “Buffalo Bill,” and Dr. Carver are fighting in the courts of Connecticut to find out which one of them has the exclusive right of showing “The Wild West” in “the land of steady habits.”
As both Bill and the doctor are dead shots, they had better return to the wild west and fight it out according to the code prevailing in the country which their respective shows are supposed to represent. If they ring the bell simultaneously in a duel of this sort, there would be greater scouts left on the plains than either the doctor or “Buffalo Bill,” as much as they boast of their frontier achievements and make them the medium of advertising their motley crew of semi-professional showmen. Champion.


Cowley County Historical Society Museum