January 10th, 2017 is the 100th anniversary of the death of William F. Cody, better known as "Buffalo Bill." It's a perfect opportunity to talk about a little mystery surrounding his death and burial. Enjoy!
The City of Cody was founded in 1895 (officially incorporated in 1902) by the legendary William F. "Buffalo Bill" Cody, a man of many talents. He first visited the area in 1894 and learned some businessmen were interested in founding a City in the area. One of the biggest hurdles was finding a way to bring water to this high desert to ensure long-term sustainability for farmers and ranchers.
Bill Cody used his significant funds and support for development of the Shoshone Dam, later renamed the Buffalo Bill Dam, the highest in the world at the time of completion. This successful endeavor enabled the community to thrive for over 100 years.
There's much more to his life, as I'm sure you already know, but for the purpose of this story let's skip ahead to January 10th, 1917. That's the day Bill Cody passed away in his sister's home, located in Denver, Colorado. And that's when the mystery begins.
A funeral was held in Denver on January 14th. Bill Cody's body was displayed at the capital building for three hours and viewed by over 25,000 people. After the memorial, he was transferred to a mortuary while his monument grave site was built at the top of Lookout Mountain, west of Denver.
The problem is, this burial site was selected by Bill's sister but his friends in Cody said he always wanted to be buried on Cedar Mountain, west of his hometown of Cody.
According to legend, three of Cody's friends loaded up the body of a recently deceased ranch hand with no remaining relatives. The friends drove his body all the way to Denver, snuck into the mortuary late at night, and made the switch. They returned to Cody and quickly buried Bill Cody in an unmarked grave at the top of Cedar Mountain, just as Bill wanted.
The friends went even further by encouraging a large number of locals to drive down and steal the body. The group was stopped at the border and everyone was satisfied that the plot was foiled, not knowing that the swap had already taken place.
Wrapping it up
It's a good story. However, Bill Cody was buried on Lookout Mountain about six months later and there was another open-casket viewing that day. Unless someone worked magic with the makeup, there's no reason to believe he's anywhere else.
Despite this, we locals prefer to hang on to the mystery. Like the Buffalo Bill Dam that feeds our arid soil, the legend of Buffalo Bill continues to feed our community.