I’ll admit it; I’m a bit of a sucker for conspiracy theories. And I think we have a terrific one right here in Cody involving our very own town founder, William F. “Buffalo Bill” Cody.
As the folks down in Denver know, there is a huge museum visitor area near Buffalo Bill’s alleged gravesite on Lookout Mountain. I say “alleged” because there are some people who believe that the only person buried under 20 tons of concrete at the Denver site is a one-time Cody ranch-hand who looked a little like Buffalo Bill and whose name has been lost to history. Many people right here in Cody believe that the real Bill is actually buried on Cedar Mountain overlooking the town of Cody.
While visiting relatives in Denver in the spring of 1917, Buffalo Bill became ill and died. Soon after, his wife Louisa arrived to claim his body and settle his affairs. While in Denver, Louisa was approached by representatives from the Denver Post newspaper and the city of Denver who offered her $10,000 each to bury Cody in the area where they felt his grave would be a tourist attraction.
Although Bill Cody was at one time regarded as the best-known person in the world and his Wild West Show incredibly popular and profitable, he was also prone to bad investments and was incredibly generous. As a result, he and his wife were broke when he died, and Louisa understandably accepted this offer.
When Louisa returned to Wyoming and the town of Cody, its residents turned out to greet her with the expectation that she was bringing the town’s founder home to be buried. The townsfolk were shocked and more than a little upset when Louisa informed them that she had sold Cody’s body and that he was to be buried in Denver.
Among those who were unhappy were the town’s undertaker and two of Buffalo Bill’s old friends, Fred Richard and Ned Frost. These three hatched a plan to travel to Denver to switch bodies and bury Cody on Cedar Mountain where he had often said he wanted as his final resting place. When a local ranch hand died and his body went unclaimed, the three put their plan in motion. After trimming the unfortunate ranch hand’s beard in the Buffalo Bill style, the three loaded the body in the undertaker’s vehicle and drove for two and a half days to Denver.
At the mortuary Frost and Richard presented themselves as old friends of Cody and asked if they could view his body. After their request was granted, the three returned later that night, switched bodies and left for Wyoming. Back in Cody, they privately buried him on Cedar Mountain.
And here’s the really fun part. Once they had completed their job, they proceeded to make the rounds to all 13 of Cody’s saloons where they riled up the townsfolk and convinced them they should all go to Denver to bring Buffalo Bill back to be buried where he belonged. A caravan of 100 cars filled with Buffalo Bill’s friends left for Denver. In Denver, meanwhile, the locals heard about the plan to retrieve Cody’s body, and they hurriedly and unsuspectingly buried the ranch hand’s body on Lookout Mountain even though permission to do so at the site had not been granted. For good measure, 20 tons of concrete was poured on top of the casket.
The final resting place of William “Buffalo Bill” Cody is a closely guarded secret. A few people know where it is and share the location with just a select few people they know and trust. They will say that it is on private property on Cedar Mountain, but as with any good legend, there are always a few details that must be left up to the imagination.
Like I said…it’s a good story. I believe it; do you?
Until next time, I’m lovin’ life – and a good mystery — in Buffalo Bill’s Cody/Yellowstone Country.