William F. (Buffalo Bill) Cody

Inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2012

William F. (Buffalo Bill) Cody was born in Scott County, Iowa on February 26, 1846.  In 1857 when his father died, his mother moved to Kansas where Cody worked as a mounted messenger and wrangler.  Over the next few years he tried his luck in the Pike Peaks gold rush, joined the Pony Express, served as a Union scout during the Civil War and then in 1863 enlisted with the Seventh Kansas Cavalry.  In 1867, he took up the trade that gave him his nickname, hunting buffalo to feed the construction crews of the Kansas Pacific Railroad.  In 1868, he returned to his work for the Army as chief of scouts for the Fifth Cavalry.  For his service he was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor in 1872.
Cody became a national folk hero due to the exploits of his alter ego “Buffalo Bill” in Ned Buntline dime novels.  In 1872, Buntline persuaded Cody to assume this role on stage in his play “The Scouts of the Plains”.  He remained an actor for 11 seasons and between seasons, he escorted rich Easterners and European nobility on western hunting expeditions.  In 1876 he was called back to service as an army scout in the campaign that followed Custer’s defeat at the Little Bighorn.  In 1883, Cody organized the Buffalo Bill’s Wild West, an outdoor extravaganza that dramatized some of the most picturesque elements of Frontier life.  Half circus and half history lesson, the show proved an enormous success, touring the country for three decades and playing to enthusiastic crowds across Europe.  In 1890 he was called back by the army once more during Indian uprisings.

In 1895, Cody was instrumental in the founding of Cody, Wyoming.  In November 1902, Cody opened the Irma Hotel, which he named after his daughter.  He also established the TE Ranch and eventually held around 8,000 acres.  In 1897 and 1899 Cody and his associates acquired from the State of Wyoming the right to take water from the Shoshone River to irrigate about 169,000 acres of land in the Big Horn Basin but were unable to raise sufficient capital to complete their plan
The Shoshone Project became one of the first federal water development projects undertaken by the newly formed Reclamation Service, later to become known as the Bureau of Reclamation.  Construction of the Shoshone Dam started in 1905 and when it was completed in 1910, it was the tallest dam in the world. Almost three decades after its construction, the name of the dam and reservoir was changed to Buffalo Bill Dam by an act of Congress to honor Cody.  He was known for promoting Western culture and the rights of Native Americans.  He was an ardent conservationist and supported the creation of hunting seasons for big game.

Cody and his wife, Louisa, had four children, two of them dying at an early age.  Cody died on January 10, 1917, in Denver, CO and is buried at the summit of Lookout Mountain in Golden, CO.

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