August 29, 2022 |
Some people like to dig up the past. A few want to move the bones.
Buffalo Bill Cody died on January 10, 1917. On his deathbed, he was baptized a Roman Catholic. The great frontiersman lived a life of rootin’-tootin’ action, and his body as known little peace in death. A debate rages over Buffalo Bill’s final resting place. Was he buried in Colorado? Or Wyoming?
Family members who were with Cody in Denver when he died, said that he asked to be interred on Lookout Mountain, west of the Mile High City. Back at the ranch, an alleged paper trail indicates Cody wanted to be buried in Wyoming, on Cedar Mountain, near the town that bears his name. Some there even say his cowboy corpse was secretly moved to Cody, Wyoming.
Earlier this month, the Grand Encampment Museum hosted a debate between two historians on this sidebar to the story of the American West.
One of them was Jeremy Johnston, the curator of the Buffalo Bill Museum in Cody, Wyoming. Johnston told Bigfoot 99 that the body-snatching story is a modern fabrication. At the time of Cody’s death, the people of Cody, WY appeared to be unruffled by his burial in Colorado.
Pictured above: The gravesite of Buffalo Bill Cody atop Lookout Mountain in Golden, CO. Photo courtesy Grand Encampment Museum/Facebook.
Buffalo Bill, of course, was a creation of mainstream media and 19th century pop culture, or more precisely, pulp fiction. The mainstream media of the day created a narrative about Cody and his exploits. Following his death, a “conspiracy theory” developed countering the narrative of his Denver burial. According to the theory, Cody loyalists spirited the legend’s body back to Wyoming before it could be buried in Colorado. A body double was provided for the Lookout Mountain burial. The conspirators swapped the corpse of deceased ranch hand who looked like Cody with the body of the actual Buffalo Bill.
Historians like Johnston don’t believe it. Nor does Steve Friesen, the former director of the Buffalo Bill Museum and Grave in Golden, Colorado agrees. Friesen said Cody’s wife Louisa, his two living sisters, his daughter Irma, his foster son Johnny Baker, and the priest that baptized him just before his death—and thousands of others all came to pay their respects at an open casket funeral.
Friesen told Bigfoot 99 in an email that no one spoke up and said “there was an imposter in his place.” Johnstone says that the people of Cody, Wyoming hang onto the story as a matter of pride despite a lack of evidence.
Cody died at the age of 70, from kidney failure while visiting his sister in Denver. During his life, Cody was one of the most famous people on Earth. Books embellishing his life, as well as his extremely successful traveling stage show, have shaped our view of the Wild West.
Johnston would like to see people focus less Cody’s burial site and more on his social and political ideas.
Friesen agrees, saying, “He often spoke on behalf of American Indians’ rights. He didn’t just talk the talk; he walked the walk.”
Some people think that Cody’s body wasn’t stolen, his remains should be moved to Wyoming. They say that he did not want to be buried on Lookout Mountain and that he should be in Cody, Wyoming. On August 19th, Johnston and Friesen debated about where Cody’s body should rest. The event was held at the Grand Encampment Museum. Director Tim Nicklas said that nothing was decided.