A closer look at a Nebraska icon

Published: Nov. 16, 2021 at 5:02 PM CST|Updated: Nov. 16, 2021 at 8:36 PM CST
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LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - You’ve probably heard the name “Buffalo Bill Cody”, but you might be wondering who he was. In this story we profile the man behind the legend.

For details, we visited Adam Jones, who is the superintendent at Buffalo Bill State Historical Park in North Platte. “Buffalo Bill was the rock star of his time,” Jones said. “He was born in 1846 in Le Clare, Iowa. The family moved to Missouri. Bill’s father Isaac was actually killed there for being an anti-slavery proponent. Bill disliked school, so he quit that. At age 10, he was a messenger for the wagons coming to Fort Kearny. There is debate on whether he was a Pony Express rider. He was in the Army. He wanted to go to the Civil War, but he was too young, and they denied him. He was an Army scout, just for his skills he was probably the best in the entire territory. At one point, the railroad was coming through and they were building that. He became the person who fed them. That’s one of the ways he got the name “Buffalo Bill” is because he hunted bison for food.”

Jones says Buffalo Bill was later asked to be in a play in Chicago. He took Wild Bill Hickok with him, and he played himself. “He fell in love with that,” Jones said. “I think that may have been what spurred his interest in doing the Wild West show. He did not like to call it a show. He felt it was a representation of life in the west. It was not a circus or a show. Later in life, he made poor business decisions. He was generous to a fault. He ended up having to join other people’s shows. He had to join a circus. He had to work almost until his death.”

“Again, he was generous,” Jones said. “If you came up to him and needed $5, he’d give you $5. He was in Denver in 1917, where he died at his sister’s house of kidney failure. When that occurred, his wife was in Cody, Wyoming which is the town he founded. When he passed, she went to pick up the body. It was supposed to go to Cody. But Denver really wanted him. So, not having any money really, they offered Louisa $10,000. That, of course, was a lot of money back then. And so, he’s now on Lookout Mountain in Denver, Colorado.”

If you want to immerse yourself in Buffalo Bill history, be sure to visit North Platte, and the Buffalo Bill State Historical Park.

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