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  • May 14, 2008

    Where is Buffalo Bill Cody Really Buried?

    Recently we wrote about Buffalo Bill and the town he founded. While thousands of people visit William F. "Buffalo Bill" Cody's gravesite on Lookout Mountain just outside Denver each year, many residents of Cody, Wyoming, believe Cody is actually buried on Cedar Mountain overlooking their town. The legend behind this belief is one involving a bold plan, a middle-of the-night trip to a Denver mortuary and an unlucky ranch hand bearing a likeness to Buffalo Bill.

    A dashing young Buffalo Bill Cody looked a lot like sketches of William Shakespeare.


    While visiting relatives in Denver in the spring of 1917, Buffalo Bill Cody 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 extremely generous. As a result, he and his wife were broke when he died, and Louisa accepted the 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 his final resting place to be. 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, the undertaker, 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. "All the way home they were convinced that the sheriff in every town they drove through was waiting to arrest them," says Bob Richard, Fred Richard's grandson. "Instead, they returned to Cody and buried Buffalo Bill on Cedar Mountain overlooking his town."

    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 with three to four men in each then 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 had not been granted. For good measure, 20 tons of concrete was poured on top of the casket.

    Colonel William "Buffalo Bill" Cody promoting his Wild West Show.


    The final resting place of William "Buffalo Bill" Cody is a closely guarded secret. Bob Richard and other townsfolk who know where it is 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.

    Today visitors to the area enjoy a multitude of vacation activities and a town that looks a lot like it did many years ago. Go to www.yellowstonecountry.org for more information about vacation packages, special events, guide services, weather and more. Travelers wishing to arrange a vacation can also call the Park County Travel Council at 1-800-393-2639.

    - Rich Steck & Judi Janofsky

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