Buffalo Bill (1846-1917) and His Michigan Connection
One of our country’s most famous wild west figures was William F. Cody, more famously known as “Buffalo Bill”.
Was he an outlaw? No.
A gunslinger? No.
A sheriff or marshall? No.
So what made him so famous?
Cody was a Pony Express rider, a trapper, buffalo hunter, a soldier, railroad employee, army scout, he drove a wagon train, and prospected for gold …..but none of those individual professions made him famous. What made him famous were his Wild West shows and the dime novels that were written about his “exploits”, which were mostly made up to mold him into a larger-than-life western hero.
In 1883, he created his show, “Buffalo Bill's Wild West”. Over the years, his show would feature staged Indian attacks, horse tricks, cowboy trick shooting, parades, performers from others countries in their native outfits, simulated stagecoach robberies, old west stories…..and even famous sharpshooter Annie Oakley.
With other western shows popping up, Bill was not to be outdone…he employed the services of the great Indian chief Sitting Bull, who appeared with 20 of his braves.
Many Michiganders had the distinction of witnessing Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show. From 1895-1899 Buffalo Bill and his entourage hit Adrian, Ann Arbor, Battle Creek, Bay City, Benton Harbor, Big Rapids, Detroit, Flint, Grand Rapids, Hillsdale, Jackson, Kalamazoo, Lansing, Manistee, Muskegon, Owosso, Port Huron, Saginaw, and Traverse City to name just some of them. You might even have an ancestor who saw one of his shows! He continued touring in the early 1900s, and Michigan was able to get a good chunk of Buffalo Bill’s legacy under its belt.
Relatives of Buffalo Bill owned a farm near Ann Arbor on Textile Road. Buffalo Bill ended up visiting the farm, riding his white horse through the fields, jumping the fences. He and his show were appearing at the Washtenaw County Fairgrounds.
The old Cody farm was bought & uprooted by someone from Fowlerville, and placed somewhere in Livingston County.
Buffalo Bill passed away in 1917 at the age of 70.