By Peggy Jordan,
Associate Editor, FMC magazine
You may hear "grave" discussions in Cody, Wyoming. That's because a local legend says that Col. William F. Cody's body was stolen from Colorado and buried on a hill above town!
Wyoming's most famous resident died of kidney failure in January 1917 while visiting his sister in Denver, Colorado. Soon the town of Cody was shocked to learn that he would be buried on Lookout Mountain in Golden, a suburb of Denver. In his 1906 will, Bill had expressed his wishes to be laid to rest on Cedar Mountain, overlooking Cody.
The undertaker in Cody and two of Bill's old friends decided to right this wrong. They would obtain a substitute and switch bodies at the mortuary where Bill's body was awaiting burial. Fortunately for them, they had plenty of time. It was winter, so a burial site could not be blasted out of a Colorado mountain for months.
When a local ranch-hand died and his body went unclaimed, the undertaker did his best to make him resemble the famous American showman, and then he and his accomplices drove to Denver. They completed the switch, and returned to bury their hero on Cedar Mountain, on privately owned land. To this day, the general public is kept in the dark as to exactly where the grave is located.
But experts and historians insist that prior to Cody's June 1917 burial on Lookout Mountain in Golden, plenty of chances were offered for everyone to be able to tell if the body had been tampered with. Cody's wife, Louisa, even opened the glass-topped casket for a few hours before the interment. And she asked, before she died in 1921, to be buried in the same location, several feet above where Cody is entombed.
The story doesn't end there, of course. The man who owned the Denver Post, Harry Tammen, was one of Buffalo Bill's many creditors. Rumors ran through the town of Cody that Louisa had agreed to have her husband buried in Denver in exchange for $10,000 from Tammen. If the wrong person was buried, Louisa most certainly would never have said a word; neither would Tammen. Having the grave of such a famous person would bring many dollars into his town.
So, where is Buffalo Bill's real resting place? It's a controversy that probably will never die. But whoever is in that grave in Golden, Colorado, is underneath several tons of concrete. That's because by the time of the burial, the people in Golden had decided they were not taking any chances!
For more Wyoming stories and travel suggestions as you travel to Gillette for FMCA's 50th anniversary Family Reunion & Motorhome Showcase, visit www.wyomingtourism.org or call (877) 813 8071.