William "Buffalo Bill" Cody dies
William F. Cody died of kidney failure on January 10, 1917, surrounded by family and friends at his sister's house in Denver.
On his deathbed, Cody was baptized into the Roman Catholic Church the day before his death by Father Christopher Walsh of the Denver Cathedral. Upon the news of Cody's death, he received tributes from King George V of the United Kingdom, Kaiser Wilhelm II of Imperial Germany, and President Woodrow Wilson. His funeral was in Denver at the Elks Lodge Hall. Wyoming Governor John B. Kendrick, a friend of Cody's, led the funeral procession to the Elks Lodge.
Contrary to popular belief, Cody was not destitute, but his once great fortune had dwindled to under $100,000. Despite his request in an early will to be buried in Cody, Wyoming, a later will left his burial arrangements up to his wife Louisa. To this day, there is controversy as to where Cody should have been buried. According to the writer Larry McMurtry, Harry Tammen and Frederick Gilmer Bonfils of the Denver Post, who had strong-armed Cody into appearing in their Sells-Floto Circus, either "bullied or bamboozled the grieving Louisa" and had Cody buried in Colorado. This is consistent with an account by Gene Fowler, who wrote Cody's obituary for the Post under direction from Tammen and Bonfils.
On June 3, 1917, Cody was buried on Colorado's Lookout Mountain in Golden, Colorado, west of the city of Denver, on the edge of the Rocky Mountains, overlooking the Great Plains. His exact burial site was selected by his sister, Mrs. Mary Decker, while looking over the area accompanied by W.F.R. Mills, manager of the Denver Mountain Parks. In 1948 the Cody branch of the American Legion offered a reward for the 'return' of the body, so the Denver branch mounted a guard over the grave until a deeper shaft could be blasted into the rock.
Buffalo Bill never retired, even though he had hoped to do so. He did two years of farewell performances while his show was combined with Pawnee Bill’s in 1908 but discovered at the end of the second year that he could not retire. Growing personal debts due to bad investments left him with little to retire on. Even after Cody left the Sells-Floto circus, his financial situation kept him performing with other wild west shows. In 1917 Buffalo Bill died while visiting his sister’s home in Denver. According to his wife Louisa it was his choice that he be buried on Lookout Mountain overlooking Denver and the Plains. Despite the claims of the citizens of Cody, Wyoming that he really wanted to be buried near Cody, close friends like Goldie Griffith and Johnny Baker, as well as the priest who administered last rites, affirmed that Lookout Mountain was indeed his choice. On June 3, 1917, Buffalo Bill was buried on Lookout Mountain, a promontory with spectacular views of both the mountains and plains, places where he had spent the happiest times of his life.
Louisa, who had married Buffalo Bill back before he became famous, was buried next to her husband four years later. That year, 1921, the Buffalo Bill Memorial Museum was begun by Johnny Baker, close friend and unofficial foster son to Buffalo Bill. Just as millions of people saw Buffalo Bill in his Wild West shows during his life, millions of persons have visited Buffalo Bill’s grave in the years since 1917. Today it is one of the top visitor attractions in Denver and Colorado.
It was December 1916 and Buffalo Bill wasn't feeling well. Also, financial problems still plagued him after he lost his Wild West show in 1913. Cody went to visit his sister, May, in Denver and while there he developed a serious cold. His symptoms were so grave that his wife, Louisa, and daughter, Irma, were summoned. By the time they arrived, he was feeling better. So on January 5th he went to Glenwood Springs, Colorado to "take the waters." Two days later he collapsed.
On his death bed William F. Cody was baptized into the Roman Catholic Church. Buffalo Bill died of uremic poisoning at his sister's home on January 10, 1917.
Ironically, Harry H. Tammen (co-owner of the Denver Post), who had brought on the financial collapse of the Wild West show, took over the planning of the elaborate funeral. Buffalo Bill had wanted to be buried on Cedar Mountain above his namesake town, but Louisa claimed he had changed his mind. Allegedly Tammen had given her $10,000. This probably did not happen, but Mrs. Cody did choose Lookout Mountain (in what is now Golden, Colorado). Denver claimed the West's most famous man.
Condolences arrived from around the world. Buffalo Bill lay in state in the Colorado Capitol as thousands of people paid their respects. After a funeral ceremony, Cody's body was taken to a mortuary until warm weather permitted interment.
A tomb was hewn into the granite of Lookout Mountain. On June 3, 1917, thousands again filed past Cody's casket before his body was finally laid to rest under 10 feet of concrete. This security was intended to deter a Wyoming raid to recover the body. Rumors about reclaiming Buffalo Bill persisted for years. In 1948 the Cheyenne American Legion Post supposedly devised a secret strategy to bring Buffalo Bill's body back to Wyoming. "The state of Wyoming has long rankled under the humiliation of Buffalo Bill's enforced absence from his chosen burial spot on Cedar Mountain near Cody." (Cody Enterprise, Aug. 4, 1948)
In 1968 an exchange of smoke signals between Lookout Mountain and Cedar Mountain transported the spirit of Pahaska to his chosen site. However, a friendly rivalry persisted between the Buffalo Bill Memorial Museum and the Buffalo Bill Historical Center. At the Lookout Mountain 80th anniversary of Buffalo Bill's burial, Steve Friesen, Buffalo Bill Museum Director, and Paul Fees, the Buffalo Bill Historical Center's Senior Curator, literally buried a hatchet to end any conflict. Cody, Wyoming doesn't have Buffalo Bill's body but it continues to celebrate his life.