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This page: Founding of the Town of Cody



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Cody, Wyoming, 1897.

To the west of present-day Cody, just south of Rattlesnake Mountain, the South and North Forks of the Sinking Water River (now, by act of the Legislature, known as the Shonshone) combine. The stream then flows northeastward past some suphurous hot springs now named after an early settler Charles DeMaris who arrived in the area about 1888 and proved up his homestead in 1894. Early mountain men named the river from the characteristic aroma emitted by the springs. Indeed, early hunters noted that the smell of the springs was perceptible several mies downstream. The river ultimately unites with the Bighorn east of Lovell. The Bighorn in turn flows into the Yellowstone continuing northwest across Montana until it combines with the Missouri in North Dakota. To the northwest of Cody arises Skull Creek a tributary of Pat O'Hara Creek which in turn feeds into the Clark's Fork.


Cody, Wyoming, 1899.

Into this area in 1879 about 3,000 head of cattle were trailed from Oregon to form the nucleus of the Carter Ranch along the South Fork. And to the area of Pat O'Hara's Creek John Chapman also trailed catte from Oregon in 1879. Chapman's ranch was located near the present-day Two Dot Ranch.


DeMaris Springs, approx. 1910

The small shed depicted in the image was in place at least by 1897 and was heated in the winter by a stove. The water from the springs were bottled for their medicinal value by William Yager who later founded the Cody Bottling Works. Other settlers came: Pat O'Hara after whom the creek is named; George Marquette who came in 1881; Charles L. Green; and Charles A. Davis.


Davis Ranch along the South Fork of the Stinking Water. Photo by Frederick Courteney Selous, 1897.

In 1875, the orders had gone forth from Washington that all of the Indians were to return to their reservation. No longer were they to be permitted to wander free. According to Cody's sister, Helen Cody Wetmore, in her 1899 The Last of the Great Scouts, The Life Story of Col. William F. Cody an Arapahoe chief told Buffalo Bill of a wonderous place:

The land to the north and west is the land of plenty. There the buffalo grows larger, and his coat is darker. There the bu-yu (antelope) comes in droves, while here there are but few. There the whole region is covered with the short, curly grass our ponies like. There grow the wild plums that are good for my people in summer and winter. There are the springs of the Great Medicine Man, Tel-ya-ki-ya. To bathe in them gives new life; to drink them cures every bodily ill.

In the mountains beyond the river of the blue water there is gold and silver, the metals that the white man loves. There lives the eagle, whose feathers the Indian must have to make his war-bonnet. There, too, the sun shines always.

It is the Ijis (heaven) of the red man. My heart cries for it. The hearts of my people are not happy when away from the Eithity T˙gala.

Mrs. Wetmore relates that in 1882 her brother participated in an exploratory trip on pack mules to the unexplored interior of Wyoming. Unfortunately, Cody's eyes became inflamed and was thus required to go blindfolded on the journey. When they reached a certain point, the leader of the expedition indicated that Cody's blindfolds could be removed. Mrs. Wetmore quotes her brother:

To my right stretched a towering range of snowcapped mountains, broken here and there into minarets, obelisks, and spires. Between me and this range of lofty peaks a long irregular line of stately cottonwoods told me a stream wound its way beneath. The rainbow-tinted carpet under me was formed of innumerable brilliant-hued wild flowers; it spread about me in every direction, and sloped gracefully to the stream. Game of every kind played on the turf, and bright-hued birds flitted over it. It was a scene no mortal can satisfactorily describe. At such a moment a man, no matter what his creed, sees the hand of the mighty Maker of the universe majestically displayed in the beauty of nature; he becomes sensibly conscious, too, of his own littleness. I uttered no word for very awe; I looked upon one of nature's masterpieces.

Instantly my heart went out to my sorrowful Arapahoe friend of 1875. He had not exaggerated; he had scarcely done the scene justice. He spoke of it as the Ijis, the heaven of the red man. I regarded it then, and still regard it, as the Mecca of all appreciative humanity.

Thus it was, according to Mrs. Wetmore that Cody determined to return.


Buffalo Bill's T E Ranch, near Meeteetse, undated, photo by F. J. Hiscock

The story must be taken with a grain of salt. The influence of dime novels pervades much of the writings of Buffalo Bill and his sister. Louisa Cody in her 1919 biography of her husband Memories of Buffalo Bill sheds little light on why Col. Cody moved to the Big Horn Basin. Nevertheless, in 1894, Cody permanently moved to the T E Ranch which he had purchased from Carter. About the same time, George T. Beck and Horace C. Alger of Sheridan had commenced development in the area.


Cody, Wyoming, approx. 1910

Cody was platted in 1895 by Beck and Alger, with whom William F. Cody joined after learning of the proposed development from his son-in-law, Horton Boal (1865-1902), one of the surveyors for the project. The first building was constructed in 1896. Thus, Cody celebrates its founding as 1896. By 1901 the Cody Club, an ancestor of the Chamber of Commerce, was formed. Boal was the husband of Cody's oldest daughter Arta. Both Beck and Alger had run for governor on the Democrat slate and had been defeated. Beck was first bypassed by President Cleveland for territorial governor, when Cleveland appointed Thomas Moonlight of Kansas. Beck was then defeated in a race for Congress in 1890 and was again lost a race for governor in 1902. Alger, a banker, served as mayor of Sheridan in 1889, but was defeated in the race for governor in 1898.

Originally, Cody proposed to locate the town at the Springs, but eventually the town was located about a mile downstream. DeMaris Springs were named after Charles DeMaris who homesteaded in the area in the late 1880's and proved up his homestead in 1894. It was also proposed to call the town "Shoshone." The name, however, was rejected by the Post Office because of possible confusion with Shoshoni.

Next Page: Cody continued, Irma Hotel.