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Local History

Buffalo Bill Cody

 Springfield Leader Democrat, October 6, 1900, page 5

"Buffalo Bill’s magnificent pageant has captured the whole city.

"It is the greatest show ever beheld by Springfield people.

"Buffalo Bill has captured Springfield.  The old scout found the city an easy prey to he resistless strategy.  There is magic in a name still and Colonel Cody has made the world feel the spell of his power as an equestrian wizard.

"A thousand children last night had dreamy visions of the Wild West pageant and more than that number of little boys were wide awake before their wonted hour this morning bent on seeing the first manifestation of the great show.  Everybody had some interest in the advent of the king of the plains and his vast and diversified train of loyal followers.

"At dark last night the town was full of people who came to see Buffalo Bill.  Till a late hour the wagons from the country continued to arrive with their loads of living freight, all drawn hither by the fame of the great rider and his army of subordinates.

"The big train bearing the equipage of the show arrived at the Frisco depot about sun up this morning.  There were over 50 cars loaded with tents, seats, horses, wagons, cooking outfits, teamsters and helpers and then came the veteran chieftain and his wild array of wonderful men, each individual of this picked body of performers being the best of his kind that the earth holds today.

"The moving of the show down to the grounds on Boonville Street was of itself an interesting sight.  The work was done rapidly without confusion, friction or the loss of any good temper on the part of the managers.  Each man knew his duty and did it cheerfully.

"Finer draft horses never stretched a trace than those Colonel Cody employs.  He know what good horse flesh is and will have no inferior animal with his show.

"At the show grounds was the same orderly system of work.  The canvas covering the seats went up quickly, the cooking camp near by soon looked like the bivouac of an army and great black kettles each holding a barrel of water, steamed with boiling potatoes for the breakfast of the hungry men.

"It takes a big lot of food to victual the Wild West for a single meal.  When the bill of fare calls for chicken 600 pounds of fowl are cooked.  Barrels of strong coffee stimulate the nerves of these wonderful showmen.  Only the best coffee is used.  A cowboy and an Indian are judges of this beverage.

"The knight of the gun and lasso and the feathered warrior of the plains can not be fooled in the quality of coffee or blankets.  But Colonel Cody does not believe in cheap things.  He gives his men the best always.  That is part of the secret of his great success in managing his show.  He treats his people justly and generously.

"There are types of men that pass away and become the heroes of tradition merely because the physical conditions of life which made their existence possible are changed to new environments.  The hunter is not very closely akin to the city banker.  The frontiersman has a school in the woods and plains that teaches very different lessons from those inculcated by the stony street with its shifting throng of life.

"In the United States the frontier has been pushed farther and farther westward till now the solitudes and wilderness places that once delighted the stern souls of the stoical path finder and adventurous scouts of progress and civilization are too tame for the spirits of such mighty heroes of the pioneer days as Boone and Crocket, Houston and Freemont if the shades of these indomitable characters of the new world’s epic fame still linger about the scenes of their earthly achievements.

"The Wild West has become almost a region of memory.  Only 30 years ago the buffalo grazed on the farther border of Kansas and bleaching bones of the slain beats could be seen everywhere over the great plains from the mouth of the Big Platte to the foothills of the Rocky Mountains.

"Hostile Indian tribes held dominion then over much of the country west of Nebraska and the white man of the plains had never a moment when he could safely relax the habit of vigilance and forget the presence of peril that constantly lent its strange charm to life.

"That real romantic wild west with its unfurrowed prairies the bountiful pastures of countless herds of the noblest game that ever thrilled the heart of a sportsman that magnificent hunting ground and visit battlefield of the savage denizens of the plains has now become used to the sound of the locomotive, the harp like tone of the vibrating telegraph wire and the industrious hum of the harvesting machine.  School houses stand where a few years ago the smoke of the tepee curled up through the restless atmosphere of the free prairies and the children of the resistless race hold their noonday games on the same spot that was so recently the transient playground of dusky youths clad in picturesque garb.

"It is well that one of the master spirits of this vanishing world of wild plains wild beasts and wilder people should have conceived the great enterprise of exhibiting to the inhabitants of the crowded cities a gigantic show combining the living realities of this wonderland of ours with the kindred features of other portions of the earth.

"Colonel Cody was the fitting genus for this great work and his world renowned fame now needs no word of praise.  He is already well advertised.

"Never was any show in Springfield viewed by such a crowd of people.  The street parade was of itself worth going many miles to see and hundreds of people who had come from distant country homes were gratified at the sight of this free show and went home proud of the fact that they had been privileged to behold the living form of the greatest scout and Indian fighter that had ever mounted a horse or aimed a rifle.

"The early morning had been threatening and a clouded sky alarmed many expectant hearts who wanted to see a bright October sun shine on the great spectacle.  These fears vanished by 9 o’clock when the storm signs disappeared and an ideal autumn day welcomed the show to the streets.

"The procession of matchless horsemen with the chief himself the object sought by all eyes was indeed a glorious sight.  No one could witness such an array of superb riders and not feel a thrill of admiration.  What perfect horsemen, what noble animals!  The old myths about centaurs seemed more seemed more real in the presence of the men who bestride their steeds so gracefully.  What must life in the saddle have been to Colonel Cody and his companions who rode the treeless plains in quest of adventure in the proud days of their young manhood.

"To describe in detail the events of the performance would be a task of considerable magnitude but that the stupendous exhibit of horsemanship, feats of daring and scenes of war, civilized and uncivilized, marksmanship and the equally entertaining acts of peace, was appreciated by the packed audience was attested by the pattering of handclapping as glimpses of the performers were obtained between the flapping curtains at the rear of the amphitheater and soon grew into a steady thunderous continuous roll, marked occasionally by a deafening peal as some particularly brilliant feat was produced.

"The scenes which perhaps attracted the most interest was the magnificent exposition of the charge up San Juan Hill by the gallant Rough Riders.  Participated in by many who were in the front of the line in that celebrated attack upon the Spanish forces in Cuba, the details of the reproduction were in perfect keeping with the actual occurrences of that memorable day.  Many a mother who has given her son in the present wars in the Philippines and China or whose boy’s life was offered up in the defense of his flag at El Caney, San Juan or Manila, had brought home to her in the strongest presentable manner the patriotism which inspired the American youth in these valiant engagements and felt her grief assuaged in the pride of knowledge that her son did his share toward bringing about the glorious successes achieved.  Others who had known nothing of the horrors of war shuddered and wept as the realistic movements, the forming and advance of skirmish lines, the silent dropping out of the ranks or some stricken wearer of blue or khaki, the rattle of musketry roar of cannon and the tintinnabulation of sounds as the Gatling guns belched forth a hail of  iron against the retreating Spanish ranks, marked the progress of the battle.  The cheers of the crowd witnessing the splendid charge welled into wild shrieks of delight as the advancing Americans forced their way step by step up the hill and when the stars and stripes were waved over the trenches of San Juan hill the enthusiasm of the audience vented itself in the waving of hats, canes, umbrellas and handkerchiefs, while the crowd rose en masse to do homage to the heroes whose undertaking had been accomplished at severe cost to their ranks as attested by the carrying away of wounded and dead by the hospital corps.

"Aside from this spectacle, the rope work done by the Mexican vaqueros, the marvelous feats of horsemanship by the American cowboys, Indians and Cossacks, The fancy trick and wing shooting, the building of pyramids of human beings by the Japanese troupe, the dancing dervishes, attacks on stage coaches and lone cabins by Indians and outlaws and the rescues by the cowboys, the riding of 'bucking' broncos and feats of skill and strength made up combination of entertainment such as had seldom if ever before been seen in Springfield.

"But all these features were simply the eccentrics revolving about the central figure, that of Colonel William F. Cody, better known as Buffalo Bill, who had brought together the galaxy of talent which furnished the entertainment.  His noble figure bestrode his horse with equal ease and grace as that which made him famous in the early days, and his portion of the entertainment, that of shooting glass balls from horseback while riding at a furious pace across the arena, afforded the same interest as it has at all previous times.

"The greatest attestation of the satisfaction of the audience with the exhibition was in the encomiums which were heard on every side as the audience dispersed.

"Springfield is particularly interesting to Colonel Cody because it used to be the home of this personal friend and companion in peril, J. B. Hickok, known here as 'Wild Bill'.  After 'Wild Bill' left Springfield he went to Kansas and helped tame frontier towns acting as marshal.  Many of the towns of Kansas had the services of the famous Missouri scout so well known here during the war.

"Junction City, Hays City and other towns still resound with praises of the dauntless courage of Wild Bill.  The career of this noted scout has often been misconstrued as a desperado.  He was a staunch friend and bitter enemy.  He was a good judge of human nature.  Among the first to whom his personal friendship extended was Bill Cody, then a rising scout and noted hunter.  Hickok and Cody became firm friends and although the younger eclipsed the tutor as an adviser and associate of the United States army officers their mutual friendship and known community of feeling were strengthened.  The position of both as thoroughbreds became well established.  They were known for their personal integrity and in cases of emergency for their [sand?].

"Cody achieved a great reputation as a hunter and was a factor in building the K. P. road as a procurer of buffalo and deer for the railroad commissary department.  Afterward Cody was made "chief of scouts" under Sheridan.  He became intimate with Sherman, Miles, Custer, Brooks, Carr, Merritt and other United States officers.  He became a part of the military history of the west and his advent here is the event of years.  The history he delineates is so familiar that everyone around here knows of Buffalo Bill.  At Fort Riley he recruited many of the soldier boys that impress the world with the ability of the United States cavalry.  In 1894 Cody had a detachment of cavalry boys in New York under the command of Sergeant Lean, who were specially selected by General Forsythe to represent the army.  Some of these men were in the battle of Wounded Knee.

"The show tonight will have the added attraction of the effect of colored lights.  The battle of San Juan will on this account be seen at a far better advantage than by day light."

The 1902 Sanborn fire insurance map shows a ball park at the corner of Division and  Booneville that was known as White City Park.  This is possibly the site for the show.

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