THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES
OF BUFFALO BILL
MILLIONAIRE IN PROSPECTIVE
Soon after returning to Fort Hays I was sent with dispatches to Fort
Harker. After delivering the messages I visited the town of
Ellsworth, about three miles west of Fort Harker, and there I met a
man named William Rose, a contractor on the Kansas Pacifie railroad,
who had a contract for grading near Fort Hays. His stock had been
stolen by the Indians, and his visit toEllsworth was to buy more.
During the course of our conversation, Mr. Rose incidentally
remarked that he had some idea of laying out a town on the west side
of Big creek, about one mile from the fort, where the railroad was to
cross. He asked my opinion of the contemplated enterprise, and I told
him that I thought it was "a big thing." He then proposed taking me
as a partner in the scheme, and suggested that after we got the town
laid out and thrown open to the public we should establish a store
and saloon there.
Thinking it would be a grand thing to be half-owner of a town, I
at once accepted his proposition. We bought a stock of such articles
as are usually found in a frontier store, and transported them to the
place on Big creek where we were to found our town. We hired a
railroad engineer to survey the site and stake it off into lots; and
we gave the new town the ancient and historical name of Rome. As a
"starter," we donated lots to any one who would build on them, but
reserved the corner lots and others which were best located for
ourselves. These reserved lots we valued at fifty dollars each.
A HOWL FROM ROME
Our modern Rome, like all mushroom towns along the line of a new
railroad, sprang up as if by magic, and in less than one month we had
two hundred frame and log houses, three or four stores, several
saloons, and one good hotel. Rome was looming up, and Rose and I
already considered ourselves millionaires and thought we "had the
world by the tail." But one day a fine looking gentleman, calling
himself Dr. W. E. Webb, appeared in town and dropping into our store
introduced himself in a very pleasant way:&emdash;
"Gentlemen you've got a very flourishing little town here.
Wouldn't you like to have a partner in your enterprise?"
"No, thank you," said I, "we have too good a thing here to whack
up with anybody."
My partner agreed with me, but the conversation was continued, and
at last the stranger said:&emdash;
"Gentlemen, I am the agent or prospector of the Kansas Pacific
railroad, and my business is to locate towns for the eompany along
"We think we have the only su§table town-site in this immediate
locality," said Mr. Rose, "and as a town is already started, we have
saved the company considerable expense."
"You know as well as I do," said Dr. Webb, "that the company
expects to make money by selling lands and town lots; and as you are
not disposed to give the company a show, or share with me, I shall
probably have to start another town near you. Competition is the life
of trade, you know."
"Start your town, if you want to. We've got the 'bulge' on you,
and can hold it," said I, somewhat provoked at his threat.
But we acted too independently and too indiscreetly for our own
good. Dr. Webb, the very next day after his interview with us, began
hauling material to a spot about one mile east of us, where he staked
out a new town, which he called Hays City. He took great pains to
circulate in our town the story that the railroad company would
locate their round-houses and machine shops at Hays City, and that it
was to be the town and a splendid business center. A ruinous stampede
from our place was the result. People who had built in Rome came to
the conclusion that they had settled in the wrong place; they began
pulling down their buildings and moving them over to Hays City, and
in less than three days our once flourishing city had dwindled down
to the little store which Rose and I had built.
It was on a bright summer morning that we sat on a pine box in
front of our crib, moodily viewing the demolition of the last
building. Three days before we had considered ourselves millionaires;
on that morning we looked around and saw that we were reduced to the
ragged edge of poverty. Our sanguine expectations of realizing
immense fortunes were dashed to the ground and we felt pretty blue.
The new town of Hays had swallowed Rome entirely. Mr. Rose
facetiously remarked that he felt like "the last rose of summer,"
with all his lovely companions faded and gone, and he left blooming
alone. I told him I was still there, staunch and true, but he replied
that that didn't help the matter much. Thus ends the brief history of
the "Rise, Decline and Fall" of Modern Rome.
It having become evident to me that there was very little hope of
Rome ever regaining its former splendor and prosperity, I sent my
wife and daughter Arta &emdash;who had been born at Leavenworth in
the latter part of December, 1866 &emdash;to St. Louis on a visit.
They had been living with me for some little time in the rear part of
At this time Mr. Rose and myself had a contract under Schumacher,
Miller & Co., constructors of the Kansas Pacific, for grading
five miles of track westward from Big creek, and running through the
site of Rome. Notwithstanding we had been deserted, we had some small
hope that they would not be able to get water at the new town, and
that the people would all soon move back to Rome, as we really had
the best location. We determined, therefore to go on with our grading
contract, and wait for something better to turn up. It was indeed
hard for us, who had been millionaires, to come down to the level of
common railroad contractors &emdash;but we had to do it all the same.
We visited the new town of Hays almost daily, to see how it was
progressing, and in a short time we became much better acquainted
with Dr. Webb, who had reduced us from our late independent to our
present dependent position. We found him a perfect gentlemen
&emdash;a whole-souled, genial-hearted fellow, whom everybody liked
and respected. Nearly every day "Doc" and I would take a ride over
the prairie together and hunt buffalo.
A LITTLE SPORT WITH THE HOSTILES
On one occasion, having ventured about ten miles from the town, we
spied a band of Indians not over two miles distant, who were
endeavoring to get between us and the town, and thus cut us off. I
was mounted on my celebrated horse Brigham, the fleetest steed I ever
owned. On several subsequent occasions he saved my life, and he was
the horse that I rode when I killed sixty-nine buffaloes in one day.
Dr. Webb was riding a beautiful thoroughbred bay, which he had
brought with him from the East. Having such splendid horses, we
laughed at the idea of a band of Indians overtaking us on a square
run, no matter how well they might be mounted, but not caring to be
cut off by them, we ran our steeds about three miles towards home,
thus getting between the braves and the town. The Indians were then
about three-quarters of a mile distant, and we stopped and waved our
hats at them, and fired some shots at long range. There were thirteen
in the party, and as they were getting pretty close to us, we struck
out for Hays. They came on in pursuit and sent several scattering
shots after us, but we easily left them behind. They finally turned
and rode off towards the Saline river.
The Doctor thought this glorious sport, and panted to organize a
party to go in pursuit of them, but I induced him to give up this
idea, although he did so rather reluctantly. The Doctor soon became
quite an expert hunter, and before he had remained on the prairie a
year there were but few men in the country who could kill more
buffaloes on a hunt than he.
Being aware that Rose and myself felt rather down-hearted over our
deserted village, the Doctor one day said that, as he had made the
proprietors of Rome "howl," he would give us two lots each in Hays,
and did so. We finally came to the conclusion that our old town was
dead beyond redemption or revival, and we thereupon devoted our
undivided attention to our railroad contract. One day we were pushed
for horses to work on our scrapers &emdash;so I hitched up Brigham,
to see how he would work. He was not much used to that kind of labor,
and I was about giving up the idea of making a workhorse of him, when
one of the men called to me that there were some buffaloes coming
over the hill. As there had been no buffaloes seen anywhere in the
vicinity of the camp for several days, we had become rather short of
meat. I immediately told one of our men to hitch his horses to a
wagon and follow me, as I was going out after the herd, and we would
bring back some fresh meat for supper. I had no saddle, as mine had
been left at the camp a mile distant, so taking the harness from
Brigham, I mounted him bareback and started out after the game, being
armed with my celebrated buffalo-killer, "Lucretia Borgia," &emdash;a
newly-improved breech-loading needle gun, which I had obtained from
BRIGHAM TO THE FRONT
While I was riding toward the buffaloes I observed five horsemen
coming out from the fort, who had evidently seen the buffaloes from
the post, and were going out for a chase. They proved to be some
newly-arrived officers in that part of the country, and when they
came up closer, I could see by the shoulder straps that the senior
officer was a captain, while the others were lieutenants.
"Hello! my friend," sang out the Captain, "I see you are after the
same game we are."
"Yes, sir; I saw those buffaloes coming over the hill, and as we
were about out of fresh meat I thought I would go and get some," said
They scanned my cheap-looking outfit pretty closely, and as my
horse was not very prepossessing in appearance, having on only a
blind bridle, and otherwise looking like a work-horse, they evidently
considered me a green hand at hunting.
"Do you expect to catch those buffaloes on that Gothic steed?"
laughingly asked the captain.
"I hope so, by pushing on the reins hard enough," was my reply.
"You'll never catch them in the world, my fine fellow," said the
captain. "It requires a fast horse to overtake the animals on these
"Does it?" asked I, as if I didn't know it.
"Yes; but come along with us as we are going to kill them more for
pleasure than anything else. All we want are the tongues and a piece
of tender-loin, and you may have all that is left," said the generous
"I am much obliged to you, Captain, and will follow you," I
There were eleven buffaloes in the herd and they were not more
than a mile from us. The officers dashed ahead as if they had a sure
thing on killing them all before I could come up with them; but I had
noticed that the herd was making towards the creek for water, and as
I knew buffalo nature, I was perfectly aware that it would be
difficult to turn them from their direct course. Thereupon, I started
towards the creek to head them off, while the officers came up in the
rear and gave chase.
A PRETTY BUFFALO DRIVE
The buffaloes came rushing past me not a hundred yards distant, with
the officers about three hundred yards in the rear. Now, thought I,
is the time to "get my work in," as they say; and I pulled the
blind-bridle from my horse, who knew as well as I did that we were
out for buffaloes &emdash;as he was a trained hunter. The moment the
bridle was off, he started at the top of his speed, running in ahead
of the officers, and with a few jumps he brought me alongside of the
rear buffalo. Raising old "Lucretia Borgia" to my shoulder, I fired,
and killed the animal at the first shot. My horse then carried me
alongside the next one, not ten feet away, and I dropped him at the
As soon as one buffalo would fall, Brigham would take me so close
to the next that I could almost touch it with my gun. In this manner
I killed the eleven buffaloes with twelve shots: and, as the last
animal dropped, my horse stopped. I jumped to the ground, knowing
that he would not leave me &emdash;it must be remembered that I had
been riding him without bridle, reins or saddle &emdash;and turning
around as the party of astonished officers rode up, I said to
"Now, gentlemen, allow me to present to you all the tongues and
tender-loins you wish from these buffaloes."
Captain Graham, for such I soon learned was his name, replied:
"Well, I never saw the like before. Who under the sun are you,
"My name is Cody," said I.
One of the lieutenants, Thompson by name, who had met me at Fort
Harker, then recognized me, and said: "Why, that is Bill Cody, our
old scout." He then introduced me to the other officers, who were
Captain Graham of the Tenth cavalry, and Lieutenants Reed, Emmick and
Captam Graham, who was considerable of a horseman, greatly admired
Brigham, and said: "That horse of yours has running points."
"Yes, sir; he has not only got the points, he is a runner and
knows how to use the points," said I.
"So I noticed," said the captain.
They all finally dismounted, and we countinued chatting for some
little time upon the different subjects of horses, buffaloes, Indians
and hunting. They felt a little sore at not getting a single shot at
the buffaloes, but the way I had killed them had, they said, amply
repaid them for their disappointment. They had read of such feats in
books, but this was the first time they had ever seen anything of the
kind with their own eyes. It was the first time, also, that they had
ever witnessed or heard of a white man running buffaloes on horseback
without a saddle or a bridle.
I told them that Brigham knew nearly as much about the business as
I did and if I had twenty bridles they would have been of no use to
me, as he understood everything, and all that he expected of me was
to do the shooting. It is a fact, that Brigham would stop if a
buffalo did not fall at the first fire, so as to give me a second
chance, but if I did not kill the buffalo then, he would go on, as if
to say, "You are no good, and I will not fool away my time by giving
you more than two shots." Brigham was the best horse I ever owned or
saw for buffalo chasing.
Our conversation was interrupted in a little while by the arrival
of the wagon which I had ordered out; I loaded the hindquarters of
the youngest buffaloes on it, and then cut out the tongues and
tender-loins, and presented them to the officers, after which I rode
towards the fort with them, while the wagon returned to camp.
Captain Graham told me that he expected to be stationed at Fort
Hays during the summer, and would probably be sent out on a scouting
expedition, and in case he was he would like to have me accompany him
as scout and guide. I replied that notwithstanding I was very busy
with my railroad contract I would go with him if he was ordered out.
I then left the officers and returned to our camp.
IN PURSUIT OF INDIANS
That very night the Indians unexpectedly made a raid on the horses,
and ran off five or six of our very best work-teams, leaving us in a
very crippled condition. At daylight I jumped on old Brigham and rode
to Fort Hays, where I reported the affair to the commanding officer;
Captain Graham and Lieutenant Emmick were at once ordered out with
their company of one hundred colored troops, to pursue the Indians
and recover our stock if possible. In an hour we were under way. The
darkies had never been in an Indian fight and were anxious to catch
the band we were after and "Sweep de red debels from off de face of
de yearth." Captain Graham was a brave, dashing officer, eager to
make a record for himself, and it was with difficulty that I could
trail fast enough to keep out of the way of the impatient soldiers.
Every few moments Captain Graham would ride up to see if the trail
was freshening and how soon we should be likely to overtake the
At last we reached the Saline river, where we found the Indians
had only stopped to feed and water the animals, and had then pushed
on towards the Solomon. After crossing the Saline they made no effort
to conceal their trail, thinking they would not be pursued beyond
that point &emdash;consequenntly we were able to make excellent time.
We reached the Solomon before sunset, and came to a halt; we surmised
that if the Indians were camped on this river, that they had no
suspicion of our being in the neighborhood. I advised Captain Graham
to remain with the company where it was, while I went ahead on a
scout to find the Indians, if they were in the vicinity.
After riding some distance down the ravine that led to the river,
I left my horse at the foot of a hill; then, creeping to the top, I
looked cautiously over the summit upon the Solomon below. I at once
discovered in plain view, not a mile away, a herd of horses grazing,
our lost ones among them; very shortly I made out the Indian camp,
noted its lay, and how we could best approach it. Reporting to
Captain Graham, whose eyes fairly danced with delight at the prospect
of surprising and whipping the red-skins, we concluded to wait until
the moon rose, then get into the timber so as to approach the Indians
as closely as possible without being discovered, and finally to make
a sudden dash into their camp and clean them out. We had everything
"cut and dried," as we thought, but alas! just as we were nearing the
point where we were to take the open ground and make our charge, one
of the colored gentlemen became so excited that he fired off his gun.
We immediately commenced the charge, but the firing of the gun and
the noise of our rush through the crackling timber alarmed the
Indians, who at once sprang to their horses and were away from us
before we reached their late camp. Captain Graham called out "Follow
me, boys!" which we did for a while, but in the darkness the Indians
made good their escape. The bugle then gave the recall, but some of
the darkies did not get back until morning, having, in their fright,
allowedtheir horses to run away with them withersoever it suited the
animals' pleasure to go.
We followed the trail the next day for awhile, but as it became
evident that it would be a long chase to overtake the enemy, and as
we had rations only for the day, we commenced the return. Captain
Graham was bitterly disappointed in not being able to get the fight
when it seemed so near at one time. He roundly cursed the "nigger"
who fired the gun, and as a punishment for his carelessness, he was
compelled to walk all the way back to Fort Hays.
HOW I RECEIVED THE TITLE OF BUFFALO BILL
The construction of the Kansas Pacific railroad was pushed forward
with great rapidity, and when track-laying began it was only a very
short time before the road was ready for construction trains as far
west as the heart of the buffalo country. Twelve hundred men were
employed in the work, and as the Indians were very troublesome it
became difficult to obtain sufficient fresh meat to feed such an army
of workmen. This embarrassment was at length overcome by the
construction company engaging hunters to kill buffaloes, the flesh of
which is equal to the best corn-fed beef.
Having heard of my experience and success as a buffalo hunter,
Messrs. Goddard Brothers, who had the contract for boarding the
employees of the road, met me in Hays city one day and made me a good
offer to become their hunter, and I at once entered into a contract
with them. They said that they would require about twelve buffaloes
per day; that would be twenty-four hams, as we took only the
hind-quarters and hump of each buffalo. As this was to be dangerous
work, on account of the Indians, who were riding all over that
section of the country, and as I would be obliged to go from five to
ten miles from the road each day to hunt the buffaloes, accompanied
by only one man with a light wagon for the transportation of the
meat, I of course demanded a large salary. They could afford to
remunerate me well, because the meat would not cost them anything.
They agreed to give me five hundred dollars per month, provided I
furnished them all the fresh meat required.
Leaving my partner, Rose, to complete our grading contract, I
immediately began my career as a buffalo hunter for the Kansas
Pacific railroad, and it was not long before I acquired considerable
notoriety. It was at this time that the very appropriate name of
"Buffalo Bill" was conferred upon me by the road hands. It has stuck
to me ever since, and I have never been ashamed of it.
During my engagement as hunter for the company &emdash;a period of
less than eighteen months &emdash;I killed 4,280 buffaloes; and I had
many exciting adventures with the Indians, as well as hair breadth
escapes, some of which are well worth relating.
A RACE FOR MY SCALP
One day in the spring of 1868 I mounted Brigham and started for Smoky
Hill river. After galloping about twenty miles I reached the top of a
small hill overlooking the valley of that beautiful stream. As I was
gazing on the landscape, I suddenly saw a band of about thirty
Indians nearly half a mile distant; I knew by the way they jumped on
their horses that they had seen me as soon as I came into sight.
The only chance I had for my life was to make a run for it, and I
immediately wheeled and started back towards the railroad. Brigham
seemed to understand what was up, and he struck out as if he
comprehended that it was to be a run for life. He crossed a ravine in
a few jumps, and on reaching a ridge beyond I drew rein, looked back
and saw the Indians coming for me at full speed and evidently well
mounted. I would have had little or no fear of being overtaken if
Brigham had been fresh; but as he was not, I felt uncertain as to how
he would stand a long chase.
My pursuers seemed to be gaining on me a little, and I let Brigham
shoot ahead again; when we had run about three miles further, some
eight or nine of the Indians were not over two hundred yards behind,
and five or six of these seemed to be shortening the gap at every
jump. Brigham now exerted himself more than ever, and for the next
three or four miles he got "right down to business," and did some of
the prettiest running I ever saw. But the Indians were about as well
mounted as I was, and one of their horses in particular &emdash;a
spotted animal &emdash;was gaining on me all the time. Nearly all the
other horses were strung out behind for a distance of two miles, but
still chasing after me.
A GREAT SHOT
The Indian who was riding the spotted horse was armed with a rifle
and would occasionally send a bullet whistling along sometimes
striking the ground ahead of me. I saw that this fellow must be
checked, or a stray bullet from his gun might hit me or my horse; so,
suddenly stopping Brigham and quickly wheeling him around, I raised
old "Lucretia" to my shoulder, took deliberate aim at the Indian and
his horse, hoping to hit one or the other, and fired. He was not over
eighty yards away from me at this time, and at the crack of my rifle
down went his horse. Not waiting to see if he recovered, I turned
Brigham and in a moment we were again fairly flying towards our
destination; we had urgent business about that time, and were in a
hurry to get there.
Ne other Indians had gained on us while I was engaged shooting at
their leader, and they sent several shots whizzing past me, but
fortunately none of them hit the intended mark. To return their
compliment I occasionally wheeled myself in the saddle and fired back
at them, and one of my shots broke the leg of one of their horses,
which left its rider hors(e) de combat, as the French would say.
Only seven or eight Indians now remained in dangerous proximity to
me, and as their horses were beginning to lag somewhat, I checked my
faithful old steed a little, to allow him an opportunity to draw an
extra breath or two. I had determined, if it should come to the
worst, to drop into a buffalo wallow, where I could stand the Indians
off for a while; but I was not compelled to do this, as Brigham
carried me through most nobly.
SAUCE FOR THE GANDER.
The chase was kept up until we came within three miles of the end of
the railroad track, where two companies of soldiers were stationed
for the purpose of protecting the workmen from the Indians. One of
the outposts saw the Indians chasing me across the prairie and gave
the alarm. In a few minutes I saw, greatly to my delight, men coming
on foot, and cavalrymen too came galloping to my rescue as soon as
they could mount their horses When the Indians observed this, they
turned and ran in the direction from which they had come. In a very
few minutes I was met by some of the infantrymen and trackmen, and
jumping to the ground and pulling the blanket and saddle off of
Brigham, I told them what he had done for me; they at once took him
in charge, led him around, and rubbed him down so vigorously that I
thought they would rub him to death.
Captain Nolan, of the Tenth Cavalry, now came up with forty of his
men, and upon learning what had happened he determined to pursue the
Indians. He kindly offered me one of the cavalry horses, and after
putting my own saddle and bridle on the animal, we started out after
the flying Indians, who only a few minutes before had been making it
so uncomfortably lively for me. Our horses were all fresh and of
excellent stock, and we soon began shortening the distance between
ourselves and the redskins. Before they had gone five miles we
overtook and killed eight of their number. The others succeeded in
making their escape. On coming up to the place where I had killed the
first horse &emdash;the spotted one &emdash;on my "home run," I found
that my bullet had struck him in the forehead and killed him
instantly He was a noble animal, and ought to have been engaged in
When we got back to camp I found old Brigham grazing quietly and
contentedly on the grass. He looked up at me as if to ask if we had
got away with any of those fellows who had chased us. I believe he
read the answer in my eyes.
RUN TO COVER BY INDIANS
Another very exciting hunting adventure of mine which deserves a
place in these reminiscences occurred near Saline river. My companion
at the time was a man called Scotty, a butcher, who generally
accompanied me on these hunting expeditions to cut up the buffaloes
and load the meat into a light wagon which he brought to carry it in.
He was a brave little fellow and a most excellent shot. I had killed
some fifteen buffaloess and we had started for home with a wagon-load
of meat. When within about eight miles of our destination we suddenly
ran into a party of at least thirty Indians who came riding out of
the head of a ravine.
On this occasion I was mounted on a most excellent horse beIonging
to the railroad company and could easily have made my escape; but of
course I could not leave Scotty, who was driving a pair of mules
hitched to the wagon. To think was to act in those days; and as Scott
and I had often talked over a plan of defense in case we were ever
surprised by Indians, we instantly proceeded to carry it out. We
jumped to the ground unhitched the mules quicker than it had ever
been done before, and tied them and my horse to the wagon. We threw
the buffalo hams upon the ground and piled them around the wheels in
such a shape as to form a breast-work. All this was done in a shorter
time than it takes to tell it; and then, with our extra box of
ammunition and three or four extra revolvers, which we always carried
along with us, we crept under the wagon and were fully prepared to
give our visitors the warmest kind of a reception.
The Indians came on pell-mell, but when they were within one
hundred yards of us we opened such a sudden and galling fire upon
them that they held up and began to circle around the wagon instead
of riding up to take tea with us. They however charged back and forth
upon us several times and their shots killed the two mules and my
horse; but we gave it to them right and left and had the satisfaction
of seeing three of them fall to the ground not more than fifty yards
away. On perceiving how well we were fortified and protected by our
breast-work of hams, they probably came to the conclusion that it
would be a difficult undertaking to dislodge us, for they drew off
and gave us a rest, but only a short one.
SENDING UP A SIGNAL FOR HELP.
This was the kind of fighting we had been expecting for a long time,
as we knew that sooner or later we would be "jumped" by Indians while
we were out buffalo hunting. I had an understanding with the officers
who commanded the troops at the end of the track, that in case their
pickets should at any time notice a smoke in the direction of our
hunting ground they were to give the alarm, so that assistance might
be sent to us, for the smoke was to indicate that we were in danger.
I now resolved to signal to the troops in the manner agreed on and
at the first opportunity set fire to the grass on the windward side
of the wagon. The fire spread over the prairie at a rapid rate,
causing a dense smoke which I knew would be seen at the camp. The
Indians did not seem to understand this strategic movement. They got
off from their horses and from behind a bank or knoll again peppered
away at us; but we were well fortified, and whenever they showed
their heads we let them know that we could shoot as well as they.
After we had been cooped up in our little fort for about an hour,
we discovered cavalry coming toward us at full gallop over the
prairie. Our signal of distress had proved a success. The Indians saw
the soldiers at about the same time that we did, and thinking that it
would not be healthy for them to remain much longer in that vicinity,
they mounted their horses and disappeared down the cañons of
the creek. When the soldiers came up we had the satisfaction of
showing them five "good" Indians &emdash;that is dead ones. Two hours
later we pulled into camp with our load of meat, which was found to
be all right, except that it had a few bullets and arrows sticking in
Autobiography of Buffalo Bill Continued