New Perspectives on THE WEST
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Archives of THE WEST
Episode One
(to 1806)
Episode Two
(1806 to 1848)
Episode Three
(1848 to 1856)
Episode Four
(1856 to 1868)
Episode Five
(1868 to 1874)
Episode Six
(1874 to 1877)
Episode Seven
(1877 to 1887)
Episode Eight
(1887 to 1914)

ARCHIVES (1877 -1887)




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.


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 the line."

"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 our "store."

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.


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 the government.


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 I.

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 prairies."

"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 man.

"I am much obliged to you, Captain, and will follow you," I replied.

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.


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 next fire.

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 them:&emdash;

"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, anyhow?"

"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 Ezekiel.

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.


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 thieves.

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.


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.


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.


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.


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 better business.

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.


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.


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 it.


The Autobiography of Buffalo Bill Continued

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