Cody’s Delightfully Authentic Make-Believe Town
Old Trail Town is one of Cody’s authentic treasures, even though such a town never existed. It is a place to let your imagination roam freely; to nurture your interest in the history of the American West and to imagine the hardships, ingenuity and spirit of the generations who carved a life from a frequently unforgiving land.
Here, just on the outskirts of Cody within striking distance of the Cody Nite Rodeo grounds, is where I like to wander when I’m in a restless mood. I imagine that Bob Edgar might have been prone to the same habit.
A passionate historian and long-time Cody resident, Bob Edgar and some of his friends searched the far corners of Montana and Wyoming for western buildings that had been preserved well enough to be disassembled, moved and authentically reassembled along one of two boardwalks that line a dirt “street.” For this fantastical creation, they chose a site that was originally “Cody City”, just a short distance from downtown Cody. It was the plot of land that town founder Buffalo Bill Cody had originally chosen to build his town.
With a blacksmith shop, saloon, school, general store, variety of one-room cabins and thousands of tools, furniture, clothing, wagons and other real-world artifacts, Edgar created a set that should make Hollywood designers jealous.
Dubbed Old Trail Town, posted outside most of the buildings is interpretive signage with detailed information about that building’s history.
Every time I wander down the boardwalks, I see something new. For example, the 1897 home of the first mayor of Cody is on display. Frank Houx lived in the home until 1903, before moving on to bigger jobs, namely Secretary of State for four years and acting Governor of Wyoming from 1917 to 1919.
With its a dizzying collection of tools, leather belts, wagon wheels, wood and barrels displayed in dusty chaos, the blacksmith shop is one of my favorite buildings. It’s easy to imagine a sweaty blacksmith pounding out a living with precision. Blacksmiths on the western frontier had a difficult, dangerous and endless job to keep their towns in good working order.
I always pause to take in the domestic simplicity displayed at the homesteader’s cabin. I wonder what it would have been like to be the child who slept in that hand-carved cradle to have grown up in this yet-to-be civilized land. What was it like for that child’s mama, whose simple wedding dress is carefully preserved and hung near a pair of well-worn boots? The small, simple bed is covered with a hand-stitched quilt that surely must have taken her many hours to complete. I imagine her toiling in the light of a candle or kerosene lamp passing the long, frigid winter hours.
The Coffin School is a regular stop too. This building was indeed a school on the W Ranch west of Meeteetse for many years until it became the home of a rancher named Alfred Nower, who died of gangrene in the cabin after chopping himself in the leg.
Old Trail Town is one of many attractions in Cody Yellowstone that allow you to take a trip back in time. Although no one lived in this one spot, the town that Edgar assembled is much like every town in the West. Including the truly authentic town of Cody, Wyoming.
Until next time, I’m loving life and strolling through town in Cody Yellowstone.