The Mystery of Buffalo Bill Cody’s Two Graves
Most people only get one grave, but Buffalo Bill, ever the showman, has somehow ended up with two. Willian F. ‘Buffalo Bill’ Cody brought the spirit of the Wild West to people worldwide, captivating them with tales of adventure. To this day, the legend of Buffalo Bill remains alive and well, and is celebrated in his namesake town, Cody, Wyoming. Even in death, Buffalo Bill gave people something to talk about. In fact, they’re still talking about it to this day — where is Buffalo Bill buried? There are conflicting accounts about his burial wishes, with some claiming he wanted to be laid to rest in the town he founded. However, according to legend, Denver officials and some relatives conspired to bury him in Colorado. Consequently, the exact location of Buffalo Bill’s remains remains a highly contested mystery.
Where is Buffalo Bill Buried?
On January 14, 1917, Buffalo Bill’s casket was paraded through the streets of Denver to the Colorado State Capitol Building, where more than 25,000 mourners paid their respects. After the funeral at the Denver Elks Lodge, Cody’s body was taken to Olinger’s Mortuary in Denver. Official records indicate that he was buried on Lookout Mountain, with the burial being a significant event attended by over 20,000 people. The ceremony featured an open casket to allow everyone to bid farewell to the greatest cowboy that ever lived.
Tale of Buffalo Bill’s Two Graves
The story of Buffalo Bill’s two graves includes enough intrigue for a full-length movie. It involves a bold plan, a middle-of-the-night trip to a Denver mortuary, an unlucky ranch hand bearing a likeness to Buffalo Bill, and a passionate group of riled-up townspeople in mourning for their beloved town founder after his death on Jan. 10, 1917.
Buffalo Bill’s immediate family claimed that it . However, the people of Cody, Wyoming, disagreed entirely. Instead, they believed he wanted to be laid to rest on Cedar Mountain, near the community he helped found. Thus began the controversy over his burial that continues to this very day.
How Did Buffalo Bill Cody Die?
There is no dispute regarding the circumstances and location of Buffalo Bill’s death. In early January 1917, a seriously ill Cody traveled to Glenwood Springs to take the waters and visit the doctor. It’s believed that on this trip, he was told he had less than two weeks to live. Nevertheless, he continued his journey to be with his sister, May. On January 10, 1917, this iconic figure of the American West died from what is now believed to be kidney failure.
Soon after, his wife Louisa arrived to claim his body and settle his affairs. Because he passed away in the middle of a harsh winter, the road to Lookout Mountain, the alleged spot where he wished to be buried and where his family wished to lay him to rest, was impassable. His remains were kept at a mortuary in Denver until the road up to the mountain was open again.
Burying Buffalo Bill in Denver
While in Denver, Louisa was approached by representatives from the Denver Post newspaper and the city of Denver, who offered her $10,000 each to bury Cody in the area where they felt his grave could become a tourist attraction.
Although Buffalo Bill was once regarded as the best-known person in the world, and his Wild West Show was incredibly popular and profitable, he was also prone to bad investments and was extremely generous. As a result, he and his wife were broke when he died. Louisa accepted this offer.
The Dispute Over Buffalo Bill’s Burial Location
When Louisa returned to Cody, Wyoming, the town’s residents eagerly awaited her arrival, expecting her to bring the town’s founder home for burial. The townsfolk were shocked and more than a little upset when Louisa informed them that she had sold Cody’s body and that he was to be buried in Denver.
Among those who were especially unhappy were the town’s undertaker and two of Buffalo Bill’s old friends, Fred Richard and Ned Frost. Buffalo Bill had long ago told his dear friends that he wanted to be buried on Cedar Mountain just outside of town. The vistas from the top of the mountain include the town and surrounding valleys.
Buffalo Bill’s three heartbroken friends hatched a plan to travel to Denver to switch bodies and bury Cody on Cedar Mountain. When a local ranch hand died, and his body went unclaimed, the three put their plan in motion.
After trimming the unfortunate ranch hand’s beard in the Buffalo Bill style, the three loaded the body in the undertaker’s vehicle and began the two-and-a-half-day journey to Denver.
The Secret Burial of Buffalo Bill
According to the story, after the friend reached Denver, they presented themselves to Denver’s Olinger Mortuary as Buffalo Bill’s friends. After viewing the body, they told the mortician they would return home to Cody.
Instead, they returned to the mortuary late at night and switched the body of Buffalo Bill with that of the unlucky look-alike.
The Misdirection and Mobilization of the Town Folks
Upon their return to Cody, the friends grew concerned that a closer inspection of the ranch hand’s body could expose their ruse. In an act of desperation, they decided to create a diversion. They made the rounds to all 13 of Cody’s saloons, riled up the slightly pickled townsfolks, and urged them to drive to Denver, grab the body of “Buffalo Bill” and return him to Cody for a proper burial. It didn’t take long to round up a caravan of more than 350 well-armed, slightly drunk men.
“All the way home, they were convinced that the sheriff in every town they drove through was waiting to arrest them,” says Bob Richard, Fred Richard’s grandson. “Instead, they returned to Cody and quietly buried Buffalo Bill on Cedar Mountain overlooking his town.”
The Failed Body-Snatching Attempt
Denver police learned of the caravan as it was en route, alerted the mortuary, and rushed north to Wyoming to meet the Cody group before they could arrive. Determined to prevent the body from being snatched, they poured 20 tons of concrete onto the grave.
The caravan was met by law enforcement officials who convinced the disheartened townspeople to return home since retrieving the body was now impossible. They complied without incident, deeply saddened that their friend would never get his wish.
Cedar Mountain: The Mystery of Buffalo Bill Cody’s True Resting Place
Buffalo Bill’s friends quietly told others about the showman’s true resting place, although they closely guarded the exact location. Except to say that it has an expansive view of Cody, just as Buffalo Bill would have wanted.
The final resting place of William “Buffalo Bill” Cody is a closely guarded secret, with only a few people knowing the exact location. They will say that it is on private property on Cedar Mountain, but as with any good legend, there are always a few details that must be left up to the imagination.
A Legend Forever
No matter which story you believe, the fact of the matter is that Buffalo Bill helped found one of the most interesting and unique towns in the Wild West. You can learn more about his life, visit his old hunting lodge, Pahaska Tepee, stay at the Irma Hotel, which he built in 1902, and be entertained by the Cody Nite Rodeo, all in Cody, Yellowstone! Request our 2023 Vacation Guide and start planning your legendary adventure in Buffalo Bill’s Wild West!