Gateways to Wonderland
Early History of Cody Wyoming
Copyright 2021 by Robert V. Goss. All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced or utilized in any form by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording or by an information storage and retrieval system without permission in writing from the author.
The Early Days . . .
Cody, Wyo is located on the Shoshone River in the Bighorn Basin in NW Wyoming, in a basin surrounded by mountain ranges on three sides: the Absarokas to the west; the Owl Creek Mtns to the south; and the Bighorn Mtns to the east. The east entrance to Yellowstone National Park lies 53 miles to the west, up the North Fork of the Shoshone River. John Colter passed through the area in 1807-08 and discovered the odorous springs along the Shoshone that became known as Colter’s Hell. The smell of the springs also gave the Shoshone River its original moniker of Stinking Water River. However, the name was changed in 1901, for obvious public relations purposes. Jim Carter and John Chapman both drove cattle herds from Oregon to the South Fork of the Stinkingwater River and established ranches. The following year Henry Belknap drove a herd south from Billings into that area.
1916 Postcard of Buffalo Bill and Cody entrance to Yellowstone, Denver Public Library
In the spring of 1886, Charles DeMaris trailed a herd of cattle from Lemhi, Id. to the hot springs on the Stinkingwater River and took up a homestead near the springs. Suffering from ailments, he hoped the springs would heal him, which they seemed to do. The springs were named after him and the general area became known as DeMaris Springs. Charles and his wife Nellie built a hotel on their site that opened in 1903. On June 26, 1914, Charles DeMaris passed away. His wife Nellie and her family continued to operate the resort until her death in 1935.
8038 De Marris Hot Springs, Cody, Wyo.
H.H. Tammen postcard, early 1900s.
Charles Demaris Pioneer is Dead
Grazed the First Large Herd Where Billings is Located
The Billings Gazette, Mont., 01Jul1914
Charles DeMaris, one of the oldest pioneers in northern Wyoming, died at his home at the DeMaris Springs, near Cody, at the age of 87, after several weeks’ sickness, last Friday night, according to information which reached Billings yesterday. The deceased was a real western pioneer. Bom in Ottawa. Canada, in 1827, he moved to Chicago with his parents when 9 years old. He came to Montana in the later 60s, traveling by steamer to Ft. Benton, from where he went to Leesburg Basin, Idaho, and engaged in gold mining. In 1871 he engaged in the cattle business in Idaho and in 1879 he came to the Yellowstone valley and went into the stock business, driving his herds overland from Idaho.
Mr. DeMaris is generally credited with being the first man to turn out a large heard of cattle here, grazing them on the spit where Billings now stands. In 1886 Mr. DeMaris discovered the famous Hot Springs, near Cody, Wyo., which now hears his name and from which water is shipped all over the country. The deceased is survived by a wife and 13 year old son [Bill].
Left: DeMaris Hot Springs, undated.
[Wyoming State Archives #14249]
Right: De Maris Springs, Cody Wyo.
[Buffalo Bill Historic Center, P61643005]
Wm. Cody had explored the Big Horn Basin in the 1870s and ’80s as guide and hunter for various military, civilian and governmental expeditions. He saw great potential for the agricultural development of the area. Cody and some cohorts examined the area for the possibility of dams and canals to provide water for the basin. They also surveyed for a road to pass over the Absaroka Mtns and into Yellowstone to establish a basis for tourism. He no doubt had conversations with Chicago, Burlington & Quincy RR (CB&Q) officials to get their opinions for bringing a rail line into the basin.
The original town of Cody was located on DeMaris’s land on the flat above the river, and was first called Shoshone, which the Post Office rejected. Richland was also proposed, but rejected by Cody’s cohorts, and naturally the name Cody came to be. In 1895, Buffalo Bill Cody, George T. Beck, Cody’s Wild West show partner Nate Salsbury, Harry Gerrans, Bronson Rumsey, Horace Alger, and George Bleistein founded the Shoshone Land and Irrigation Company. Construction began on the Cody Canal in the fall of 1895, which would carry water from the south fork of the Shoshone River to the town. In spring 1896, the area was surveyed and the present townsite laid out about 2 miles from DeMaris Springs.
Early Cody founders: Wm. F. Cody, seated. George T. Beck, left, and Henry J. Fulton, right.
[F.J. Hiscock photo, ca1910]
According to the Casper Star-Tribune on 19Mar1978, “While on a visit to Sheridan [Wyo], in 1894, he [Cody] purchased the Sheridan Inn, and it was here that he heard about the Cody area and the Big Horn Basin. He had seen the area years before as a guide and when George Beck of Sheridan talked to him about his dream of introducing irrigation to the Big Horn country and starting a new town, Cody became enthusiastic about the project and became a third partner with Beck and Horace Alger in the Shoshone Land and Irrigation Co. He was able to interest four wealthy men from Buffalo, New York, Monte Gerrans, Nate Salsbury, Bronson Rumsey and George Bleistein, in the project and they each put up $5000 towards the building of the canal. By 1897 the canal was completed and the little town that sprang up as a result was named after Cody. Through his friendship with President Theodore Roosevelt he was able to get the tallest dam in the world constructed on the Shoshone River just west of Cody.”
William 'Buffalo Bill' Cody
Wm. Cody had explored the Big Horn Basin in the 1870s and ’80s as guide and hunter for various military, civilian and governmental expeditions. He saw great potential for the agricultural development of the area. Cody and some cohorts examined the area for the possibility of dams and canals to provide water for the basin. They also surveyed for a road to pass over the Absaroka Mtns and into Yellowstone to establish a basis for tourism. He no doubt had conversations with Chicago, Burlington & Quincy RR (CB&Q) officials to get their opinions for bringing a rail line into the basin. The CB&Q had showed some interest in building a spur to Cody from Toluca, Mont., northeast of Cody in order to exploit the future agricultural and cattle market. The Shoshone Land Company deeded many town lots to the railroad company to ensure that the CB&Q built the line all the way to Cody, thus giving them a vested interest in the success of the town,
Left: Advertisement for the Shoshone Irrigation Company touting new homes in the Cody basin., ca1897.
Right: Plat map for the new town of Cody. East-West avenues are named after the founders, North-South streets are numbered.
[Buffalo Bill Historic Center, MS-07]
Founding a new town in the Shoshone Basin
Buffalo Bill helped to found the town of Cody in 1896. In 1897 and 1899 Cody and his associates acquired from the State of Wyoming the right to take water from the Shoshone River to irrigate about 169,000 acres of land in the Big Horn Basin. They began developing a canal system to carry water diverted from the river. A few years later the Feds stepped in to provide aid and funds for the huge project. The town of Cody was incorporated in 1901 and the following year W.F. Cody built the Irma Hotel and also established the town’s 1st newspaper, the Cody Enterprise in August 1899. The Buffalo Bill barn and livery was also operated by “Bill,” probably opening in the late 1890s, and reportedly torn down ca1919. In 1905 he officially opened up Pahaska Tepee Lodge at the east entrance and the Wapiti Inn about midway from Cody, serving both tourists and hunters in the nearby forest areas. He applied to the park to take over the business of the ailing Holm Transportation Co. in 1915. However, their business improved and his request was denied. He died in 1917 on the way to Denver and was buried there, much to the chagrin of the residents of Cody.
Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show
“Buffalo Bill” Cody opened Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show on May 19, 1883 at Omaha, Nebraska. With Dr. W.F Carver, exhibition shooter, they took the show, subtitled “Rocky Mountain and Prairie Exhibition,” across the country. Over the years, the troupe, which included as many as 1,200 performers, included many authentic personalities such as James Butler “Wild Bill” Hickok, Texas Jack Omohundro, Annie Oakley, Sitting Bull and Geronimo, as well as working cowboys recruited from the West. When Cody’s show began to suffer financially he sold a one-third interest in his production to Gordon “Pawnee Bill” Lillie in 1908. Soon, Gordon bought the remaining interest in the show but retained Buffalo Bill as a partner. The two traveled together as the “Two Bill’s Show” until 1913 when the venture went bankrupt.
Top: Buffalo Bill's Wild West letterhead, dated 1896. [Buffalo Bill Hist Center, #P69118]
Bottom Right: Wild West Show in London, England, 1905. [Library of Congress]
Bottom Left: Original Buffalo Bill Wild West poster, undated.
[Buffalo Bill Historic Center, MS-07]
Bottom Center: Ad for the Two Bill's Show, toward the end of Cody's career. [Ottawa Daily Republic, Kansas, 11aug1911]
Planning and construction began on the Shoshone Dam in 1905 and was completed Jan. 17 1910. It created Shoshone Lake upon its completion, which took several years to fill. The dam was 328’ tall, and was claimed to be the tallest structure of its kind in the world. It was 85’ wide at the bottom and 200’ at the top, and 100’ thick. It was expected to irrigate some 100,000 acres of land. Hundreds of excited Cody citizens gathered on the 17th near the top of the dam to celebrate, and just before noon the final bucket of concrete was poured onto the dam, completing this massive project.
The dam created an enormous reservoir, with a surface area of ten square miles and an average depth of seventy feet. Its capacity in gallons was estimated at 148,588,512,000. The purpose of the structure was to control the great floods of the Shoshone river and provide an ample water supply for the irrigation of more than 100,000 acres of exceptionally fertile land in the valley below.
"Big Dam Done Saturday"
[Powell Tribune Wy, 18Jan1910]
Left: "29199 Shoshone Canyon, Dam and Road from South Rim of Shoshone River. Wyo. [Keystone View Company stereoview]
Right: Collage of dam scenes from Pictorial Souvenir of Cody, Wyoming, 1911. A.G. Lucier Photographer.
In order to reach the dam site itself, it was necessary to carve a road through the inaccessible gorge of the Shoshone River. For several miles the road was blasted out of the sheer face of Rattlesnake Mtn. and carved through several tunnels. The Shoshone Dam name was changed to Buffalo Bill Dam & Reservoir in 1946. President Truman signed the bill in March, honoring the 100th anniversary of Buffalo Bill Cody's birthdate.
Chicago, Burlington & Quincy RR
The CB&Q extended a rail line to Cody, Wyoming in November of 1901, providing access to the eastern side of the park and the beautiful Wapiti Valley. The Burlington Route to Cody was a branch line off the main route from Lincoln, Nebraska to Billings, Montana. It left the main line southeast of Billings at Toluca and headed southwest for 129 miles to the terminus at Cody. Construction on the line began in the spring of 1900 and was completed Nov. 11, 1901.
As the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy RR reached town in 1901, construction began on an automobile road up the North Fork of the Shoshone River. It would meet up with the road that was under construction over Sylvan Pass into Yellowstone by the Army in charge of the park. Two years later the road over Sylvan Pass became passable for wagons but was not officially completed until 1905. This allowed Cody to become the eastern gateway to Yellowstone. By 1903, both Aron “Tex” Holm and the Frost & Richard companies were leading camping trips from Cody over the pass and into Yellowstone. As time went on other local outfits escorted guest into the park by horseback or wagon.
Frost & Richard Camping Company ascending Sylvan Pass from Pahaska, with camp wagons, carriages, and horses. Undated. YNP #1935
By 1917, tourist facilities in Cody were proving inadequate to meet growing tourist demands. To help alleviate the problem and satisfy their customers, the CB&Q built the Burlington Cody Café for their rail passengers. It was located just west of the depot and was scheduled to open on June 20, 1917. The railroad was hoping the town would pick up the slack in hotel accommodations, but apparently the local businessmen did little to add rooms. So, in 1922, the CB&Q built a new 2-story hotel to add on to the existing café. It featured 45 basic sleeping rooms upstairs, with a 100-person capacity café and lounge downstairs. It opened on June 19, 1922 and was renamed the Cody Inn.
Burlington Cody Inn Dining 1955
[Buffalo Bill Historic Center]
Bottom Left: Real-Photo postcard of the Burlington Inn, ca1922. Note the Yellowstone Park Transportation Co. (YPTCo) buses at right.
Bottom Right: Real-Photo postcard of the Burlington Inn after remodeling, ca1928. YPTCo buses at the entry, along with private autos on road.
Tourist demands continued to expand and the CB&Q built a new addition to the Cody Inn in the spring of 1928. It included a basement and 2-stories that would about double the existing restaurant space and bedroom count. Again, it was scheduled to open June 20, 1928. The Inn was closed from 1943 to spring 1946, no doubt due to WWII, and reopened June 19, 1946. During closure it was remodeled and redecorated. In 1948 the Cody Inn was leased to a Billings man and he changed the name to El Rancho. The railroad ended passenger service to Cody in 1956 and a year later the all the furnishings and mechanical & electrical fixtures were sold at auction the end of June. The north wing was saved and moved to the nearby Husky Oil Co. site to be used as office space. The rest of the historic Inn was razed. In 1970 the CB&Q became a part of the Burlington Northern RR. BN merged with the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe RR in 1995, creating the BNSF railroad.
Buffalo Bill's Hotels
Built by Wm. F. Cody on the main street in Cody, Wyoming and opened on November 1, 1902. He named the hotel after his youngest daughter. It was one of three lodgings that Cody built to help promote business through the east entrance of Yellowstone Park. The others were Pahaska Tepee at the east entrance, and Wapiti Inn, at about the halfway point from town. 8-10 guest rooms occupied the main floor of the Irma, along with a lobby, dining room, billiard and bar room, kitchen, and office. The Irma's famous cherrywood bar, a gift from Queen Victoria, dates to the period of construction. Cody hired brother-in-law Louis Decker to manage the hotel. Cody’s wife Louisa died in 1921, but the hotel stayed in the family until Henry and Pearl Newell bought the hotel in 1925. The northwest addition was constructed in 1929, and The new owners gradually expanded the hotel, building an annex around 1929-‘30 on the west side to accommodate automobile travelers. After her husband's death in 1940, Pearl Newell operated the hotel until her own death in 1965. She left the hotel's extensive collection of Buffalo Bill memorabilia to the Buffalo Bill Historical Center, and stipulated that proceeds from the estate be used as an endowment for the museum. The southwest addition was added in 1976-1977.
,Buffalo Bill's Hotels in the Rockies." Brochure cover, authored by Louis E. Cooke, 1905
Top: Irma Hotel, ca1908.
Bottom: "Col. Cody, "Buffalo Bill" in the Office of Irma Hotel."
[F.J. Hiscock postcard, Copy. 1910]
Top: Irma Hotel photo collage.
[Pictorial Souvenir of Cody, Wyoming, 1911.
A.G. Lucier Photographer]
Bottom: Postcard of Irma Bar, ca1907. Col. Cody 4th from left.
Wm. F. Cody built this lodge near in 1903-04 at about the halfway point (31 miles) from Cody, Wyoming to the east entrance of the park. It was one of three hotels he built to help promote the town of Cody and the new road over Sylvan Pass at the east entrance of Yellowstone. The other two facilities were the Irma Hotel in Cody and Pahaska Tepee at the east entrance. The Wapiti Inn was a 14-room frame structure built on Forest Reserve land at the mouth of Wapiti (Elk) Creek and could accommodate about twenty people. It also catered to fisherman and hunters. It was sometimes called the Wapiti Wickiup. According to the Park County Enterprise, May 17, 1913, Wapiti Inn was slated to be torn down and removed to Pahaska to expand facilities there. That year the Holm Transportation Co. began transporting tourists from Cody to Pahaska by automobile, and with decreased travel times and improved roads, Wapiti may no longer have been a necessary mid-way stop.
A 1908 “Cody Road to Yellowstone” brochure described the Wapiti Inn:
“At Wapiti there is the Wickiup (or Inn), a unique structure of rough boards, accommodating forty guests, and other smaller buildings (for one or two persons) with board floors and sides' and canvas coverings. The dining tent is 50 x 20 feet. The Wickiup is on Elk Fork at the junction of the Wapiti, the Elk Fork, the Sweet Water and the North Shoshone rivers. Unexcelled trout fishing is found within a hundred paces of the Wickiup. Elk Fork takes its name from the fact that for years the elk have made this vicinity their home. They may be found there the year through. Rates for meals and for lodging will be $1 per meal or lodging for the first day, and for succeeding days, or parts thereof, a rate of $3 per day.”
In 1918 another Wapiti Inn appeared on the scene, but little is known of this operation. It was established by Ed. Reighley and Art V. Cunningham, perhaps on the same or nearby the original “Wapiti Inn site. Cunningham later in the year took over Reighley’s share. Newspaper ads indicate it continued to operate off and on at least into the mid-late 1920s. In later years it may have become the Wapiti Valley Inn.
Top: Wapiti Inn ca1909. It was also a respite for local hunters, trappers & traders.
Bottom Left: Wapiti Inn, ca1907. From Campbells' Yellowstone Guide, 1908.
Bottom Right: News article describing demo of Wapiti Inn and buildings being hauled to Pahaska Tepee.
[7May1913, Park County Enterprise, Wyo.]
A.A. Anderson designed Pahaska Tepee, built by William F. Cody built at the east entrance of Yellowstone in 1903-05. The lodge first opened in 1904, although construction continued into the following year. The main building was built of logs in a T-shape with two stories, bedrooms for about forty people, a good-size dining room, and a large living room with a grand fireplace. A large porch wrapped around the building on three sides. The upstairs housed Cody’s private suite and six other bedrooms. One and two-room cabins were also available and were equipped with cook stove, cooking and eating utensils, and furniture. A general store was also open for guests.
In 1910 Col. Cody received shipment of a White Steamer automobile in late June. The 60hp auto was put into service to provide faster and more comfortable transportation from Cody to Pahaska. The first trip was made on July 5, 1910. Col. Cody had intended to put the vehicle into service for the 1909 season, but the vehicle failed to arrive that year. He added two more White Steamers the following season.
Left: Pahaska Tepee, ca1920s. Real-Photo postcard.
Right: Col. Cody driving a Pahaska Tepee bus, ca1910.
["Pictorial Souvenir of Cody, Wyoming", 1911. A.G. Lucier Photographer]
Louis E. Decker, Cody’s brother-in-law, managed the lodge in 1910 and the following year a log laundry building, a round canvas-topped dance pavilion, rifle range, tennis and croquet courts were added. Two years later a bunkhouse was constructed using logs from the Wapiti Inn. After 1916 the lodge was also used as a lunch stop for passengers on the Yellowstone Park Transportation Co. (YPTCo) touring buses. In 1924 Sylvan Pass Lodge opened and became the YPTCo lunch stop.
Pahaska Tepee lodge was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1973 and the land is still leased from the federal government. The Coe family currently owns the lodge. The word Pahaska probably comes from the Lakota word for ‘long hair of the head’, which is what the Lakota called Buffalo Bill.
Right: Ad for"Pahaska Tepee, Buffalo Bill's Old Hunting Lodge." [Casper Star Tribune, 18Jul1926]
Bottom Left: "1697 Interior of Pahaska Tepee, Col. W.F. Cody's Hotel in the Rockies.' [Tammen Postcard, author collection]
Bottom Right: "8069 Pahaska, Buffalo Bill's Hotel, on the Road to Yellowstone Park, Wyo." [Tammen postcard, ca1910]
Early Cody Hotels
By the early 1900's, Cody had at least three lodging houses, in addition to Buffalo Bill's Irma Hotel:
The Cody Hotel was built ca1896 on the north side of the 1300 block of Sheridan Avenue and run by Maxx & Shurtleff in 1900. By 1903 the hotel and saloon was owned by J.B. "Ben" Primm. By 1912, ads in the Park County Enterprise touted a Cody Hotel and Cody Bar, run by H.H. Patchell. Reportedly, it was owned by the Lonnie Prante family who operated the hotel until the late 1930s.
Top: Ad for the Cody Hotel, Marx & Shurtleff, Proprs. [Cody Enterprise, 6Sep1900]
Bottom Left: Cody Hotel, undated. A sign advertising "The Grill" hangs above the men on the porch. [Buffalo Bill History Center]
Bottom Right: Ad for the Cody Hotel Saloon, Fred Primm. [Cody Enterprise, 5Nov1903
Hart Mountain Inn
The two-story Hart Mountain Inn (Hotel) was constructed by David H. McFall at the corner of Beck and 13rd St. around 1897-’98. May Jordan bought the hotel in 1912 and ran it until 1928. Kate Buckingham purchased the Inn ca1953 and operated it into the 1990s. In 2004 new owners dubbed it the Hart Mountain Suites and operated it until 2008.
Right: Hart Mountain Inn, early 1900s. [Pictorial Souvenir of Cody, Wyoming, 1911. A.G. Lucier Photographer]
Bottom Left: Hart Mountain Inn, undated photo.
Bottom Right: Hart Mountain Hotel, ca1950s [Buffalo Bill Historic Center, PN891182151601]
The Chamberlin Hotel was built in 1903 on 12th St, a half block off of Sheridan Ave by Agnes Chamberlin who moved to Cody in 1900 to work for W.F. Cody’s newspaper. It was primarily used as a boarding house, but as additions were built and the hotel improved and expanded over the next 15 years, particularly in 1917. In the 19teens & 1920s, a Chamberlin Dentist Office was advertised in the hotel. The hotel was known as the Hotel Chamberlin and Chamberlin Hotel over the years, providing rooms with or without bath and a dining room. An 8-room addition was built in 1920, in time for the new tourist season. Agnes sold the hotel in 1939 and passed away in January 1949. She was a pillar of the community and upon her death the town’s businesses closed for her funeral service. Around 1941, the Chamberlin was renamed the Pawnee Hotel by new owners Hattie and George Evans. After other changes in ownership, it became the Chamberlin Inn in 2005 and is still in operation.
Top Right: Hotel Chamberlin, ca1920s. [Chamberlin Inn website]
Bottom Right: Chamberlin Hotel in 1959. It was known as the Pawnee Inn at that time.
[Buffalo Bill Historic Center, P8923394501N
Bottom Left: Newspaper ad for the Hotel Chamberlin, Official AAA Hotel, ca1930s.
From the Semi Weekly Billings Gazette, Aug. 8, 1899:
“J. H. Peake, an experienced journalist of Washington, D.C., and an old-time friend of Buffalo Bill, arrived in the city today [Billings] en route to Cody, Wyo.. to establish a newspaper, says the Red Lodge Picket. The plant will reach Red Lodge in a day or two, and Mr. Peake expects to get out the first issue about Aug. 20. It will be called The Cody Enterprise and is to be a seven-column, four page paper, with all home print. Independent, with democratic tendencies, will be the new paper's politics.”
The Cody Enterprise, undated.
[Courtesy Park Co. Archives, Wyo]
Peake established the newspaper in conjunction with W.F. Cody, who funded the project. Over the years the name has vacillated with the Park County Enterprise name, sometimes using both. A number of different owners and publishers have run the paper. Novelist Caroline Lockhart purchased the Park County Enterprise in 1920, changing back to Cody Enterprise the following year. She apparently tired of the business and sold the paper in October 1925 to concentrate on writing and other projects. The newspaper has continued to prosper and had been owned by the Sage Publishing Co. of Cody since 1971.
Buffalo Bill Museum
The Buffalo Bill Museum was built in 1927 on the current site of the Cody Country Chamber of Commerce and the Cody Country Art League. It was dedicated and opened to the public on July 4 with Cody's niece, Mary Jester Allen, as the first curator. In 1935 Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney donated 40-acre site that later became the Buffalo Bill Historic Center.The Whitney Gallery of Western Art was dedicated in a newly constructed modern facility on the donated site in 1959. Ten years later the name was changed to Buffalo Bill Historical Center and the Plains Indian Collection added and the original Buffalo Bill Museum collection was moved to the new facility.
In 1979 the Plains Indian Museum was dedicated and the following year the Winchester Collection was installed and the McCracken Research Library dedicated. The Cody Firearms Museum was added and dedicated in 1981. The Draper Museum of Natural History was constructed and opened to the public in 2002. Name changes ruled the day in 2013 as the Buffalo Bill Historical Center was renamed to Buffalo Bill Center of the West, to more accurately describe the width and depth of the museum’s mission, collections, and programs. In addition, the Whitney Gallery of Western Art became the Whitney Western Art Museum, and the Draper Museum of Natural History transformed into the Draper Natural History Museum.
"Buffalo Bill Museum at Cody, Wyoming.
Founded by Members of the Cody Family and the People of Cody, Wyoming." [Burlington Route postcard, nd]
"1191 - Buffalo Bill Museum, Cody, Wyoming."
[Real-Photo postcard, ca1930s]
Nedward W. Frost was born April 11, 1881 in Minnesota and in 1884 came into the Cody country in a covered wagon with his family and settled near what later became Cody, on South Fork of the Shoshone R., moving to Sage Creek in 1888. He reportedly killed his first grizzly bear around the age of seven or eight and began a life of hunting and guiding. By age 14 he was shooting antelope to supply meat houses in Coulson (Billings), Montana. He appears in the 1900 Federal Census for Wyoming. He helped to build the Corkscrew Bridge on Sylvan Pass in the early 1900’s and in 1903 he discovered Frost Cave in Cedar Mountain just west of Cody. His future wife Mary Hughes was born February 1881 in Chicago, Ill. and was the sister of Margaret Hughes, who married Fred Richard in 1909. Ned and Mary were married January 20, 1910 at the home of Fred Richard. The couple’s first son Nedward Mahlon was born around 1911. He was followed by Richard J. about 1918 and Jessie W. circa 1921. Ned passed away Nov. 19, 1957 after several months of ill health. He was considered by many to be the foremost big-game hunter of his time.
See my Frost & Richard Camping Co. web page for additional information.
Left: Nedward W, Frost [1915 Frost & Richard Camping Co. brochure]
Right: Ned Frost Prince Albert of Monaco on a bear hunt in September 1913. [Buffalo Bill History Center, Jack Richard Collection]
Announcement of new Frost Curio store in the Irma Hotel, 1920.
[Northern Wyoming Herald, 14Apr1920]
Ned Frost began operating a Curio Shop in the lobby of the Irma Hotel in March 1920. The Park County Enterprise reported on March 3 that, “The room at the Irma Hotel, formerly used as a sample room, has been leased to Ned Front for the period of one year from March 1 and will be fitted up as a curio shop, to be conducted by Mr. Frost.” In the spring of 1921, Frost enlarged his shop at the Irma by extending a wall out 12’ toward the sidewalk. The shop was only open during the tourist season, closing for the winters.
Comparison of the Irma Hotel before and after the expansion of the Frost Curio Shop in 1923. Note addition at arrow on right. A sign for the Irma Cafe hangs above the old cars at right.
[From Real-Photo postcards, author's collection]
Ned Frost Curion Store at Irma Hotel closing for season.
[Cody Enterprise, 26Sep1923]
He constructed his Frost Curio Shop on Main Street across from the Irma Hotel in 1927 in time to be ready to open for the summer season, usually around 19-20h of June. The store was operated in conjunction with the curio shop and specimen room established by his wife Mary in 1916 at the Burlington Cody Inn. In 1946 son Richard Frost retired from the Army and took over management of the business.
NED FROST COMPLETING CURIO SHOP AT DEPOT
Ned Frost has almost completed the construction of a new curio shop which is to be located to the west of the road and south of the tracks at the Burlington station, and soon will have the new structure In readiness for the summer tourist trade. Mr. Frost plans to operate the place in conjunction with hls curio and souvenir room in the lobby of the Cody Inn and will have on sale soft drinks, sporting goods such as there Is demand for from the rail tourists and other necessities for which there Is a demand at the depot.
[ Cody Enterprise, 25May1927]
Top: 1932 ad for the Frost Curio Shop.
[Casper Star Tribune, 13Mar1932]
Left: Frost Curio Shop as it appeared in 1952
Right: Interior of the Frost Curio Shop, 1950s. [Buffalo Bill Historic Center]
This cave high upon Cedar Mountain (now called Spirit Mountain), was discovered by Ned frost and his pack of hunting dogs while chasing mountain lions in January 1909. The dogs spotted a bobcat and chased it to a small opening in the mountain. Ned thought it just a bobcat lair, but soon after entering, realized it was a cave. In one of his reminisces, he reflected that,
“I didn’t smoke in those days and I had only a few matches I kept striking them as I followed the barking dogs but when I got down to three matches, I stopped to get my bearings and I couldn't see the daylight through the entrance any longer and I was in black darkness. I guess I never felt so lonely or lost before or since. But I found an old letter in my vest pocket, tore it into strips and twisted them into quills and back-tracked. I noticed the beauty of the cave in the small light made by my light—it looked like something in a huge block of ice—with frost glistening everywhere. On a later trip I found the “frost" was the stalactites and stalagmites formed by the lime from the old extinct geysers."
A few weeks later Ned, along with Will Richards, and 10-12 other men went back in to explore the cave. They carried ropes, lanterns, lamps, candles and other necessities, and spent over 5 hours in the cave and figured they explored several miles worth. Later that year President Taft issued a proclamation on September 21, creating the Shoshone Cavern National Monument, the 2nd national monument in Wyo. Locally, it was mostly referred to as Frost Cave. On May 17, 1954, after years of lobbying by Cody officials, the federal government delisted the monument and turned it over to the City of Cody. The cave was renamed Spirit Mountain Caverns.
Top: Caving party in 1909. At center is Buffalo Bill, to his right is Ned Frost, with perhaps his wife. [Wyoming State Archives]
Right: Grand opening of Spirit Caverns, September 16, 1957.
On Sept. 16, 1957, after jurisdiction was turned over to local control, the cave was officially opened as Spirit Cave, with a grand opening ceremony. Claud Brown leased the cave and operated tours for about a decade, but never invested enough money to make it successful. The cave was abandoned in the late ‘60s and another lease was issued in the early ‘70s to develop the area, but little happened. In Sept. 1977, the site was turned back over to the Federal government and is currently under jurisdiction of the BLM. The entrance to cave is locked and permits required for entry.
Cody Street Scenes through the Years
Top: Aerial view of Cody ca1904.
Right: Aerial View of Cody ca191. [Postcard H.H. Tammen #8070]
Top: Main Street, Looking West, Cody, Wyoming
[H.H. Tammen #11095, undivided back]
Bottom: Main Business Street - Cody, Wyo., Ca1930s, F.J. Hiscock Real-Photo postcard
Top: 1224 - Main Street and Business District, Cody, Wyo.
Buffalo Bill's Old Home Town, Rattlesnake Mountain in the Background, circa late 1940s.
[Sanborn PC #1224
Top: Main St., Cody, ca1920s. Real Photo postcard.
Bottom: Cody, Wyo., Main street, ca1940s,
F.J. Hiscock Real-Photo PC.
Top: Main Street, Cody, circa early 1950s
[Sanborn PC #65916]
Dam Brought Boom . . . [and Pleasure Palaces]
Selected Early Saloons and Dens of Iniquity
Poker Nell & Blue Chip Kate
From the Billings Gazette, May 22, 1938
It was during the "growing period" of the west that the old saloon [Cody Exchange] was built. However, Cody's first hey-day came during the construction of the Shoshone dam in 1907 and it was then that Poker Nell entered the scene. Mrs. Katherine Primm, dubbed "Blue Chip Katie" by the boys who tried to "take" her in faro, founded one of the town's first establishments of pleasure in the old building. She and her husband, Ben, for a time had a virtual monopoly on the local custom in liquor, gambling and license until another woman muscled in with a similar establishment directly across the street.
The latter is remembered only as Poker Nell. Through the years, her fame has lived in the minds of the region's old timers for her ability to keep up a vociferous, cross-street argument with her competitor. During the wild boom years at the opening of the century there was plenty of business for both houses. However, when things were dull, Poker Nell and Blue Chip Katie would pass unpleasantrles back and forth across the street to while away the hours. Men who worked on the dam still remember the "acid*’ of their comments and tell of richly increased vocabularies after listening to the women exchange amenities. However, Nell and Katie never finished their debate and it became only a memory when the town continued to grow with the subsequent invasion of a dozen more saloons.
Cody Enterprise, 20Jun1901
Poker Nell, who name may have been Nell Chadwick, in her days before Cody, had tramped around the state, plying her proficiency at poker, and perhaps other talents. One time in Casper she attended a party at which she met a young dentist by the name of Will Frackelton, who also enjoyed a good round of cards. The next day, Nell approached him and commented, “You sure put it over high, wide and handsome last night and dealt them a hand from all over the deck.” Smiling, she became more serious, “Now let’s get down to what I want done.” In her extended hand were two perfectly matched diamond rings, perhaps a half-carat each. “She asked eagerly: Will set these in my front teeth? . . . I can afford it. I took the boys to the cleaners these past few nights.” After a bit of ethical pondering, the dentist agreed to the job, noting it would probably invoke a good deal of pain. Shrugging it off, Nell responded, “You know what I want, Doc. Go to it.” It was a tedious process, involving replacing the teeth with porcelain-faced crowns with gold foil backing. But the process was successful and Nell went back to her work sporting a dazzling set of choppers, impressing both the women and men folk.
[From, “Sagebrush Dentist,” as told by Wm. Frackelton to author Herman Gastrell Seely]
Unfortunately, Poker Nell’s time in Cody was limited, as newspapers in September of 1908 sadly not that had been to the asylum for the hopelessly insane. The praised her qualities, “A a woman naturally possessed of a bright intellect, well educated and vivacious, a charming conversationalist, her path on the border land led to an unhappy ending.” Nell was eventually released and some sources have said she changed her ways and ran a Ladies Emporium in Cody. She was a partner to and eventually married Harry Bruce, and they may have worked the Last Chance Saloon. Her demise is as yet unknown.
The Cody Exchange and Saloon
Ben Primm and his wife Katherine (1857-1932), or Katie, established this saloon and gambling house sometime in the late 1890s. A 1938 Billings newspaper article dubbed it, “one of town’s first establishments of pleasure.” It seems Ben ran the saloon and pool room, while “Blue Chip Katie” ran the gambling and faro tables. Ben Primm died in December 1904 and Katherine in 1932. The state of Wyoming officially outlawed gambling in 1901, although in the smaller and more remote towns the practice continued for years. In 1906 Mayor Schwoob cracked down on gambling in Cody and 12-15 persons were charged with violations. Katie’s business must have greatly suffered, but the saloon continued to operate until at least 1913. At some point after that, the building was rehabilitated and remodeled under the direction of Mrs. Wm. F. Cody to establish an opera house for the culturally needy. “But the town didn't take to culture. Mrs. Cody’s well-meant plans could overcome the wind but they couldn't overcome the preference of customers who chose to find their entertainment in Cody's 14 saloons,” commented a 1938 news article in the Billings Gazette. A gas station later replaced the opera house and the buildings finally torn down in 1938.
Left: Saloon Hold-Up article
[Great Falls Tribune, Mt., 23Dec1902]
Right: Cody Exchange Saloon, Ben Primm Propr., 1903
Cassie came to Cody with her father Joe Welsh after they settled in Otto. In 1907 Cassie married an engineer on the dam project. When her husband died, Cassie started a “Ladies of the Night” house on Salsbury Street. She obtained liquor licenses to operate as a saloon, but with “extras” on the side. Her “house” was generally known as Cassie’s Place, and at various times she used several different last names, including, Waters, LaFay, McGhan and Stevens.
On Nov. 27, 1911, young Art Spicer, a local cowboy came into Cassie's and claimed to have been drugged by two men and his bankroll of $110 stolen. After his discovery, he blamed the women in the saloon and drew his revolver and started firing at Cassie, missing her head by a mere 4 inches. Another women also had a close escape. An officer arrived around 1:30am and arrested Spicer and took him off to jail. The young man broke loose and ran, but the deputy stopped him with a bullet in the calf. He was later fined $5 and $3 in costs for firing a weapon in a house within city limits, and warned against getting into trouble again.
After a fight broke out in her saloon in December of 1916, she was charged with operating a house of ill-fame,” and a number of her ‘girls” were accused of frequenting a house of prostitution. Cassie was soon after acquitted of the charges due to testimony by the local marshal and sheriff.
n the early 1930’s, Cassie and another madam, Ida, were asked by the city to close their establishments. Cassie decided to move to the West Strip and in 1933 Cassie’s Supper Club was open. It was a very popular night club with dancing, liquor and later on, food was served. A bourbon and water sold for 50 cents a glass. Cassie did the color scheme in orchid after her daughter “Orchid”. Cassie died in April 1954. In 1955, the Nelsons took over Cassie’s. Cassie was remembered by close friends as a lovely lady who always helped people who needed a helping hand. Cassie's continues to remain in operation to this day.
Left: "Fight Ends in Arrest of Soiled Doves." [Northern Wyoming Herald, 7Dev1916]
Left: Ad for Cassie's Supper Club
[Billings Gazette, 19Mar1997]
Right: Undated photo of Cassie's with a Yellowstone White Motor Co. Model 706 bus in front.
Etta Feeley, born Alice Edwards in Black Hawk Co., Iowa, January 31, 1871 (per Find-a-Grave) came to the Cody area around 1902. She had previously plied her female trade in Denver and Billings. She opened her house that became known as the "White House on Bleinstein Ave., between 15th & 16th streets. Reportedly, the Cody Enterprise printed a gracious invitation in 1902 to the men of Cody, "You are respectfully invited to attend the opening of my new residence at Cody, Wyoming, November 1, 1902, Miss Etta Feeley." Not long after, the "Green House" opened next door sporting Cassie Waters as the Madam. The street would become known locally as "Crimson Way." Both houses operated until sometime in the 1930s, although Etta had retired previous to those times and moved to Clark, Wyo. She later took on the nom de guerre of Alice Leach, the name Leach taken from former husband Thomas Leach. She passed away Aug. 13, 1960 at age 90 in the Cody Hospital, and was buried in Cody's Riverside Cemetery.
The beginning of the Cody Stampede tradition is said to have started with Clarence Williams of Cody in 1919. The events occurred June 22-25 and were originally designed as a celebration for the opening of the East entrance of Yellowstone Park and a remembrance of Buffalo Bill Cody and the passing of the Wild West. No doubt it also served as a victory celebration of sorts for the end of WWI and a return to normal life. There were rodeo events, music, dances, games, parades and other such activities to amuse the public. No doubt the esteemed John Barleycorn was also in attendance to help liven things up.
Bottom: Old car advertising the Cody Stampede, ca1920s.
Right: Advertisement for the 2nd year of operation of the Cody Stampede.
[Park County Enterprise, 23Jun1920]
The following year the phrase “Stampede Days” was used to describe the celebratory events. Miss Carolyn Lockhart, publisher of the Cody Enterprise, was quoted, "that they will put the "Stamp" in Stampede or bust something." A Wild West show was also promised that was hoped to rival those in the Pendleton Oregon and Cheyenne, Wyo. events. It was planned to coincide with the 4th of July holiday - July 5-7, 1920. Featured events included rodeo events for men and women, parades, and the other traditional activities, including bar-hopping. In 1921 the events were held July 4-6, and the slogan adopted by the stampede committee was, "We'll Put ’Er On Wild." "And In their efforts to live up to this promise they turned the town loose and she was a wild time for all."
Top Left: Mrs. Altuff Wins Cowgirl Race, Cody Stampede, ca1925.
[Doubleday Real-Photo PC]
Top Right: Roman Standing Race Cody Stampede, ca1925.
[Doubleday Real-Photo PC]
In 1938 Carly Downing, a Wild West show performer, reportedly started the Cody Nite Rodeo, or "Pup" rodeo, as it was called then. The Nite Rodeo quickly became an important part of the Stampede and the Cody community and has continued on a nightly basis during the tourist season. Over 100 years have passed now, and the events continue to thrive and thrill audiences and participants alike.
Right: Cody Stampede Rodeo at Cody Fairgrounds, 1935. Parade celebrating the "Days of '49"
[Buffalo Bill Historic Center, PN3161617]
It’s winter in Wyoming
And the gentle breezes blow
Seventy miles an hour
At thirty-five below.
Oh, how I love Wyoming
When the snow’s up to your butt
You take a breath of winter
And your nose gets frozen shut.
Yes, the weather here is wonderful
So I guess I’ll hang around
I could never leave Wyoming
I’m frozen to the ground!