The museum focuses on the history of the following areas: the town of Cody, the Southfork, the Northfork, and Sunlight-Crandall. We start before the town was founded with the pre-history of the area and continue up to 1960.
Construction of the Cody Canal began in October of 1895 from the Southfork branch of the Shoshone River. It was financed by the Shoshone Land and Irrigation Company in the beginning. Members of the board of directors contributed their own money and William F. “Buffalo Bill” Cody contributed money from his Wild West show profits for awhile when he had profits! He also raised money from philanthropist friends of his including Phoebe Hearst, mother of William Randolph Hearst, the newspaper publisher. It literally was built by hand with horse and plow help. One tool used was a Fresno, a type of
scoop that the horses pulled and cleared the dirt.
Hay, alfalfa, and sugar beets on a large scale for sale but ranchers and farmers also grew various vegetables for their family's own consumption.
Yes, they raised their own vegetables but also had milk cows, regular cows, chickens for both eggs and meat, pigs, etc. Trips to the town happened only once or twice a year for those living out the Southfork, especially. They purchased manufactured items that they couldn't grow or make themselves such as tools, oil, dishes, etc., even perhaps wallpaper or small items for the house.
Buffalo Bill really didn't bring settlers with him. And, there were families here before he first saw this area in 1894. For instance, the Frost family came from Minnesota in 1886. This area was originally Crow treaty land so whites weren't allowed to settle here until after the Treaty of Laramie in 1868 – and actually didn't start arriving here till the late 1870s. BB's son-in-law Horton Boal managed the Sheridan Inn and he told BB about this area. A group of investors formed the Shoshone Land and Irrigation Company including some from Sheridan including George Beck. They spread the word in the Sheridan so some residents decided to relocate here. Many people came from the mid-West especially Illinois and Iowa.
Buffalo Bill advertised with the slogan “Big Horn Basin or Bust” in various WW show publications, on the canvas sides of the wagons used in the show, and in newspapers in the towns where the show performed. His PR person was Major John Burke who made sure that the towns and their press knew that the Buffalo Bill's Wild West was going to appear in their town in several weeks. Advance men travelled ahead of the show with both large and small posters which they put up wherever they could. A group of German settlers did come here from Chicago as a result of seeing the show and ads in the programs and settled in the Marquette area. However, their first year was too cold for them – and perhaps the living was too hard – so they only lasted one year. One family – the Vogel family – did stay and Joe Vogel opened a furniture business on Sheridan Ave. He was also the undertaker.
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