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When William "Buffalo Bill" Cody Came to Our Towns

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Kendall Davis is well-versed in the English language. She has 20 years experience as a published author and writing for clients. Her published works include historical articles in museums, magazines, newspaper articles, columns, content marketing, advertising copy, blogging, and academic papers. Kendall also makes her way in the literary world as a copyeditor. Writing about history is her first love interest. If you have editing or content needs on your website or for your books, articles, blogs, or columns, please visit her website to see details and more examples of her work, the services she offers, and contact information.

The first time our region of the Red River witnessed the exciting Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show was on October 9, 1900, in Denison, and the last on December 9, 1914, in Durant. William Frederick Cody, a.k.a. Buffalo Bill, booked his productions in our region a total of nine times in 14 years. Although Cody’s colorful shows did not bring out the crowds that Teddy Roosevelt commanded, 16 of Teddy’s Rough Riders joined Buffalo Bill’s show in 1900.


General William T. Sherman: “Wonderfully realistic and historically reminiscent.”

Mark Twain: “Genuine …down to its smallest details.”

What Was It About Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show?

Elizabeth Bacon Custer, Gen. Custer’s wife, gave Cody her endorsement for his show’s rendition of Custer’s Last Stand at the Battle of Little Big Horn where Chief Sitting Bull emerged as the victor. What kept the people in present-day Texomaland, 48 other states and Canada, plus 12 European countries so hungry to attend Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Shows?

First, Major John M. “Arizona John” Burke, who was not a major and did not hail from Arizona, strolled into a town. The major arrived hawking a pitch full of legendry and a gave out a daily escalation of tantalizing descriptions of exhibitions in Cody’s shows for newspaper reporters. One reporter described the major as a: “ …hot air and kind words dispenser”. When Cody’s troupe arrived and set up his huge production with 500 staff members and performers, people lined up to buy tickets.

Buffalo Bill’s actors and exhibitions changed from year to year, but Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Shows always brought down the house. If we had been alive in 1900 in Texomaland, we would have seen trick horseback riders, sharpshooters, Indian and cowboy exhibitions, dramatic storytellers, pony express demonstrations, stagecoach robberies, and reenactments of battles between the U.S. and Native Americans. Texomaland would have watched a reenactment of Roosevelt and his Rough Riders taking San Juan Hill.

Buffalo Bill Was Politically Correct

William Cody can stand tall in memorandum as one of America’s first employers to embody today’s Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s Equal Protection Clause.

While the North dealt with the Industrial Revolution and its labor problems, Buffalo Bill treated the Native American performers the same as his other talent. They could bring their families on tour and earned much more than any people living on reservations. Cody promoted their native languages and rituals and introduced them to economic leaders and politicians. Even so, Cody typified them with war bonnets and warrior costumes for the battle exhibitions. Texomans would have seen a Battle of Little Big Horn reenactment.

Cody gave his female performers the same treatment. By 1890, his show programmes listed them as “rancheras" and "cowgirls”. Annie Oakley, her husband Frank Butler, Lillian Smith, and May Lillie performed as sharpshooters. Annie Oakley joined Cody in 1885 and left in 1902. We surely would have been able to see Annie in a couple of Cody’s shows in Texomaland. But, we would not have seen Calamity Jane as a storyteller in 1893.

Cody showcased the Buffalo Soldiers of the 9th and 10th U.S. Cavalry regiments. His musical orchestras were integrated. By the late 1890s, Cody’s traveling extravaganzas toured with 25 cowboys, 12 cowgirls, and 100 Native American men, women, and children. Cody gave his crew three hot meals a day cooked on 20-foot ranges. The crew stayed in wall tents or slept in railroad sleeping cars. Historical records show that Cody’s expenses could reach $4,000 per day. 

Chief A Buffalo Bull Who Sits Down

In 1885, Chief Sitting Bull joined Buffalo Bill’s traveling show. Texomans would not have had the pleasure of seeing Sitting Bull because Indian Police killed the Lakota Sioux leader on December 15, 1890.

There were five Sitting Bulls, but those are the English translations. The Sitting Bull of Little Big Horn fame was named Tatanka Lyotake. Tatanka is a buffalo bull, and Lyotake means the bull is starting to sit down. In other words, the bull is not sitting, his back legs are still standing, and the bull is at an angle. U.S. census takers plundered the Native American languages. Instead of writing “A Buffalo Bull Who Sits Down” they wrote “Sitting Bull”. (z) 20:41-23:00

Quotes: William Cody Predicts into the 20th Century

“The greatest of all the Sioux in my time, or in any time for that matter, was that wonderful old fighting man, Sitting Bull, whose life will some day be written by a historian who can really give him his due.”

“Every Indian outbreak that I have ever known has resulted from broken promises and broken treaties by the government.”

“You who live in the cities or among peaceful ways cannot always tell when your friends are the kind that will go through fire for you. But on the Plains, one’s friends have the opportunity to prove their mettle.”

On January 10, 1917, Buffalo Bill Cody died at his sister’s home in Denver. He is buried on Lookout Mountain which overlooks his beloved Plains. Cody died bankrupt because he was not a competent businessman, but I do not think that mattered to him one little bit!

One of the puzzling incongruities that I contemplated while researching this article is that our region was still making some of the histories that epitomized the Wild, Wild, West in 1900. Texas and Indian Territory/Oklahoma were not too civilized until the 1920s. Cody’s show was a paragon of theatrical excellence that impressed the people of Texas and Indian Nation.

I constructed timelines from several sources about the events that led Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show to tour Texas and Indian Territory/Oklahoma. There were many traveling “Wild West” troupes, but Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show received the best historical preservation. Please note that the timelines here are extremely condensed, and you can find further information in the sources section.

Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show Tour Schedule in Texomaland

          Gainsville:    Denison:    Sherman:    Denton:    Durant:    Ardmore:
1900   Oct. 9                            Oct. 15
1902   Oct. 9          Oct. 13
1908                                        Oct. 31
1910                                        Nov. 13-14
1914    Oct. 7         Oct, 8                           Oct. 10     Dec. 9     Oct. 6

Short Timeline of William Cody's Life and Events

1867: Cody becomes known as "Buffalo Bill" while working for the railroads in Kansas to provide buffalo meat for the workers. Cody claims that he killed 4,280 buffalo during his 18 months of employment.

1872: Cody launches his stage career by playing himself in a melodrama of frontier life called Scouts of the Prairie for 11 seasons. He also produces the Buffalo Bill Combination, a traveling theatrical troupe with Wild Bill Hickok and Texas Jack Omohundro.

1876: Sitting Bull defeats Custer’s 7th Cavalry at the Battle of the Little Big Horn. 

1879: Cody publishes his autobiography, The Life of Hon. William F. Cody, Known as Buffalo Bill, the Famous Hunter, Scout and Guide: An Autobiography.

1883: Sitting Bull rides in the last buffalo hunt of the Lakota Sioux. The buffalo in the northwest U.S. are almost extinct.

Cody produces first Wild West exhibition in Omaha, Nebraska, billed as The Wild West, Hon. W.F. Cody and Dr. W.F. Carver's Rocky Mountain and Prairie Exhibition.

1884 - 1908: Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show

1885: Lakota Sioux Chief Sitting Bull toured with Cody's show for four months in 1885, and since then, Cody and the chief created a strange friendship.

1887: Adam Forepaugh began his Wild West tour. Forepaugh is thought to be the first producer to stage a reenactment of Custer’s Last Fight.

1888: Buffalo Bill hesitated to stage a reenactment of Custer’s Last Stand because of General Custer’s widow, Elizabeth. She attended his show in 1888 and wrote to him with heartfelt appreciation. Elizabeth described the show as “terrible” realism. The Last Stand became a permanent feature in Cody’s and other shows. Participants on both sides of that battle actually performed in those shows.

1890: On November 24, 1890, Cody received a telegram from U.S. Army Gen. Nelson Miles asking Cody to go immediately to the Standing Rock reservation in Dakota Territory to capture Sitting Bull.

Dec. 15, 1890: Indian Police kill Sitting Bull at the Standing Rock Reservation. Sitting Bull had heard that Cody was on his way. Army contingents kept Cody drunk, and he did not make it to see Sitting Bull in time. Legend has it that Cody gave Sitting Bull a horse that performed in his shows. Sitting Bull had tethered that horse outside his cabin. When the shooting began, that horse, trained to perform to gunshots, began to dance as the assassination of the Lakota Sioux chief began.

1893: At the World’s Fair in Chicago, six million people attended Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show.

1900: Sixteen of Roosevelt’s Rough Riders join Cody and feature a reenactment of the taking of San Juan Hill.

1909-1913: Cody was broke and established Buffalo Bill’s Wild West and Pawnee Bill’s Far East tours.

1914-1915: Cody sells Floto Circus and Buffalo Bill’s Wild West.*


* This article is amalgamated from several sources; it was disrupting to note them at every sentence.




3. Stillman, Diane. Blood Brothers: The Story of the Strange Friendship Between Sitting Bull and Buffalo Bill. Simon & Schuster, 2017.




z. 20:41-23:00


1. William Cody, age 19.

2. Buffalo Bill, 1880.

3. Buffalo Bill, Chief Buffalo Bull Who Sits Down, cast members.

4. Wild Bill Hickok, Texas Jack Omohundro, and Buffalo Bill Cody, 1870

5. Promo Poster Ca. 1900

6. Annie Oakley Promo Poster

7. Indian Promo Poster

8. Buffalo Bill’s Ticket Wagon

9. Juti Winchester, curator of the Buffalo Bill Museum in Cody, Wyoming speaks during a news conference

10. Cody’s Grave: His marker says: WILLIAM FREDERICK CODY, “BUFFALO BILL”, 1846-1917, LOUISA MAUD CODY, 1844-1921, AT REST HERE BY HIS REQUEST 



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