Sheridan Inn Remains Connected To Buffalo Bill

Wayne Baumann of Sheridan helps keep the Buffalo Bill legacy alive. He's shown here, at left, with the inn's new owner, Bob Townsend. (Photo by Leslie Stratmoen)

The legendary showman, Buffalo Bill Cody, who's tied to Sheridan through the historic Sheridan Inn, first saw the town in 1876, when he came through with General Crook's army, and they camped at the confluence of the Big and Little Goose creeks.

Seventeen years later, Sheridan had become the county seat, the railroad had arrived, and the Sheridan Inn was built to serve passengers arriving on the trains.

“Reflections of the Inn,” a book recounting the inn's long history, states that Cody was a part owner of the inn for several years. The W.F. Cody Hotel Co. was incorporated in May of 1894, and purchased the entire inventory of the inn from George and Lucy Canfield for $12,000.

Cody owned one-third of the hotel company's stock. A separate business, the W.F. Cody Transportation Co., was established a month later, in June. The transportation company worked in association with the inn and George Canfield managed both. At that time the transportation company was known for its fine thoroughbred horses.

There is some question whether Buffalo Bill led the grand march that officially opened the inn in June 1893, but it is known that Cody brought his entire family to the inn for the first time the following year, on April 9, 1894. They occupied rooms 36, 37, 38 and 39 of the south wing on the second floor.

History records that from the mid to late 1890s, Cody was a frequent guest at the inn, along with many of the performers in his Wild West Show. While in town, Cody auditioned local talent for his show, reportedly bringing in some of the rankest broncs available to test the mettle of would-be riders.

While Cody sat on the inn's wide veranda, it's been said, the local cowboys would demonstrate their riding skills. An employee of the inn, back in those days, once told an interviewer that if a cowboy managed to control the horse well enough to ride it through the inn's doors and into the bar, the feat earned drinks all around, compliments of Buffalo Bill.

Cody planned his namesake town on the western side of the Big Horn Mountains in the Sheridan Inn's bar. The town of Cody and the Shoshoni Land & Irrigation Co. incorporated on March 20, 1895 were a joint business venture of Cody and Sheridan businessmen George T. Beck and Horace C. Alger.

A less pleasant memory for Cody was the suicide of his son-in-law, Horton S. Boal, at the inn. Boal, husband of Cody's daughter Arta, ranched on Pass Creek. According to Atkins, feelings between the two men were less than familial, and Boal resented being referred to as Cody's son-in-law.

Boal was found dead in his room on Oct. 27, 1902, apparently of chloroform, which he had placed in a shoe. The note Boal left behind stated he had chosen that method of death because the only gun available belonged to his wife. He was 40 years old. He left instructions that his favorite horse be killed over his grave, but local authorities prevented that.

Cody visited Sheridan around 1904, then did not return until August 1914. By then, Cody's Wild West Show had passed into history. His return to Sheridan was in connection with the Sells-Floto Circus in which he had a small financial interest. After the circus performance, Cody led a parade on Main Street.

Cody died on Jan. 10, 1917. His funeral was at the Denver Elks Lodge Hall. Then-Wyoming Gov. John B. Kendrick, a friend of Cody's and a prominent Sheridan businessman who would later be elected to the U.S. Senate led the funeral procession to the Elks Lodge. There, a quartet sang Cody's favorite song, “Tenting Tonight on the Old Camp Ground.”