I can’t tell you the times I’ve passed exit 256 and looked up, yet never taking the time to do so. Finally, on a recent road trip, time was on my side.
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Finding Buffalo Bill’s Burial Site
Unlike many scenic overlooks, this one is not immediately off of the interstate. You wind your way through a residential area and then pastureland for almost ten miles before you reach Lookout Mountain. There you find a visitor center and the grave of Buffalo Bill Cody.
And that’s what I was most interested in — seeing where the legendary Pony Express rider, Army scout, and world-renowned entertainer was buried.
In the chapter about Buffalo Bill in my book, The Myths and Legends of Kansas, I wrote:
From the 1880s through the first two decades of Twentieth Century, William Frederick Cody was the most famous entertainer in North America and perhaps the world. Better known as Buffalo Bill Cody, he was the Brad Pitt, George Clooney and Johnny Depp of his time, all rolled into one and then some.
His Wild West shows visited 13 countries and the 48 contiguous states on multiple occasions. He performed for and became friends with presidents, kings and world leaders, including Pope Leo XIII. He was the subject of dime novels, comics, songs and both silent and talkie movies. Buffalo Bill was the embodiment of the spirit of the American West, of the independence, self-sufficiency and grandeur that appealed to those around the world who dreamed of America.
Visiting Buffalo Bill Cody’s Grave Site
As I walked to his grave, I encountered two young men speaking German. A nearby family spoke a language I didn’t readily recognize, reinforcing that Buffalo Bill can still draw an international crowd more than 100 years after his death.
And that’s what the leaders of Denver were banking on.
Buffalo Bill died in 1917 while visiting his sister in Denver. It was expected that his body to be sent to Cody Wyoming, the town he founded and where he lived.
However, the Denver Post newspaper and the city of Denver paid a combined $20,000 to his widow, Louisa, to bury him in Denver. They hoped that his grave would become a tourist attraction.
Yes, it appears, a century later, the people of Denver are still getting their money’s worth.
Is Buffalo Bill Really Buried in Denver?
But like all stories about folk heroes, it’s not necessarily that simple. If you talk to the people in Cody Wyoming, they’ll tell you a story about close person friends of Bill’s who took a horse and wagon to Denver.
It is said those friends broke into the morgue the night before he was buried, stole Bill’s body and whisked him off to Wyoming.
There, they say, he lies at rest in an unmarked grave on a mountainside where the great entertainer can forever gaze upon the wild west that he so loved.
The people of Denver aren’t buying it.