Our Historical Markers across Nebraska highlight fascinating moments and places in our state’s past. Today we focus on Scouts Rest in North Platte, originally built as a getaway for Buffalo Bill Cody.
Scouts Rest Ranch Rd, North Platte, Lincoln County, Nebraska
William Frederick Cody (1846-1917), known to the world a “Buffalo Bill,” was the most noted Nebraskan of his day. The Many national and European tours of his various “Wild West” exhibitions made him the living symbol of the American West. Cody came to Nebraska in 1869 as guide and scout for the 5th Cavalry at nearby Fort McPherson. He also served as guide for the wealthy and famous on buffalo hunts. Buffalo Bill first went on the stage in 1872, and he formed his first “Wild West” in 1883. He was also involved in ranching and farming, and he was a pioneer in the development of irrigation in both Nebraska and Wyoming. Scout’s Rest was built for Buffalo Bill in 1886 as a place to relax between show tours. Here he entertained in elaborate style his famous contemporaries as well as his old friends of frontier days. Scout’s Rest was named to the National Register of Historic Places on January 30, 1978. The house is in Second Empire style with Italianate and Eastlake features; it cost $3,900. The rear addition was added in 1909.
William F. Cody’s Early Life
William F. Cody was born on a farm in Scott County, Iowa on February 26, 1846, the son of Isaac and Mary Cody. The family moved to Kansas where the father died in 1857. William found work at the age of eleven on freighting outfits and later was employed by Russell, Majors, and Waddell as a mounted messenger. In April of 1860 he is said to have been hired as a rider on the Pony Express. In 1863 he served as a scout with the 9th Kansas Cavalry in operations against the Kiowas and Comanches. The next year he served as a scout for General A.J. Smith in Tennessee. Cody was married to Louisa Frederick in St. Louis in 1866. He earned his nickname “Buffalo Bill” in 1867 while he was engaged in hunting buffalo to supply meat for Kansas Pacific R.R. construction crews. For the next four years he served as a scout for the Army.
Cody’s Wild West Show
Edward Judson, writing as Ned Buntline, popularized Cody as a central figure in his western themed fictional novels. In 1872 Judson wrote a play, Scouts of the Prairies, which Cody produced, and played the lead role, introducing Cody to the entertainment business.
The first public performance of William F. “Buffalo Bill” Cody’s Wild West show was May 19, 1883, in Omaha. A dress rehearsal had taken place May 10 in Columbus, Nebraska. Several residents of Sidney, however, enjoyed an even earlier preview of a few of the show’s attractions. Sidney Plaindealer-Telegraph editor J. C. Bush reported in the May 3, 1883 issue an excursion to North Platte, which included a May 1 visit to Buffalo Bill’s ranch:
“In the afternoon in company with Mr. [James] McNulty and Hon. W. F. Cody we visited the germ of the great show which is to spring into existence the latter part of this month at Omaha and which will sweep all before it when once fairly started. . . . On a piece of level meadow land was pitched the tents for the men while the buffalo and a large number of horses were grazing in an adjoining pasture. A number of elk were expected in a day or two and men were engaged purchasing the most famous bucking horses that Nebraska afforded. ‘Buck’ Taylor, who is to be one of the star riders of the combination, gave an exhibition on a wall-eyed calico horse that would astonish the effeminate easterners, and if he lives long enough the performance will be repeated for their benefit during the summer. Another wing of the show is getting under way at Omaha, where the Indians will join it, and about the 17th of the present month the western Nebraska wonder will give its opening exhibition at the state’s metropolis.”
Of course, the Omaha performance of Cody’s show was a resounding success, and The Wild West went on to become renowned around the world as Nebraska’s unique contribution to entertainment. Cody died in Denver, Colorado, on January 10, 1917 and is buried on Lookout Mountain overlooking that city.