Cody History

The town of Cody was founded in 1896 by a group of business men/investors headed by William F. “Buffalo Bill” Cody. While visiting Sheridan, Wyoming, in 1894, Cody’s son-in-law Horace Boal gave him a close look at this area from the top of the Big Horn Mountains which are located on the eastern side of the Basin, and asked him to join a group of Sheridan businessmen were already interested in founding town here.  Buffalo Bill saw the beauty of the region, its proximity to Yellowstone National Park, which was already attracting tourists, the abundance of game and fish, and the available land for ranching and farming. The only major thing missing was sufficient water to enable ranchers and farmers to make a living as this is high desert country. The Shoshone River did run through the area, however, which meant there was potential for bringing more water to the land. By 1895, the Shoshone Land and Irrigation Company was formed made up of George T. Beck, William F. Cody, Nate Salsbury, Harry Gerrans, Bronson Rumsey, Horace Alger, and George Bleistein. That year an initial town site was laid out near DeMaris Hot Springs, a mile west of present-day Cody. Beck did not like the location or the fact that a great deal of the land was already owned by Charles DeMaris, for whom the Hot Springs are named, and began looking at other possibilities to the east. With that in mind, in the fall of 1895 work began on building the Cody Canal which would carry water from the Southfork of the Shoshone River east to the town. In May, 1896 Beck and surveyor Charles Hayden laid out the town at its present location.

The Colonel, as the townspeople usually referred to him in those early years, invested a great deal of money in the birth of the town. George Beck was the town founder who lived here and oversaw its ups and downs. The Burlington railroad, headquartered in Lincoln, Nebraska, was interested in building a spur line to Cody from Toluca, Montana, which was on the line running from Billings, Montana, to southern Wyoming. In order to make sure that the Cody did become the terminus of the line, the Shoshone Land and Irrigation Company sold the majority of the town lots to the railroad company, and dropped the “Land” from their company name. An attempt at publishing a newspaper was made in 1896 called the Shoshone Valley News, but it only lasted a short while. The first edition of the Cody Enterprise was published in 1899 and is still publishing today. The town of Cody was incorporated in 1901, the same year that the Chicago, Burlington. & Quincy railroad arrived on the north side of the river. In 1909, Park County was separated from Big Horn County by the Wyoming State Legislature and Cody was named the county seat.