Charles DeMaris, an Important Man in Cody’s History
Article by Marylin Schultz
Cody Heritage Museum
Charles DeMaris was a successful cattleman in Montana until the winter of 1886. That was a disastrous season of frigid temperatures and snow storms that caused the cattle losses to be estimated at 85%! In April of that year, DeMaris decided to venture south to look over Cody country. He brought with him two men, a cook and a doctor.
DeMaris had already heard of the medicinal properties of the Stinking Water Springs, and, as his health was not so good, he camped there with two covered wagons. After a few weeks of “taking the waters,” his health improved so much, he decided to settle there. In 1895, Charles bought 160 acres of land which included three hot springs.
The Crow Indians had, for many years, been frequent visitors to the Stinking Waters, (so called because of the strong sulphur fumes.) We’ve learned that in 1860, the tribe had established a permanent camp for the sick, and that they welcomed members of other tribes, although there was a strict policy of “checking all weapons at the door,” so to speak! Don’t know when the white man changed the name to the Shoshone River, probably Cody’s first Chamber of Commerce, or maybe the Park County Travel Council was already busy trying to enhance the image of the place!
Ten years passed, and in 1896, a contractor named Jerry Ryan traveled over the Big Horn Mountains from Sheridan to join the little group of people who were trying to build a town here. In his party was his niece, Miss Nellie Fitzgerald.
A dance was given in Cody, to celebrate the visit of Governor W. A. Richards, who had come here to hunt game and to get better acquainted with this part of Wyoming. Col. William F. Cody introduced Nellie to Charles DeMaris. At this time, it just so happened that she was the only single girl living in town; but not for long. The first wedding in Cody was that of Charles and Nellie, in 1898. There was no minister here yet, and so the marriage service was conducted by “Judge” Hayden, who must have been Charles Hayden, a civil engineer, who surveyed the town site of Cody.
In 1900, a son was born, and though he was named for his father, when little Charles started school, the poor kid was saddled with the nickname, “Stinking Water Bill.” Buffalo Bill was a close friend of the family, and maybe that is why he was called Bill. He was the only child the couple had.
Cody’s real estate business began with one outfit; the Lincoln Land Co, a subsidiary of the CB&Q Railroad Co. Their records show that Charles DeMaris bought the lots on Sheridan Ave. in January of 1906. That is just about when little Charles would be starting school. Do you suppose that was the reason they wanted a house in town? Their home was the first building on this block! The Courthouse hadn’t even been built yet!
The family continued to operate the Mineral Springs for bathing, and also bottled the water and sold it, but continued to live in town.