Title: The Wild West

Periodical: Eve: A Journal for Her Daughters

Date: June 1892

Author: Sightseer

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IT was in 1887—Jubilee year—that I first saw Buffalo Bill's Wild West. Never before—and I have seen many novel sights—did I behold anything to approach this singular exhibition. Singular it is—it stands alone. I was certainly fascinated. Many a visit did I pay to the Wild West grounds at Earl's Court during 1887, and always marvelled at the rare power possessed by its organizers, who could bring into peaceful harmony such hostile elements—the Red man and his "Pale-face" foe. Here, indeed, we have the lion and the lamb lying down together in peace—the lamb not as an inside passenger. These Wild West people are no mimics—they represent no one but themselves. They are the very people who have helped to make history—the very pioneers of civilization; and in conjunction with them, we have some of the tribes and chiefs of tribes who, in deadly warfare, opposed the advance of these same pioneers. All England should flock to see these heroes from the fringe of civilization. As we gaze on these people, we are whirled back to primeval times—to the days when earth was young. Probably never again can this or any other generation behold history told by the actual people who took part in the making of it. If the public generally were only fully alive to what is within their power to see, the grounds at Earl's Court would be far too small to accommodate the thousands who, fearful of missing such a rare opportunity, would rush to witness this instructive and deeply interesting exhibition. Here we have Indians from the Plains, Cowboys from Texas, Indian Fighters, Mexicans from the Rio Grande and the Pacific—in short, all that pertains to a phase of American life rapidly passing away. When London last had the opportunity of seeing the Wild West, the Queen was quick to notify her intention of seeing these picturesque people. And when the performance was over, General (then Colonel) Cody was presented to her Majesty, who graciously expressed her delight at what she had seen, regretted she had not more time to spare, and expressed the hope that she would soon be able to repeat her visit.

There are few people who have not heard of Buffalo Bill, around whose exploits many notable men have, by their written testimony, thrown the halo of heroism. They generously proclaim How he fought, and toiled and suffered,
That the tribes of men might prosper;
That he might advance his people!
I cannot refrain from giving a few extracts out of the many generous tributes paid him by those in whose sight he did such rare service, not merely at the risk of his "sudden taking off," surrounded as he was by deadly foes on every side, but at the same time undergoing such fatigue and privation as only a man of his wonderful physique could endure. He was not the mere hero of the moment. Far more than that was required of him. He had to endure. And we have ample testimony from his comrades in peril that he did endure right nobly. The army whom he guided loved him for his gentleness, and admired him for his fearless, cool courage. Even the Indians, against whom he fought on many a crimson field, know him as a generous friend as well as a dreaded foe. They have expressively named him their "White Father." As you see this man, either riding or afoot, you cannot but feel a thrill of admiration when you remember what he has undergone in the service of his fellows. The stories told of his achievements on the plains, from boyhood to manhood, would make interesting reading, were they collected into a volume or volumes. In the story of his life we have a veritable illustration of the saying of Georges Sand—that "There are lives which are more like romance than romance itself." His old commander, General E. A. Carr, himself a renowned Indian fighter, thus wrote of him some years ago, and no more generous tribute from one brave man to another has ever been penned. It is indeed a Grenadier's March to the heart!

"From his services with my command, steadily in the field (writes General Carr), I am qualified to bear testimony as to his qualities and character. He was very modest and unassuming. He is a natural gentleman in his manners as well as in character, and has none of the roughness of the typical frontiersman. He can take his own part when required, but I have never heard of his using a knife or a pistol, or engaging in a quarrel where it could be avoided. His personal strength and activity are very great, and his temper and disposition are so good that no one has reason to quarrel with him. His eyesight is better than a good field-glass; he is the best trailer I ever heard of, and also the best judge of the 'lay of country'—that is, he is able to tell what kind of country is ahead, so as to know how to act. He is a perfect judge of distance, and always ready to tell correctly how many miles it is to water, or to any place, or how many miles have been marched. Mr. Cody seemed never to tire, and was always ready to go in the darkest night or the worst weather, and usually volunteered, knowing what the emergency required. His trailing, when following Indians or looking for stray animals or game, is simply wonderful. He is a most extraordinary hunter. In a fight Mr. Cody is never noisy, obstreperous, or excited. In fact I never hardly noticed him in a fight, unless I happened to want him, or he had something to report, when he was always in the right place, and his information was always valuable and reliable. During the winter of 1866 we encountered hardships and exposure in terrific snowstorms, sleet, &c. On one occasion that winter Mr. Cody showed his quality by quietly offering to go with some despatches to General Sheridan, across a dangerous region, where another principal scout was reluctant to risk himself. Mr. Cody has since served with me as post guide and scout at Fort McPherson, where he frequently distinguished himself. In the summer of 1876, Cody went with me to the Black Hills region, where [in as brave a hand-to-hand struggle on both sides as was ever witnessed] he killed the Indian warrior Yellow Hand. Afterwards he was with the Big Horn and Yellowstone expedition. I consider that his services to the country and the army by trailing, finding, and fighting Indians, and thus protecting the frontier settlers, and by guiding commands over the best and most practicable routes, have been far beyond the compensation he has received."

The renowned General "Phil" Sheridan thus writes of his old friend Buffalo Bill in his Autobiography:—"He undertakes a dangerous task. . . . . The difficulties and dangers to be encountered (alluding to the winter campaign of 1868) led several experienced officers of the army, and some frontiersmen like old John Bridger, the famous scout and guide of earlier days, to discourage the project. Bridger even came out from St. Louis to discourage the attempt. I decided to go in person, bent on showing the Indians that they were not secure because of the inclement weather—an ally on which they had hitherto relied with much assurance. We started, and the very first night a blizzard struck us and carried away our tents. The gale was so violent that they could not be put up again; the rain and snow drenched us to the skin. Shivering from wet and cold, I took refuge under a waggon, and there spent such a miserable night that, when morning came, the gloomy predictions of old Scout Bridger and others rose up before me with greatly increased force. The difficulties were now fully realized—the blinding snow, mixed with sleet; the piercing wind, thermometer below zero—with green bushes only for fuel—occasioning intense suffering. Our numbers and companionship alone prevented us from being lost or perishing, a fate that stared in the face the frontiersmen, guides and scouts on their solitary missions. Mr. William F. Cody (Buffalo Bill), whose renown has since become world-wide, was one of the men selected. He had lived from boyhood on the plains, and passed every experience—herder, hunter, pony express rider, stage driver, wagon master in the quartermaster's department, and scout of the army, and was first brought to my notice by distinguishing himself in bringing me an important despatch from Fort Larned to Fort Hays, a distance of sixty-five miles, through a section infested with Indians. The intelligence in this despatch required that certain orders should be carried to Fort Dodge, ninety-five miles south of Hays. This, too, being a particularly dangerous route—several couriers having been killed on it—it was impossible to get one of the various 'Petes,' 'Jacks,' or 'Jims' hanging around Hays City to take my communication. Cody, learning of the strait I was in, manfully came to the rescue, and proposed to make the trip to Dodge, though he had just finished his long and perilous ride from Larned. I gratefully accepted his offer, and, after a short rest, he mounted a fresh horse and hastened on his journey, halting but once to rest on the way, and then only for an hour, the stop being made at Coon Creek, where he got another mount from a troop of cavalry. At Dodge he took some sleep, and then continued on his own post—Fort Larned—with more despatches. After resting at Larned, he was again in the saddle, with tidings for me at Fort Hays, General Hazen sending him, this time, with word that the villagers had fled to the south of the Arkansas. Thus, in all, Cody rode about 350 miles in less than sixty hours, and such an exhibition of endurance and courage at that time of the year, and in such terrible weather, was more than enough to convince me that his services would be extremely valuable in the campaign, so I retained him at Fort Hays till the battalion of the Fifth Cavalry arrived, and then made him Chief of Scouts."

An old comrade in perilous days has thus lovingly sung of William Cody:—

  You bet I know him, pardner; he ain't no circus fraud.
He's Western born and Western bred, if he has been late abroad.
I knew him in the days way back, beyond Missouri's flow,
When the country round was nothing but a huge Wild Western Show
When the Injuns were as thick as flies, and the man who ventured through
The sand hills of Nebraska, had to fight the hostile Sioux.
These were hot times, I tell you; and we all remember still
The days when Cody was a scout, and all the men knew Bill.

  I knew him first in Kansas in the days of '68,
When the Cheyennes and Arapaphoes were wiping from the slate
Old scores against the settlers, and when men who wore the blue,
With shoulder straps and way-up rank, were glad to be helped through
By a bearer of despatches, who knew each vale and hill
From Dakota down to Texas, and his other name was Bill.

  I mind me too of '79, the time when Cody took
His scouts upon the Rosebud, along with General Crook;
When Custer's Seventh rode to their death for lack of some such aid
To tell them that the sneaking Sioux knew how to ambuscade.
I saw Bill's fight with "Yellow Hand"; you bet it was a "mill."
He downed him well at thirty yards, and all the men cheered Bill.

  They tell me that the women folk now take his word as laws.
In them days laws were mighty skerce, and hardly passed with squaws,
But many a hardy settler's wife and daughter used to rest
More quietly because they knew of Cody's dauntless breast;
Because they felt from Laramie way down to Old Fort Sill,
Bill Cody was a trusted scout, and all their men knew Bill.

  I hav'nt seen him much of late. How does he bear his years?
They say he's making ducats now from shows, and not from "steers."
He used to be a judge of "horns," when poured in a tin cup,
And left the wine to "tenderfeet," and men who felt "way up."
Perhaps he cracks a bottle now; perhaps he's had his fill.
Who cares? Bill Cody was a scout, and all the world knows Bill.

  To see him in his trimmins, he can't hardly look the same,
With laundered shirt and diamonds, as if "he run a game."
He didn't wear biled linen then, or flash-up diamond rings:
The royalties he dreamed of then were only pasteboard kings,
But those who sat behind the Queens were apt to get their fill.
In the days when Cody was a scout, and all the men knew Bill.


Here I must reluctantly leave this interesting subject, else every column in EVE will be filled with records of this celebrity of the Plains; and those who know what life in the Far West really is, will acknowledge that to become a Plains celebrity is no light achievement[.] There you must achieve greatness. You cannot be born to it, and certainly it is never thrust on you. The Plains were not dreamt of in Shakespeare's philosophy. He never meant to include the Wild Western Plains in his oft-quoted dictum. There the possession and the exercise of every manly quality are the only passports to the eminence which give you title to be a "Plains Celebrity."

To further emphasize what has already been said as to the interesting historic characters who compose the Wild West, I have much pleasure in introducing into this notice another of the Wild Westerns who has been a witness of and taken an active part in the great changes which have taken place during the last sixty years on the borders of civilization—the very man who, nearly half a century ago, guided Brigham Young and the first detachment of the Mormon Colony to the Valley of the Salt Lake, a distance of 1,500 miles. This personality, a quiet-looking old man of about four score years, has led a most adventurous life on the Western frontier. If I were to relate the hardships John Nelson has undergone as scout alone, you would conclude that a hard life is the only preservative of youthful attributes, as you see him, at his great age, walking about the grounds at Earl's Court with the light and springy step of a well-set-up youth. It is now a matter of history how Brigham Young and his followers, driven by force from Illinois, endeavoured as best they could to reach the Promised Land which the Apostle vaguely assured his deluded followers lay somewhere in the West among the mountains. Young was himself beginning to despair of ever finding the Promised Land, when one day a strange figure rode into the Mormon camp. This strange figure was John Nelson, who had been living for some years with a tribe of Indians. His services were quickly enlisted by the Mormon Prophet, with the result that himself and his following were safely piloted across the plains of Utah. Knowing nothing about John Nelson or his life, but from merely seeing him (when the Wild West was here last) carelessly lolling on the top of the old Deadwood coach (also an interesting relic of the plains), I became quite interested in him, and when some time since I heard from an old friend that Buffalo Bill and his company were coming to pay London another visit, I asked eagerly of my informant—himself familiar with various members of the company—if the old scout who used to loll on the top of the Deadwood coach was still with the Wild West. "No; he is dead," was the answer. "Well, I am sorry. Certainly the old Deadwood coach will not look itself without him," was my comment. With this friend, I witnessed one of the first performances of the show, and when the old coach came rumbling in, I exclaimed, "Why, they have got someone made up as the old scout!" My friend then informed me that it was the old scout himself. It appeared that he had been very ill, and had been reported as dead. But the old man is still very much alive,—as tough as a pine-knot—and is to be seen daily and nightly peppering the attacking Indians from the top of the old coach, and also from the outside of a settler's log cabin, where he downs the Red men with his fists when his powder and shot are exhausted.

I parenthetically alluded to the old Deadwood coach as an interesting relic of the Plains. There is one incident connected with its bloody history that must find place in the columns of "EVE." On one of the many occasions on which it was attacked by what our cousins euphemistically name the "road agents," the driver was killed, when, amidst the fire of the attacked and the attackers, a woman seized the reins, whipped up the team, and drove the coach in safety to its destination. This woman, whose name was Martha Canary, figures prominently in the wild history of the frontier.

The subject of our illustration this month is Miss Annie Oakley, whose wonderful shooting and graceful riding are notable features of the Wild West. My fair readers can scarcely realise that one of their own sex should acquire such skill with rifle and pistol as to take position as one of the few great shots of the world. It is scarcely necessary to say that she did not spend her childhood days in city pent. Miss Oakley is a child of the woods. It appears that as a toddling infant she displayed a love for firearms and hunting. What a dreadful infant! And what surroundings, where firearms were within reach of a toddling infant! My readers need not wonder, then, that at the age of ten this child of the plains became an expert huntress, the woods around her home abounding with game, and into these woods she was wont to steal, with her brother's musket and as much ammunition as was obtainable, always returning well laden with the spoils of the chase. A strange life truly for a girl-child of ten years! It is related of her that when only fourteen years old she had paid off a mortgage on her mother's homestead with money earned from game and skins shot and trapped by herself alone. At this time her aim with the rifle was so true that she was barred from entering shooting matches, which were popular holiday amusements in her part of the country. "Sitting Bull," the great Indian chief, after seeing her shoot on one occasion, adopted her in the Sioux tribe, giving her the name of "Watanya Cicilla" ("Little Sure Shot"). Her collection of medals and firearms—all won or presented to her—is considered one of the finest in the world. And notwithstanding all the testimony she has earned as a great shot, like the modest little woman she is, she never uses the word "champion" in connection with her name.

It seems absurd to imagine that anything of interest—anything worth reading could be said of the business manager of any concern. He is the man of dry figures. But a notice of the Wild West would be far from perfect without an allusion to its genial manager, Major John M. Burke, familiarly known as "Arizona John." In fact there is nothing connected with this unique exhibition that is not of deep interest—that has not a story. Truly, the American is a strange compound! Who would expect to find a business manager the hero who, only the other day, bore words of peace into the camp of the troubled children of the hills and plains. His plea for the solution of the recent Indian trouble is both eloquent and humane. I quote from his appeal:—

My friends, I came here on the invitation of many of my old Ogallalla friends who know me. I am happy to sit down among you to-day, because it is so much quieter than for some weeks. I do not come here on behalf of the Government or any society, but because I travel and live with the Indians, and they have been my friends for many years. When I first heard of this trouble, General Cody ("Buffalo Bill") sent me to do what I could for you. I have been here eight or nine weeks—have listened, heard, and seen a great deal. From the first I saw no necessity for this trouble. A great deal of it came from a misunderstanding and the lack of confidence among the Indians as regards the intention of the Government. Our friend, Captain Lee, does not carry arms; neither do I. While it looked like peace daily, you were just like scared birds, ready to stampede at any time. I am going to Washington to see the great councillors, and I want to be able to say that when I left all was peace, and that the Indians fully understood General Miles' intention. I want you to place every confidence in him. When the earth loses something, God sends something else; and when God took your friend General Crook, he sent you General Miles, who is now your benefactor. The foundation of all good in men is truth and honour. When a man has these, he has right, and can stand open-handed and talk for his rights. He needs no gun, which is dangerous, and causes trouble. You have thousands of friends in the East. General Miles and Captain Lee can reach those friends. I have this confidence that there will be no war on the part of General Miles, if you give up your arms, because, through military discipline, he can control his men, as soldiers have no interest to shoot Indians. Tell your young men to be calm and have confidence in General Miles, who will see you through. But you must discipline and control your young men. Let every man who talks mean what he says, and not talk to evade the question. I, to show you what confidence I have in General Miles, that he will not fire upon you and your women and children when you are disarmed, I will promise to live in your camp until you have confidence that the white chief will see no harm come to you. I am glad to hear that some chiefs are going to Washington, and hope instead of ten, twenty or twenty-five will go. I will be there to see you, and may go with you. I will do all I can in my humble way for you. Let us all work for peace between the white men and the red—not for a moment, a day, a year, but for ever—for eternity.

Did space allow, much of interest could be written of this Ambassador of Peace, who served through the Civil War.

"Who is that energetic little man who seems to be all over the place?" I asked of one of the Cowboys, on the occasion of my recent visit. "Has he got anything to do with the Wild West?" The Knight of the Lariat fixed me with a contemptuous stare, and then condescended to enlighten my dark ignorance by an impressive "You bet he has! Reckon without him, there'd be no Wild West!" I became interested. "Who is he?" "Why, that's Mr. Salsbury!" I thanked my informant, and walked away, determined to learn more about this potent factor in the organisation of the Wild West. I had often heard of Nate Salsbury, but not till after my brief conversation with my Cowboy friend did I know how much we are indebted to this gentleman for the existence of what may truly be described as the most interesting show on earth. Here, again, we have another strange compound, altogether unknown in the Old World. Mr. Salsbury has certainly "lived" all his days. Should he ever relinquish his connection with the Wild West, I feel certain it would not be to rest on the laurels he has won in the amusement-catering world, but that he might conquer other chaotic worlds by his wonderful powers of organisation. But he could never find an equal to the Wild West. Born in Freeport, Illinois, in 1846, his family being descendants of the early Vermont settlers, Mr. Salsbury went out with the first Illinois troops; served through the entire Rebellion—being distinguished as the youngest soldier in the army of the Cumberland—and was wounded on three occasions. He afterwards adopted the stage, appearing before every English-speaking people in the world. Next he became part proprietor of one of the largest and most valuable cattle ranches in the North-West, and during his repeated visits to this ranche he became so much impressed with the scenes he witnessed that he resolved to set to work to organise an exhibition showing these interesting people as they live. His mind big with this idea, he consulted his old friend General Cody, and the result is that we have the Wild West at our very doors.

My readers may say "You have told us nothing of the Wild West performance." True, I have not. This I expect you will see for yourselves, and, marvellous as it is, you will enjoy it all the more by being in possession of such facts as I have been able to give you of a few of the people amongst the Wild Westerns. You will know that you are not witnessing a performance given by a mere circus troupe—people who are trained artistes, and have never been anything else. The members of the Wild West represent themselves only. Everything is real. See them, I say; see them.

Title: The Wild West

Periodical: Eve: A Journal for Her Daughters

Source: McCracken Research Library, Buffalo Bill Center of the West, William F. "Buffalo Bill" Cody Collection, MS6, MS6.3778.084.01a (1892 London)

Date: June 1892

Author: Sightseer

Topics: Buffalo Bill's Wild West in Britain

Keywords: American frontier Arapaho Indians Cheyenne Indians Circus Cowboys Hunting Indians of North America Mexicans Mormon pioneers Oglala Indians Pistols Pony express Scouts (Reconnaissance) Shooting Tracking and trailing United States. Army. Cavalry, 5th United States. Army. Cavalry, 7th

People: Bridger, Jim, 1804-1881 Burke, John M., 1842-1917 Carr, E. A. (Eugene Asa), 1830-1910 Crook, George, 1829-1890 Custer, George A. (George Armstrong), 1839-1876 Hazen, William Babcock, 1830-1887 Miles, Nelson Appleton, 1839-1925 Nelson, John Young, 1826-1903 Oakley, Annie, 1860-1926 Salsbury, Nathan, 1846-1902 Sheridan, Philip Henry, 1831-1888 Victoria, Queen of Great Britain, 1819-1901 Yellow Hand, 1850?-1876 Young, Brigham, 1801-1877

Places: Arkansas River Black Hills (S.D. and Wyo.) Earl's Court (London, England) Fort Dodge (Fort Dodge, Kan.) Fort Hays (Kan.) Fort Larned (Larned, Kan.) Fort McPherson (Neb.) Laramie (Wyo.) London (England) Missouri River Nebraska Pacific Ocean Rio Grande (Colo.-Mexico and Tex.) Saint Louis (Mo.)

Sponsor: This project is supported in part by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Geraldine W. & Robert J. Dellenback Foundation.

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