Title: Rome The Predecessor of Hays | Founded By "Buffalo Bill" Cody

Author: Hill, W. A.

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A Complete JOHN DEERE Line

As modern Hays excels old Rome, so modern Farm Machinery excels that of the days of 1867. Call and see our display of Agricultural Implements

Showrooms at 111 West 8th St.

Phone 119 Hays, Kansas


WF Cody Buffalo Bill 1916


+ ROME +


By W.A. Hill

Copyright Applied For


"God uncovered the land
That He hid in the West,
As the sculptor uncovers the statue
When he has wrought his best"—

Will Cody loved the west. Always lived in it. It was to Rome, the predecessor of Hays, he took his bride, the talented Miss Lou Frederci of St. Louis. It was while he lived in Hays, he obtained his world wide fame of "Buffalo Bill."

Like Daniel Boone, he did not understand the technicalities of law, so lost the half million he expected to make from starting Rome.

Cody was born in Scott county, Iowa, of hardy pioneer stock. His parents moved to Leavenworth, when Kansas was in the midst of the great struggle whether it should come in to the Union as a slave state or free. Cody's father was asked to mount a platform and declare how he stood on the slave question. Said he favored Kansas coming in as a free state. Was immediately stabbed in the back by a slave state sympathizer. Three months later died from the wound, but not until he had gone back east and brought out a colony of free state men.

Young Bill Cody, at twelve years of age, became head of the family. Supported his mother until the time of her death. Avenged his father, associated with frontiersmen and teamed through the West.

When fifteen years of age, his skill was so well known, he was selected as a rider of the famous Pony Express. Made one of the longest continuous rides in its history – 322 miles in less than 21 hours.

About this time Bill Cody and "Wild Bill" Hickock formed an undying friendship. As Cody was so   young older men began "picking" on him. "Wild Bill" told them to "Lay off." They did so when they found Cody was "Wild Bill's" friend. No one cared to face Hickock's pistols.

Kansas was admitted to the Union January 29, 1861. The Civil War started. Cody served through the great war as scout and guide.

After the war Cody went to St. Louis to be married. For a short time ran a restaurant in Leavenworth. Made a trip to the mining fields of Colorado. Returned to Kansas. Scouted between Ft. Harker and Ft. Fletcher in 1866 and 1867. Lived at Ft. Fletcher in the spring of 1867.

At Ellsworth associated with William Rose, a railroad contractor. Knowing the territory, they decided to start a new town at the place where the Union Pacific survey crossed Big Creek and north of the railroad survey. It is said they were on the grounds early in April, 1867.

We tried to find the records of the town in the court house at Hays. But there are none. They either burned in the early fire or did not exist. Next we wrote to Topeka but there were no records there. Then we wrote to Congressman Carlson to inquire at the Department of the Interior, Washington, D. C. they replied: "The records of this office show that William Rose filed a Declaratory statement No. 5077 for the Northwest quarter section 33, Town 13 South, Range 18 West 6th P. M. May 22 and December 14, 1867. This Declaratory statement was not followed by any entry under public land laws in the name of William Rose and the   land was turned over to the railway company."

Rose & Cody employed Union Pacific surveyors to survey the town. Cody said the Union Pacific officials told him they would put in a depot at Rome. They sold the corner lots at $250.00. Others they gave away free to any who would build on them.

The late Senator Simon Motz in his write-up of Rome says: "Rome had a population of 500 a week after it started. Kept increasing in population each week thereafter."

A regiment of soldiers were encamped a half mile west and a company of colored soldiers a short distance east.

Railroad construction agents in Kansas City made Rome a clearing house for laborers. In all it was a busy place.

Cody put up the first house. Rose & Cody built a two room stone drug store. Rose was postmaster. Cody was mayor and marshall. Soon there were about twenty-five buildings south of the creek. Also a multitude of tents and dugouts.

Lull Bros., from Salina, put in the first store in Rome, locating in the latter part of May, 1867.

The Perry House was built. Many notables stopped there.

The Butterfield Stage Line announced that it would put in a station at Rome. It was the longest continuous stage line in America—2,800 miles from Memphis to San Francisco. It ran north of the Smoky Hill river through Ft. Fletcher and the Philip ranch.

Great were the rejoicings at Rome. Also, when it was announced that Ft. Fletcher, which had been   changed to Ft. Hays, would move to one mile south-east of Rome.

For seven or eight months Rome howled. It was the only town of Ellis county and the largest in western half of Kansas.

The flood waters did not hurt Rome but on June 5, 1867 destroyed some buildings at Ft. Fletcher. Also drowned several colored soldiers. The site of Ft. Fletcher is four miles south of Walker, west of the fine new bridge across Big Creek. It is on the north bank of the creek.

When the Kansas Pacific was ordered constructed form Ellsworth to Parkfort, near WaKeeney, the Indians declared it should not be. They murdered six employees of the Kansas Pacific near Victoria. They are buried near the highway. Also killed two men at the Butterfield station four miles south of Rome. Also Park and his hired men at Parkfort. Several soldiers there were also wounded. Many other tragedies were committed. The laborers and hunters all fled to Rome for protection. During this time Rome had its greatest population.

At the request of Lt. Gen. Sherman, Governor Crawford July 1 1867 called out a batallion of volunteer cavalry. In company with the regular troops they began a campaign against the Indians. The Indians were defeated. A treaty of peace was signed at Medicine Lodge, October 28, 1867.

Kirk Mechem, secretary of the State Historical Society, writes "That it would be a fine thing to recognize Buffalo Bill's part in the building of Hays." He sends us a copy of a petition originating in Rome. We reprint it.


Gibson House, where the Codys lived

Kroeger Grocery

To his exelincy Governor Crawford,
Topeka, Kansas.

Sir We the Sitizens of this place near Ft. Hayes must respectfully request the appointment of Mr. J. G. Duncan A Justice of the Peace of this Town as it is very important and your many friends will even Pray. It is signed by

Dr. J.K. Lull, Jr.
Wm. Rose
E. Polly
B.B. Miller
J. F. Walker
Wm. DeSeltor
Ewd. Simpson
J.B.C North
Mat Flynn
J.W. Uncapher
Jas. B. Adams
Geo. Garing
Asa E. Johnson
George Derrickson
Geo. W. Spencer
J. Humber
H. McHenry
Bartrell Ward
W.F. Cody
George Ward
W.E. Spinner
J. M. Gray

Spencer and Miller were members of Co. A 2nd Kansas V.C.

The petition was turned down September 6th by the Governor, as "Rome was not attached to Russel country for judicial purpose."

Steps were then taken at Rome for the organization of Ellis county. It was not formed as a country until beginning of 1868. Wm. Rose, partner of Cody, was one of the first county commissioners.

Ellis country was named after Lt. George Ellis who was killed at Jenkin's Ferry, Arkansas, during the Civil War.

About the first of July, 1867, the cholera plague came. Scores died. Many fled from the town. Probably it was in the same fix as Ellsworth which had one thousand population before the plague and only forty afterwards. History does not record.

One day a stranger came to Rome. Was very interested in the town. Cody thought he could sell him plenty of lots. Took him buffalo hunting and let him ride his horse "Brigham." Next day announced he was the president of the U.P. Townsite Co. He liked the town. Said he would give Cody one eighths interest in the site if they would turn it over to him. Cody was indignant. Told him what he thought and started out buffalo hunting. When he returned found the six mule teams of the Union Pacific hauling the houses over to Hays. Dr. Webb had called a meeting of the citizens. Told them   the company would put in a depot at Hays but never in Rome. That the company was going to build their railway shops at Hays.

There was a bitter fight between the two towns. Some refused to move to Hays. The Union Pacific to head them off, raised the railway grade three and one-half feet through Rome. It shut them off from traffic with the fort. Some people remained in Rome until the following spring. Enemies called it the "Walled City." Railway grade on the south. The creek on the east, north, and west.

The Union Pacific railway reached Hays, October 16,1867.

The Union Pacific Townsite Company put in a townsite a mile square, one half mile east of Rome and named it Hays after the Fort. Hays was established November 23, 1867. The first paper established in Hays was the Railway Advance. It said that "Hays will be seven months old June 23, 1868, and has a business directory of 99 firms."

The Perry House had been moved to Hays. It stood south of the railroad east of where the Hoch Laundry now stands. The name was changed to the Gibson House. It was run by M. J. R. Treat. Cody moved his family to it. It was winter. He tried working his horse on the railway grade but "Brigham" did not like it. Buffaloes soon appeared and he started hunting. This was more to his liking.

One day he came running up the stairs of the Gibson House shouting that he had "Made a Million." His wife thought he was joking about his fiasco at Rome. Instead he told her he had signed a contract with the railway contractors and the Fort   to furnish them with buffalo meat. His pay to be $500.00 per month. He held the job eighteen months. At first he drove the buffaloes into the Fort and killed them there. They kicked as he had to haul them in.

Cody was first called "Buffalo Bill" by the railway laborers. They used to sing:

"Buffalo Bill, Buffalo Bill,
Never misses and never will.
Always aims and shoots to kill
And the company pays his buffalo bill."

Ft. Wallace had a great hunter named Bill Comstock. They called him Buffalo Bill. In order to settle the dispute a contest was arranged to take place near Oakley. A special train came out from St. Louis bearing officials and prominent newspaper reporters. At Hays they stopped to get Cody's wife and little daughter. Also some of Cody's friends. Soon after arriving at the place where the contest was to be held a herd was found. Cody and Comstock began shooting. He had killed forty while Comstock had thirteen. After a brief rest they started in again. Another herd was sighted. Cody took the saddle and bride off his horse, saying it knew how to hunt buffaloes as well as he. They divided the herd. Soon Cody had them all killed but one large bull which headed for the crowd. They all ran except Mrs. Cody. She was afraid but did not think Cody would let the animal harm her. Sure enough it dropped when within a hundred feet of her.


When the contest was over Cody had killed sixty-nine buffaloes to Comstock's forty-six. Comstock renounced the title of "Buffalo Bill." Said it was Cody's. Cody's challenge went out to all other buffalo hunters but was never accepted. The newspaper reporters sent out reports of the contest and Cody was soon known the world over as "Buffalo Bill."

James B. Hickock, "Wild Bill," was chosen by the business men as "Special Marshall." It is said the contractors asked him to serve as official buffalo hunter but he recommended Cody for the job.

They used to have a race course down near the present College Stadium. One day Cody entered the races dressed in red. "Wild Bill" also entered. When the contest ended by Indians appearing, "Wild Bill" was ahead.

"Wild Bill" was in Hays from 1867 to 1869. Ran for sheriff in 1869 but was defeated. He killed a couple of soldiers on the sidewalk south of "Peach Tree Corner," where the First National Bank now stands. The commanding officer of the fort sent to arrest him. It is said they wounded him. He jumped on his horse which was standing back of Tommy Drum's saloon and disappeared to the north. In the summer of 1870 he went to Abilene and was appointed marshall.

Cody's last appearance in Hays was in September 1874, when he escorted General Sheridan from Ft. Dodge.

One of his greatest contributions to Hays was when he got I. M. Yost to locate here. Mrs. Yost was a cousin of Cody. When Col. Cody was in Philadelphia in 1876 attending the Centennial he   sent for Mr. and Mrs. Yost to be with him. Told Mr. Yost about Rome as a fine place to put in a mill. Mr. Yost came out in 1877 to investigate. Next year moved here, put in a mill dam on the town site and established a flouring mill. The dam was put in just back of C. L. Henderson's farm house. The soldiers furnished the logs for the dam, in order to get ice. Some of the logs are there yet and can be seen when the creek is low. The beavers and musk rats destroyed the dam. It was rebuilt. The mill burned and Mr. Yost put a new mill in Hays. The old mill race is still there north of the creek. He also established a cement mill at Yocemento.

I. M. Yost visited Hays recently. He is ninety-one years old. Was thirteen years old when the Civil War began. He took us over the site of Rome and pointed out places of interest. His miller, Henry Nichols, lived in Cody's two-story house. It was about 14x18. When asked why it was so small and two stories, he said life was cheap in those days. An outlaw or Indian could put a gun through the window. They pulled the ladder up at night and lived upstairs, to better protect Mrs. Cody. When the picture "The Plainsman" was here it had Cody's house pictured as a one story cottage.

A sign has been put up near Cody's headquarters in Rome, bearing Cody's picture. It is the result of the activity of Bill Philip and the Hays Lions Club. Mr. Philip is also engaged in marking the old Butterfield trail.

Old timers say that Cody used to get outside his headquarters each morning after breakfast and shoot at a stone about two hundred yards west of his building. A stone was found in that position   when the Highway went through in 1914. The highway went through Front Street or Main Street of old Rome. Frank Walz, who owned the land, moved the stone over to the front of his farm house. He sold the farm to Mr. Henderson but finally bought back the stone several years ago. Recently he moved it to just east of his residence, one block west of the postoffice. Has set it in cement to better preserve it. One side of the stone is about shot off. The other sides are covered with initials. The Unrein boys have their names on it in 1899. One is on in 1874. Some called it the "Meridian" stone but the meridian runs through Victoria. Mr. Walz says it was not on the corner of the quarter. It was evidently erected by Cody when he was building his house and office building. It used to have a board on it showing the elevation. It is a fine thing this old relic of Rome exists. When Mr. Yost looked at the stone he remarked: "Thousands of fine horses were hitched to that stone."

When Rome was abandoned the Clarkson Bros.—Charlie, Matt, and George, famous buffalo hunters, made it their headquarters. It is said they killed 23,000 buffaloes from here west. One year they rustled boards and wire. Put out a large garden with a fine lot of pumpkins. Were afraid of a buffalo stampede but hoped it would not come. One day heard a rumbling. Looking out saw the buffaloes coming. When a buffalo had a piece of wire or scantling entangled in its horns it would run faster. Soon things were leveled and not a pumpkin in sight.


J. R. Schmidt Motor Co.


Let Us Repair Your Car

Phone 365 618 Main Street

Creamery Products

Hays Creamery & Ice Co.



Twenter Motor Company


On U.S. Route 40
Hays Kansas

When you wish an up-to-date meal, go to the

On the Historic Site of Tommy Drum's Saloon where General Custer, General Sheridan and other famous officers, "Wild Bill" and "Buffalo Bill" made their headquarters.

Phone 194 Hays, Kansas

Title: Rome The Predecessor of Hays | Founded By "Buffalo Bill" Cody

Author: Hill, W. A.

Topic: Buffalo Bill Himself

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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