Buffalo Bill.The sobriquet of "Buffalo Bill," known throughout the country as a synonym for daring and superior marksmanship with the rifle, is claimed by two men, both of whom won the appellation in Kansas. These men are William Mathewson, a pioneer of Wichita, and William F. Cody, better known in late years as proprietor of the "Wild West show." Although the latter is more widely known, there is little doubt that Mathewson was the first to receive the title of Buffalo Bill. He was born in Broome county, N. Y., Jan. 1, 1830, and while still in the "teens" came west and went as far as Denver with the celebrated scout, Kit Carson. James R. Mead, a pioneer Indian trader, in an interview in the St. Louis Republic of June 24, 1906, says that Mathewson struck the Santa Fe trail near old Fort Zarah and established a trading post near the site of the present city of Great Bend, and that he gained the name of Buffalo Bill in the winter of 1860-61 by supplying the settlers with buffalo meat during a scarcity of provisions.
William F. Cody was born in Scott county, Iowa, Feb. 26, 1846. His father was killed in the "Border War" in Kansas, and in 1860-61, when only 15 years of age he became a pony express rider across the plains. While thus occupied he gained a knowledge of the country that led him to accept the duties of guide and scout, and in the Civil war he was a member of the Seventh Kansas cavalry. "Who's Who in America," for 1910-11, says Cody "contracted to furnish the Kansas Pacific railway with all the buffalo meat required to feed the laborers engaged in construction, and in 18 months (1867-8) killed 4,280 buffalo, earning the name of 'Buffalo Bill,' by which he is best known." From 1868 to 1872 he was a government guide and scout in the operations against the Sioux and Cheyenne Indians, and he has probably participated in more Indian fights than any other living man. He was elected to Nebraska legislature in 1872; again became a scout, for the Fifth U. S. cavalry; was judge advocate of the Nebraska National Guard, and in 1883 organized the Wild West show, with which he has traveled extensively in this country and Europe. This fact has kept his name before the public, while Mr. Mathewson has been content to pursue the "even tenor of his way." Mead, whose interview is referred to above, was an intimate acquaintance and associate of Mathewson, and was no doubt fully acquainted with the facts. From his statement it will be seen that Mathewson was known as "Buffalo Bill" at least six years before the name was applied to Cody. Capt. Jack Crawford, the well known scout, also makes the statement that Col. Mathewson is the original "Buffalo Bill."
During his life on the frontier, Mathewson always tried to maintain friendly relations with the Indians, but on one occasion it became necessary for him to discipline the Kiowa chief, Satanta, with his fist, which he did so thoroughly that he became known among the Indians as "Zane-pong-za-del-py," which in English means "Bad man with the long beard."Pages 249-250 from volume I of Kansas: a cyclopedia of state history, embracing events, institutions, industries, counties, cities, towns, prominent persons, etc. ... / with a supplementary volume devoted to selected personal history and reminiscence. Standard Pub. Co. Chicago : 1912. 3 v. in 4. : front., ill., ports.; 28 cm. Vols. I-II edited by Frank W. Blackmar. Transcribed May 2002 by Carolyn Ward.
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