Cody was a class act with touring town
DURING my recent musings on European bison, a story I once heard from the esteemed editor David Jones about the original Buffalo Bill riding into Glossop with Annie Oakley and Chief Sitting Bull kept niggling me - so here goes, stick on your Stetson, jump up on the stagecoach and ride shotgun with me as I tell you the tale.
Buffalo Bill Cody was a constant companion of my childhood, along with Davy Crockett, Wyatt Earp and other fictional characters such as Tex Tucker and Roy Rogers, but Cody was the real thing; a rider for the pony express, a frontier scout, a buffalo hunter, and veteran of the so-called ‘Indian Wars’.
He was without doubt one of the greatest and most influential showmen in the history of popular entertainment, and arguably the most famous American in the late 19th and early 20th Century.
Cody’s visits to the United Kingdom undoubtedly informed and shaped how the American West was to be perceived for the next hundred years.
Imagine the scene on the morning of October 17, 1904, as Buffalo Bill and his Rough Riders pile into the town after performing in Ashton two days earlier - 800 men, women and children; cowboys, native Americans (including Sioux, Cheyenne and Cherokee), blacksmiths, doctors and cooks, 500 horses and a host of wagons and equipment.
Mottram Moor would have been as busy as it is today and the town worthies nervous - they’d have heard that ‘Charlie Little Soldier’, in full native regalia, had been found worse for wear on the streets of Derby, two Native Americans had died in another town, and the Grand Master himself been seen relaxing with a pint of Bass Ale in Burton.
Reader Derek Slack tells a tale he was told by his grandfather of when Buffalo Bill went into the Norfolk Arms and saw a West Indian cricketer called Olivera, who played for Glossop and was very popular in the town. Apparently Buffalo Bill called for him to get out, and the regulars picked the show-man up and threw him out instead.
The visit was partly financed by Samuel Hill Wood, who went on to become chairman of Arsenal FC, and the show included Sitting Bull and Annie Oakley. It’s said he stabled some of his most valuable horses in stables behind the former Roebuck Inn on Whitfield Cross.
The ‘show’ was set for the fields of Pye Grove, and the logistics of ‘another town’ rolling into town were monumental, although it all seems to have gone down very well.
The photograph I discovered could well have been taken in Glossop. Perhaps the most curious snippet I unearthed concerns Cody’s ancestry. In his memoirs he states that his mother Mary Ann Bonsell Laycock descended from the Bunting family in England, who were early converts to the Quaker faith. Pioneer members of the Bunting clan left England in 1682 on voyages closely following the historic sailing of the Welcome which took William Penn to America. The Buntings settled in newly-founded Darby (Derby) in Pennsylvania.
Buffalo Bill Cody
The Laughing Badger Gallery, 99 Platt Street, Padfield, Glossop