Trainwreck-The Day Buffalo Bill Cody Crashed in North Carolina

Farewell Tour Flyer
Farewell Tour Flyer | Source

William Cody Becomes Buffalo Bill

William Frederick Cody was bigger than life and his spirit continues to inspire and awe almost a century after his death. He was born on a cold February day in 1846 to parents who had made the long trip from civilized Ohio to the wild frontier of Iowa.

Bill grew up in a time that was exciting and dangerous. His father had roaming feet and moved the family to Kansas in 1854, a decision that changed the boy’s life forever. This area was unsettled and the Indians were angry and restless. The land was desired by family men and ones only looking to make a buck. Slavery was a hot topic and free-soil men along with pro-slavery men were beginning to battle over Kansas.

The young Bill was exposed to these political issues, buffalo hunts, Indians cooking over open fires, gunfights and accidentally found long lost relative, Horace Billings, who was a master horseman. After watching the man in action, young Bill was hooked on horses and now had the Wild West in his blood.

As he grew, Bill became a well known figure in the West. He became head of the family at age eleven when his father died and he signed on to become a cattle driver, following wagon trains for the Cavalry. On the first trip, they were attacked by a war party of Sioux Indians and Bill killed his first man to save a comrade.

They were also taken prisoner by the dreaded Mormon Danites, (the same ones who committed the Mountain Meadows Massacre) and robbed but were let go alive.

He learned to write his name by practicing on barns, trees and anything else he could scribble or carve on when he could not sign his thousand dollar payroll check to give his mother his wages. One might still find “William F. Cody” scribbled on a tree somewhere in Salt Creek Valley.

Source

Buffalo Bill Cody's Wild West Show

These experiences combined to make a man who was fearless and adventurous. But the West quickly settled down and as Bill aged, he had nowhere to go that seemed familiar to him. So he created the famous or infamous Wild Bill Cody Wild West Show about 1883 and began a whole new adventure that took him around the world.

In October 1901, the show played in Charlotte, North Carolina then headed north on several trains for Danville, Virginia. This was a single track line and a southbound freighter had to pull over to a siding pass to allow the Show train(s) to pass. All went well and then first train passed so the freighter came back online. Having missed an important telegraph, the engineer thought there was only the one train. Then he saw the second train approaching at a high rate of speed and knew the engines were doomed.

Bill Cody was on the first train in a private car, Annie Oakley and other performers were on the second train along with hundreds of animals. There was nowhere to go and the trains collided suddenly and violently. Both train crews jumped free but others were not so fortunate.

It was a night of terror, fire, loud noise, screaming animals and people. Local people heard the noise and word spread. The community came to the rescue, taking in injured people and animals. Ladies brought bandages, food, water and love to the nightmare scene. People still talk about that night when horror visited a quiet community. The train cars were made of wood and shattered into pieces, piercing and impaling people and horses alike.

Over 110 horses died in the crash and subsequent fire, many others had to be destroyed including Bill’s beloved Old Pap. Only two horses survived the crash. Many people were injured but no one died from their injuries. Wild West performer Annie Oakley was severely injured and spent months recuperating from a broken back and partial paralyzed. She finally recovered after months in hospitals but never worked with Wild Bill again.

Wild Bill Cody sued the Southern Railroad and eventually received a $65,000 settlement but it was too late to recoup his losses. He performed again but was never able to regain the energy required to pull off a successful and tiring traveling show. He retired and the company was bankrupted. He gave it to creditors in 1913 and lived with his sister until his death in 1917.

It was the end of an era we shall know only through journals and history books. The character of a man formed by a life with no rules was strong and brave. An elderly man who was there that night says Cody purchased the entire stock from a local store and gave it to the cowpokes and Indians left destitute from the train wreck.

We can only dream that men are formed today with such integrity and honesty.I hope somewhere in some forlorn place, a boy is becoming a man with dreams and values that remain strong in him until the end. William Frederick Cody could be a great mentor and inspiration.

Wild Bill Cody
Wild Bill Cody | Source

Facts About Buffalo Bill Cody

  • Bill saved his father's life when he was stabbed by a pro-slaver. Bill was 10 years old.
  • Bill learned Indian sign language from Kit Carson, Jim Bridger and other famous frontiersmen by watching them talk to Indians for hours.
  • When Bill was 13, he survived an Indian attack by hiding behind his dead mule.
  • As a teenager, Bill set out to become a gold miner but gave up when he saw how long and hard the work was. He decided to become an Indian trader.
  • Bill was left alone when he broke his leg and his friend went for help, leaving Bill alone in subzero weather. The nearest settlement was 125 miles away. Indians stole his supplies but left him a deer carcass to live on. It took 29 days for Harrington to return with help.
  • Bill rode for the Pony Express and made a 320 mile round trip in 21 hours and 40 minutes.
  • Bill walked a thousand miles with Wild Bill Hickock after their bull train was burned by Mormon raiders.
  • In 1864, Bill posed as a Tennessee boy to spy out General Forrest's location and saved two genteel Southern ladies.
  • Bill smoked the peace pipe with the great Indian chief Satanta.
  • Bill's father in law tried to take his daughter back but she remained loyal to her wild husband, true to her vows.
  • Bill once traveled with General Custer who disapproved of the mule Bill was riding until his own horse died from the journey and the mule was still going strong.


Chief Satanta called Bill a friend.
Chief Satanta called Bill a friend. | Source


© All Rights Reserved-Brenda Barnes

Registered: 2012-04-21 13:32:26 UTC



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Comments 55 comments

Alastar Packer profile image

Alastar Packer 4 years ago from North Carolina

Well what do you know. Thank you for finding this one Hyph. Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show sure got around didn't it. Never knew it played in my growing up town of Charlotte. What a tragic accident too. Rail travel was far from safe back then as this train disaster certainly shows. Great research and write Ms B. Interesting factoids as well. Oh and do you know exactly where the wreck happened?


always exploring profile image

always exploring 4 years ago from Southern Illinois

This is really interesting. It's amazing how people lived in those days. I enjoy reading about them, but glad i didn't live back then. You are very good at researching events..Thank you...


Eiddwen profile image

Eiddwen 4 years ago from Wales

Wow Brenda what a great hub;you really are such a natural writer and this draws everyone to you.

This is a subject that I find so intereting and intriguing.

Take care and enjoy your weekend.

Eddy.


writer20 profile image

writer20 4 years ago from Southern Nevada

Totally enjoyed reading about Bill.

Voted up and interesting, Joyce.


teaches12345 profile image

teaches12345 4 years ago

I enjoyed this hub and it was really an exiciting read! He did lose a lot on that train wreck, too bad. He had a lot of strengths and was remarkable, even at the young age of ten. Voted up!


mollymeadows profile image

mollymeadows 4 years ago from The Shire

This is fascinating, Hyph. He was one of those larger-than-life characters. He was a legend himself and seems to have known a lot of other legendary people. Up and interesting!


Becky Katz profile image

Becky Katz 4 years ago from Hereford, AZ

Wonderful historical story. I was so interested in this. Great facts and in such an interesting way. Little typo towards the end. It should be 1864. Glad I found this.


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 4 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

My dad and his brothers much preferred mules to ride over horses. My cousin Joe still keeps mules on the family farm and rides them often.

Very good Hub, Brenda!


Hyphenbird profile image

Hyphenbird 4 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful Author

Hello Alastar. Yes, it happened just south of Lexington. I think this is such an interesting story and fell badly for the man even after all these years. There are lots of people in the area who still talk about that night.

This actually was not the first train wreck for the Wild West Show but this one caused the most damage. Our NC is full of interesting tidbits, isn't it?


Hyphenbird profile image

Hyphenbird 4 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful Author

Hello always exploring. It sure was a hard time especially to be a woman. Bill's wife went through some times with him that I do not think I would have put up with. I am so glad you enjoyed this Hub. I sure loved researching it and read his entire biography..


Hyphenbird profile image

Hyphenbird 4 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful Author

I am interested in this type of things also Eiddwen. People and stories from the Old West have been one of my passions all my life. It was a hard time but so exciting and a period that swiftly passed by.

I am thrilled it was interesting to someone from another country. That makes my day.


Hyphenbird profile image

Hyphenbird 4 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful Author

Thanks Joyce. He was a larger than life character, a man with enough personality for two. Thanks for coming by to read about him.


Hyphenbird profile image

Hyphenbird 4 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful Author

Hi teaches12345. I have a feeling that the word boring was never used when referring to Bill. Thanks for coming by. I am glad you liked the Hub. It was fun to write.


Hyphenbird profile image

Hyphenbird 4 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful Author

Hi mollymeadows. It was a large territory but not many people were there. I suppose that is how he knew so many well known people. His life was extremely interesting. There are many stories that happened to him but I didn't want the Hub to get too long. I am glad you enjoyed it.


Hyphenbird profile image

Hyphenbird 4 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful Author

Thanks for the heads up Becky. I corrected that. Glad to know you enjoyed this one.


Hyphenbird profile image

Hyphenbird 4 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful Author

Hello WillStarr. Mules have been undervalued but are great animals. It is good to know some people recognize their worth. I am glad you enjoyed my little tribute to Wild Bill.


kashmir56 profile image

kashmir56 4 years ago from Massachusetts

Hi Hyphenbird great tribute to Buffalo Bill and he sure was bigger than life.Thanks for taking us on this journey through the life and times of this great and interesting man .

Vote up and more !!!


Teylina profile image

Teylina 4 years ago

Thank you so much for this piece, Hyph. I remembered the story vaguely, but mostly because I knew it was basically the end of "an era," if you will and I knew it was why

Annie Oakley never regained her famous image. I love your phrase about "formed by a life with no rules" -- may be not only what saved his life, but made him the generous (if daredevil) that he was! Up, awesome, etc. Great history!


Hyphenbird profile image

Hyphenbird 4 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful Author

Hi kashmir56. I sure would like to spend one day talking to the man. It would give me writing material for years! I appreciate your time and votes.


Hyphenbird profile image

Hyphenbird 4 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful Author

Teylina, that lady was cool. When she was in her nineties, she could shoot the leg off a fly at 100 yards. lol Really she still won many shooting challenges. From all accounts, she was amazing and gracious. That Wild Bill indeed was generous, wild at heart and full of adventure. May we all live up to our dreams.

Thanks for reading about Wild Bill and for the votes my friend.


Teylina profile image

Teylina 4 years ago

I have to admit an old love for both of them, and I managed to see "Annie Get Your Gun" on Broadway in its first production. It didn't do the stories I read justice, but both of them were characters I would have loved to have known and I was glad you put this story in such awesome form!


Hubert Williams 4 years ago

Buffalo was a character I heard. Thanks for writing this hub about the wreck. I have never read muc about it. Voted up and intereting


Hyphenbird profile image

Hyphenbird 4 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful Author

You sure were a fortunate girl to see that Teylina. That sounds like fun and on Broadway no less! How cool. I did see Phantom on Broadway at the gorgeous Majestic. It is something I will never forget.


Hyphenbird profile image

Hyphenbird 4 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful Author

Hubert, he is a fascinating character. I encourage you to read his biography. I placed a link to it at the end of the Hub. It created pictures of the Old West in my mind as I read it. Thanks for stopping by.


Hubert Williams 4 years ago

Thank you I will.


mckbirdbks profile image

mckbirdbks 4 years ago from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas

Very interesting Hyphen. From your accoount he was quite a character. Well done, great story telling.


Hyphenbird profile image

Hyphenbird 4 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful Author

He sure was mckbirdbks. I wish I had the opportunity to interview the man. I am glad you like the retelling of that tragic event which changed his life.


lilyfly profile image

lilyfly 4 years ago from Wasilla, Alaska

Alawys, always great! I have to go, love yaz, lily


Hyphenbird profile image

Hyphenbird 4 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful Author

Hello Lily girl. Thanks for spending some of your free time here at my place. Enjoy that Alaskan spring.


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 4 years ago from Taos, NM

Great piece, Hyphen. I enjoyed reading this. I love the Buffalo Bill and Annie Oakley stories. This is amazing and I had no idea something like this happened in N.Carolina. What a night that must have been. Thanks for an entertaining piece!


Hyphenbird profile image

Hyphenbird 4 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful Author

Thank you suzettenaples. It must have been a harrowing night for everyone. The man drew attention and was very spectacular.


Faith Reaper profile image

Faith Reaper 4 years ago from southern USA

Very interesting and thank you for your time in writing this so thoroughly. He had a wild ride in this life for sure!!! Great hub. In His Love, Faith Reaper


Genna East profile image

Genna East 4 years ago from Massachusetts, USA

Becoming the head of the family at only 11; a cattle driver and killing a man to save a comrade. They sure grew up fast in those days. What an amazing life he led; it was also very interesting to learn about his character and integrity. I can’t help but wonder how hard it must have been to be a woman in that environment. A very enjoyable read.


Hyphenbird profile image

Hyphenbird 4 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful Author

Hello Faith Reaper.I am glad you came by to read about Mr. Cody. Yes, his life was certainly exciting and unique. I thought this episode might not be well known to the public. I believe it is important to know about our countries history and the people who shaped us. Have a great day! Hyph


Hyphenbird profile image

Hyphenbird 4 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful Author

Hi Genna. Isn't that fascinating? I think women had a very hard time back then. The physical conditions were awful and the emotional wounds horrendous. I know many children died in infancy and husbands went away and were killed, never coming back. Yet, it must have been exciting to know one was making history. I am so glad you enjoyed reading about Wild Bill.


MartieCoetser profile image

MartieCoetser 4 years ago from South Africa

Amazing story! Train accidents are such horrors, but so are all accidents in vehicles.

The world need (more) hero's like William Cody.

I enjoyed this hub of yours, Hyphenbird. Voted up and amazing :)


snakeslane profile image

snakeslane 4 years ago from Canada

Hi Hyphenbird, I knew nothing about Buffalo Bill Cody before reading this page. Thanks for the enlightening story. Good read, and great images. You got my votes. Regards, snakeslane


Hyphenbird profile image

Hyphenbird 4 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful Author

Hi Martie. I agree with you. We need more strong, take action men today, ones who do the right thing and cast fear aside. He was an unforgettable character. I am glad you enjoyed learning about him.


Hyphenbird profile image

Hyphenbird 4 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful Author

Hello snakeslane. He is an American icon but I suppose people from other countries don't know about him. Read his autobiography is you get a chance. It is fascinating. Thanks for the votes.


festersporling1 profile image

festersporling1 4 years ago from Los Angeles, CA

William Frederick Cody certainly deserves to be remembered as a pioneer and hero. He certainly does have the integrity men should aspire for. Up and awesome.


thelyricwriter profile image

thelyricwriter 4 years ago from West Virginia

Hyp, such a well written story my friend. Interesting read all the way through. Never heard of Buffalo Bill Cody before, however, I had heard the name Buffalo Bill. I imagine that they are the same. Great history and you hit that time period perfect Hyp. Voting this up, awesome, and useful.


Hyphenbird profile image

Hyphenbird 4 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful Author

Hi thelyricwriter. They are the same person. Sometimes he is called Wild Bill. Isn't his life interesting? It makes me want to live in that time period although it was tough living indeed. I am glad you enjoyed this retelling of Bill's life and that awful train wreck. My heart aches for the trapped animals. Thanks for your visit!


WannaB Writer profile image

WannaB Writer 4 years ago from Templeton, CA

What a fascinating hub! I had never heard of this wreck, even though I'm a great Annie Oakley fan. Voted up and more.


Hyphenbird profile image

Hyphenbird 4 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful Author

Hello WannaBWriter. I love Annie Oakley also. She was an amazing lady and very courageous. Thanks for the votes. I appreciate it very much. Hyph


Hyphenbird profile image

Hyphenbird 4 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful Author

festersporling1, your comment went to Spam for some reason. I just found it. Thanks very much for reading about Mr. Cody. He sure was a fine man.


SusieQ42 4 years ago

Great and interesting hub, Hyphen! I loved every word. Now I know why I don't like the mormons!!! Meanies...


Hyphenbird profile image

Hyphenbird 4 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful Author

Hi Susie42. I love Old West history and Cody has always been a favorite character for me. I am so glad you enjoyed learning more about him too.


SusieQ42 4 years ago

I tweeted it for you. You could write a book!


midget38 profile image

midget38 4 years ago from Singapore

Thanks for the introduction to Old West history! I have heard of Buffalo Bill, of course, but never in detail. Thanks for the great write and the insights into some of his derring dos!!


Hyphenbird profile image

Hyphenbird 4 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful Author

Midget38 he sure was a big personality. Being around that man would never be boring. I am so glad you came to read about him. Thanks


carolina muscle profile image

carolina muscle 3 years ago from Charlotte, North Carolina

That's a fascinating story... I know that line used to be the main line connecting Western VA with Charlotte, and it's still in operation today for freight...

I sure hope it's safer, now !!!

Interesting post-- thank you!!


Hyphenbird profile image

Hyphenbird 3 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful Author

Hello Carolina Muscle. It really is interesting how Cody traveled and had so many crashes. Too bad we cannot take a ride on that freight train. I think it would be fun. Thanks for reading about Wild bill. He was indeed a character.


Rachel 2 years ago

My great-grandfather, William Lester Davis, helped bury horses from that wreck. We have a pocket watch, passed down for generations, said to be Buffalo Bill's. Supposedly, he gave it to my great grandfather as a gesture of his appreciation for helping. Annie Oakley gave someone her saddle and other items like her costumes, for helping out. Many people fled in terror, so I guess those who came to help, or stayed put after the wreck, were much appreciated.

It took awhile for help to arrive, so they spent many days in a makeshift camp, near the creek. People stole items, as souvenirs, which were washing down the creek. Many locals came to see the Indians (from the show), up close.

I have no way of verifying the ownership of the pocket watch, but it was manufactured in Chicago, Il, and it is extremely doubtful my great grandfather could've afforded anything like it. The Davis family lived somewhere near Tyro, NC. I can't remember exactly where the wreck occurred, but was always told the noise of that terrible night compelled those wanting to help, to come. My grandfather relayed something about my great grandfather answering a knock at the door. I imagine word spread quickly. What a terrible event. I read, in an old newspaper account, that one of Bill's horses that died was a gift from the Queen. So sad!

I hope to visit the area one day. I called the courthouse one day, and they said something about having 1 of Annie Oakley's saddles on display somewhere, so they were very interested in my pocket watch.


Hyphenbird profile image

Hyphenbird 2 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful Author

Oh Rachel, thank you for this exciting information. We do not live far from there and I plan to take my son this summer. It sure would be fun to have a meet up with people who still care and have history like you do.

It must have been such a terrifying ordeal yet heroes rush to help instead of fleeing. Your grandfather was one of them. It is nice to know we come from good stock, isn't it?


Rosie 2 years ago

Heck yeah ba-beye keep them coming!

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