HSP HISTORY Blog
Interesting Frederick, Maryland tidbits and musings .
In August of 2009, I had a work conference to attend in Denver, Colorado. I was working for the Tourism Council of Frederick County at the time, and one of my job tasks was to oversee a national scenic byway—this took the form of the Catoctin Mountain National Byway, aka US15. Today, this stretch of roadway through Frederick County is known as Maryland’s portion of the Journey Through Hallowed Ground National Scenic Byway.
Denver was the scene for the 2009 National Scenic Byways Conference, a biannual event that hosted tourism and transportation planning professionals from designated national scenic byways from around country: A1A in Florida, the Santa Fe Trail, Route 66, Skyline Drive, Merritt parkway, etc. having never been to Colorado before, and was excited with the planned itinerary for the week, and even took the opportunity to head out a few days early to do some extra sightseeing.
Upon landing at Denver International Airport, I grabbed my rental car and headed immediately to Golden, Colorado. This tourist town was very welcoming, as most everything revolved around its top export—Coors beer. I happily succumbed to the Coors Brewery Tour, and then made my way onto the Lariat Loop route, a Colorado byway, which took me to my next destination atop Lookout Mountain.
Once used by the Ute Indian tribe as a “lookout,” the attraction afforded me with incredible vistas of Great Plains as well as Golden below and Denver some 12 miles to the east. This foothill outlier of the legendary Rockies seemed about the same height as my hometown Catoctin Mountain back home with and its highest elevation of nearly 2000 feet above sea level. However, I was quickly reminded that the Denver vicinity already has the leg up on us as it’s not called the “Mile High City” for nothing.” The additional 5,280 feet combined with a like 2,000 giving it a total elevation of 7,377 feet above sea level.
The summit of Lookout Mountain is most famous for an unnatural feature—the gravesite of William F. "Buffalo Bill" Cody (February 26, 1846 – January 10, 1917), listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Cody experienced the Old West to its fullest extent. His skill as a buffalo hunter gained him the nickname "Buffalo Bill." He later became one of the greatest showmen in American history as his legendary Wild West shows traveled the world leaving a lasting vision of the American West.
The Museum illustrates the life, times, and legend of William F. Cody. It includes exhibits about Buffalo Bill's life and the Wild West shows, Indian artifacts and firearms. See Sitting Bull's bow and arrows, Buffalo Bill's show outfits, Frederick Remington's "Portrait of a Ranch Hand," and many other objects from the Old West in the Buffalo Bill Museum and Grave.
Buffalo Bill died in early 1917 and would be placed in a deep shaft carved out of the mountain summit. There were definite security concerns involving the deceased frontiersman because many friends from Cody, Wyoming vehemently claimed he should be buried there in the town he helped found. Thousands were on hand for his funeral in June.
Louisa Cody, who had married Buffalo Bill back before he became famous, was buried next to her husband four years later. That year, 1921, the Buffalo Bill Memorial Museum was begun by Johnny Baker. Baker was a close friend and more so, the unofficial foster son to Buffalo Bill. Although his parents never allowed Cody to officially adopt him, he nevertheless travelled, worked and studied with Buffalo Bill from the age of 7 years, after the death of Cody's natural son, Kit Carson, in 1876 at the age of 5. Under Cody's tutelage, young Johnny Baker became the sharpshooter star of "Buffalo Bill's Wild West" show in the United States and Europe, and later served as manager and worldwide booking agent for the show until Cody's passing.
Just as millions of people saw Buffalo Bill in his Wild West shows during his lifetime, millions of persons have visited Buffalo Bill’s grave in the years since 1917. Today it is one of the top visitor attractions in Denver and Colorado. And I would follow suit on the late afternoon of August 22, 2009. The Museum chronicles the life, times, and legend of William F. Cody and includes exhibits about Buffalo Bill's life and the Wild West shows, Indian artifacts and firearms. In the collection, I also saw Sitting Bull's bow and arrows, Buffalo Bill's show outfits, Frederick Remington's "Portrait of a Ranch Hand," and many other objects from the Old West period of our history.
However, among the many things I learned that day, there were actually two that stood above the rest. William F. Cody’s middle name was none other than Frederick! This was quite a happenstance, but I would find a deeper connection to home. In one of the galleries, I found a three-ring binder with an adjacent sign that read: Did Buffalo Bill Visit Your Town? This immediately captivated my attention, as I began to search for the Maryland section.
Alas, I found that Buffalo Bill did visit Frederick, Maryland—October 2, 1916. Along with nearly 20 visits to Baltimore, a few to Cumberland, and one to Hagerstown (September 13, 1907), I felt an instant bond and was so glad I took the time to search this binder. I wrote down the date and stuck in my wallet, vowing to look for anything in the local papers at the Maryland Room (C. Burr Artz Library) when I returned back home after the conference.
I found advance notice of Buffalo Bill’s visit in mid-September. In those days, entertainment opportunities like today’s concerts and sporting events did not usually have the several-month waiting period we know today. Advance teams contacted newspaper offices, affixed broadside advertisement posters and “barked” in the streets in the days leading up to the “big event.” This was the case with Cody’s visit in the fall of 1916.
It’s not only amazing to try to imagine the spectacle of seeing Cody and the show itself which often starred cowboys, Indians, Mexican peoples, but this was the magical and raw spirit of the far-off western frontier being brought to your sleepy hometown. And Frederick, unlike its own wild-west period of the 1740’s, was a tamed city of just under 11,000 inhabitants (ca 1916). The trains brought the performers and their animals into town.
The B&O train station was positioned at the intersection of South Market and All Saints streets. The Pennsylvania Railroad Station was near the intersection of East Patrick and East streets. From these locations, circus parades would form as the onlookers lining Frederick’s principal streets were given a glimpse of what was to come. Usually these went up Market to the fountain at 7th Street, back down and along Patrick or Church streets to exhibition grounds along either street. Best of all, boys of all ages had their chance this time around to gaze at Buffalo Bill, the larger than life American hero and his several co-stars as they winded their way up Market Street and over to East Patrick Street. This particular show was not held at the Frederick Fairgrounds, but nearby at a place called Schildknecht Grounds thought to be on the east side of the intersection of East 7th Street and East Street.
Interestingly, this would be Buffalo Bill’s last ride and show in Maryland. He died just three short months later at the age of 70.
Now in doing some additional research, I found an earlier visit to our fair town by William F. Cody. He performed here in 1894. The show was entitled "The Great Wild West" and was held at the Frederick Fairgrounds. An article pertaining to the latter 1916 visit claimed that Buffalo Bill was well-acquainted with our town, having used it earlier as a wintering quarters for his traveling show. I haven’t been able to “round up” any information to prove this statement, but am hoping somebody will “rustle up” something, someday.
A few years back, I found that Buffalo Bill’s good friend Gordon Lillie had performed at the Great Frederick Fair a couple of times. Lillie went by his stage name of Pawnee Bill and brought to town his Pawnee Bill’s Historic Wild West Show. Mr. Lillie’s wife May starred in the show as the “Champion Girl Horseback Shot of the West.” His first show was here in 1888, but more would follow in subsequent years and by 1896 the show had grown to be named Pawnee Bill's Historic Wild West & Mexican Hippodrome.
Buffalo Bill’s unofficial foster son Johnny Baker put on a shooting display here in Frederick in 18XX. As I noted earlier, Baker would go on to become a big star on his own and would eventually found the Buffalo Bill Museum, high atop Lookout Mountain.
Annie Oakley, the “peerless rifle and wing shooter,” and former staple of many of Buffalo Bill’s shows, came to Frederick as well. The renowned international star visited here with The Young Buffalo Wild Best, Vernon C. Seaver’s Hippodrome and Col. Cummin’s Far East . This “circus” spectacular occurred in Freed’s Field (near the Fairgrounds) on August 22, 1913.
Oakley was reported to have first visited Frederick nearly twenty years earlier while under the employ of Buffalo Bill. She would go on to reach legendary pop culture status for later generations as her life became the subject of stage and screen projects after her death in 1926.
Annie Oakley would make a posthumous return to town, just over two decades from her last. She would grace the silver screen (noted as being the only “silvertone” one in town at the time) of the Frederick Theater, located on N. Market Street (today the site of Starbuck’s Coffee House). The film, aptly named Annie Oakley, starred actress Barbara Stanwyck in the title role. Interestingly, Stanwyck (1907-1990) had started as a “Ziegfeld (Follies) Girl” and had a short, but notable, career as a stage actress in the late 1920s. She would go on to make 85 films in 38 years in Hollywood, before turning to television. Originally born Ruby Catherine Stevens, Stanwyck was urged to take on a stage name. She supposedly received inspiration while viewing a thirty year-old paper program or poster featuring a British actress named Jane Stanwyck who was then starring in playwright Clyde Fitch’s stage production of Barbara Frietchie, based on Frederick’s Civil War heroine. Ruby borrowed the Stanwyck from the star of the play, and Barbara from the “star” of our town.