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Famous Pioneers in Iowa's Transportation History

Col. William F. Buffalo Bill "Buffalo Bill" Cody
(1846-1917)

Ranked among the most remarkable exploits to come out of the American West was the Pony Express. During its brief 19 1/2 months of operation (April 1860 to November 1861), the Pony Express delivered mail and news between St. Joseph, Mo., and San Francisco, Calif.

Although none of the 157 Pony Express relay stations was located in Iowa, one of its most notable riders was an Iowan: Col. William F. "Buffalo Bill" Cody.

The famous rider was born Feb. 26, 1846, near Le Claire in Scott County, Iowa. The Cody family left Iowa in 1853 when Bill was a young boy.

At age 14, he was employed as a Pony Express rider, one of the youngest on the line. After some months of employment, he was transferred to the Slade Division in Wyoming where he made the longest non-stop ride—from Red Buttes Station to Rocky Ridge Station and back—when he found that his relief rider had been killed. The distance of 322 miles over one of the most dangerous portions of the entire trail was completed in 21 hours and 40 minutes using 21 horses.

Cody later went on to become a soldier, buffalo hunter and owner of the Wild West Show. He earned his nickname "Buffalo Bill" as an efficient and skillful buffalo hunter providing meat for workers on the transcontinental railroad.

He was one of the greatest showmen of his day, bringing the thrill of America's Wild West to the world.

Cody died on Jan. 10, 1917, at the home of his sister in Denver, Colo. Visit his family's homestead in Princeton and the Buffalo Bill Museum in Le Claire for an insightful look back time.