Old Trail Town.

Old Trail Town

Field review by the editors.

Cody, Wyoming

Looking for Wild West thrills? In Cody, street gunfights are staged daily. There's a rodeo, a bizarre gun museum, and a store topped by a huge rifle. But the town's biggest concentration of frontier charm isn't on its main street. It's on the fabricated main street of Old Trail Town, a history attraction on the western edge of Cody behind a veterinary clinic, visible as a low, brown assemblage of buildings out on the rangeland.

Two-headed calf cabin.
Two-headed calf cabin.

In the 1960s, Bob W. Edgar (1939-2012) was an archeologist working for the Buffalo Bill Historical Center in Cody. He was also a historian, a marksman and trick shooter, a trapper, and an artist. Edgar loved historic buildings that told the story of the old west, and noticed they had a tendency to disappear -- torn down, burned up, or neglected into ruin. He started to acquire and preserve a few.

Edgar opened Old Trail Town in 1967 with five buildings. There was no historical town at the location -- though the entrance sign claims it's the spot where Buffalo Bill Cody laid out his first townsite envisioned for Cody. It also happened to be where Edgar lived, in a leased cabin near the highway to Yellowstone National Park. Like new towns, tourist attractions tend to spring up at the confluence of commerce and opportunity, and Edgar had his own vision of a town.

Rivers Saloon.
Rivers Saloon

Classroom in the Coffin School.
Classroom in the Coffin School.

The first building Edgar moved to the site was the Rivers Saloon (1888) -- a beloved haunt of cowboys, gold miners, and wanted men -- and the oldest bar in that corner of Wyoming. Bullet holes are still visible.

Old Trail Town's main street eventually expanded to 28 buildings (most vintage 1879-1901), along with over one hundred horse-drawn wagons and vehicles. Visitors can walk along the thoroughfare, exploring cabins, a livery stable, a stocked 1892 store. Plaques explain the significance of buildings and artifacts in frontier cowboy life. Here's the cabin of the man who introduced sheep to central Wyoming; there's a cabin built by a pair of buffalo hunters, and that same year...one was murdered! Visitors soon find their brains stuffed-to-bursting with trivia and tidbits, just like the cheeks of the Pocket Gophers they can read about on one of Old Trail Town's many informative signs.

Antlers and wagons.
Antlers and wagons.

There's an obligatory one-room schoolhouse, although it has an odd origin. "The Coffin School" derives its name, according to its sign, from the "tragic death of Alfred Nower, who died of gangrene" in 1885 in what was then his cabin. "He had chopped himself in the leg while hewing logs."

Horse-drawn hearse.
Horse-drawn hearse.

Observant visitors will spot plenty of other memorable quirks. One building is home to a two-headed calf, while another houses a 19th century horse-drawn hearse. There's no rush, no performances -- just a well curated, albeit dusty, ghost town of buildings and pioneer artifacts.

Celebrities of the Old West

A few buildings in Old Trail Town are notable for connections with celebrities of the period. Hole-In-The-Wall Cabin is the 1883 two-room log structure where Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid would meet, and the Mud Spring Cabin was a bank robbery hideout for Kid Curry and the Sundance Kid.

"Curley" (or "Curly," depending on which sign you read) was a Crow scout for Custer's U.S. Army 7th Cavalry. He survived the slaughter at the Battle of the Little Bighorn in 1876. His 1885 cabin home walls are decorated with photographed portraits of Indian chiefs and Custer. The iron frame bed is covered with mealy patterned blankets. A sign advises that everything in the cabin is part of the historical collection, so don't touch or sit on anything.

Graves of Wild West Characters

Random antler mound.

Though some of its residents have been dead for 140+ years, Old Trail Town's cemetery didn't open for tenants until 1974. That's the year Bob Edgar received a letter mailed by a class of California 7th graders. The famous mountain man, Jeremiah "Liver Eatin" Johnson, was buried in a veterans' cemetery in Lancaster, California, and his remains were scheduled to be displaced to make way for highway widening. The class hoped Edgar could offer Johnson a more eternal resting place. If old buildings can be transplanted, why not corpses?

Grave of Liver-Eating Johnson.
Grave of Liver-Eating Johnson.

On June 8, 1974, over 2,000 people showed up for the reburial service of Liver Eatin' Johnson in Cody. One pallbearer was actor Robert Redford, who played "Jeremiah Johnson" in the popular 1972 movie. The media publicity spurred other locations to offer up the remains of their Old West pioneers, such as Jim White and Phillip Vetter. Belle Drewry (AKA the "Woman in Blue") was murdered in 1897. W.A. Gallagher and Blind Bill were discovered during road construction in the area. All are now interred in Old Trail Town's cemetery. One building displays photographs documenting the happy reburials.

Mountain Man Memorials

A special area celebrates several important figures who carved their way through the Rockies and the northern plains: Jim Bridger, Jedediah Smith and others. Though not buried in Cody (yet!), each features a stone marker with plaque and detailed sculpted bust.

Old Trail Town has a short season - June through September, open daily.

Old Trail Town

Old Trail Town

Address:
1831 Demaris Drive, Cody, WY
Directions:
On the western edge of Cody. Drive west on US Hwy 20. Turn right at the Old Trail Town billboard.
Hours:
June-Sep. daily 8-6 (Call to verify) Local health policies may affect hours and access.
Phone:
307-587-5302
Admission:
Adults $10.
RA Rates:
Major Fun
Save to My Sights

Nearby Offbeat Places

Sleep in a Wagon, See Animal TricksSleep in a Wagon, See Animal Tricks, Cody, WY - 1 mi.
Giant Parade RifleGiant Parade Rifle, Cody, WY - 2 mi.
Daily Street GunfightsDaily Street Gunfights, Cody, WY - 2 mi.
In the region:
Pig Races on Pig Track at Saloon, Bearcreek, MT - 45 mi.

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