Planning Continues For Cody Reunion

As many as 2,500 relatives of Buffalo Bill Cody are being invited to the Jamestown area for The International Cody Family Association Reunion.

Suzanna W. Cody, The International Cody Family Association president, said there are at least 2,500 people listed in the directory of living members of the Cody family. The International Cody Family Association Reunion will start Thursday, July 24, with events planned through Sunday, July 27, in downtown Jamestown and at Chautauqua Institution. Several reunion events will be held at the Jamestown Gateway Train Station, located at 211-217 W. Second St., Jamestown. The association holds a reunion every two years.

Cody said she has visited Chautauqua County several times in her life because of the family’s connection to Western New York. She said it is documented Buffalo Bill performed his Wild West Show in the Jamestown area seven times, which was quite a few occasions for one location to be selected for a performance. Cody said Buffalo Bill probably chose Jamestown as a frequent spot because of his relatives who would visit Chautauqua Institution. Cody said her ancestors who lived in the Cleveland, Ohio, area would visit Chautauqua Institution during the summer. She believes Buffalo Bill would host his show in Jamestown to see family and to raise funds for his Wild West Show. Cody, who lives in California, would vacation with her family at Chautauqua Institution when she was a child.

”I think I learned how to water ski on (Chautauqua Lake),” she said.

Cody returned to the area when the Buffalo Bill Wild West poster was discovered on a city building at the corner of Third and Pine streets. In 2002, one of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show posters from 1878 was discovered on the site of a downtown building. The 24-by-10-foot paper billboard had been pasted to an unfinished exterior wall and was sandwiched in by brick when the building’s construction was completed. The billboard, a montage of scenes from Buffalo Bill’s show, was revealed when part of the wall fell away from the building. The billboard was then restored during a five-year process that was finished in 2007. The poster is now on display under glass at the Reg Lenna Civic Center.

Cody said she, and Juti Winchester, a college professor and former curator of the Buffalo Bill Museum at the Buffalo Bill Center of the West, assisted in raising money to preserve the poster. After the discovery and restoration of the poster, discussions about Jamestown being a location for the family reunion started between Cody and Lee Harkness, Jamestown Gateway Train Station general manager.

”Lee is a natural-born community leader,” she said. ”Lee has a love of the west, horses and really convinced us to consider Jamestown as a reunion site.”

Cody said the family was thinking about having the reunion in Jamestown for the first time in 2012. However, several events planned for the grand reopening of the Buffalo Bill Center of the West which includes the Buffalo Bill Museum, Whitney Western Art Museum, Cody Firearms Museum, Draper Natural History Museum and the Plains Indian Museum in 2012 prevented the reunion from being held in Jamestown. The reunion was then held at the center, which is located in Cody, Wyo.

Cody said her ancestors first came to America in the late 1600s. The first-known inhabitants on the continent were Philip and Martha DeGoady. Through the generations, the name was changed several times to finally be Cody. Buffalo Bill was born in 1846 in Le Claire, which was part of the Iowa Territory and now the state. Buffalo Bill’s father was Issac Cody. Suzanna W. Cody’s great-great-great grandfather, Philip, was Issac’s brother.

”(Buffalo Bill) was seen as a showman. A lot of us (relatives) have that in us too, but it is more tamed,” she said.

Cody said most of Buffalo Bill’s relatives were academic types like governors, doctors and founders of universities. She said that is why Buffalo Bill liked to teach people about the Wild West. The Wild West Show was performed throughout eastern U.S. and in Europe.

”His show was fun, but he also liked to teach living history,” she said. ”His real motivation was education.”

The reunion will include several events including Wild West shows happening on the street in front of the train station, a parade and Buffalo Bill artifacts on display. Several events are still in the planning process for the reunion. More information will be available closer to the reunion.