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4,000 visit Buffalo Bill homestead

He sparked the imagination of thousands and lived a life few could replicate, and while his life led him around the United States and Europe, William Frederick ``Buffalo Bill'' Cody first planted roots in a small Iowa town.

A visit to the Buffalo Bill Cody Homestead, 28050 230th Ave., Princeton, Iowa, will give more insight into the life and times of the legendary cowbody.

File photo

Although Buffalo Bill Cody was born near Princeton, Iowa, in 1846, his family moved to Kansas in 1853. The family homestead was opened as a historic site and museum in 1970. Nearly 4,000 people a year visit the site.

The Cody family homestead was built in 1847 by William Cody's father, Isaac, a year after William's birth. After the family went to Kansas in 1853 to follow the gold rush, the McCausland family lived in the Princeton home, which they expanded. The house was opened in 1970 as a historic site and museum.

Made of native limestone, it has walnut floors and trim and is decorated with typical mid-19th century items. ``Most of the original Cody items are on display at a museum in Denver, Colorado,'' said Sandy Reed, site manager of the homestead. ``We have decorated the house in period furniture, however, with books, memorabilia, pictures and Indian artifacts true to the time.''

On three acres of land, the homestead has buffalo and Texas longhorn cattle grazing nearby. ``Many people come to walk the premises and see what the landscape is like,'' Ms. Reed said. ``We have 10 picnic tables, also, for people who want to spend a relaxing afternoon amongst the scenery.''

A gift shop on the back porch of the house offers items that reflect the period, Ms. Reed said. ``We sell Sioux pottery, Indian and pioneer toys, and old-fashioned rock candy, among other things.''

One of the more popular items is Grandma Cody's cookies. ``I found an old family recipe in a cookbook,'' Ms. Reed said. ``It was probably handed down a few times, but may well be the recipe that Grandma Cody actually used.''

A schoolhouse is tucked away at the end of a neighboring lane, and a tool shed filled with period tools and plows can be viewed by the public. ``We also have a farmer's wagon and a surrey,'' Ms. Reed said.

Each year, Ms. Reed said, 3,500 to 4,000 people visit the homestead. ``Our peak months are during June, July and August, when a lot of children's field trips take place. During those months, we may get over a thousand people visiting per month.''

The Buffalo Cody Homestead is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., April 1 through Oct. 31. Admission is $2 for adults and free for those 16 and under. For information, call (319) 225-2981.

-- By Elizabeth Trego (January 22, 1998)

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