Buffalo Bill’s Scandalous Divorce Hearing

Colonel William F. Cody, sometimes known as Buffalo Bill, was born in February 1846. He became famous early in life, thanks to his good looks, his days as an Army Scout, and his touring Wild West show, but he dabbled in an astonishing number of things. Cody was a Pony Express rider, a wagon train driver, a town developer, a railroad contractor, a bison hunter, a fur trapper, and a gold prospector.

Cody, age 19, the year before he married Louisa

 

At age 20, Cody married 22-year-old Louisa Frederici. Cody referred to his wife as “Lulu”, and she was a born manager. She managed property well, managed money tolerably, and managed her husband poorly. The couple had four children and the marriage was rocky, to say the least. Lulu often accused her famous husband of philandering and he accused her of nagging.

Cody and Lulu with daughters Arta and Orra, 1882

Cody was ready to call it quits early on but Lulu was unwilling to divorce him. She raged at Cody. She hated him, she cursed him, but she wouldn’t let him go. He filed for divorce twice and it must be admitted that his home life was not comfortable. Lulu was of a quarrelsome disposition, and Cody liked to goad her. He withdrew his first divorce petition because of the death of their daughter Orra. The second divorce suit went to trial in Cheyenne in 1905 and it was a media circus.

The Buffalo Times wrote, “Colonel Cody sat throughout the day as immovable as a statue, but he was deeply interested and worried at times…At other times he was highly amused.”

Cody’s first witness, Mrs. H.S. Parker, had an axe to grind with her former neighbor and relished the opportunity to air her grievances against Lulu. Mrs. Parker’s husband was fired from his job as foreman on Cody’s ranch because Mrs. Cody complained about him, the witness alleged.

Mrs. Cody was “very mean” to her daughter, Mrs. Parker claimed, but the bulk of her rage was reserved for her husband. Cody’s pack of stag hounds, gifted to him by the Emperor of Russia, had mysteriously died and Lulu told Mrs. Parker she was responsible. “She admitted to me that she poisoned the hounds to spite the Colonel.“

Lulu’s abuse wasn’t limited to her family and pets. “Her language was so vulgar I was compelled to send my daughter away,” the witness said. Mrs. Parker primly refused to repeat Mrs. Cody’s vulgar language.

Lulu revealed some long-term plans to Mrs. Parker. “In 1901, she said Cody had already lived five years longer than necessary.“ A medium provided Mrs. Cody with this piece of intelligence, the witness added. If Cody died, Lulu said she would “dispose of all of the property. move to Denver, marry a young man, and be happy for the balance of her days, something she had long wanted to do.“

Colonel William F. Cody could face the Confederate Army but he couldn’t face Lulu

 

Mrs. Cody consulted fortunetellers weekly, paying lavish sums of $25-$35 a sitting. This was a staggering amount, equal to $850 – $1,100 in 2022. The object of these expensive sessions was “to learn how to control the Colonel.”

Mrs. Cody carried a powder with her, presumably given to her by these expensive mediums, that was supposed to help her “get power” over Cody.

“Did Mrs. Cody drink?“

“Yes, and I drank with her.“

Mrs. Cody’s attorney piped up. “For medical purposes, I presume?“

“No,“ the witness said flatly.

“Did Mrs. Cody tell you the names of the women with whom her husband had been intimate?“

Lulu had frequently complained of two women. “The wife of Howard Gould, and the Queen of England.“

Cody’s laughter filled the courtroom as the shocked judge asked, “The present Queen of England?“

“No, the late queen.“ The Colonel had evidently told his wife that he’d had an affair with Queen Victoria who had since spent years pining for him. Poor Lulu believed every word of this preposterous tale. “She talked of them a great deal and got very angry over it.”

Queen Victoria

 

Mrs. Parker was followed to the stand by her daughter, who corroborated her mother’s testimony. She testified Mrs. Cody carried poison in her hand satchel and complained of her hatred of the Colonel. The girl said the ill-tempered Lulu wanted to “get control of Cody.”

If Mrs. Parker was a frenemy who wanted to exact revenge on her former neighbor, she was probably pleased with the hearing thus far. But as is often the case, things turned around rather suddenly. For Mrs. Parker, they turned around the moment when her husband was called to the stand.

Parker testified about living in McPherson at the same time as Cody. He had been a corral keeper there. Mrs. Cody, the witness revealed, accused her husband of visiting a house of ill repute at McPherson.

“Was there a house of ill repute there?“

“No, sir, there was not.“ Parker replied, a little too positively.

The attorney paused. “Would you have known it if there had been?“

“Yes, sir,“ the witness said decidedly. Shouts of laughter filled the courtroom but Parker was not an unmitigated success. “Mrs. Parker frowned at her husband,” the Buffalo Times noted.

On March 23, 1905, the court sided with Lulu, telling Cody “incompatibility was not grounds for divorce.”

The Colonel and Lulu

 

The couple reconciled in 1910 and remained together until Cody’s death in 1917. Lulu outlived the Colonel and all four children. Cody’s Wikipedia page says he fought in the Civil War and the Indian Wars, 16 battles total. It’s too bad they didn’t count his 50-year domestic war. I bet that’s where the fiercest battles were!

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