Entertainment Magazine: Iron Door Mine: Flint Carter: Buffalo Bill Cody

Buffalo Bill Cody's Arizona Mining Ventures

William F. Cody (1846-1917) better known as the Wild West Show entertainer “Buffalo Bill,” had invested in many mining interests. One mine was near the town of Oracle, 40 miles north of Tucson, Arizona a decade before the Arizona territory entered Statehood.

Buffalo Bill Cody mining in Oracle, Arizona timeline posterLocated in the Old Hat Mining District, Campo Bonito was one of the early gold mining operations conducted on the northside of the Santa Catalina Mountains.


Some critic historians have discredited Cody’s investments in the Santa Catalinas. $300-500,000 was supposedly lost mleaving a black mark on Cody’s legend.

In fact, Cody sold 361,000 shares from $1 to $12 a share.

In 1903, Don Russell wrote “after 6 months Cody’s men hit the legendary mine with the iron door!”mA mill was erected and years of production mwent undocumented.

The nearby town and smelter of San Manuel is on nthe same ore-body the Kalamazo and the end result of the legend. After four decades ofmproduction, when closed, the San Manuel mine was the largest UNDERGROUND gold producing mine in the U.S.

The facts venirate Cody’s and Arizona’s reputation!

William “Buffalo Bill Cody Arizona Mining History poster
demonstrates Cody’s presence and investment in Oracle,
Arizona during the final decade of his life.
Courtesy of BZB Publishing, Inc. Flint Carter and Santa Catalina Historic Preservation Project.

Buffalo Bill Cody's Historic Timeline in Arizona

1888: “Buffalo Bill” Travels through Arizona. William F. Cody visits the Grand Canyon and California with several English dignitaries. (“Tombstone Epitaph,” Arizona, July 7, 1888)

1902: “Buffalo Bill” Rough Riders in Tucson on September 29. (“The Bisbee Daily Review,” Bisbee, Arizona). October 20, 1908 and October 25, 1910. (ref: Buffalo Bill Museum and Grave)

1903: Ore Struck Where Iron Door Mine Found. On March 13, Cody writes that, “after seven months, ore has been struck” in the region of the fabled Mine with the Iron Door. (“The Lives and Legends of Buffalo Bill,” by Don Russell, page 434)

1908: Buffalo Bill Cody Visits Oracle, Arizona. Cody meets with John D. Burgess and stays several times, Wild West Show visits. (“The Bisbee Daily Review,” Jan. 20, 1909)

1909: Cody Walks “150 miles.” He examines his property and then travels to New York to seek investments for Camp Bonito. (“Bisbee Daily Review,” January 23, 1909). Cody returns in December 1909 and November 1910.

1910: The Southern Belle Mine Becomes Property of the Cody-Dyer M & M operations. (“Bisbee Daily Review,” May 14). The Cody-Getchell-Burgess syndicate turned six claims at Campo Bonito into a $600,000 corporation under the style and title of the Campo Bonlto Mining and Milling company. (“The Los Angeles Herald,” CA, June 26). Wild West Show visits.

1911: Camp Bonito Controls Over 45 Mining Claims. A 5-Stamp Merrill’s Mill is built to mine scheelite and tungsten concentrates. The scheelite is sold to a steel manufacturer in Pittsburgh. High-grade tungsten ore from the mines replaced the carbon filament used in electric lighting. (“The Coconino Sun,” February 10). January 17: A 50-ton mill is added at Campo Bonito. Rumors of “Senator” Col. W.F. Cody (“The National Tribune,” Washington D.C., March 23).

1911: Campo Bonito Mining Reorganization. The company is reorganized into a new corporation called the Cody- Dyer Mining and Milling Company with Col. W. F. Cody (Buffalo Bill) as president with a $5,000,000 capitalization...”so that “every man in the company is already a millionaire in his own right.” (”El Paso Herald,” El Paso, Texas, November 18, 1911)

1911: Cody Sells to Edison: “Colonel W. F. Cody (Buffalo Bill), in a message to his sister Mrs. L.E. Decker of this place, states that he and his associates in a Tucson, Ariz. mining venture have closed a contract with Thomas Edison whereby the latter is to erect electrical reduction works and purchase the entire output of their property. The deal is the biggest I have ever put through,” writes Colonel Cody to Mrs. Decker.” (“The Denver Times,” December 25, 1911)

1912: “Large Outcrops of Quartz” E. J. Ewing report on the Morning Star claim of the Southern Belle mine group (“Mineral Appraisal of Coronado National Forest, 1994, Part 5, Page 25”). February 25: Mr. and Mrs. Cody arrived in Tucson to visit the Campo Bonito mines with L.W. Getchell. By 1912, some sources say Cody might have spent at least a half a million dollars on his Arizona mines. Cody tried to sell his interest to investors, including Thomas A. Edison who had been working on a patent that would reduce low-grade ores using the scheelite mined from the area. (“The Lives and Legends of Buffalo Bill,” page 434). On December 25th, Cody plays Santa Claus on Christmas Day in Oracle, AZ and poses for a photograph with local children.

1913: Arizona Stock Certificate for Cody-Dyer Arizona Mining and Milling Company. 1,000 shares issued to W.F. Cody. Dated: March 1913.

1917: Mrs. Ewing reminisced in a 1962 “Tucson Citizen” article, “He (Cody) came outside and sat on a snow-covered rock. It had been raining and it was cold...and I warned him to be careful, or he’d get sick.” Cody died of kidney failure on January 10, 1917 in Denver, Colorado after contracting a severe cold.

1945: Campo Bonito Mines, Inc. Patent No. 1119503. February 26, 1945. Molson Graphite & Co. leases Campo Bonito property.

1956: San Manuel Mine Opens Five Miles from Buffalo Bill’s Property. Mining operations cease in 2001 as the largest underground gold producing mine in the United States.

1967: Warranty Deed Exchange Campo Bonito land with the U.S. Forest Service. Ewings retain control of mineral rights.

1995: Cody Stone Jewelry Grade Material re-discovered by Flint Carter.

Produced by Robert E. Zucker and William “Flint” Carter. For non-commercial display only. News clips from Chronicling America/National Endowment for the Humanities and the Library of Congress (http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov). William F. Cody photos courtesy of Buffalo Bill Museum & Grave, Golden Colorado (http://www.buffalobill.com)

Other images from McCracken Research Library, Buffalo Bill Historical Center, Cody, Wyoming and The University of Arizona Libraries, Special Collections. Clip art from Zedcor DeskGallery. Sponsored through the Santa Catalina Preservation Project, Southwest Altternatives Institute, Inc. and BZB Publishing (http://emol.org). Issue No. 2. © 2013, SAI, Inc. and BZB Publishing, Inc. Co.

Cody StoneCody Stone is mined from the Catalina Mountains in Southern Arizona, USA- the same mountains mined by Buffalo Bill Cody. Designed as jewelry grade gold and silver in quartz, Codystone specimens and hand made items are on display at the Oracle Inn Steakhouse & Saloon in Oracle, Arizona. Call Flint at 520-289-4566 or email [email protected].

"Ballads of the Santa Catalina Mountains" CD

Listen to songs and ballads on CD about the Iron Door Mine, the Santa Catalina Mountains, the Old West and about Arizona historian Flint Carter. $9.95. Call 520-289-4566 for more information and to purchase copies.