Comanche, Lee Campbell, & Buffalo Bill

Did you know that Comanche County has ties to the famous…or infamous…Buffalo Bill Cody? Well, it’s true!

Gerry Boykin and I were great friends and in her last years, there were very few weeks that we did not “go for a jaunt” around the countryside so that she could show me something. On the days that we relaxed over a glass of tea in Gerry’s sitting room, she told me stories of her various family members, one of whom was Lee Campbell. I don’t know how many times my dear friend would point across the street to the home that stands just up the street from my own house (and across from her house) and remind me that she “had pictures” of the house when Lee Campbell had it completely covered in the hides that he was drying after a big hunt.

Gerry did have this photo of Lee, which is actually just something from a copy machine.

Gerry did have this photo of Lee, which is actually just something from a copy machine.

Why did I not stop her and insist that she find those photos? Because I am an idiot! Gerry died without our ever spending the time to look for those photos.

I recently told you that Lee Campbell married Zadie Inez Vick McPherson in Comanche, Texas in 1917, and in that article I mentioned that Campbell had once hunted with Bill Cody, better known as Buffalo Bill Cody, the famous “wild west guy.” Today, I thought I would tell how that came to be because it is a bit of a strange story, I suppose.

Robert Leander “Lee” Campbell was born May 3, 1863, the son of C.C. Campbell, early settler of Comanche County and a story all to himself. When Lee Campbell was eighteen, he headed out of Comanche, pushing a small herd of cattle given to him by his father. He planned to feed them well on free grass.

December found Lee in Mitchell County, Texas, where he was grazing his herd. Late one afternoon as Lee was hunkered over a fire and cooking himself something to eat, a lone man rode into his camp. As it turned out, that man was Bill Cody, known as Buffalo Bill. Of course, young Lee Campbell, as well as most people by 1880, had heard of the man, and to say that he was excited to meet him would be a tremendous understatement, to say the least! (Obviously, the “dime novel” had already worked its magic, making many of these men famous overnight!)

The famous hunter asked Campbell if he might stay the night in his camp, and the two then shared the supper Lee had been preparing before his visitor made his appearance. Apparently Bill Cody saw something he liked (or needed) in Campbell because before the two men retired for the night, he had invited the younger Lee to spend some months hunting with him. For that, Lee Campbell would receive one-half of the profits.

Lee and Zadie are buried in the Oakwood Cemetery in Comanche.

Lee and Zadie are buried in the Oakwood Cemetery in Comanche.

Of course, the offer may have simply come because Campbell was winter camped in the spot Buffalo Bill had wanted for himself since their hunts remained nearby but for whatever reason, I’m sure the eighteen year old was thrilled to be invited to join in on the fun.

Loraine must have been the closest shipping center since Cody rode there to make shipping arrangements for deer, antelope, and turkeys once he and Campbell had agreed upon the deal. And since these were to ship to packing companies, I assume it was the meat the men were after and not just the hides.

Sometime the next spring, Buffalo Bill Cody announced that he was leaving, and the two divided their profits. That was the last time Lee Campbell ever saw the famous Buffalo Bill. Did the experience influence Lee’s life of hunting? I have no idea.

About Fredda Jones

Fredda Davis Jones was raised “in the country” in Comanche County and learned very early that creativity and innovation are traits that can flourish even in small-town Texas and that with enough effort, indeed nothing is impossible, including being married to the same man for over 40 years! Rickey and Fredda have 2 children, 5 grandchildren, and a crazy life that includes sitting in the bleachers several times a week. The rest of her time is spent creating great content for and marketing small-town Texas.
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