When brave souls ventured forth to settle the Wild West, visionary leaders knew that eventually, people would be hungry for news of the outside world. And in the late 1800s, newspapers told those stories.
In Cody, it was Western showman Buffalo Bill Cody himself who established the town’s first newspaper, the Cody Enterprise.
And last week, a memorial plaza was dedicated on the spot where the first actual newspaper building stood, drawing a large crowd.
The Enterprise Plaza is adjacent to a building that celebrates innovation and artisanship — By Western Hands. It features plaques offering information on historical events and benches which are replicas of the ones at the D-Day cemetery and memorial in Normandy, France.
Harris Hasten is a founder of By Western Hands, which joined with the LLC Helping Hands to donate the property.
Hasten said the decision was made to create an outdoor space that not only would benefit downtown merchants, but also commemorate the historical importance of the site.
“We felt it was appropriate to dedicate it so that future generations would recognize that, ‘Hey, this was an important start, and a communications effort to the whole world, right out of here from Cody,’” Hasten said.
The small plaza dedicated Thursday is historically significant because it was the home to the newspaper built after Buffalo Bill Cody himself that determined that news of the world needed to be brought to the citizens of the small town named in his honor.
Cody historian and author Lynn Houze explained during the deciation that the newspaper building at the site of the new Enterprise Plaza was in the center of town at the time it was built, in 1900, and the newspaper remained there during the first formative years of the small frontier community.
She said that while there were a few newspapers in the state at the turn of the century, Buffalo Bill felt a newspaper was necessary in his town to keep people connected.
“At that time, Cody was one of the few towns that actually started out with electricity and telegraph, which was unusual for towns of those early years,” Houze said. “But they still needed that connection of bringing national and international news to the townspeople.”
“If you look at those early editions, there was almost as much national and international news as there was local news,” she added.
Bruce McCormack is the longest-serving editor and publisher for the Cody Enterprise, holding those roles for 30 years.
McCormack credited the Bruce Kennedy family, which has owned the newspaper for more than 50 years, for keeping that legacy of frontier journalism alive in Wyoming.
“Bruce Kennedy, in his book ‘Community Journalism’ that he published, really became kind of a bible for small newspapers across the United States,” McCormack said. “It really helped so many publishers lift their game and publish a better newspaper – not just in Wyoming, but across the country as well.”