Three big traveling shows came to Waxahachie during October of 1902. On the 11th, the Gentry Brothers Show was presented at Bullard’s Lot. On the 15th, Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show presented two performances, and on the 29th, Ringling Brothers brought their circus to Waxahachie.
For weeks newspaper advertisements and colorful billboards announced the approach of an exciting event for the city. William F. Cody, “Buffalo Bill,” was coming to town with his Wild West Show.
“To have given the world something original, ingenious and entertaining is quite enough to command favorable recognition, and has by reason of its distinction, bold, dashing character, won the admiration of countless thousands in nearly every civilized quarter of the globe,” read the advertisement that lured Elis County residents to one of the greatest shows of its time. After playing McKinney, Buffalo Bill rolled into Waxahachie by rail to present his show on Oct. 15, 1902. Forty-nine rail cars were required to transport the show of more than 1,200 men and horses. A large crowd watched as the show was unloaded under the supervision of John McLaughlin, executive head of the show.
Excitement started when a little after 9 in the morning the streets of Waxahachie began to fill up with people waiting for the street cavalcade and public review. As the cavalcade came into sight, the main streets were very crowded. Buffalo Bill rode at the head of a long line of horsemen. It was reported he looked in prime condition and there were no doubts as to
whether or not he would make his appearance in the show. Following him in the cavalcade were Indians, cowboys, Cossacks, Arabs, Mexicans, Cubans, German, English, and U.S. soldiers. Roosevelt’s Rough Riders and many other features, including “western girls,” were there. The participants rode in “martial array” to the music furnished by three bands and a drum corps, including one mounted cowboy band.
“Every man was just what he represented to be, and this fact makes the display of absolute worth as an instructor and teacher of history,” reported the Waxahachie Daily Light.
The show scheduled two performances, one at 2 and another at 8 and they were to be given, rain or shine. Admission to the event was 50 cents for adults, 25 cents for children younger than 9 years of age and reserved seats for $1. Advance ticket sales were made at Reymuller’s Paint and Paper Store. The news reports stated the crowd for the shows was one of the largest, if not the largest, ever assembled in Waxahachie. The afternoon performance was witnessed by several thousand people. During the afternoon show, the excitement and firing of guns from performances caused W.A. Briggs’ herd of cattle to stampede and three or four of the cattle were killed.
Local officers reported that when shows visited Waxahachie, a criminal element accompanied them. During the Wild West Show, two were arrested for operating a lottery and one each for gambling and theft. Also, arrests were made for a swindle involving tea, which was labeled liquor, with the news reporting there was much complaining about the swindle.
From Waxahachie the show left again by rail for its next performance, in Corsicana.
This work by Rusty Carroll originally appeared in the Ellis County Junior Historians’ anthology, a project led by Waxahachie ISD educator Billy Hancock during the years 1977-1981. The works, which have been lightly edited for use in the Sun, are reproduced in their original form in a single anthology, “This Was Ellis County: An Historical Perspective,” available at the Ellis County Museum, 201 S. College St., in historic downtown Waxahachie. All proceeds from the book’s sales benefit the museum’s program of work.