As It Was: Medford Wild West Roper Greets Buffalo Bill Cody
A trick sharpshooter and fancy roper named Ruben Peyton grew up in the same town in Kansas as Buffalo Bill Cody, although Peyton was 11 years his junior.
Peyton and Maj. Gordon Lilly were neighbors, partners in the cattle business, and performed together in “Wild West” shows. In 1883, Lilly took the name “Pawnee Bill” while performing with Peyton.
Later, while managing his own act, Peyton met Ora Herron. He loved working in the shows, but because he wanted to marry Herron, and his own mother was not well, he quit the show and moved with his mother to Medford, Ore. In 1891, Herron and Peyton married in Jackson County, where they would raise 10 children.
Meanwhile, Pawnee Bill and Buffalo Bill partnered in their Wild West Show and worked all over the country as the “Two Bills.” Medford was one of their last stops on their final tour in 1910. More than 12,000 spectators gathered at Phipps pasture to see the show and Peyton and his family were honored guests.
The Two Bills later became Wild West legends as did Peyton, namesake for the Peyton Bridge at Lost Creek Lake and the Peyton Post Office.
Sources: Hegne, Barbara. “Wild True Tales the Early Settlers of Southern Oregon.” Vol. 1, Freestyle Graphics, 2002, pp. 71-75; Wyatt, Steve M. "Buffalo Bill: Stampeding into Southern Oregon." Table Rock Sentinel, Mar. 1992, pp. 2-11, www.sohs.org/sites/default/files/magazines/1992-02.pdf.