Schooling and Buffalo Bill


The four Davis kids did well in school. The house was full of books and every dinner conversation included discussions about the problems of the town and world as well as their accomplishments each day and plans for the next day.

When they were tired they studied Currier and Ives pictures. “Those pictures brought people together,” Frances remembered. “They showed us just how other folks lived – North, South, East and West and on the rivers and sea.” They had pictures of farms, villages, countryside and family life. The images were all part of their education.

They were also well schooled in diplomacy. Frances remembered a quotation her father tacked to the door of his workshop in the basement at 10 Maple Street that she would study while she held tools for him as he worked: “There is so much good in the worst of us/ and so much bad in the best of us/ that it hardly behooves any of us/ to speak ill of the rest of us – Anonymous.” As Frances said, “We did our best to follow though.”

Buffalo Bill

Around 1905, when Frances was a young teenager, Buffalo Bill’s “Wild West Show” came to Sanford and set up its spectacle on lower Main Street, where the Circus usually set up its tents. This land would later become streets, including Essex Street, where Frances and Leon would live after their own children were grown. But in 1905 it was all fields. Frances saw the colorful posters announcing the show all over town. The poster showed cowboys in full gallop, lassoing steer and rearing up – described as the “Congress of Rough Riders of the World” – whose “daring exploits have made their very names synonymous with deeds of bravery.” A side illustration showed a dignified Col. W.F. Cody, a.k.a. “Buffalo Bill,” upon his decorated stallion, promising he would be at every performance.

Sanford Trolley

Finally the day came, and William Davis took Hollon and Frances by trolley down Main Street from Maple Street. They sat in the grandstands as the evening darkened and watched, thrilled and frightened, as Buffalo Bill and his Wild West troupe of actual cowboys re-enacted the burning and pillaging of a village by Indians, which included actual Pawnee and Sioux. “What a show,” Frances recalled. All were in costume. “The Indians were whooping and really burned a white settlement. You could see the people running from the homes that were all ablaze. The field was lighted enough by electric lights but dark enough to make the scene very eerie and scary – and the war whoops; I can hear them now. Buffalo Bill was quite a showman.”


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