May Manning Lillie, ca. 1890, Pawnee Bill Wild West Show Photo courtesy Oklahoma State Historical Society
Pawnee, Oklahoma: Where the West Remains
The West remains the West in Pawnee, Oklahoma, a
small town, pop. 2,200, in north central Oklahoma. Heroes of the
old West ride again in the Pawnee Bill Original Wild West Show.
Held on the grounds of the 350-acre Pawnee Bill Buffalo Ranch, an
Oklahoma State Historical Society site, the show recreates Pawnee
Bill's Wild West Show.
Gordon Lille came to Pawnee from Illinois in 1875 as
a boy of 15. Appointed as a teacher to the Pawnee Indians in 1979,
the tribe gave him the moniker by which the world would know him:
Pawnee Bill. Fascinated by the Old West since his boyhood, Pawnee
Bill joined the newly formed Buffalo Bill Wild West show in 1883 as
an interpreter and performer. Designed to entertain rather than to
education, the Wild West shows painted for city slickers a dramatic
and thrilling picture of life in the largely mythological West.
In 1886, Pawnee Bill met and married May Manning, a
15-year-old girl from Philadelphia; in 1888, they formed their own
Wild West show. May, a proper Eastern lady, learned to ride and
shoot and soon became a headliner in the show. The original show
featured trick riding, shooting, and roping. During the
performance, Pawnee Bill and his cowboys rode to the rescue of
passengers on a stage coach being held up by outlaws.
With careful attention to historical detail, these
acts, and more, are each summer portrayed in the Original Wild West
Show, held under the aegis of the Oklahoma Historical Society.
Originally submitted by: James M. Inhofe, Senator.
The Local Legacies project provides a "snapshot" of American Culture as it was expressed in spring of 2000. Consequently, it is not being updated with new or revised information with the exception of "Related Website" links.