The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa


September 9, 2013

The Big Tree, The Circus, and Ringwood Park


On July 22, 1909, Buffalo Bill Cody and Pawnee Bill brought their extravaganzas to Clinton, to be shown together. One reporter described Colonel Cody in the fawning adulation of the day, “with flowing white locks, a complexion that any woman would envy, limbs as straight as any young redskin, Colonel William F. Cody, Buffalo Bill, stood at the door of his tent on the show grounds with debonair gracefulness and an air that showed that life was still in him.”

Over fifty years later, in November, 1964, local attorney and historian Eugene Burke spoke to a group of Clinton citizens. He recalled that the best piece of business the City ever did was to purchase Eagle Point Park from the Clinton Street Railway Co. for $20,000. (They'd bought it from the Lamb family in the 1890’s.) For many years the trolley line ran to the private park and there was really no other way to get there. Many a citizen rode the trolleys also to Ringwood for a ballgame, wild west show, or circus. These were safe and wholesome forms of entertainment, but it was not always so.

On that same occasion, Gene Burke told an interesting story about a circus shooting in the 1880’s. It seems that in a Wild West portion of a show, the cowboys had taken a “dislike” to the Indians. The cowboys were then found touring Clinton and looking for live ammo to spray at the Indians during the mayhem of the show. A shopkeeper, a Mr. Kreim, was suspicious and refused to sell them any, but they somehow obtained cartridges anyway and, in the middle of their sham-battle, they fired live ammunition!

Strangely, no Indian was hit; but one of the spectators was killed! Another was wounded and crippled for life. Naturally, the circus moved out of town as quickly as it could!  However, it was also strange that no one was ever prosecuted for the offense!

Those days are past, when droves of people heard the call for an exciting time and flocked to Ringwood Park in masses that brought fine profit to shows’ entrepreneurs. Now competition is so strong for our entertainment dollars that people often stay home to enjoy such things on the television.

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