Louis and Mary both lived and worked in the hotel. In the 1910 census, they are listed
Louis continued to manage the hotel until 1913, the year William F Cody filed for bankruptcy and the Wild West show ended. Louis and Mary left Wyoming for Denver, Colorado and moved into 2932 Lafayette Street, a Queen Anne style home built in 1892. Louis went from being the manager of the Irma to being the manager of the White Motor Car Company, and soon became the owner of the Court Place Garage. Shortly after the move, Cody paid his sister and brother-in-law a visit. It was from their house on July 25th, 1913 that he wrote a letter to his lifelong friend, John H. Tait. "Well the old show is closed," he wrote. "But I'll soon have a better one."
In his later years, Cody frequently stayed at 2932 Lafayette Street with Louis and Mary. According to Mary, her brother often referred to the house as the "Home of Peace." It was during one of these stays in January 1917 that his health began to decline. He was 70 years old and dying of kidney failure. When told by his doctor that he had only 36 hours to live, Cody's first response was to call Louis to his bedside. "The doc says I've got 36 hours," he reportedly told him. "Let's forget about it and play some cards." William F. Cody died on January 10th at 12:05 PM. At 1:33, Louis sent a telegram to John Tait that read simply, "Colonel Cody passed away twelve five today. Louie."
In 1919, the editor of the Daily Pantagraph traveled from Bloomington, Illinois to Denver to interview Mary about her brother. The editor describes the large cabinet case that sits in the living room of their home, filled with souvenirs and gifts from Buffalo Bill, and how Mary spoke of her brother with "solemn pride."
In 1926, after three months of illness, Mary Cody Decker passed away at age 73. According to her obituary, Mary's last words were murmured to her husband: "I'm going west." Louis suffered from heart disease in his later years and in 1935 passed away at the home of a friend in Denver. He was 71. Louis's obituary claims that he was the manager of Buffalo Bill's Wild West for two decades, a claim that I've found repeated elsewhere. As far as I can tell, Louis was never the manager of the show. He was, however, many many other things. He was the cousin, brother-in-law, and employee of the famous showman, Buffalo Bill. He began as a ticket-seller and through hardwork became a secretary to Buffalo Bill and to his manager, Nate Salsbury. He was the manager not of Bill's show, but of his luxurious Irma Hotel. He was the owner of a successful garage in Denver, Colorado. He was at Buffalo Bill's side when he died.
Researching Louis Decker's story has been fascinating. If you're interested, here is an article about the restoration of Louis and Mary's home in Denver.
If you know anything else about Louis, let us know in the comments!
A few of the sources I used for this post:
- Center of the West article on the Irma Hotel
- Denver Library Article on the Whittier Neighborhood and San Rafael Historical District
- 1913 letter from William F. Cody to John H. Tait
- Virginian-Pilot article, "The Last, Great Performance of Buffalo Bill Cody"
- 1917 telegram from Louis Decker to John H. Tait announcing the death of William F. Cody