Billy Comstock’s fame as a scout and frontiersman had spread far and wide by the summer of 1868. He was but 26 years of age, with the experiences of a man twice his age. Undoubtedly, he would have become an American legend on the order of Buffalo Bill Cody and Wild Bill Hickok had his life not come to a violent end on Aug. 16, 1868. That he died is just about the only fact of which we can be sure; the rest of the story is a tangled web of rumor and conjecture.
Bill Comstock and fellow scout W.L. “Sharp” Grover had been sent by Lt. Frederick Beecher (for whom the Battle of Beecher Island was later named) to visit the camp of Cheyenne chief Turkey Leg in order to investigate a series of Indian troubles that had been raging in the area. According to Sharp Grover, Turkey Leg encouraged them to leave and the two scouts did so, accompanied by a small party of young braves. A few miles from camp, the braves opened fire and shot Comstock through the heart and Grover through the lung. Grover played dead, then walked the next day to the railroad line and boarded a train to Fort Wallace, where he was treated successfully for his wounds.
Later, the rumor was rampant at the Fort that Grover was the actual killer. Post trader Homer Wheeler insinuates this in his memoirs, as well as Beecher Island veteran Reuben Waller. Cheyenne Frank Yellow Bull reports the story told by his father, a teenager in Turkey Leg’s camp, that the two scouts were arguing before they left. His father had said “Maybe white man kill white man.” It was known that Grover desired ownership of Comstock’s highly profitable Rose Creek Ranch and that he did come to own it within the year.
The other enduring mystery within the Fort Wallace Memorial Association is what became of Comstock’s body? It was reported by the army that it was recovered and buried in the Fort Wallace cemetery. But this is not true; another man fills the grave where Comstock should lie . Evidence shows that he was buried on the prairie near where he was killed. Charles Carmack, an ambulance driver during Fort times, was interviewed by Frank Madigan in the 1940s. He stated that he was sent to retrieve Comstock’s body, found it too badly decomposed to do so and buried it near the place where it lay. The final mystery – the army said that Comstock was buried in the 3rd grave south of the NE corner of the Fort Wallace Cemetery. In the 4th grave, is a woman named Ann Comstock who died Aug. 29th, 1873 of intermittent fever.. Who is this woman who lies next to the grave that the great scout was said to occupy? The final mystery in this most interesting story from Wallace County history!