Leaving Cheyenne along Interstate 80 a single signpost points you to the world famous town of Buford, Wyoming, Population: 1. But things are about to change in the smallest town in America as its only resident, Don Sammons, prepares for his departure.
The 61-year-old Vietnam War veteran moved to Buford in 1980 and bought the 10-acre town along with the Buford Trading Post and gas station in 1992. Since then, his wife passed away and his son moved off leaving him the lone resident of this remote outpost and only person with the postal code 82052. So, with the help of real estate auction leader Williams & Williams, he made the tough decision to put his tiny town on the market ... for $100,000.
That number quickly climbed to $900,000 Thursday as a bidder from the most unexpected of places -- Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam -- nabbed the property. The live auction, which took place on-site in Buford and online at auctionnetwork.com, captured the attention of the world and attracted bidders from 46 countries.
The unnamed winner flew in from Vietnam specifically for the event. It was his first time in the United States -- much less the Wild West.
Owning a piece of property in the U.S. has been my dream, he shared through his Cheyenne-based real estate broker. When I read an article about the auction of the Buford town, I was very excited. So, I decided to make a trip to Wyoming to bid on-site. It was a long journey but I made it at last.
The man said he was living the American dream.
For Sammons, the sale came with mixed emotions.
This is a bittersweet day for me, he said Thursday. But in reality, I couldn't be happier. I met the new owner and I saw in him the same passion that I had when I originally came to Buford 30 years ago. I look forward to watching him make it his own.
What did the mysterious Vietnamese winner get for $900,000?
The Buford, Wyoming auction represents a unique opportunity to acquire an entire town, along with the Buford Trading post, an income-producing convenience and fuel store. Included in the auction are 10+/- acres of land, five buildings, United States Post Office Boxes, inventory, furnishings and tools. The town's five buildings include the Buford Trading Post built in 2004; a three bedroom modular home purchased new in 1994; a school house built in 1905 which now serves as an office; a three and a half stall garage built in 1895 and a 1900s cabin which is now used as a tool shed.
Buford -- which takes its name from Major General John Buford, one of the heroes of the Battle of Gettysburg -- boasts a proud history as the second-oldest town in Wyoming.
The town traces its origins to the 1860s with the construction of the Transcontinental Railroad and its population swelled to as many as 2,000 people before the railroad was rerouted and Buford's residents migrated elsewhere.
For a town that now claims just one resident, Buford isn't short on tales of former glory. Presidents Ulysses S. Grant and Franklin Delano Roosevelt both visited. The town was also in the spotlight in the 1880s when outlaw Butch Cassidy robbed one of its stores.
None of which is lost on the town's devoted caretaker, who is moving to Colorado to be near his son. Sammons said he will still be close to Buford in spirit -- he plans to spend his days writing a book about the 32 years he ran the smallest town in America.