By Greg Rasanen
Buford is another of the ‘Hell on Wheels’ railroad towns that sprang up in 1866 to ‘support’ the railroad booze, brothels, and gambling halls to separate the workers from their pay. The most notorious was the town of Benton, which sprung up west of Buford and disappeared in 90 days. Many of the ‘residents’ were even shorter-lived because the town racked up 100 murders in those 90 days!
Buford's famous pop. 1 sign. Don Sammons had Buford recognized as a town and requested signs to help bring in customers to his gas station and store. Then he sold the 'town' to Vietnamese investor Pham Dinh Nguyen who renamed it Phin Deli Town.
Buford wasn’t as notorious, but the population also crashed when the railroad moved on. Today, it has gained quite a bit of notoriety as being the smallest town in America, population one! As I pulled into town, semi-truck traffic hummed past on I-80 to the north, while a train squealed along the tracks to the south. A billboard reads “Welcome to Phin Deli Town Buford”, much to the annoyance of the gas station attendant. “There is no deli, but I get asked about it every day.” He is now the population one. He lives in the house behind the station, but he’ll be leaving after Labor Day, and the store will close its doors unless the town’s owner can find a new tenant.
The owner, Mr. Nguyen, is a Vietnamese investor and coffee roaster, and he bought the whole town in 1999 for a cool $900,000 in an online auction. He had grand visions of the town being the US hub of Vietnamese imports in the US, but the main product sold is his line of Phin Deli Coffee. It has a unique flavor thanks to being roasted with soy and butter.
Mr. Nguyen bought the town from Don Sammons, who is quite the character, as you can read in his book “Buford One.” He writes about making Buford a town, his shoot-out in the parking lot, fires, Buddhism, and the bidders from 110 nations and 30 news outlets that took part in the auction. On the cover it says ‘Don Sammons, former Mayor of Buford, Wyoming, but in the book he is makes a point to note that, “I didn’t call myself Mayor of Buford.” Quite the character, story and ‘town.’
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