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  Dodge City -- A Wicked Little Town

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Dodge City Kansas 1874

Dodge City in 1874, courtesy Ford County Historical Society



"Kansas has but one Dodge City, with a broad expanse of territory sufficiently vast for an empire; we have only room for one Dodge City; Dodge, a synonym for all that is wild, reckless, and violent; Hell on the Plains."

-- A Kansas Newspaper in the 1870's



More Dodge City:


The Beginnings of Dodge City

Dodge City Historical Text

Dodge City Slideshow

Fort Dodge History and Hauntings

Hell-Raising Dodge

John Henry "Doc" Holliday - Deadly Doctor of the Frontier

The Long Branch Saloon

Long Branch Saloon Shootout

Populating Boot Hill

Wyatt Earp - Frontier Lawman of the American West









Famous for its rich history as a frontier cowtown, Dodge City offers up a wide array of legends, lore and history to travelers in western Kansas. Once called home or visited by such notables as Wyatt Earp, Doc Holliday, Big Nose Kate, and Clay Allison, this old town had a reputation for being the most wicked town in the Old West.


In 1865, Fort Dodge was established near the present site of Dodge City. During these rough times, the pioneers were often attacked by marauding Indians. The Fort offered protection to the wagon trains from the Indians, provided mail service and served as a supply base for troops engaged in the Indian Wars to the south. Major General Greville Dodge was placed in command of the 11th and 16th Kansas Cavalry Regiments and began work during the harsh winter of 1865, to repair telegraph lines and reopen travel routes. The Indians usually refrained from attacks during winter months.

Wagon Train to Dodge City KansasThe long trail between Franklin, Missouri and Santa Fe, New Mexico saw thousands of wagons pass as they traveled the Mountain Branch west of Dodge City along the north bank of the Arkansas River into Colorado.

A shorter, but more dangerous route to Santa Fe was the Cimarron Cutoff, which crossed the river near Dodge City heading southwest to the Cimarron River. This trail was much more dangerous due to the vast spaces of waterless sand hills and increased risk of Indian attacks. In spite of all the hazards, this route was preferred by many traders and travelers because there were no mountains to be crossed and the distance to Santa Fe was somewhat shorter then the Mountain Route.


In 1871, a rancher by the name of Henry L. Sitler constructed a three-room sod house five miles west of Fort Dodge. At the foot of a hill along the Santa Fe Trail, Sitler's home became a frequent stopping place for buffalo hunters and traders. Of the Santa Fe Trail and its many wagon trains, Sitler would later say, "If you stood on the hill above Dodge City, there was traffic as far as you could see, 24-hours a day, seven days a week on the Santa Fe Trail."


DodgeCity-Hoovers StoreSoon, another man by the name of George M. Hoover would join Sitler, building Dodge City's first business, a saloon built of sod and boards. On August 15, 1872 a group of businessmen from Forts Dodge, Riley and Leavenworth, Kansas organized the Dodge City Town Company and began the planning and development of the town site. At first, the settlement was named Buffalo City until they learned there was already a town by that name, so it was changed to Dodge City, after the fort.


In September 1872 the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad arrived in Dodge City, which would initiate a tremendous growth for many years. Adjacent to the railroad tracks, hastily built frame buildings and tents sprang up, housing two grocery and general merchandise stores, a dance hall, a restaurant, a barber shop, and a blacksmith shop. One of the directors of the Town Company, a man by the name of Robert M. Wright would say of this time:


"Hardly had the railroad reached there, long before a depot could be built ..., business began; and such a business! Dozens of cars a day were loaded with hides and meat, and dozens of carloads of grain, flour, and provisions arrived each day. The streets of Dodge were lined with wagons, brining in hides and meat and getting supplies from early morning to late at night... I have been to several mining camps where rich strikes had been made, but I never saw any town to equal Dodge. 


In the burgeoning settlement, there was initially no law enforcement and Dodge City quickly acquired its infamous stamp of lawlessness and gun slinging. As the many buffalo hunters, railroad workers, drifters and soldiers streamed into the town after long excursions on the prairie, they quickly found the saloons and the inevitable fights ensued. With the gunfighters dying with their boots on, Dodge City developed the Boot Hill Cemetery, which was used until 1878.



Continued Next Page



Dodge City Front Street and Boot Hill Museum

Dodge City Front Street and Boot Hill Museum Kathy Weiser, September, 2009.

This image available for photographic prints and downloads HERE!


"Dodge is the Deadwood of Kansas.

-- Hays City Sentinel in the  late 1800s. ~~~


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