Dodge City – Newspaper, Letters, and Book Excerpts

Dodge City, Kansas 1876

Dodge City, Kansas 1876

Dodge City is a wicked little town. Here those nomads in regions remote from the restraints of moral, civil, social, and law enforcing life, the Texas cattle drovers, from the very tendencies of their situation the embodiment of waywardness and wantonness, end the journey with their herds, and here they loiter and dissipate, sometimes for months, and share the boughten dalliances of fallen women.  – January 1, 1878 – Letter in the Washington, D. C.Evening Star

October, 1873 – Letter from Frances Marie Antoinette Mack Roe

Frances Roe

Frances was the wife of Fayette Washington Roe, a  Lieutenant Colonel in the United States Army. In October, 1871, Roe was sent to Fort Lyon in Colorado Territory and his wife Frances went with him. During this time she wrote a number of letters describing her experiences on the frontier. In 1909, these were published in a book called Army Letters From an Officer’s Wife.

Dodge City used to be that way and there was a reign of terror in the town, until finally the twelve organized vigilantes became desperate and took affairs in their own hands. They notified six of the leading desperadoes that they must be out of the place by a certain day and hour. Four went, but two were defiant and remained. When the specified hour had passed, twelve double-barreled shotguns were loaded with buckshot, and in a body the vigilantes hunted these men down as they would mad dogs and riddled each one through and through with the big shot! It was an awful thing to do, but it seems to have been absolutely necessary and the only way of establishing law and order. Our friends at Fort Dodge tell us that the place is now quite decent, and that a man can safely walk in the streets without pistols and a belt full of cartridges.”

May 13, 1874 – Resolution of the Ford County Commissioners

“Any person who is not engaged in any legitimate business, and any person under influence of intoxicating drinks, and any person who has ever borne arms against the Government of the United States, who shall be found within the limits of the town of Dodge City, bearing on his person a pistol, bowie knife, dirk, or other deadly weapon, shall be subject to arrest upon charge of misdemeanor, and upon conviction shall be fined in a sum not exceeding $100, or by imprisonment in the county jail not exceeding three months, or both, at the discretion of the court, and same to take effect on date.”

June 25, 1874 – Dodge City Messenger

“Dodge City Town Company, Ford Co., Kansas. Inducements offered to actual settlers! Prospects of the town better than any other in the upper Arkansas Valley! Free Bridge across the Arkansas River! The town a little over one year old, and contains over seventy buildings! Good school, hotel, etc. AT&SF RR depot in town.  Enquire of: R. M. Wright at Chas. Rath & Co. store or E. B. Kirk, Secy and Treas., Fort Dodge, June 25, 1874.”

April 24, 1876 – Letter from Governor Thomas Osborn to Charles Bassett, Sheriff of Ford County, Kansas

Charlie Bassett, Dodge City Lawman

Charlie Bassett, Dodge City Lawman

“This will be handed to you by Mr. R. C. Callaham, whose son, John F. Callaham, was executed by mob violence in your county, on the 8th. He visits Ford County for the purpose of making a thorough investigation of all the facts and circumstances attending the death of his son. He claims that there is no doubt of his son’s innocence, and if this claim is correct the atrocity of the crime – an utterly law-defying one at the best – certainly demands the attention of all law-abiding people, and more especially of the officers to whom is entrusted the execution of the law and the preservation of the public peace.

I trust that you will extend to Mr. Callaham all the “assistance, counsel and encouragement which it may be in your power to extend. There must be an end to mob violence in this state, and local officers exercising vigilance and energy in its suppression and punishment may rely upon the Executive for support and assistance. Let me know in what manner I can be of service in bringing to justice the perpetrators of this recent outrage, and I shall not be slow in responding to any practical suggestion. In the meantime I trust that you will do everything in your power to facilitate the inquiry which Mr. Callaham proposes to institute.”

April 28, 1876 – Response to Osborn from Sheriff Bassett

“Through what little information I gave him and his own exertions he has ascertained the fact that his son, John Calleham, was at Dodge City, on the 3rd day of April 1876 the day on which we held our municipal election. It appears from the statements made by the Sumner County and other papers that the horses were stolen on the 30th, and that the parties in pursuit followed the thieves a distance of 30 miles. The theory is that if the deceased John Calleham was here on the 3rd day of April that it would be physically impossible for him to have stolen those horses. Several Citizens of good standing are willing to qualify that they spoke with him on the 3rd of April, at Dodge City. If he was one of the thieves the time given him to travel over 300 miles of ground was 3 days from the night of the 30th of March to the morning of the 3rd of April. I do not hesitate to say that this fete could not be performed by any one horse or horseman in the time given, especially as the ground was so soft, as to leave an impression, so plain that it could be followed at a very rapid gait.

To be brief I am now of the opinion that the man was innocent of the crime alleged, and for which he has suffered death. Mr. Calleham wishes me to go to Sumner County and arrest the parties interested in the hanging, but without the assistance of the executive department I am totally unable to do anything, as I am in a poor fix financially to undertake so lengthy a journey.”

July 7, 1877 – Dodge City Times

Wyatt Earp, who was on our city police force last summer, is in town again. We hope he will accept a position on the force once more. He had a quiet way of taking the most desperate characters into custody which invariably gave one the impression that the city was able to enforce her mandates and preserve her dignity. It wasn’t considered policy to draw a gun on Wyatt unless you got the drop and meant to bum powder without any preliminary talk.”