Dodge City – Newspaper, Letters, and Book Excerpts

Looking east on Dodge City’s Front Street, 1878.

Dodge is the Deadwood of Kansas; her incorporate limits are the rendezvous of all the unemployed scalawagism in seven States; her principal business is polygamy without the sanction of religion; her code of morals is the honor of thieves, and decency she knows not.” — Hays City Sentinel, 1877

September 15, 1877 – Hays City, Kansas Sentinel

Dodge City is dull at the present time, and the town is relapsing into morality. At this writing there are only seventeen saloons and dance houses, sixty prostitutes, thirty gamblers and eighty cowboys in the entire town. ”

September 22, 1877 – Dodge City Times

“A Verdant Editor Visits Our Brothels and Bagnios.

The editor of the Hays Sentinel was here about three weeks ago, and after thoroughly interviewing and inspecting all the bagnios and back places of a suspicious nature, writes them up in flourishing style. From the tone of his “article” our first impression was that the unsophisticated youth must have went too deep in the dark recesses of the lascivious things he speaks of, and went away in the condition of the monkey who got his tail too near the coals. He says:

Soiled Dove

One of the many “ladies of the line.”

‘After a long days ride in the scorching sun I arrived in Dodge. Dodge is the Deadwood of Kansas; her incorporate limits are the rendezvous of all the unemployed scalawagism in seven States; her principal business is polygamy without the sanction of religion; her code of morals is the honor of thieves, and decency she knows not. In short, she is an exaggerated frontier town, and all of her consistencies are operated on the same principle. Her everyday occurrences are such as would make the face of a Haysite, accustomed as he is to similar sights, color to the very roots of his hirsuite [hirsute] honors, and draw away disgusted. Dodge is a fast town, and all of her speedy proclivities exhibit to the best advantage. The employment of many citizens is gambling, her virtue is prostitution and her beverage is whisky. She is a merry town, and the only visible means of support of a great number of her citizens is jocularity.

Here rowdyism has taken its most aggravated form, and was it not for the exceedingly stringent ordinances (some of which are unconstitutional) and a fair attempt to enforce them, the town would be suddenly depopulated and very much in the same manner as Ireland got rid of her snakes. Seventeen saloons furnish inspiration, and many people become inspired—not to say drunk. Every facility is afforded for the exercise of conviviality, and no restriction is placed on licentiousness. The town is full of prostitutes and every other house is a brothel.

Dodge by day and Dodge by night are different towns. Gazing up the principal street, at high noon, nothing may be seen but a few sleepy looking barkeepers sunning themselves in front of their respective saloons, a few cow-boys who spent the night in debauchery and who are trying to “sober up” enough to ride, and Marshal Deiger [Deger] with his ubiquitous police force. But with the coming of darkness all is changed. Gamblers crawl from no one knows and man innumerable gambling devices; the city street is brilliantly lighted and thronged with gaudily dressed women, and men whose garb betokens the cow-boy; from every saloon proceed rollicking strains of music (and good music it is, too) that go floating out into the darkness to repeat the tale of degradation; the dance halls are crowded with lewd women and rough men who plunge into the intricacies of the dance with a reckless abandon, and inflamed by drink, make the night hideous with their boisterous revelries, and so through the night it goes.

But I do not wish to be understood to say Dodge has no respectable citizens. She has many very highly respectable people, but I would also remark in this connection that rowdyism elsewhere would pass as a modified form of respectability in this benighted city.

There are many good citizens who earn a living in an honorable way, and very agreeable we found them too; but the bad are in the majority.

A shrill scream was heard and a moment later a woman with a battered visage appears on the street and informs Marshal Deger that a “feller” had performed an operation upon her, known as “slugology” in police court idiom. Marshal Deger gave his pistol a slight hitch, and in ten minutes appeared at police headquarters, puffing and blowing like a tug-boat, but with the “feller” in tow. A few lazy loafers gather around Frost, with a dignity, born of long practice, ridiculous in its conception and absurd in its execution, arraigns the prisoner and elicits a sullen “Not Guilty!” Attorney Colborn produces his evidence and in a masterly speech demonstrates the guilt of the woman beater, and the total unreliability of his legal opponent. The legal opponent is riled and proceeds to annihilate Mr. Colborn after the most approved and long established custom. From one thing to another they pass and human carnage is imminent; but the lacerated feelings are amicably poulticed, and the Judge finds the prisoner guilty. Then the woman pays her “feller’s” fine, and goes out with the proud consciousness of having been revenged. Such is life, and this is an every day occurrence in Dodge.

Dodge has a live little newspaper, and I have often wondered how the editors escaped the wrath of the many “hard cases” written up in its columns. But now all is clear. The said editors are the “hardest” of them all.’

If the editor of the Sentinel, in his afterlife, ever has occasion to travel, or visit any other large city like Dodge, he will there find the naughty as well as the good, and he is at liberty to choose his crowd. During his stay here, the poor boy, was carried away by the giddy creatures of whom he has so much to say, and at times the lewd desire seized him and his fondest hope and highest ambition was to “cut him out a girl”, lay down the quill, and earn his bread “gulping gilleys.” But we advise him to seek better society, be virtuous and be happy.”

October 6, 1877 – Russell, Kansas Record, commenting upon the article in the Hays Sentinel

“We are of opinion that Montgomery’s indignation was only assumed, and that it was an alarm sounded to detract attention from the frailties of his own town, as when the curtains of night are drawn, Hays falls into the hands of the saloon keepers and the Bacchanalian revel begins which throws Dodge City in the shade. So Brother Montgomery, before you proceed to hunt for a “smote” in the eye of Dodge, you had better pull the “beam” from your eye. ”

November 24, 1877 – Hays City, Kansas Sentinel

“It is not the absence of good society, culture, and refinement that is depopulating Dodge; it is the exorbitant price of beer.”

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