Dodge City – Newspaper, Letters, and Book Excerpts

Dodge City Kansas 1874

Dodge City Kansas 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

The Dodge City War

 April 26, 1883 – Dodge City Ordinance No. 70

“Section 1: Any person or persons who shall keep or maintain in this city a brothel, bawdy house, house of ill fame, or of assignation, shall upon conviction thereof be fined in a sum not less than Ten nor more than One Hundred Dollars.

Section 2: Any person whether male or female, being an inmate or resident of any brothel, bawdy house, or house of ill-fame in this city, shall upon conviction thereof be fined in a sum not less than Five nor more than Fifty Dollars.

Section 3: Any person or persons as defined in sections one and two of this ordinance found upon the streets or in any public place within the corporate limits of the city of Dodge City, for the purpose of plying or advertising her or their calling or business as defined in section one and two of this ordinance, shall upon conviction thereof be fined in a sum not less than Five nor more than Fifty Dollars.

Section 4: The general reputation of any such houses mentioned in the foregoing sections, or of its inmates and residents, shall be prima facie evidence of the character of such houses or persons.”

May 1, 1883 – Ford County Globe

“All day, armed groups of officials, both city and county, might have been seen by the least inquisitive, and the very determined look of their countenances indicated to the most confiding that they meant business, and business it was. In order to show why this determined stand was being made by the authorities, we must go back to the passage of sundry ordinances by the new city council, to which some exception was taken by those whom it seemed to press down upon most heavily the same being “an Ordinance for the Suppression of vice and Immorality within the city of Dodge” and another “to Define and Punish Vagrancy” passed April 23d 1883. It was not the ordinance itself that was objectionable to those it was calculated to reach but the partial manner of its enforcement as they think, which caused the trouble.

Luke Short

Luke Short

Saturday night the first arrest was made under the new ordinances, the same being that of three women in the Long Branch Saloon. This was peaceably accomplished and without any resistance so tar as we are enabled to learn. Yet, later in the night, Luke Short and L. C. Hartman met upon the street and paid their respective compliments to each other by exchanging shots, fortunately no one was hurt.

Hartman, it seems, was a special who helped to make the arrests. Short was one of the partners of the saloon from which these women were taken. It was claimed by the proprietors that partiality was shown in arresting women in their house when two were allowed to remain in A. B. Webster’s saloon, one at Heinz & Kramer’s, two at Nelson Gary’s, and a whole herd of them at Bond & Nixon’s dance hall, and if this is true, it would be most natural for them to think so and give expression to their feelings.

No doubt they spoke unpleasant words toward our city government, that may have caused them to rise in their majesty and cause the arrest on yesterday of Luke Short, Thomas Lane, saloon keepers, and half dozen others known by the professional name of gamblers.

All were hustled into the city bastile without any resistance on their part, and were allowed to languish there until the arrival of their choice of trains, both east and west come along, when they were invited to take passage without any further ceremony or explanation. The women who had been jugged Saturday, were all brought up before his honor Bobby Bums and he imposed a heavy fine on each one of them for their disregard of the law.

Thus the shouldering volcano has burst forth in all its fury, and has stricken terror to the hearts of the inhabitants that so closely surround it and causes one to reflect as to whether or not it will be followed up by a St. John cyclone and sweep away in its train the dispenser of ardent spirits, and thus give us another evidence of the moral and temperance element of our citizens and show that the righteous must and shall prevail in the city of Dodge.”

May 3, 1883 – Dodge City Times

“The city has been under an intense commotion for several days, growing out of the ordinance in relation to the “Suppression of gambling and prostitution.” On Saturday night an additional police force was put on, and the work of enforcement was commenced. Three prostitutes pretendedly employed in Harris & Short’s saloon, as “singers,” but employed evidently to evade the ordinance in relation to prostitution, were arrested and put in the lockup. This action engendered bitter feeling, and City Clerk Hartman who was on the police force, was afterward met by Luke Short, and his assassination attempted. Short fired two shots at Hartman, the latter replying with one shot, none of the shots taking effect. Short was arrested and placed under $2,000 bonds. Mayor Deger, learning that a conspiracy had been formed, which had for its object the armed resistance to the enforcement of the law and consequent murder of some of our best citizens, organized a police force on Sunday, and on Monday the plan was carried out. Luke Short was the first one arrested and placed in the calaboose. Subsequently, five others were arrested, as follows: W. H. Bennett, a former New Mexico desperado. Dr. Niel, a gambler, Johnson Gallagher, a gambler, and L. A. Hyatt, a gambler. These men, Hyatt, being retained a couple of days, were given the “choice of trains,” and on Tuesday, under orders of Mayor Deger, were sent out of town. Short, Lane and Gallagher went east, Bennett went west, and Niel went south.

As a precaution, about one hundred and fifty citizens were on watch Monday night, and a large police force is still held on duty night and day. Mayor Deger, the police force and the citizens of Dodge City are determined that the lawless element shall not thrive in this city. No halfway measures will be used in the suppression of either lawlessness or riot. Mayor Deger is a resolute, fearless and obstinate officer. All good and law abiding citizens are standing by him in this trying emergency.

It must be understood that no foolishness will be allowed in the conduct of city affairs. Let the people employ their pursuits peacefully. And evildoers must stand the consequences of their lawless conduct.”

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