Dodge City

  • American West
  • 4 mins

By Crusader1307

Perhaps no other name in Western History invokes more in imagery and Legend, as does the name of Dodge City, Kansas. The City became the basis in Western History and Myth for what one perceives to be the epitome of an “authentic” Town of The “Wild West”.  Dodge City began mother as a Town , but US Army Fort – known as Ft. Mann, in 1847. Established to protect The Santa Fe Trail, it was only lightly Garrisoned (as needed). It was destroyed by Native American War Parties and remained derelict until 1850. Rebuilt and renamed Ft. Dodge, it again suffered the same fate in 1853. Once again rebuilt in 1865 after the end of The American Civil War, a more permanent Garrison was established. In 1871, small Droves of Cattle Herds began to make their way from Texas and The Mexican Border. The only Way Station was a nearby Sod roof Hut near The Fort. In thus, was the true beginnings of The City of Dodge.


Dodge City became a “Boom Town “, seemingly overnight – with the first building being quite naturally,  a Saloon – The Long Branch. With more and more Cattle, came the spur of The Eastern Railways, used to move the needed Beef. Dodge became the focal hub of The Great West Cattle Trail, with over 1 Million Head of Cattle per year winding up there. As such, more business developed in support and related to, it’s continuation. So too was attracted the “seedier” element of Frontier life….The Gambler and Prostitute. Vice became the prime order of business in Dodge City. City Fathers needed to correct this matter if Dodge wad to grow into a traditional American City on the cusp of The Westward Expansion. So Law was brought to Dodge…..with predictable results.


The aptly named “Dodge City War”, began in 1883. Charlie Basset, a well known Law Enforcement Officer was brought in. He contacted help from Friends whose names would become legendary in the annals of Western History. One of Bassett primary goals was to close the now infamous Long Branch Saloon. To do this, he enacted his “Ordnance 71”, declaring War on all Vice . Next, he initiated a Firearms Ban within City Limits. Bassett’s Deputies, Virgil and Wyatt Earp – as well as “Bat” Masterson, had their work cut out for them. A Gunfight happened nearly every day in furthering Enforcement of The Ordnance. So much in fact, that the need for a suitably large piece of land was needed to bury so many Felons. In this, came the term widely adopted by many Western Towns. ….”Boot Hill”. Often, an Outlaw was simply taken  (often without Pine Box Coffin), and simply thrown into a grave. Often only a simple wooden Cross was erected. Sometimes their name accompanied them, sometimes not. The wording of “Boot” was to related to that they “died and were buried with theirs Boots on”, which was in relation to their Outlaw “lifestyle”. Dodge City had a sizable one.


The War lasted until 1885, when order was restored. Although closed, The Long Branch would be reopened, albeit somewhat tamer than it’s former reputation. Bassett would retire, leaving Wyatt Earp as Town Sheriff briefly. With his retirement and date with “future” History, Bartholomew Masterson would pick up the reins, and rude into History. The Great Cattle Trail played out in 1886, partly due to cheaper methods of transport (Train). With the tide of eager Cattle Drovers willing to spend their money dried up, so too did The Gamblers and Prostitutes. Dodge City settled into the life of a typical “sleepy” Town. The Railways stopped it from becoming a “Ghost Town” (as so many did).


Dodge City’s “celebrity” came as the backdrop for many “Dime Novels” and later Films. This was made more so by Radio and later Television. In the late 1950s and 1960s, The World became engrossed with the fictional Marshal Matt Dillon and his weekly adventures in Dodge City on the widely popular “Gunsmoke”.  Into this, the “real” Dodge City got renewed vigor. Much of the older portions of Dodge City were restored to their late 19th Century appearance,  completed with “Living Historians”. Millions of Tourists have visited Dodge City, to experience the “flavor” of Frontier life. It still is a popular destination today.