EDITOR'S NOTE: As a way of celebrating Dodge City's 140th birthday this year, the Daily Globe will take a look at a few events that shaped the town's history. This week, we look at one factor that influenced the timing and placement of the founding of Dodge City: the creation of Fort Dodge.


     EDITOR'S NOTE: As a way of celebrating Dodge City's 140th birthday this year, the Daily Globe will take a look at a few events that shaped the town's history. This week, we look at one factor that influenced the timing and placement of the founding of Dodge City: the creation of Fort Dodge.
These stories are produced with the help of the Kansas Heritage Center.

     In the early 1860s, Americans were beginning to head West in significant numbers.
     Maj. Gen. Grenville Dodge, a military commander based in Missouri, read reports that 200 travelers had been killed in Kansas in 1984. He recommended five new military posts: two on the Smoky Hill Trail and three on the Santa Fe Trail. The forts were to serve two purposes: supplies and security.
     Fort Dodge was set up in April of 1865. The location, chosen by Col. James H. Ford, was the site of an old camping ground for wagon trains. The site had also been a stage station, which was burned by Indians in 1864.
     The fort was initially comprised of tents and dugouts, the latter being necessary because the wild Kansas winds destroyed the tents.
     Seventy dugouts were completed along the river bank the first year, each just large enough to house four men in cramped conditions.
     The river provided a supply of water. There were sod and stone available for building but no trees for lumber. The closest small stand of trees was 12 miles away.
     The first winter was hard. Food supplies were limited, travel was suspended and there was nothing to do. The men huddled in the camp, fighting off scurvy and boredom. Seven men died that year.
     The fort was a rustic affair, and the men who were sent to staff it were so unhappy with the assignment that they began to call it "Camp Dodge," a derogatory reference to the man who sent them there.
     A 1870 report on military posts described the location's weaknesses: "The place is weak in a military point of view, being commanded by the bluffs, and liable to surprise on account of the numerous ravines in the rear. In a sanitary point of view the location is bad, the low land being diffucult to drain and flanked by a creek and low marsh ground. Malarial diseases are frequent during the autumn months."
     But by 1872, when Dodge City was founded, the fort boasted both frame and stone buildings including barracks, officers quarters, laundress quarters, a hospital, a guardhouse, a granary, a bakery, a butcher shop, a blacksmith shop, a carpenter shop, storerooms, a warehouse, an ice house, stables, a trader's post, a library and a post school.
     The boundaries of the fort were drawn in an L shape, with the northern edge 14 miles north of the fort at Sawlog Creek and the western corner at a spot that would become the intersection of Military Avenue and Railroad Avenue, now called Central Avenue.
     That spot was where George M. Hoover and John McDonald set up to sell whiskey in a tent on June 17 in 1872. A marker in the sidewalk outside the Ford County Government Center marks the spot.

Policing the fort
     Once the fort was established, however tentatively, the troops found themselves dealing with bands of warring American Indians but also policing horse thieves, liquor runners and criminals of all ilk.
     The federal government and the railroads were still trying to come up with a solution to "the Indian problem." Some argued for the peace process, and others recommended out-and-out war.
     In February of 1867, Chief Satanta of the Kiowa tribe declared that all the land and all the resources of the High Plains belonged to him and the white man should leave the area.He also demanded that all construction be stopped, all troops withdrawn and no roads or railroads be built past Council Grove.
     To demonstrate the sincerity of his demands, Satanta led an attack on Ford Dodge, killing one man and driving all the troops' horses south of the river, where the fort had no control.
     The men at the fort were only able to recover two horses. The troops were stranded without transportation.
     The men stationed at Fort Dodge often found themselves at odds with civilian entrepreneurs who provided whiskey to the Indians and even firearms.
     At one point, the assistant post surgeon, William S. Tremaine, filed a formal complaint demanding that merchants be stopped from selling whiskey to patients in the hospital.

Leaving the fort
     By June of 1882, the city of Dodge City was well established and the citizens were surprised to hear that Fort Dodge was being abandoned.
     The military units were moved to Fort Reno, Fort Supply and Fort Elliott, closer to the Indian reservation.
     On March 2, 1889, an act of Congress authorized the transfer of the land and remaining buildings to the Kansas Soldiers' Home.
     The compound where troops once suffered deprivation and hardship now houses America's veterans and their families.

     Sources: Information used in this story can be found in "The Delectable Burg: An Irreverent History of Dodge City 1872 to 1886," by Fredric R. Young and in "Dodge City: The Early Years, 1872—1886," by Wm. B. Shillingberg. Both books are available for checkout at Dodge City Public Library and for purchase at the Kansas Heritage Center. Information about Kansas history is also available online at www.skyways.org.