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Dodge City Daily Globe - Dodge City, KS
  • County government helps tame the West

  •      It didn't take long for Dodge City to grow.

         By October 1 of 1872, a group of prominent citizens was able to send a request to the state of Kansas for a census. It was necessary to verify that at least 600 bona fide citizens resided in Ford County in order to form a county government, elect officials and determine a county seat.


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  •      It didn't take long for Dodge City to grow.
         By October 1 of 1872, a group of prominent citizens was able to send a request to the state of Kansas for a census. It was necessary to verify that at least 600 bona fide citizens resided in Ford County in order to form a county government, elect officials and determine a county seat.
         The census was completed by January of 1873, certifying the presence of 607 residents.
         Historical observers later noted that "it is evident from the order in which the names appear on the census report that the census taker started at the Dodge House hotel on the corner of Central avenue and Front street, and worked west the entire three blocks. A study of the names will convince anyone that the census taker enumerated all the cowboys, freighters, buffalo hunters, dance hall girls, gamblers, and loafers along the street."
         Many names of prominent citizens known to have been residents of the county at the time are not included.
         A proclamation was signed by Gov. Thomas A. Osborn on April 5, 1873. The proclamation applinted three special commissioners for Ford County.
         The commission organized an election to be held on June 5, 1873 and by that day, less than a year after the first business establishment opened its doors, or rather its flaps, Ford County had a duly elected commission, a county clerk, county treasurer, sheriff, county attorney, register of deeds, probate judge, trustee, coroner, clerk of the district court and two justices of the peace.
         The county government existed in various rental buildings until a courthouse.
         The new courthouse was an impressive structure. Built of native stone and locally-fired brick, construction began in 1884 and the building was finished in 1886.
         The courthouse sat on a large property at Central and Spruce, the location of the current courthouse.
         The grounds were demarcated with a low stone fence. As was the custom at the time for important buildings, a set up steps brought the visitor up to a main floor well above ground level.
         The county jail was located in the basement. Cells were built of metal rods and set up against the limestone foundation walls, leading those who spent a fair amount of time in the jail to nickname it the lime kiln.
         High atop the roof, a domed cupola sat on arches formed by columns. The building, perched on a hill, was visible from miles around and the dome made an ideal location for taking photos and surveying the town.
         A bandstand on the grounds made a gathering place for the community.
         By 1890, the courthouse had electricity.
         In 1902, the courthouse was partially burned in a fire started on a nearby property.
         And by 1909, there was talk of the need for a new courthouse.
    Page 2 of 2 -      On Oct. 13, 1910, the Globe-Republican reported that preliminary plans were soon to be submitted by Reuel A. Curtis, a prominent Kansas City, Mo. architect.   
         The estimated cost of the building was $65,000.
         The bonds were approved, an elaborate cornerstone-laying ceremony was held and construction began.
         By August of 1912, funds had run out and construction had come to a standstill.
         A new election was scheduled and the Daily Globe supported the completion of the facility.
         "New Interest in the Court House: Local people are being awakened to importance of having the fine new building completed for use.
         The Globe added: "With this committee at work, it is probably that a fine vote will be recorded here Tuesday to authorize the $30,000 necessary to complete the new court house building. The people are beginning to realize that unless these funds are voted, the court house building will have to stand half completed and in no condition to be used at all."
         On the eve of the election, the committee ran a large ad urging citizens of Dodge City to take the lead in supporting the funds.
         "It is for you to decide Tuesday whether Ford County is to have the finest fire-proof public building in Western Kansas, ot whether we are to leave this fine building in a half finished condition so that is cannot be utilized."
         The funds passed and by October of 1912 the Daily Globe announced "Court House To Be Finished January 1."
         And in March of 1913, the headline read, "Into New Court House Sometime During April."
         Despite the delays and the funding shortage, the building was completed and on May 27, 1913 the Daily Globe announced "Ford County Officials Are In New $100,000 Court House."
         "They are not doing much business, but each is trying to extricate himself from the piles of books, documents and important papers which surrounded him, as there were where they were dumped by draymen. There is a great contrast between the dark, crowded condition of the guilding from which they moved to the large and airy offices in the new building on the hill where the breezes blow."
         The courthouse has been updated and improved over the years but still serves the county well.
         In commemoration of the building's 100th anniversary, a ceremony is being held at 10 a.m. today and tours will be given until noon.
    EDITOR'S NOTE: As a way of celebrating Dodge City's 140th birthday this year, the Daily Globe is taking a look at a few events that shaped the town's history. These stories are assembled with the assistance of the staff at the Kansas Heritage Center. Photos from their collections and information from their files has been used extensively.
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