Dodge City Daily Globe - Dodge City, KS
  • The American dream comes to life on the banks of the Arkansas

  •      It was a logical place to build a town out of nothing.      The site that eventually became Dodge City was on the banks of the Arkansas River. The Santa Fe Trail ran along the river, busy with people and freight in both directions. The site was on the western bord...
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  • It was a logical place to build a town out of nothing.
    The site that eventually became Dodge City was on the banks of the Arkansas River. The Santa Fe Trail ran along the river, busy with people and freight in both directions. The site was on the western border of a busy and important military facility and the Santa Fe Railway was gradually inching its way toward the area.
    The impetus that created the town came from a group of businessmen and officers at the fort.
    As makeshift businesses and shanty homes were being built at the site, this loosely-organized group began to take the necessary steps to legally create a new town.
    Because of the massive herds of buffalo in the area and the growing importance of buffalo hunting as an industry, they selected the name Buffalo City for the new town.
    When they applied to the federal government to get a post office for the new town, officials said they'd have to choose a new name, as there was already a post office designated for a "Buffalo" in Wilson County.
    The choice of the name "Dodge" is one of those moments in history that historians argue about.
    Whether the town was named after Henry I. Dodge, territorial governor of Wisconsin, Grenville M. Dodge, who established the fort in 1864, Richard I. Dodge, a colonel in the U.S. Army who was in command at the fort in 1872, or after Fort Dodge itself it a question that will never be fully resolved.
    Getting organized
    The group of men interested in starting the town eventually formed themselves into the Dodge City Town Company.
    The charter, dated Aug. 15, 1872, established the company as a private corporation whose sole purpose was to create a town on a 320-acre site.
    Because the railroad had an interest in helping establish towns along its route, Albert A. Robinson, a construction engineer with AT&SF, had already platted the township.
    Unable to meet a requirement calling for at least 100 residents to claim that much public land, the town company reduced their plans to an 87-acre site.
    The members of the town company were early businessmen, officers at the fort and a few entrepreneurs with solid political connections. Many of them became prominent in the early history of the town.
    Robert M. Wright grew up in Maryland and left there as a teenager to work in St. Louis and later Denver. Seeing the Santa Fe Trail as a way to make money, he contracted to build seven stations between Fort Larned in Kansas and Fort Lyon in Colorado and keep them supplied with coal and forage.
    He formed a partnership with A.J. Anthony and they provided hay for a stage coach company located at the Cimarron Crossing in the 1860s.
    Page 2 of 3 - When a fire set by Indians burned 75 tons of hay, Wright became a civilian contractor for the army and eventually was appointed post sutler at Fort Dodge. Anthony served as postmaster at the fort.
    Another member of the town company, Richard I. Dodge, represented the interests of the fort. Dodge was born in North Carolina and graduated from West Point. He saw action at the Battle of Bull Run during the Civil War but also spent a lot of time behind a desk.
    He assumed command of Fort Dodge in 1872.
    The group, whose expectations of profit unified them, found that creating a town was not as easy as it seemed.
    Various legalities, including problems with the organization of a legal government for Ford County, delayed the process.
    Members of the town company eventually called on their friends in Hays City, where Judge McGaffigan conveyed the townsite, now grown to 302.78 acres, to the nineteen members of the Dodge City Town Company.
    The conveyance was recorded on Aug. 21, 1873 and the fee was one dollar.
    Soon the town company grew to include many more familiar names: Charles Rath, Morris Collar, Alonzo B. Webster, Jacob Collar, Frederick Zimmerman, James H. Kelley and George M. Hoover.
    Despite the persistence of writers and balladeers, who continued to paint Dodge City as lawless and wild, the town was already showing signs of civilization just a year after Hoover and MacDonald opened their tent saloon in July of 1872.
    Shillingberg, in his book "Dodge City: The Early Years, 1872-1886," quotes a report in the Aug. 30, 1873 edition of the Junction City Union: "The place is quiet now, compared to what it was one year ago ... I was greatly surprised to find religious services being held in the dining room of the Dodge House — a real Sunday school, and a preacher conducting it. There were in attendance some thirty persons."
    The Dodge City Town Company remained a significant force in the development of Dodge City for many years and its members created many successful businesses. They helped others build businesses and they set aside land for schools.
    The town company, which by statute was limited to a 20-year charter, dissolved on Aug. 21, 1892, having accomplished its purpose.
    Today the members of the town company are remembered in name by parks, streets and buildings, but their impact on the creation and growth of a small prairie town is their lasting legacy.
    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.
    Page 3 of 3 - Two books on Dodge City history are also referenced in the stories: Fred Young's "The Delectable Burg: An Irreverent History of Dodge City — 1872 to 1886," and "Dodge City: The Early Years, 1872-1886" by Wm. B. Shillingberg. Both books are available for check out at the Dodge City Public Library and available for sale at the Kansas Heritage Center.
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