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Dodge City Daily Globe - Dodge City, KS
  • City looks to preserve statue

  • He stands on one of the highest spots in town and watches over Dodge City.
    And he's been on the job since 1927.
    The cowboy statue, created by O.H. Simpson, D.D.S., was the doctor's tribute to the spirit that built Dodge City.
    Simpson was a leader in the field of dental technology. He created the technique of gold inlays and presented it to his caolleagues at a dental conference in Topeka in the late 1890s.
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  • He stands on one of the highest spots in town and watches over Dodge City. And he's been on the job since 1927. The cowboy statue, created by O.H. Simpson, D.D.S., was the doctor's tribute to the spirit that built Dodge City. Simpson was a leader in the field of dental technology. He created the technique of gold inlays and presented it to his caolleagues at a dental conference in Topeka in the late 1890s. His work with sculpting teeth led him to creating other figures sculpted in concrete. His frogs, complete with glass marbles for eyes, were gifts that always delighted the recipient. Simpson was a member of the local Rotary Club and when the district convention came to Dodge City, he fashioned faces and boots to be placed in the ground in a recreation of the cemetery that once stood on Boot Hill. When the city purchased the site following the closing of the Third Ward School at the corner of Spruce and Fifth Avenue, citizens approved a bond issue to build a new city hall there. Simpson was asked to create a monument to be placed in front of the facility and he chose a cowboy to represent the early days of the town. In an elaborate casting process, Simpson captured the likeness of Joseph Sughrue, a man who had caught Simpson's eye as an archetypical cowboy when Simpson came to town. Using straws to allow Sughrue to breathe, Simpson made a plaster mask of the man's face, then cast the rest of the body. In some cases, such as the spurs, Simpson incorporated the actual object into the statue, providing extra structural strength to the concrete. On March 27 of 1928, Simpson sent a letter to the city commission advising them that the statue that had requested per Resolution No. 117 was finished. He directed that the statue should be "mounted on a base about three feet high which should bear this allegorical epigraph: 'On the ashes of my camp fire this city has been built.'" Preserving the past In the past few years, concerns have been raised regarding the condition of the statue and what steps should be taken to preserve it. In the 1980s a slurry was applied to the statue to protect it, but now the slurry is deteriorating and the base is in bad shape, according to Melissa McCoy, project development coordinator with the city of Dodge City. A committee has been formed and expert advice has been sought. A plan for the preservation of the statue has been developed and money is being raised. "We've raised about half of our total goal of $22,000," McCoy said in a recent interview. Pishny Restoration Services, a Lenexa company, is assessing the required work on the project. Pishny has done restoration work at Arlington National Cemetery as well as smaller projects in towns in southwest Kansas. " Once we go through the bid process and get approval from the city commission, we hope Pishny will complete the work to restore and preserve the statue, and that they'll train a local crew to perform annual maintenance on it," McCoy said. "We're happy that the project is finally moving ahead and that the Sughrue family is involved," said Floris Jean Hampton, member of the committee. "I think it's quite possible that Dr. Simpson and his interest in Dodge City history, combined with his interest in sculpture, was the beginning of Dodge City's efforts to promote and market its history," said Ethel Peterson, also a member of the committee. "There was a time when the people of Dodge City were embarrassed about their colorful past and wanted to forget it. Simpson changed that, especially with that Rotary convention," she added. Dennis Doris, member of the committee and volunteer with the Teachers Hall of Fame, said "I always say to people who come to the Teachers Hall of Fame, if you want to see the oldest cowboy in Dodge City, just walk a little farther up the hill, and most of them do and they are very impressed." The statue has been placed on the National Register of Historic Places and the committee is working on a number of grants. They're also planning a number of fundraising projects and a media campaign to spread awareness of the statue. They are also encouraging local citizens to participate in the project with a donation, large or small. "The statue is an important part of Dodge City history and tourism and we hope everyone will be interested in helping to preserve it for future generations," McCoy said. For more information, or to arrange a donation, call McCoy at 620-225-8100 or contact any committee member.
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