She did her best to put up a good front, but unfortunately it did not end well for Isadore Douglass, wife of Fort Dodge Commander Major Henry B. Douglass.
In the summer of 1867, the Douglass's arrived at Fort Dodge from Columbus, Ohio, with three young sons. Being among the first of those to reach the Fort, conditions were less than luxurious for the family. They did not move into a nice wood or stone house fit for a Commanding Officer, but into what was available - a sod dugout.
Facing the Arkansas River, the back and sides of the dugout were covered with earth. And being close to the River, it was subject to high water. And it couldn't have been easy raising three little boys in a dirt house.
Still, in a series of letters to her mother, Mrs. Bowman in Wilkes Barre, Penn., Isadore painted an optimistic picture with a minimum of complaints. After all, the dugout was comfortable except when the River flooded. And everyone at the Fort knew in the coming months new living quarters were planned for officers and enlisted. Sadly, Isadore Douglass did not get to enjoy the comforts of the new stone 11-room, one-and-a-half story Commanding Officers quarters.
Mrs. Douglass's upbeat correspondences from Fort Dodge to her mother lasted about a year. Then in August 1867, Mrs. Bowman got the worst news a mother could receive. Her son-in-law, Major Henry Douglass wrote informing her of the death of Isadore on August 1 of cholera. The outbreak partially brought on by damp and dank conditions also nearly took the life of Henry. At 26, Isadore was pregnant and left behind her husband and three children.
The surviving major and his three sons were the to occupy the new Commanding Officers quarters. In October 1868, General George Armstrong Custer and his 7th Calvary passed through Fort Dodge on their way to the Battle of Washita in Indian Territory. Though Custer never resided in the quarters, it is possible he stayed in them as the Fort's guest.
Whatever the case, the Commanding Officers quarters soon took the name "Custer House" and remains as such today.
Many of the 150 year-old stone buildings remain at the Fort and are still used today. Most, including Custer House, are not open to the public but can be viewed during daylight hours from the exterior. Interpretive storyboards are being upgraded and replaced for five features at Fort Dodge.