It was a beacon which shined a light in the darkness cast by Dodge City's wild and raucous behavior.
The Union Church was the first building constructed in Dodge City dedicated to the practice of religion.
In early Dodge City, a few intrepid preachers attempted to minister to "Wickedest City of the West."
These few daring preachers held revivals in tents, dance halls and even saloons, preaching against gambling, drinking and prostitution which were the bread and butter of Dodge City's economy.
The town’s rowdy, unlawful citizens, tired of these diatribes, often ran them off.
For example in late 1872, a trainman for the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad felt he had to do something to promote religion and Christian values in Dodge. His Sunday school, which included six children, met in a hotel.
But the hotel's guests complained about the children singing. Facing townspeople who opposed any kind of church worship, he gave up ministering to Dodge.
In 1874, Reverend Ormond Wright arrived and began preaching to Dodge City citizens. Wright, dressed in East Coast attire, was a familiar sight on the streets of Dodge City. He entered saloons and dance halls, inviting the patrons to attend church services.
He never partook in their vices, but he didn't condemn them. His lack of condemnation gained the admiration and respect of cowboys, gamblers and bartenders.
In fact, the citizens here felt comfortable enough with him to include them in their practical jokes.
In June 1877, his prize pony was "stolen" by the likes of "Luke McGlue," Dodge City’s infamous and fictitious prankster. Unaware it was a hoax, he was inconsolable.
A deputy sheriff, in on the practical joke, told the Reverend the culprit who stole his pony had been found and asked Wright whether the criminal should be shot or hanged.
Momentarily, Wright struggled between the urge for revenge and his sense of Christian forgiveness. But the Reverend figured out quickly the crook was merely Luke McGlue and his pony was quickly returned. Wright’s good-natured response earned him the admiration of the Dodge City "gang."
On June 14, 1874, 13 community members met to organize the Union Church. Its congregation was ecumenical including Presbyterians, Methodists, Baptists, Catholics, Christians and Episcopalians.
By 1876, this coalition had built the Union Church on "Gospel Hill," which overlooked sinful Front Street.
Though he was not ordained when he arrived in Dodge City, on Aug. 6, 1877, four visiting Presbyterian ministers ordained Reverend Wright at the Union Church.
Wright stayed in Dodge City as Presbyterian pastor until 1882, when he finally "burned out." Within a couple of years he recovered and continued his ministry in Barnegat, New Jersey for thirty years.
As the various denominations built their own churches, the need for the Union Church building disappeared. Within a few years the building was gone.
However, the spirit of the Union Church lives on at Boot Hill Museum. In the 2000's Dale and Sharon Birney of Bucklin donated a 1920's church building which the Museum transformed into the Union Church exhibit in 2009.
The Church not only serves as an exhibit for Museum visitors but also serves as a place for church services and weddings.