Life of councilman George Randall

Kathie Bell
Special to the Globe
Former Dodge City Councilman, George Randall. SUBMITTED PHOTO

He was here for less than two years, but he had a lot to say to his young son about living in Dodge City.

George Randall was born Aug. 12, 1840 in Nashport, Ohio attending preparatory school in Granville, Ohio. He studied law in Zanesville, Ohio, joining the bar in 1861.

During the Civil War, he enlisted in the 159th U.S. Infantry in 1861. In 1863, the Army stationed him in Kansas and discharged him in 1864 due to disability. Shortly after, he returned to Ohio where he married Philena Searles in 1865.

They had a son, George C, in 1868. Philena died when the son, referred to as "Tim," was only three.

In 1879, George Randall returned to Kansas to manage his brother John's AT & SF Land office in Dodge City. During this time, John spent most of his time in Newton. George left son Tim behind in Ohio with relatives, but wrote to him on a weekly basis.

In these letters, donated to Boot Hill Museum by Katherine Randall Rousseau, he paints a vivid picture of life in Dodge City.

Much of the letters' content is what one would expect to hear about early Dodge City - the City had a rough reputation, in the spring the cattle drives came to town, Indians (Dull Knife's band) were jailed, the buffalo were all but gone and the "boys" loved to play practical jokes on unsuspecting strangers.

He mentioned people dressing up like American Indians to scare visitors, and men throwing eggs and potatoes at out of town lecturers.

But some of which he wrote is unexpected. Market gardeners grew fruits and vegetables on small islets in the Arkansas River. Some even lived on these isles.

Speaking of the River, like today, parts of it flowed and parts dropped below the surface leaving dry spots.

From the Land Office, looking through a "spyglass," he could see the buildings and large flag at Fort Dodge, and he could hear the big boom of their "morning and evening" gun. However, few troops were still at the Fort.

His letters contained constant threads. He was eager to shoot an antelope or deer, but had very little luck. And the weather was a frequent topic.

In a more personal vein, he continually admonished Tim to write more often, and when he wrote he was to have good penmanship and spelling. George seemed homesick, always inquiring about the state of affairs in Zanesville and with the family.

George came across as a skinflint when it came to sending gifts to Tim. He was always mentioning he couldn't send the things because of the expense. For example, he bought three buffalo robes for Tim and his cousins, but gave only one because John could take it with him on a trip to Ohio.

He hovered over his son's behavior. Of course he urged Tim to be good and study. Be he took it much further by telling Tim not go out in the cold moist air, not go to the river without permission, to look out for thin ice in the winter, and to not go out at night.

In April 1880, Tim came for a visit. George had to leave for a few days. Judging from instructions left by his father, it must not have been pleasant for Tim during this period.

They read in part, "Do not go away from the office, except to your meals (at the Great Western), to the post office & A.A. office, at all....Do not light the lamps or strike a match. Do not allow anybody to open any of the drawers. Do not go into the stable."

George further warned Tim about trains and going into the street.

George Randall left later that year for Burrton, where he died on Dec. 4, 1924.

The short time he was in Dodge City he served on the Dodge City Council during James H. Kelley's term as mayor.