The namesake of Wright Park

Kathie Bell
Special to the Globe

This man lived in our area before there was a Dodge City.

In fact, as President of the Town Company and Postmaster in 1872, he deserves much of the credit for the town on the Arkansas River becoming “Dodge City.”

In 1885-86, this same person went on to become mayor of the town he helped establish, and later he represented our area in the Kansas Legislature.

Born in Bladensburg, Maryland, on  Sept. 2, 1840,  Robert M. Wright  first came west in 1856.

At the age of 19 he returned east,  married  Alice J. Armstrong and brought her  back  to  southwest  Kansas  where they resided  years before  there were  any  permanent settlements.

In 1864,  Wright’s wife  and their  two children  were  on  his  ranch northwest of present day  Dodge City  when Indians raided. Robert Wright  wasn’t home, but  Alice  Wright  and a hired hand  kept  the raiders at bay until the family  could escape.

As a result,  the  family abandoned the ranch  moving  to  Fort Aubrey,  Kansas.

In 1866  they relocated  to  Fort Dodge,  Kansas  where Robert Wright  ran the  Fort’s store.

In  1872, Wright left the Fort for the nearby buffalo hunters’  outpost that later became  Dodge City.  Along with  Charles Rath,  he  opened  one of the town’s first businesses,  the Rath  &  Co. General Store.  The store  sold goods to the  hunters  for  buffalo hides  and cash. They shipped out  over  200,000  hides in their first year of business.

The name  Dodge City  didn’t exist in  the  early  days.

The  buffalo hunt was vital to the town, and in  October  1872,  the  Town Company  applied for a post office  calling the town of  Buffalo  City. Postal officials  denied them  the use of that name  because there was already a  town named  Buffalo  in  Kansas.

The  Town Company, which Wright was president of,  renamed  the town  “Dodge City”  either after  nearby  Fort Dodge or the Fort’s  Commandant,  Col.  Richard Dodge,  who was  a member of the Town Company.

In 1877, Charles Rath sold his interest in the  Rath Store  to H.M. Beverly and A.J. Anthony. Wright continued a partnership with them,  renaming the store Wright, Beverly & Co. Later Beverly and Anthony dropped out and the store  became R.M. Wright & Co.

Wright's wife, Alice, died suddenly in St. Louis, MO on Christmas Day, 1892.

Later he married Sally who in 1908 gave birth to his youngest child, Connor.

In 1880,  Wright  planted trees on a tract of land just north of the  Arkansas River. The trees  flourished and  the area was a beautiful  park until around  1886 when  the economy took a downturn. As a result,  the  park fell into neglect and the  land reverted to its wild state.  In 1897 the city  came to the park’s financial rescue by paying  off  Wright’s  mortgage on the land.

Wright,  in gratitude to  the city for restoring the park,  donated the  park  to the city with the stipulation that it forever be called  Wright  Park.

Today  Wright  Park  lives on as a legacy of one of  Dodge City’s most noteworthy pioneers.

Robert M. Wright died  on  Jan. 4, 1915  at the age of 74.