The namesake of Wright Park
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.