[logo:Kansas Heritage Group]

Kansas History

Boot Hill Cemetery History

by Robert Wright, Dodge City Town President

Dodge City, the Cowboy Capital, , Chapter 08: Boot Hill

Though all did not contribute directly to the population of Boot Hill, there were many deeds of violence committed in Dodge City's first ten years of life, that paralleled any which added a subject for interment in that primitive burying ground. Such a case was the shooting of Dora Hand, a celebrated actress. The killing of Dora Hand was an accident; still, it was intended for a cold-blooded murder, so was accidental only in the victim that suffered.

It seems that Mayor James Kelly and a very rich cattleman's son, who had marketed many thousand head of cattle in Dodge, during the summer, had a drunken altercation. It did not amount to much, at the time, but, to do the subject justice, they say that Kelly did treat Kennedy badly. Anyhow, Kennedy got the worst of it. This aroused his half-breed nature. He quietly went to Kansas City, bought him the best horse that money could secure, and brought him back to Dodge. In the meantime, Mr. Kelly had left his place of abode, on account of sickness, and Miss Dora Hand was occupying his residence and bed. Kennedy, of course, was not aware of this. During the night of his return, or about four o'clock next morning, he ordered his horse and went to Kelly's residence and fired two shots through the door, without dismounting, and rode away. The ball struck Miss Hand in the right side under the arm, killing her instantly. She never woke up.

Kennedy took a direction just opposite to his ranch.

The officers had reason to believe who did the killing, but did not start in pursuit until the afternoon. The officers in pursuit were Sheriff Masterson, Wyat Erb*, Charles Bassett, Duffy, and William Tighlman, as intrepid a posse as ever pulled a trigger. They went as far as Meade City, where they knew their quarry had to pass and went into camp in a very careless manner. In fact, they arranged so as to completely throw Kennedy off his guard, and he rode right into them, when he was ordered three times to throw up his hands. Instead of doing so, he struck his horse with his quirt, when several shots were fired by the officers, one shot taking effect in his left shoulder, making a dangerous wound.

Three shots struck the horse, killing him instantly. The horse fell partly on Kennedy, and Sheriff Masterson said, in pulling him out, he had hold of the wounded arm and could hear the bones craunch. Not a groan did Kennedy let out of him, although the pain must have been fearful. And all he said was, "You sons of b-, I will get even with you for this." Under the skillful operation of Drs. McCarty and Tremaine, Kennedy recovered, after a long sickness. They took four inches of the bone out, near the elbow. Of course, the arm was useless, but he used the other well enough to kill several people afterwards, but finally met his death by some one a little quicker on the trigger than himself. Miss Dora Hand was a celebrated actress and would have made her mark should she have lived.

One Sunday night in October, 1883, there was a fatal encounter between two negroes, Henry Hilton and Nigger Bill, two as brave and desperate characters as ever belonged to the colored race. Some said they were both struck on the same girl and this was the cause.

Henry was under bonds for murder, of which the following is the circumstances. Negro Henry was the owner of a ranch and a little bunch of cattle. Coming in with a lot of white cowboys, they began joshing Henry, and one of them attempted to throw a rope over him.

Henry warned them he would not stand any such rough treatment, if he was a nigger. He did this in a dignified and determined manner. When one rode up and lassoed him, almost jerking him from his horse, Henry pulled his gun and killed him. About half of the cowboys said he was justifiable in killing his man; it was self defense, for if he had not killed him, he would have jerked him from his horse and probably killed Henry.

Negro Bill Smith was equally brave, and had been tried more than once. They were both found, locked in each other's arms (you might say), the next morning, lying on the floor in front of the bar, their empty sixshooters lying by the side of each one. The affair must have occurred some time after midnight, but no one was on hand to see the fight, and they died without a witness.

Boot Hill Museum
People of the Plains Exhibit
Dodge City, Kansas

[photograph: Boot Hill fills with students each Kansas Day. Courtesy: Boot Hill Museum]

The staff at Boot Hill has been working hard for the past two years on the original Boot Hill museum building and the People of the Plains exhibits. The 1947 building has been renovated top to bottom, and you are invited to the celebration.

If you have never visited Boot Hill Museum, or you've been before, see it again for the first time.

Dodge City History

Kansas Plains and Emigrant Tribes: Native Americans: Old West Kansas

Old West Kansas, Native tribes to pioneer west, Kansas Heritage Group

Old West Kansas Cowtowns KS cowboys, cattletowns, pioneers

Old West Kansas Forts Ft. Leavenworth to Ft. Dodge, KS

Old West Kansas Gunfighters KS lawmen, outlaws

WWW-VL: American West History

Site author: George Laughead Jr., manager, United States History Index. Thanks to Lynn H. Nelson, orginal author, WWW-Virtual Library: History.

Return to the Kansas History Web Sites or the Kansas Heritage Group.
Site previously maintained at the University of Kansas. Posted: 16 March 2004; Updated: 10 November 2017.
Boot Hill Cemetery & Boot Hill Museum