BY SEPTEMBER 19, 1872, THE TRACK HAD BEEN LAID AS FAR as Dodge City. The first depot was a box car with the wheels removed. The first agent, J. H. Phillips went to Dennison, Texas, in 1878. An old buffalo hunter once told India Simmons, historian from Lakin, of the rejoicing when the first passenger train pulled into the one street town, all its buildings facing the railroad track. "It wasn't much of a train, Boys," he said, "but it sure caused a big celebration."
To be doubly sure the new town got the right start, another survey was made in November, 1872, by a civil engineer, D. M. Lewis. It was located on the north bank of the Arkansas River, five miles west of Fort Dodge, on or near the hundredth meridian. And almost at once after the rails were laid, it had the "good" north end and the south side where respectable residents did not go after dark, designated as "south of the tracks."
However, Front Street on the north side perhaps had more of the "drunks" lowered into the city cooler, a big hole in the ground about fifteen feet deep, than the south did. The sentence was-stay until you can crawl out. Nor was drunkenness the only form of misbehavior, for cowboys in with the trail herd liked to shoot up the town. With them, the city fathers cast a lenient eye. Didn't the town derive a goodly share of its support from these cowboys in from the long drive that started in Texas?
The first man killed was a big, tall, black Negro by the name of Texas, by a gambler named Denver who afterwards bragged that he had killed him to see him kick. Thus came into prominence Boot Hill as a burial ground and it was often said that Dodge City had a man for breakfast, almost every morning to populate the hill. Mostly, they were buried with their boots on.
The nearest civil authority was at Hays City, almost a hundred miles away. All too often gunplay settled even minor disputes. It is said that records prove there were fourteen killings in the first year. It took many years and a change of business men's minds before law and order came to Dodge City.
It wasn't until December 28, 1872, that the railroad was finished to Sargent on the state line, so Dodge City was the terminus of the railroad for quite some time. It always has been a railroad division point. The coming of the rails brought a stream of emigrants to the West. Some of them passed on through Dodge City but many settled in and around the town. The shining rails held a certain fascination for the new comers.
Men, who had viewed the site before ever there was even a settlement, returned, bringing their families with them. Among them were Mr. Reighard, R. W. Evans, Charles Rath, A. B. Webster, A. J. Anthony, and R. M. Wright. George B. Cox was another old-timer.
Cox came to Dodge City in the fall of 1872 and immediately started a building known as the Dodge House. In those early days, carpenters put up a building in a hurry. It was thirty feet wide by one hundred-twenty-five feet in depth and cost $11,452.00. It stood across from the tracks on First and Front streets. It was opened to the public January 18, 1873, with a sign on the wall, listing rules so ridiculous that each new guest paused long enough to read them. Cox and Boyd operated the hotel until January 10, 1883, when Mr. Cox bought out Mr. Boyd's interest. Dodge City soon became a settlement of frame houses and buildings in the business district. The latter boasted their own sprinkling systems, a barrel of water on the roof ; in case of fire the barrel was supposed to spill its contents to put out the fire when it fell through the roof. The roofs were mostly flat and a number of the buildings had the old fashioned false front. At first most of the business men lived in the back of their establishments. The population of the city had a large number of floaters numbered among the inhabitants for even in those early days the city had ideas about its importance.
The oldest residence in the city, before it burned, other than the sod shanty, had a historical record. Built in Abilene, it was first taken down and moved to Salina, then Ellsworth, Fort Dodge, where among other occupants were R. M. Wright, post trader, and James Langton and his sister, then to Dodge City at First and Vine, just across from the Methodist church. It was a fine home in its day and to the last retained its two ells and a porch, a house where hospitality within its walls had been ex-
tended to many a notable person, especially during its sojourn at Fort Dodge.
Amos Chapman, the noted Indian scout, Indian fighter, and plainsman, often riding in at night, had conferred with visiting government officials in the above mentioned house. He was also a frequent visitor in Dodge City, knowing all the old timers. His wife was a relative of the Cheyenne Chief Black Kettle. Amos Jr., son of the famous scout, was proud of the two bloods that flowed in his veins, of his heroic white father and his Indian prairie mother. Both of them, he said, bequeathed to him a priceless heritage in his love for God's great out-doors and the solitude and beauty of the enchanted prairie.
Strangers, visiting the city often ask, "Why were the streets in Dodge City laid out with their narrow confines?"
Was it as one old timer believed the planners had judged the space it would take for one bull train to pass another? One historian wrote that the city planners did not believe the town would outlast the freighters. But, letting one's thoughts go back to those early day "Occupants of the City", knowing how they carried on through trials that today seem unsurmountable, no western reader can believe those future-minded men felt that way at all. Many is the traveler, however, who wishes someone in the group had given more thought to the thoroughfares through the city, especially when they had the whole expanse of a prairie to widen the streets.
Some years ago, a salesman who had Dodge City on his route, remarked, "If you can drive in that town and get out alive, you can drive anywhere."
While many of the early men in Dodge City were still living at Fort Dodge, George Reighard recalls his first attempt to sell lots in the city. He found some fellows in the fort who thought of investing in lots in what was to be the new town and drove them in. Bob Wright said the lots weren't surveyed yet but in a few days there would be plenty of lots for sale. Mr. Reighard always regretted that he did not keep a list of these prospective clients' names.
Around the first of June, rails were being laid into Dodge City. There was an air of expectancy in the people and again Mr. Reighard brought prospective buyers into town. The head of this list was George M. Hoover and lots were sold on this
occasion. George Hoover and his associates set up eight wall tents about where the mill was to engage in business. At this time railroad surveyors laid out more lots for sale, north of the tracks.
That same day George Hoover and J. G. McConnell set up their tent saloon, with a foot-wide board, for a bar, laid across stacked sod strips, and Wiley and Cutter established a supply store. Then came the railroad contractors and the help they had employed, among the men were the Masterson brothers of six-shooter fame, who had a sub-contract grading for the Santa Fe through Dodge City.
With the postoffice and the railroad, Dodge City assumed the importance of Hays. P. L. Beatty was appointed mayor when Dodge City was incorporated in September and served until April 1873, when he was succeeded by his business partner, James (Dog) Kelly. Kelly opened the Opera House saloon and he and Beatty owned a restaurant on Front Street. Mr. Beatty also served in the volunteer fire department.
Big business came, enterprising men, many of them prosperous liquor dealers. Charles Rath was putting up his store building. Many hunters came, even by rail, for the slaughter of buffalo was then at its height. Freight traffic was tremendous and it increased by leaps and bounds. Aside from being the shipping point for Fort Dodge, an important military post, it was headquarters for hundreds of hunters, trappers, traders, and settlers. In less than a year Dodge City had a large floating population.
Town lots held by the Dodge City Town Company were offered at a low figure along with the promise they would advance with the growth of the town. They had reserved a large tract of land south of the railroad tracks for machine shops, lumber yards, and again they promised that property would advance in price in that part of town, claiming it was very desirable for manufacturing and other interests.
There was much speculation as to the business streets. Front Street was a natural for the first straggling street that faced the railroad track. Later there was Bridge Street, running north and south, so called because of the bridge that crossed the Arkansas River. The town fathers said it took no imagination to suggest this as the main business street and promptly began calling it Second Avenue. Then again, they designated another
important thoroughfare-an alley, which lies north of Front Street, with east and west openings, saying only a few years would elapse before this street will be a main business thoroughfare, leaving Front Street for general business. It is interesting to know that this future street, at this time, was designated as Tin Pan Alley, so christened because the oxen trampled the tin cans pitched from each shop keeper's kitchen door, flattening them with a tin pan tinkle heard no place else in the world. True to the men's prediction, Tin Pan Alley became Chestnut Street and was later renamed Wyatt Earp Boulevard, now carrying westward traffic over Highway No. 50.
A plat of Dodge City was filed with the register of deeds May 31, 1876, which showed the Wright Park area, divided into streets and lots. Water Street was along the River bank. The north-south streets were Second, Third, Fourth, and Fifth avenues as they are at this time. Now Water Street is to the east and north of its old location. Maple Street is still in the same location. Pine Street has become a part of Wright Park and Vandever Street has been changed to Mulberry Street. Today Wright Park brings many pleasure seekers for outings, especially family gatherings.
Few rich mining camps ever equaled the boom days at Dodge City. The plains "swarmed" with buffalo and a good hunter could make $100. a day killing these beasts for their skins. Money was plentiful and a quarter was the smallest change. No item sold for less than that amount a drink, a shave, a box of matches, a plug of tobacco, all sold for the same price, a quarter. No man on the street would have proffered a child a coin for less than a quarter. With such plenty, it was inevitable that saloons should prosper and flourish.
A two-gun man was the man of the hour. Gamblers became familiar figures on the streets. Gamblers came, together with three-card Monte, poker, faro, and roulette. With this combination trouble came swift and certain.
During the first year, about fourteen men had been shot. This high rate of crime may have been due partly to the fact that the country was then unorganized. With the coming of the cattle trade, the town split into "Gang" and "Anti-gang" elements, the latter functioning in the county outside as opposed to Dodge City proper.
Dodge City gained the reputation as the jumping off place
for all the wilderness to the southwest of the Santa Fe railroad.
For into the city came that great procession of cattlemen with dusty, panting herds of long-horns, brought up from Texas, New Mexico, and No Man's Land as the Texas Panhandle was called at that time. Front Street was lined with cow ponies, chuck wagons, and wagon trains of freight. Their owners caroused frequently, to be sure, but they also bought supplies, and their patronage made for good business. This reckless period was of short duration.
No city on the Santa Fe was so well favored. Dodge City was the gateway to the south. Enterprise and industry were not wanting. Already the bleaching buffalo bones were being hauled into the city to be stacked along the tracks awaiting shipment to factories which made them into fertilizer. The settlers got fancy prices and the news spread throughout the buffalo country. The founding fathers kept preaching and advertising that the city had many advantages and its future was one of brightness.
The men boasted : "With the new order of things comes progress, wealth, and industry. Immigration will set in heavily this year and to meet the new wants, new moves are made, new plans are conjectured. An increase in building and business will follow the growth of the metropolis of the plains."
Like all other places of the frontier, Dodge City finally secured peace and quiet. In taming the town, heroic measures were sometimes taken. The old caboose was a well fifteen feet deep in which drunken men were given time to become sober. The sentence when they could clamber out, they were considered sober. This effective cooler sometimes held as many as four or five inmates at a time.
And so it was that Dodge City, a great cattle town, lying at the southernmost point on the Santa Fe main line in Kansas, the nearest point to the Panhandle country, became the most notorious of all cattle towns. Because of her close proximity to the cattle country, it held its notoriety the longest of any of the famous prairie towns on the old railroad frontier, well earning its claim of being the Cowboy Capital of the world. Spearville has an interesting array of facts. It was named for Alden Speare, a Santa Fe official, and was first spelled Speareville. He was president of the Dodge City Town Company at the time of his death. In the beginning, Speareville was also known
as the Dry Ridge and it had a big water tank beside the railroad. It has interesting names for streets Arch, Race, Van, and Dove, Pidgeon, Quail, Grouse, Sparrow, Wren, and Robin, among others not so unusual. Spearville is in Spearville Township.
Heinie Schmidt has in his possession an old map, date unknown, of Ford County, showing four ghost cities, three proposed railroads, three abandoned irrigation projects, many miles of old cattle trails now obliterated by the plow. The map shows the town of Fonda, north of Corbett, a proposed station on the Wichita and Dodge City railroad, winding along the north bank of the Arkansas River. It designates Bucklin and Bucklin Township as Corbett and Corbett Township; Ford city and Ford Township as Ryanville and Ryan Township; Kingsdown as Colcord, and Sodville township as Mulberry Township.
Besides the above information, Heinie Schmidt has learned from James W. Emmons, a pioneer, now deceased, of Bucklin, further information: "Corbett was a prairie settlement, two miles north of the present site of Bucklin. It derived its name from the maiden names of Mrs. Louis (Corbett) Ferrin and Mrs. Charles (Corbett) Culver. There were only three or four houses on the townsite. The city was located on the Cannon Ball Stage line which operated out of Wichita. When the Rock Island built into Corbett Township, the name-, of the township and city were changed to Bucklin. Ryanville and Ford were bitter business rivals. Ryanville was located on Mulberry Creek near what is now the Charles Pelton farm. It was platted by Pat Ryan, buffalo hunter and cattleman. When the Rock Island built into that township, the name was changed from Ryan to Ford and the city of Ford being nearest to the railroad, became its capital. Ford derived its name from the fact that the only river ford in eastern Ford County was just north of the town, near where the river bridge is today.
Another town, Colcord was platted on the Carl Hinkle quarter of land. It was abandoned in 1888, when the railroad came and the township became known as Sodville and the city, Kingsdown. Two Englishmen, according to D. C. White of Kingsdown, had taken homesteads in the township, and it is to them that the town owes its name; one said, `How beautiful are the prairies,' and the other replied, `Say, indeed, they remind me of the King's Down!'"
Ryansville Another of "Those West Kansas Towns that Died," is the title of an article in the Hutchinson News, October 17, 1944, copied from the Spearville paper. It follows:
A copy of a newspaper printed 59 years ago, The Ryansville Boomer, was found in an old farmhouse south of here, carried on the front page, as lead of a three-column advertisement: "Money can be made rapidly by investing in Ryansville, the future metropolis of southwest Kansas."
Not bad for a town two months old. The Boomer announced Wm. Walker of Spearville was talking of placing a telephone line between Spearville and Ryansville.
That was the first issue of the Ryansville Boomer. Just 28 issues later was its last. The Boomer suspended or rather it moved over to the rival townsite, Ford City, a few miles away.
It was only a few weeks before that Ryansville had celebrated the opening of the Windsor Hotel, on New Year's Eve, 1885. It was a gala affair, with a banquet and a dance. Chalk Beeson's orchestra from Dodge City playing for it.
On March 12, 1886, the Boomer printed the obituary of Ryansville. The rival town, Ford City, had no newspaper and the town company persuaded Editor Prouty to move his paper to that "city." The Ford City Boomer was born.
The hotel, drug store, lumber yard and everything else at
Ryansville moved over to Ford City. On September 10, the whole front page of the Boomer was devoted to an advertisement of the sale of lots in Ford City, which it was announced would "become the county seat of Martin county."
(That's a new one on us," commented Horace Fry, Spearville newspaperman, "for history books fail to say anything about any move to cut up Ford county and create a new county in the southeast portion.")
Anyway, Ford City, Editor Prouty boasted now, "has three hotels, three livery stables, two hardware stores, two dry goods stores, three drug stores, three grocery stores, two live newspapers, and plans for a fair ground."
On further south another townsite was platted about the same time, the town of Fonda, a few miles north of where Bucklin is now.
"Fonda, like Ryansville, turned out to be mostly a promoter's dream," remarked the Spearville newspaperman. "But the townsites of those budding metropolises of the '80's produced 30 to 40 bushels of wheat to the acre this summer."
Ford City really became a town and stayed one, known now as Ford. Not a town of three hotels, two newspapers and three drug stores, as in 1885, but a good little wheat belt town of 287 inhabitants, and on a railroad, which Ford City of the '80's didn't have. Another ghost town is Wilburn, listed in Robert W. Baughman's book, "Kansas Post Offices," as having a post office: Wilburn, from March 9, 1885 to August 31, 1911; first postmaster, Lewis P. Horton. He also lists Fonda as having a post office from July 22, 1885 to January 31, 1911; first post master, London Hibbard. Wilburn was named for a child, a baby boy, Wilburn Brown, about 1886, according to Mrs. Carl Haywood of Fowler, Kansas. The town at one time had a population of 200, a grocery store, livery barn, a doctor and a lawyer. When the railroad came to Fowler, Wilburn began to die and a lot of the buildings were moved away, many to Fowler. Jack Sutton says his father's farm was nine miles from Wilburn and to get there, they opened and closed nine gates. Other post offices listed in Mr. Baughman's book for Ford County, with the first postmaster named following it, are: Dodge City, moved from Fort Dodge September 23, 1872, Robert M. Wright; Fort Dodge, October 24, 1865-July 31,
1868, established in Marion County, James W. Ladd; August 19, 1869-August 8, 1870; April 29, 1872-September 23, 1872, (moved to Dodge City) ; October 13, 1876-November 1, 1882; July 24, 1893. Bloom, December 23, 1885-April 30, 1891, no postmaster listed; August 20, 1892-June 20, 1895, (never in operation) ; August 17, 1908. Bucklin, August 4, 1887, from Corbett, James E. Fishback. Ford, February 2, 1885, David H. Blunk. Spearville, June 11, 1887, George Hall. Windthorst, December 15, 1898-September 10, 1905, Henry Tasset. Wright, March 24, 1886 - September 15, 1893, Thomas I. Kinkead; October 22, 1895-August 13, 1904; October 11, 1904. Howell Sta., November 26, 1895 and April 30, 1897, (no postmaster listed) ; August 10, 1909 and March 6. 1916. Wilroads, March 9, 1885-August 31, 1911, Mrs. Eola S. Gould. Reinert, March 25, 1908 September 29, 1917, Peter A. Reinert, for whom the post office (never a town) was named; Kingsdown, January 11, 1888-December 31, 1891, from Newkirk, Clark Shelton; February 19, 1892-November 30, 1893: April 29, 1904. Hazelwood, June 13, 1878-July 24, 1879, James E. Zerbie. Ryanville and Sayre had no listing. However, Sawlog, Hodgeman County, did, August 22, 1883-Februrary 4, 1884.
In the spring of this year 1872, there were numerous spring showers and almost overnight, the dry buffalo grass began to turn green. All kinds of vegetation came to life and many different varieties of prairie flowers brightened the plains. Settlers began pouring in from the north and east. The great majority came in wagons, bringing along their cattle, horses, farm implements, and household furnishings, accompanied by their family and often other relatives. The townspeople smiled for strangers were in town hunting homes and homesteaders are the men who make and develop a new country.
A brief account of how Bloom was named and how it first became a community by Jay S. Andrews of Bloom, follows: In 1885, four brothers named Vanderslice, came from Pennsylvania and took homesteads on section 25 (on which Bloom is located), each brother taking a quarter of the section. The old Fort Dodge Trail went through this section. The brothers built their houses and dug a well. Travelers stopped there to: water and rest their teams. The Vanderslices kept some groceries and horse feed to supply traveler needs. They also
received mail for themselves and nearby homesteaders. They named the place Bloomsburg after their home town in Pennsylvania; the "burg" ending was later dropped and the name became Bloom. Alonzo J. (Jack) Sutton, came to Kansas in the fall of 1885, when he was thirteen years old. He remembers a lot of early day information and reports: Sayre, a siding for an elevator and a house for the man who operated the elevator, was named for his uncle, J. K. Sayre, in 1892, perhaps because the railroad ran right through his land. His father, Caleb Sutton, carried the petition, in 1887, to get the new county of Gray because the settlers were too far from the county seat of Ford The petition asked that six miles be taken off the west side of Ford County. Lonelake was the nearest postoffice; later, it was Cave. Jack Sutton carried the mail from Ego when he was sixteen years old.
The Ego post office is listed in Baughman's book, Kansas Post Offices, as being in Gray county, in operation between April 21, 1887 to December 31, 1892; Lonelake post office Gray county, from August 31, 1885, to November 14, 1887; Cave, Gray County, January 19, 1901, to September 30, 1914. Ensign post office, Ford county, established from Lonelake, November 14, 1887.
Wright in the early days was on the opposite side of the railroad tracks, on lots 1 and 2. Heinie Schmidt says the town was named for Robert M. Wright, because during September 1872, he began building a lot of stock yards in the vicinity of the townsite. These are the men who started the town: William Hunt, J. D. Hendricks, Ira M. Cobb, John Murphy, and A. McLeod. It was chartered May 10, 1887. This community has an interesting heritage, its land first granted by the governor of the State of Georgia to James Shorter January 3, 1795.*
Windthorst has an interesting background given in a History, on the Sixty-Fifth Jubilee of the Parish of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, compiled by Rev. Alex G. Stremel. In 1876, a number of German men met at Arbeiter Hall in Cincinnati, Ohio, representing various trades, cobblers, tailors, carpenters, foundry workers, guilders, tanners, blacksmiths, and common laborers. They banded together as the Aurora Colonization Society and elected Henry Macke, president, and John Luzons,
secretary, and selected a committee of three men to explore the West, preferably Kansas and Arkansas.
Father Schwenberg of Newton and D. C. Schmidt, the Topeka General Land Agent of the Santa Fe Railway Company, showed great interest in the Aurora Colonization Society. Mr. Schmidt recommended a tract of land in Ford County, ten miles south of Offerle, extending to the Osage Indian Territory.
Later the committee, H. Klenke, Henry Tasset, and Herman Thesing, met Mr. Schmidt at Offerle. They saw the wide open prairies with their possibilities; plenty of buffalo grass, fertile soil with 20 to 30 inches of top soil, good and plentiful water supply at reasonable depth; and a climate far more invigorating than what Cincinnati could offer these sturdy Germans.
Again Schmidt met with the society, selling them on a long term basis, at ten dollars per acre, ten sections of Santa Fe Railroad land. Furthermore, he added that the railroad company would donate eighty acres of land, in the center of the ten sections for a townsite. It was agreed that each man could buy eighty acres of land within the railroad confines and that 80 acres was to be deeded gratis for church, school, and cemetery purposes. H. F. Klenke proposed the name, Windthorst, for the new settlement in honor of Ludwig Van Windthorst, who at that time was the leader of the Catholic Center Party and a bitter opponent of Bismarck, the Iron Chancellor of Germany.
When Father Schwemberg wrote the society that government land was going fast, twelve men, Joe Demming, Mathias Droste, Fred Hain, Anton Bicard, August Hessman, Barney Koelker, Jacob Steiger, Henry Tasset, Leo Tritzler, Herman Thesing, John Torline, and Henry Zerhusen, came to Larned, Kansas, in 1877, and made the deal with the land agent. Then when the church, school, and cemetery were decided upon, the rest of the 80 acres was divided into lots and sold at public auction in Cincinnati to the highest bidder, whether he were a member of the Aurora Colonization Society or not.
February 24, 1878, seven families and three single men arrived in Offerle: Joe Antermeier, Mathias Droste, Fred Hain, Henry Lampe, August Hessman, Henry Tasset, and Leo Tritzler; and the three single men, Joe Demming, Anton Bicard, and Henry Zerhusen. Some men brought lumber to build homes, others had sod houses, and dugouts. Women stayed in the first home built, with neighborly love, while the men moved
on to build another. Wells were hand dug. Some lived on the 80 acres purchased from the Santa Fe and others lived on 160 acres of government land, some even securing the extra eighty acres as tree claims.
March 9, 1878, the Atchison, Topeka, & Santa Fe Railway gave a deed to the German Catholic Aurora Homestead Association. It was deeded in Ford County by John B. Means, County clerk, April 23, 1878, and recorded the same day.
Father Ferdinand Wolf, O.S.B., started ministering to the spiritual needs of the Windthorst people, May 31, 1878. Mass was held in the Henry Tasset home once a month. Great sacrifices were entailed attending Mass, many people walking miles in all kinds of weather, there being but a few wagons and no buggies in 1878. The first church was erected in 1879, and Miss Anna Tasset taught the first school held in the church. The pupils used books brought from Cincinnati and those furnished by Bishop Fink. They sat on the kneeler and used the seats for desks.
These brave pioneers gathered sunflower and corn stalks, as well as, cow chips along the Arkansas River, to provide fuel. Anyone having twenty or more wagon loads of cow chips felt secure for the winter. Because of an Indian scare, the settlers once sought refuge in Spearville, staying at the Boedecker Hotel. They faced near starvation on their claims, but through it all they stayed with the land, even though they eventually lost the ten original sections of land bought from the railroad.
Ref : Atlas and Plat Book of Ford County, 1916, Dodge City Journal.