BY 1874, DODGE CITY WAS GETTING REALLY WELL ORGANIZED and at this time it pretty well represented Ford County. The county officers were Attorney, L. D. Henderson; Clerk, W. F. Sweeney; District Clerk, John McDonald; Sheriff, Charles E. Bassett; Probate Judge, Geo. B. Cox; Treasurer, A. B. Webster; Register of Deeds, M. J. Bruen; Superintendent of Schools, M. Collar. Again Charles Rath is listed as County Commissioner, along with A. J. Peacock and A. J. Anthony, and the station agent at the Santa Fe depot was J. H. Phillips.
There was a good frame school house and fifteen pupils; superintendent, Mr. Wilder. Mrs. S. A. Newbold was superintendent of the Union Sabbath School. Mrs. Calvina (A. J.) Anthony was a Sunday School teacher and gave certificates, signed C. Anthony, for a year's perfect attendance. H. J. Fringer was the postmaster and for some time the post-office was in his drug store. And beyond all this it was rumored that the U. S. Land Office would be located in Dodge City. The weather was very cold and by the latter part of February the ice on the river was eight inches thick. Money was scarce and trade of all kinds even whiskey, a western staple, "was dull beyond precedent."
All government supplies for the forts and the Indians in Oklahoma Territory were shipped to Dodge City by Santa Fe railway and transported by government and hired freight trains to Fort Dodge and Camp Supply, which was located 95 miles directly south into the Indian Territory.
The mail for Camp Supply left Tuesdays and Saturdays and returned to Dodge City Mondays and Fridays. And again Indians were causing endless troubles. There were 3,000 Indians camped on the Canadian River. The Camp Supply mail had been fired on. Settlers were driven off. Five men were killed and scalped. James Hanrahan lost all his stock. The mail was attacked again, the agent killed and five other persons, all scalped. All of which resulted in the Camp Supply mail starting out with a guard of thirty-one men.
Buffalo hides and meat kept rolling into Dodge City, to Charles Rath & Company, to Meyers & Leonard's Pioneer Store. The town was fairly blossoming out with stores and other business places. One could walk along Front Street and read the signs or read about them in the Dodge City Messenger
Billiard Saloon, A. J. Peacock, Prop., the place for "SPORTING ON THE GREEN" wine, liquor, Cigars, and billiards; O. K. Clothing Store, M. (Morris) Collar; R. W. Evans Staple and Fancy groceries; F. C. Zimmerman, Fire Arms, ammunition, Hardware, stoves, tinware, clocks, jewelry, Lumber, flour and grain, agricultural implements, all kinds of sporting articles, AGENT FOR SHARP'S IMPROVED SPORTING RIFLES best in use. Agent for ORIENTAL POWDER. Also repairing rifles. Main Street; Billiard Hall Saloon, Waters and Hanrahan ! Hoover and McDonald, wines and liquors; Groceries, Pants and jackets, Farm produce raised and sold, Isaac Young; Restaurant, Kelley and Beatty, props., Open day and night! Dodge City Hotel, Cox and Boyd, situated near the railroad tracks, tables supplied with the best the market affords, also livery stable connected with the house; Herman J. Fringer, Drugs, medicine, perfumery, and dye stuffs. Charles Rath & Company carried a full column in the Messenger, extolling outfitting goods, Ammunition, groceries, liquors, clothing, and furnishing goods, at lowest prices- Will pay highest prices for all kinds of furs and hides-also deal in meats, Main Street, Dodge City, Kansas.
The Dodge City Messenger advertised many things. Among them, a book Marriage Guide; Harpers Weekly at $4.00 per year. The Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe, 3,000,000 acres of land in Kansas, 11 years credit, 7 percent interest, Liberal reduction to settlers A. E. Touzalin, land commissioner, Geo. H. Nettleton, Superintendent. And one whole column was given to advertising the Dodge City Messenger!
The first Santa Fe depot was a box-car, with the wheels removed. In it, the first station agent, J. H. Phillips, began working in the new town. Ox-trains rolled into the city, the bull whackers swearing and swinging the huge bull whips, their explosive cracking heard above all else. They forded the Arkansas River, coming in from the south and again when they left with their heavy loads; even later many of them still forded the river after the toll bridge was in. Nearing the city, after weeks
on the prairie, buffalo hunting outfits gave vent to the release of the rigors of the long hunt by swearing and yelling at the top of their lungs.
Already the Union Church, used for a number of years, has been mentioned. In it, any preacher who came to town would hold services. Many of the rougher sojourners in the town came to the meetings and many are the tall tales told as a result of their presence. This was Ham Bell's favorite: The preacher was telling the distance from Jericho to Jerusalem, when a man in the audience bawled out, "Aw that's where you're out of it. It's thirteen miles. I've walked it many a time." Among the wandering preachers who came to Dodge City was Luther Platt. Peggy of the Flint Hills has written a charming article about him which she calls, Man With Fiddle, and she writes,
"I am delighted to have something of mine included in your book. The article follows:
new places. A railroad worker staking out a new roadbed on the raw prairie said, `Is that Elder Platt? Everytime I get away off from anywhere else on earth I run across that old man spreading religion.'
May 26, 1878, the Reverend Ormond V. Wright, along with thirteen charter members, including Mrs. Chalkey Beeson and Mrs. Wright, organized the first denominational church in Dodge City, the First Presbyterian Church. Up until this time, after arriving in Dodge City, he had preached in the Union church on the crest of the hill, at Spruce and First streets. Reverend Wright was a field representative of the Presbyterian Board of Home Missions in New York.
Pleased with the report Rev. Wright sent in, the board said they would advance $450. toward a building if the townspeople would subscribe a like amount. As was customary, the hat was passed around on Front Street and in the saloons, netting more than the needed amount, and the Presbyterians got their church.
The first school in Dodge City, the first in Ford County, stood on the corner of First Avenue and what is now East Wyatt Earp Boulevard, where the Southwestern Bell Telephone Company office now stands. The plaque on the new building was unveiled by Merritt L. Beeson and Robert M. Rath, both former up as of the old school and this message was inscribed on it: "Public education in Southwest Kansas had its beginning here in 1873 when the first public school of the western frontier was erected on this site. This marker was placed by the Southwestern Bell Telephone Company 1927." The first teachers were Margaret A. Walker and Mr. Tate.
Heinie Schmidt has very aptly told about the early-day, oldtime schools in an article, Passing of Rural Schools, High Plains Journal, February 9, 1950, which follows:
The first concern of the western homesteader, after establishing a home, was the organization of a school district and the erecting of a school house and church. The pioneer school house was a one-room structure built of sod or lumber. Fur-
nishings were of the simplest type, crude wooden benches for the pupils and a plain flat-topped desk and straight-backed chair for the teacher. A large potbelly iron stove supplied heat. Water was hauled from the nearest farm and served from a large tin cup or gourd. Contrary to tradition, the school houses were painted white instead of red.
To these schools many of the children walked several miles each day. In later years many of the old buildings were replaced with new, modern, up-to-date structures with the finest school equipment. In some districts kitchens were installed and children served hot food at noon. Wells were drilled and water pumped by hand or by a windmill.
It must be remembered that in pioneer days the rural school house served not only as an educational, but religious, social, political, and business center for the community. People in those days were required to make and furnish their own entertainment. The school house was the forum for the literary societies, spelling matches, and during campaign time was the arena for political discussion. At the school house each Sunday, people gathered for church services led by a minister who rode horseback from the nearest town or city.
The teacher was the moving spirit around which all the activities of the district revolved. The teacher was not only required to teach the school, but to provide the leadership and supervise all the activities of the district. However, in all these activities, she had the whole-hearted support and co-operation of the patrons of the school. They were intensely loyal to both their school and the teacher. I sometimes think that the personnel of the office of county superintendent was of more importance to the country folks than that of the county representative to the legislature.
At one time there were 50 well organized and functioning literary societies in Ford County alone. These programs drew large crowds, both young and old and all took an active part. The societies gathered week after week, regardless of weather, to enjoy a program of music, readings, dialogues, and a lively debate on some current questions. They listened to and applauded the reading of the literary paper, from whose sharp barbs no one was immune.
I recall one barb in my experience in which a pupil said to a teacher, "Why does Heinie Schmidt close his eyes when he
sings?" and the teacher answered, "He just can't bear to see how we suffer." Means of transportation differed from the modern automobile. The folks came to the meetings on horseback, in wagons, buggies, hayracks, and in bad weather in improvised sleds made by removing the wheels from wagons and substituting wooden runners. Some even walked, lighting their way with lanterns.
My memory takes me back to the old fashioned singing school at which folks would enjoy happy hours singing the old gospel hymns and folk music, directed by a local musician, accompanied by an old organ.
And, of course, there were the old spelling schools, usually held between the patrons of two school districts. Leaders were chosen and the "leaders" chose up sides. The teacher gave out the words. When city folks were in the crowd, it was common practice to give them some easy word like "cat" or "dog" or "boy" or "girl." Then suddenly a catchy word was shot at them and down they went to the delight of the crowd. It is surprising how well some of the oldsters could spell. I often have seen them spell down not only the two schools but the teachers as well.
There were pie suppers and box suppers-my, what fun ! The teacher would arrange a short program, to be followed by the supper. The women folks of the community would prepare well filled, beautifully decorated boxes to be auctioned off to the highest and best bidder. The teacher's box was always the object of lively bidding from the young blades of the community.
Proceeds from these suppers were used for many purposes such as purchasing school ground equipment, to buy pianos, and to provide for the Christmas celebrations. On Friday before Christmas, Old Santa would visit the school, and after being entertained with a short program in keeping with the Yule time spirit, pass out the treats. There always was a fine gift for the teacher from her pupils. Often my name was on the list, and I still have in my possession many useful gifts which I prize highly.
Eddie Foy, a great comedian of the day, made his debut at Dodge City. He was dressed pretty loud and had a kind of Fifth Avenue swaggering strut and made some distasteful jokes about the cowboys. This led to their capturing Foy by roping and dunking him in a horse trough, all of which Foy took with
good grace, which endeared him to the cowboys, who crowded his theatre after that.
Since there were many preachers on the plains, many of them settlers, the author gives her version of The Week End Preacher, before the settlers had school houses.
Zepha Moore's husband introduced the tall, blue-eyed, young preacher with the explanation, "He's preached right smart." People had gathered for services that warm Saturday night in the kerosene-lighted half-dugout farm home in Western Kansas.
With the preacher's uplifted hand, the audience stood, the boys on the projecting shelf at his back, bracing themselves against the wall boards. Preacher Hildreth petitioned the Lord's favor, bolstered by several of the more devout elderly men as they joined in the "Amen."
Zepha Moore, song book in hand, led out with, "There's a land that is fairer than day and by faith I can see it afar..." Preacher Hildreth sat with partly closed eyes, envisioning a half section of land . . . a house. . . . He peered, speculatively, appraising the lovely Miss Jenkins. Hopeful of pleasing, the young man figured, "Not much money here, none to spare."
Well into the swing of the meeting by this time, Preacher Hildreth exhorted, "Witness his own words as proof of the statement..." He turned page after page in his worn Bible, only to resume without the required verse. "Well, anyway, it's there." Apprehensively, he glanced around. The preacher saw clearly one face only. Rose Jenkins smiled encouragingly. Tommy Jenkins' wiry little form poised perilously on his shelf-like projection above the water pail, surreptitiously ladling drinks to the boys, while he watched his mother's stony stare, interestedly, and dared his sister's frowning eyes, interested. Gesturing forcefully, the young preacher expounded the truth, citing examples to prove God's great love for man.
Several men eased up the dugout steps to the fresh air outside. The boy next to Tommy Jenkins fell asleep and started toppling, only to be awakened by many grappling hands. Mrs. Jenkins drew a long breath. But Preacher Hildreth stretched his long limbs and vigorously mopped his brow, then began all over again, his voice growing in volume and resonance as he proceeded with his second sermon. "Missed another good place to stop," Zepha Moore breathed. Zepha's husband, twisting about, espied Tommy Jenkins slip-
-ping past him. He smiled hearty approval. In a short space of time, twelve boys glided, guiltily, from their perch behind the preacher and shuffled, with lowered backs, as they wended their way up the dugout steps.
Preacher Hildreth consulted his watch. "It's getting late, folks, but I should preach longer; I have just so much to say."
"Gather up the kids," Pa Jenkins said in a low voice.
By a series of shoulder tapping, Rose was acquainted with the situation and, much to the preacher's dismay, left with the others. When the Jenkins had trooped out the door, Preacher Hildreth cleared his throat and mopped his brow, then announced the invitation hymn.
The benediction offered, the gathering broke into animated groups. There was much handshaking, with friends, and the preacher.
Once outside, the church-goers discovered the Jenkins' in their wagon and went over to talk. Pa Jenkins roused himself.
"He's long winded," he said bluntly, his voice not too low.
Then Zepha, exposing a coin in her moist palm, gasped, "Why bless my soul, the preacher was so wrapped up in his sermon that he forgot to take the collection." Pa Jenkins reached out, his big hand giving the young preacher's shoulder a sound thwack, laughing loudly.
Zepha Moore said suddenly, "What this community needs is a school house to sit in while the preachers preach, and I hope we can get one."
"Hell, Zepha !" Jenkins roared, "your pa's a good preacher. He'll still be here preaching straight gospel in people's homes when all these week end preachers have vamoosed to other stamping grounds."
"Oh, I don't know," Zepha said, head in the air, starting for their wagon. Rose Jenkins jumped from the wagon and, running, caught Zepha's arm. "A school house!" she cried. "Will you help us get one, Mrs. Moore?" Greatly moved and, no doubt, remembering her youth, confided, "He's young, Rose. He'll learn and he really was sincere, preaching so long he forgot to take up the collection."
Overhearing, Zepha's husband said, accusingly, to the preacher, "You did that on purpose, you rascal."
Preacher Hildreth glanced from Pa Jenkins' hulking form, bent over in the wagon seat, to the man's pretty daughter, her hand still clutching Zepha's sleeve. He grasped Moore's hand, gave it a hearty handshake, and spoke low for his ear alone, "You guessed it-I've preached right smart."
The earliest cemetery in Ford County, excepting the one at Ford Dodge, was at famous Boot Hill. There it is said many a man was buried with his boots on and others were wrapped in blankets. Only one woman was buried there. The killing of Dora Hand, once a celebrated actress, was an accident, but only in the victim that suffered. The shot was intended for Mayor James Kelly but struck Miss Hand under the arm on her right side, killing her instantly.
To prove that Alice Chambers (Dora Hand) was buried on Boot Hill, Heinie Schmidt quotes from the report of Colonel Straughn, who removed the bodies from the hill: "I removed 33 bodies, thirty-two men and one woman. They were as perfect specimens of humanity as I ever saw. Most of them did not make any pretense of style, but a few had their boots taken off and put under their heads for pillows."
Heinie Schmidt goes on to say, "In excavating for the basement for the first Boot Hill school, eight more bodies were found and removed and still later, while grading down the north side of the hill, still four more bodies were uncovered. To say that at least fifty heroic souls found rest on the windswept hill is a conservative estimate.
Again Heinie Schmidt quotes from the Dodge City Times, January 1, 1879: The body of Alice Chambers was removed last week from her former resting place on Boot Hill to Prairie Grove Cemetery (1400 block on the west side of Avenue C). God rest her soul." Not only was Alice Chambers the only woman to he buried on Boot Hill but the last person as well. The hill as a burial ground was abandoned shortly afterward.
The next cemetery was Prairie Grove, on Avenue C, extending west toward Avenue B., in the 1400 block, set up by The Town Company, June 16, 1878. The early dead were buried in the civilian cemetery at Fort Dodge.
When the town began building northward toward the Country Club section, the graves along Avenue C were removed as they were uncovered to Maple Grove cemetery . . . and old
Prairie Grove cemetery, which had long been abandoned, gave up its dead. The Reynolds' Stage Coach Line was operated in a house where P. G. Reynolds lived at what was then the outskirts of town, 801 Second Avenue. He had bought it a few months after it was built in 1879. He owned the lines running from Dodge City to Minneola, Ashland, and Ingalls; Dodge City to Wilburn, Fowler, and Meade; from Garden City to Scott City and Leoti; from Garden City to Santa Fe and Springfield, from Hartland to Ulysses, Hugoton, and Woodsdale; from Syracuse to Horace and Tribune; and from Granada, Colorado, to Two Buttes and Springfield in Colorado. The Reynolds' lines also ran from Dodge City through Ashland and on into the Texas Panhandle, stopping at Fort Elliott, Mobeetie, Camp Supply, and on farther south to Fort Griffin.
The stage coaches carried mail and express as well as passengers. They changed horses every twenty miles, fresh ones being supplied at stations along the way. As a start and stop point for the stage, the house was one of the early town's gathering places. Soldiers, cowboys, cattlemen, buffalo hunters, and many residents of Dodge City, frequented the stage stop as passengers on the stage or simply as onlookers, curious to see who was arriving or leaving town. From 1879 to 1888, it was local headquarters for practically every stage coach line operated from Dodge City.
The Dodge City Daily Globe gave it some attention in June, 1929, with this caption; Raze Historic Stage Station-Old house at 2nd and Vine gives way to City's progress. It further explains: Dodge City's last landmark of one of the most characteristic phases of its early pioneer life had disappeared with the razing of the house by Cy Sprecher. Up to the time workmen started tearing it down it was said to be the second oldest house still standing in Dodge City. The oldest house stood on high ground on first Avenue, at the north end of First Avenue, across from the Methodist Church. Even though weathered and worn the old house still had a regal look.
The house was originally built at Fort Harker, near Ellsworth, and was the residence of the sutler, or fort trader. The house was a collapsible structure, could be taken apart in sections and moved from place to place. When the sutler moved to Fort
Hays, he took it apart and carted it along with him. Later, he came to Fort Dodge and again the house accompanied its owner.
Later, R. M. Wright and A. J. Anthony bought the sutler's business at Fort Dodge. When the army post at the fort was discontinued, they sold the house to James Langton, a survivor of the Adobe Walls battle and a Dodge City druggist in the Langton and Sherlock store at Second and West Wyatt Earp Boulevard. Mr. Langton brought the house to Dodge City on the third journey of its career and set it up on the corner across First Avenue from the Methodist church. Being a bachelor, he did not need the house as his own home and rented it to tenants. It stayed in that location until 1929. During those years many famous personages were entertained under its roof, a European prince, and a president of the United States.
At the time it was destroyed by fire it was owned by W. C. Rhodes, a Dodge City policeman. At about the time the old house was moved to Dodge City, 1879, Mr. Wright moved the sutler's store here. A stone building, it was moved stone by stone to 711 Second Avenue and set up again, each stone in the same position as in the original building, excepting that windows were left in the second story, which had been a windowless storeroom. The building was the Dodge City Elks Home for years and is now an apartment house.