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Dodge City Kansas

frontier town gunfights saloons cows and western trails

Dodge City LonghornHistory Fort Mann was the first settlement of non indigenous people in the area that became Dodge City. It was built by civilians in 1847 to provide protection for travelers on the Santa Fe Trail. In 1865, the army constructed Fort Dodge which remained in operation until 1882. The town of Dodge City can trace its origins to 1871, when rancher Henry J. Sitler built a sod house west of Fort Dodge to oversee his cattle operations located near the Santa Fe Trail and the Arkansas River.

Hanging TreeDodge City was staked out in 1872 on the 100th meridian and the legal western boundary of the Fort Dodge reservation. The early settlers traded in buffalo bones and hides; with the arrival of the railroad, Dodge City soon became involved in the cattle trade. The queen of the cow towns resulted from the new Western Trail that branched off from the Chisholm Trail.

Wyatt Earp and Bat Masterson 1876Frontier town Dodge City had more gunfighters working at one time or another than any other town in the West as well as saloons, gambling halls, and brothels, led by the Long Branch Saloon and the China Doll brothel. By 1886, the cowboys, saloon keepers, gamblers, and brothel owners moved west to greener pastures, and Dodge City became a sleepy little town in western Kansas.

Dodge City sits above one of the world’s largest underground water systems

Front Street ShopsCulture Starting in the 1870s, the early city history fueled public perceptions of frontier turmoil in the public consciousness. Gunfighters and lawmen such as Wyatt Earp became celebrities, and sensationalized versions of their activities entered period popular culture as the subject of dime novels. This trend continued into the 20th century, as the rowdy Old West frontier town was the setting for many films and television series such as Gunsmoke, the longest-running prime-time TV drama in American history. In the Smallville TV series, Clark Kent’s hometown is 200 miles (320 km) west of Wichita and Metropolis is southwest of Dodge City.

Boot Hill MuseumExperiential Tourism in Dodge City

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