Dodge City – What’s in a Nickname?

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From the Coronado Cross to the Santa Fe Trail Tracks, our family of four continued our sightseeing adventures
in Dodge City while attending American History class.

One afternoon, we explored Fort Dodge on a self-guided tour.

sutler store custer house at fort dodge

enlisted men's barracks ford dodge musuem

We saw the exterior of the Sutler’s Store, the Commanding Officer’s Quarters,
the Enlisted Men’s Barracks, and the Army Quartermaster Building.
We were quite disappointed when we found all of these buildings closed,
even the Army Quartermaster Building
which now serves as the Fort Dodge Museum and Library.

We only found the Post Office in Fort Dodge and the Fort Dodge Chapel opened.

fort dodge post office fort dodge chapel

Despite the fact that the museum was closed, we learned from our research that:

  • Fort Dodge was built in 1865 along the Santa Fe Trail.
  • The purpose of Fort Dodge was to protect wagon trails traveling west, to provide a resting place and supplies for traders and buffalo hunters, and to furnish supplies for troops fighting in the Indian Wars.
  • Fort Dodge was considered the most important fort on this trail because it was located in the heart of Indian Country.
  • In 1882, Fort Dodge was removed from service and became the Kansas State Soldiers Home in 1890 and it still serves this function today.

kansas soldiers home at fort dodge

On another day,
we dropped by the Boot Hill Museum and ended up spending the day.

DSCN1714

Our family of four had a great time stepping back in time
and experiencing the Wild West in the year 1876.

We explored over 40 exhibits and saw over 25,000 artifacts.

 exhibit plains indians exhibit boot hill museum

buffalo

We learned about:

  • the millions of buffalo that once roamed the Great Plains.
  • the progression of hunting in the America West from subsistence hunters to fur trappers and from professional buffalo hunters to sports hunters.
  • the Lacey Act of 1900 which didn’t protect the vast herds of buffalo soon enough.

 At the Boot Hill Museum,
we also strolled down a replica of Front street and shopped in the General Store.

replica of front street in dodge cityfront street stores

We learned that Dodge City:

  • was founded in 1872 along the Santa Fe Trail.
  • quickly became a trade center for buffalo hunters.
  • became a stop on Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railroad in 1872.
  • earned the nickname “Buffalo Capital of the World”, because from 1872 to 1874 nearly 1 million buffalo hides were shipped from Dodge City.

 From our self-guided walking tour of downtown Dodge City on a different Day,
we saw the Custom Pole Art Banners commemorating the Railroad in Dodge.

custom pole art banner ind dodge city

We also found the Dodge City Depot.

railroad in dodge city trains

Not only did we learn more about the Atchison, Topeka, Santa Fe Railroad,
we also studied the two gigantic sun dials.

DSCN1327DSCN1332

We learned that:

  • one sundial shows the time in the Central Time Zone and the other sundial shows the time in the Mountain Time Zone.
  • the railroads set the original time zone line in 1883.
  • the time zone ran between these two sundials.

With the aide of this grid and by taking her time,
Belle was able to correctly decipher the time using the sun dials.

learning to tell time

Back at Boot Hill Museum,
we discovered that after the near extinction of the buffalo,
Dodge City turned to the cattle industry.
In the museum, we learned about cattle drives, cowboys, and chuck wagons.
We now knew why Dodge City was called the “The Cowboy Capital of the World”.

 We stopped by the Long Branch Saloon on Front Street,
enjoyed an original recipe sassafras root beer,
and entertained ourselves while the piano player was on break.

long branch saloon long branch saloon

enjoying a sassafras root beer relaxing at long branch saloon

piano player long branch saloon

 We learned that with cowboys in a cowtown, with drinking and gambling in the saloons, and with disagreements settled with gunfights,  Dodge City also earned the nicknames

  • “The Wicked Little City” and
  • “Bibulous Babylon of the Frontier”.

 After a refreshing root beer and relaxing music, we returned to exploring the exhibits.

the guns that won the westHowever, one of us didn’t explore but stayed in this one particular exhibit,
“Guns that Won the West”.

At Boot Hill Museum, we learned how local lawmen became legends
as they fought to bring law and order to Dodge City.

statue of wyatt earp dodge city trail

 On our walking-tour of downtown Dodge,
we found an 8 foot bronze statue of Dodge City’s famous lawmen, Wyatt Earp.
We learned that Wyatt Earp is the center piece of the Dodge City Hall of Fame Trail.

 After learning about cowboys and lawmen,
guns and gunfights,
and recklessness and order
we ended our time at Boot Hill Museum with a walk around Boot Hill Cemetery.

unknown cowboy boot hill cemetery

 Since we didn’t visit Boot Hill Museum during the peak season,
we missed the gunfight reenactments, can-can lessons, stagecoach rides,
and a country-style dinner.  Nevertheless,
we had a great time stepping back in time and experiencing the Wild West
without the crowds of peak season.

Returning to our self-guided walking tour of downtown Dodge,
we found “El Capitan”.

el capitan longhorn cattle

 We learned that

  • from 1876 to 1885, more than 5 million longhorn cattle traveled out of Texas and through Kansas, Colorado, Nebraska, and Wyoming.
  • these cattle drives earned Dodge City the Nickname “Queen of the Cowtowns”.
  • El Capitan commemorates Dodge City’s role in the cattle industry.
  • the cattle drive industry ended in Dodge City when: the railroad extended their routes, when farmers began fencing their lands, when the cattle quarantine law was enforced, and when the Blizzard of 1886 hit Dodge City.

Dodge City’s role in the History of the United States may have come to an end in 1886,
but the experience and the legend of the Wild West lives on today
in the places to go and the sites to see in Dodge City.

dodge city sign

front street downtown dodge city dodge city kansas

Our family of four slowly walked away from “The Cowboy Capital of the World”
with knowledge and experience of the Wild West
and Memories that I hope will Last for a Lifetime.

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