FORD COUNTY, KANSAS
A HISTORY OF THE OLD AND A STORY OF THE NEW
Issued under the auspices of the Dodge City Commercial Club L. G. Grobety, Secretary,
Tucker Vernon Publishing Company Larned, Kansas
Dodge City, Ford County, Kansas, in History
By Joseph S. Vernon
Pages 2 - 14
CAREFUL historical investigations, whenever made, have always found a cause for every event in the field of history. In view of this fact we naturally seek, at the beginning of this investigation, to trace, if possible, the course of events, which led to the establishing of Fort Dodge at so crucial a point, geographically speaking, and the further train of events which led to the establishing of Dodge City and neighboring communities around the fort as a nucleus.
The first intimation we have of the strategical location of the site of Fort Dodge on the old Santa Fe Trail was the opinion of the value of this location for the location of a fort given out by Col. Henry Dodge, U. S. A., on his return from an expedition to the base of the Rocky Mountains in 1835. Col. Dodge left Fort Leavenworth in 1834, and marching up the Platte to the base of the mountains, crossed over to the Arkansas Valley and returned via the old Santa Fe Trail to Fort Leavenworth. During his return march he passed the site of the future location of Fort Dodge and recommended it highly for the location of a fort at some future date. The fort was afterward named in his honor. Acting on this recommendation and also for reasons that will be brought out later the government established a fort in 1850 about six miles above the future site of Fort Dodge. This fort was at first named Fort Sumner in honor of Hon. Charles Sumner, but the name was later changed to Fort Atkinson. Capt. S. B. Buckner, who was a candidate for the Vice-Presidency in 1896, was one of the first commandants. This fort was later abandoned and it was not till Fort Dodge was established some years afterwards that a permanent military post was founded in the vicinity of the 100th meridian.
Sometime previous to the establishment of Fort Dodge in 1864, a spur of the old Santa Fe Trail had been laid out and travelled from the point at which the trail left Pawnee Fork in the vicinity of Fort Larned to a point near where Fort Dodge was afterward located.
This spur crossed the highlands or divide to the northwest of the present site of Dodge City and because of the lack of water along its route was known as the dry route. From the time the immigrant freighter left Pawnee Fork to the time he reached the Arkansas at the point where Fort Dodge was later located, he had no access to either water or good pasture. It is obvious that for this reason the vicinity of the future location of the fort should have been a frequent camping ground for all these immigrants who The regular or wet route of the trail came around by the river, but' as it was the longer of the two it was not as popular with the immigrants. By this time in the history of the old Santa Fe Trail the plains Indians had become accustomed to the luxuries of the white man and had learned that the easiest method by which they might be procured was to rob the freighters and immigrants as they passed over the trail In perpetrating these atrocities they naturally chose to frequent these places used most by the white men as camping grounds. It is for these reasons that the point of junction between the wet and dry routes of the old trail became the scene of some of the most frequent and horrible massacres in the history of the old Santa Fe trail. An additional reason why this point was especially dangerous to the Santa Fe immigrants was that it was here that the Indians crossed the trail for the north in the spring and summer in pursuit of the buffalo, who were migrating to their summer pasture lands in the Dakotas and recrossed again in the fall and early winter, while following the buffalo to the south and laying in their supply of winter meat and hides.
Thus we will see that the vicinity of the future site of Fort Dodge was the natural meeting point of two antagonistic races and it is a well-known fact that where two antagonistic races meet with such frequency as they did at this point, friction and bloodshed are the inevitable result. It soon became obvious to the United States government, therefore, that it was necessary to establish some sort of protection for the immigrants at this point and an order was sent to
Major Wyencoop, of the First Colorado Cavalry, who was at that time operating against the Indians in the vicinity of the present location of Syracuse, Kansas, to drop down the river to the junction of the dry and wet routes and establish temporary fortifications. Major Wyencoop at once complied with this order and temporary fortifications of sod were erected in the summer of 1863.
In the following year General Curtis and a portion
of his command erected the first permanent barracks at the fort and three companies were left as a garrison. New
buildings were erected from time to time, probably the best of which bears the date of 1866. The strategic position
of Fort Dodge will at once be realized. Placed as it was at the junction of the dry and wet routes of the old trail,
it afforded protection to the immigrants as they camped to obtain water and grass. At the time of its erection
it was also the farthest west of the line of government forts on the old trail and was a center of military operations,
placed right in the path of the migrations of the Indians in their semi-annual pursuits of the buffalo.
With the fort as a protective center, buffalo hunters and Indian traders began to gather in from all directions and a settlement was imminent. In 1872 several of the leading and more progressive spirits of the region decided to form a town company and lay out the plat of a city to be named after the fort. The Indians had been effectually quelled and forced onto their reservations in Sheridan's memorable winter campaign of 1868, and as the fort was in the heart of one of the best sections of the buffalo range, the fur trade would be ample to support a city of some size for that section of the west. A company was formed with R. M. Wright as president, and the townsite was located some four miles up the river from the fort. The reason for locating the town-site so far from the fort was that the Indian reservation, which at that time covered almost the entire state of Kansas, from Abilene west, ended in a line which passed this point on the east and because of the strict military regulations in operation within the reservation it was not desirable to locate within the limits of the reservation. In fact, such an action would not have been permitted by the military authorities and should it have been permitted the restrictions placed upon the actions of white men within Indian territory were such as to be practically prohibitive.
From the very first Dodge City bid fair to become one of the leading communities of the yet embryo west. As has been ".said, she was located in the very heart of one of the best sections of the...buffalo range and because of the close proximity of the fort was frequented by nearly all the buffalo hunters of that region. There is perhaps no one phase of western history which is quite so deplorable from the standpoint of the sentimentalist as the wanton slaughter of the buffalo during the few short years that the hide trade was at its height. Before the hunters appeared on. the plains these animals could be numbered only by millions. In fact, it has been stated by many of the early characters of the western plains and they had best be counted in tens of millions. It was not an uncommon occurrence for freight trains to be held up for hours at a time while vast masses of the shaggy monsters passed by in search of better pasture and many of the early hunters and military of the plains have often roamed for hours through herds so vast that they blackened the prairie to the horizon on all sides.
Today but few are left and these are guarded like gold by their owners and prized as the last members of an almost extinct race. This terrible slaughter approaching extermination was accomplished in the space of a few short years and was only justified as the means of cutting off the subsistance of the warring savage. Later it proved a "blessing in disguise" for the development of the west. It opened the way for the rise of the cattle trade in a few short years and the cattle trade prepared the way for the coming of the home seeker and agriculturalist. During the first few years of her history Dodge was the center of the enormous trade in hides that was carried on to satisfy the eastern market. With the coming of the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad in 1873 her supremacy as the shipping point was acknowledged by all. This is especially true in regard to the territory to the south and west and for almost six years this little town was the thriving home of merchants, shippers and hunters as well as the scenes of gayety for the military life of the fort.
Let us now leave Dodge for a moment and take a glance at the beginnings of the county of which she is the capital, Governor Thomas A. Osborn, in his proclamation providing for the organization of Ford (County, on April 5th, 1873, appointed Charles Rath, J. G. McDonald and J. Wolf as special county commissioners and Herman J. Fringer, as special county clerk. This body met at Dodge City and chose Charles Rath as chairman of the board. James Hanrahan was appointed to fill the place of Mr. Wolf, who was not in the county. An election of officers was ordered for June 5th, 1873, and at that election the following persons were chosen to fill the offices named: Charles Rath, A. C. Myers and F. C. Zimmerman, county commissioners; Herman J. Fringer, county clerk and clerk of the district court; A. J. Anthony, county treasurer; Chas. E. Bassett, sheriff; T. L. McCarty, coroner; H. Armitage, register of deeds; George B. Cox, probate judge, and M. V. Cutter, county attorney, M. Collar was elected trustee for Dodge township and P. T. Bowen and Thomas C. Nixon, justices of the peace. At the election held on November 4th, 1873, James Hanrahan was elected as the first representative from Ford County.
After thus giving a cursory glance at the beginnings of Ford County let us resume the affairs of Dodge City which was the center and nucleus of the county's affairs. With the decline of the hide trade came the rise of the cattle trade. This first began to assume importance during the years of 1875-6, and continued to be an industry of considerable importance at this point till about 1882. Dodge having the most centrally located shipping point for a territory of several thousand square miles naturally handled a very large and lucrative trade, but there is another and probably greater reason why it assumed such importance in this industry. At this time large numbers of cattle were sent from the south, including Oklahoma, New Mexico and parts of Texas, Kansas and Colorado, to the Dakota regions to supply the Indian reservations and military. These were all sent through Dodge City in order that they might be classified by agents who-were located there for that purpose. While herds were thus centralizing around Dodge practically all of the cattle-buyers of the southwest came here to buy stock with which to stock their ranches. It is estimated that from three hundred to six hundred thousand head of cattle thus passed through the Dodge City cattle market each year during the period in which the cattle trade was at its height.
In 1834 the government opened up the lands in Forci and adjoining counties to settlement and placed a land office at Dodge City. The homesteaders began pouring in by the hundreds and it was not long before every quarter section in Ford County was taken. All of the towns, including Bucklin, Spearville, Ford and others, grew rapidly and large and substantial buildings were erected. Many young single men came to this country and entered land without capital with which to develop and improve it, and did not meet with the immediate success which their high hopes had brought them to expect. They mortgaged-the quarter sections as soon as they got their final receipts from the U. S. Land Office, and abandoned the land, but the homesteaders with families and grit stayed and they are all independently wealthy today.
That Dodge City suffered less than any other town in this section of the country by the collapse of the western boom in 1887 to 1892 is doubtless due to the fact that Dodge City had so many industrial resources on which to rely and also to the fact that probably a fewer number of people left Ford than surrounding counties. But the beginnings of agriculture had come. The charter of a future province of King Wheat had been granted and the destiny of Ford County was assured. It was not long till a revival set in, not with a rush and a boom, but with a careful and steady progress that was based on the natural resources of the country in which it was to be made.
In closing this little discourse it might be well to make a few remarks on the character of life in early Dodge. The reader has probably expected to find this article filled to the brim with tales of "blood and thunder," with stories of carousals and shooting-scrapes and delineations of all the other phases of western life which make the dime-novel tempting to the school boy. If he has been disappointed he must have an excuse, and I believe I have a good one-one which will satisfy all those who realize that there is such a thing as proportion in the importance of historic facts. It is true that Dodge City experienced the "blood and thunder" phase of western life to a great extent, but that was not her most important phase. It was not a phase which can be emphasized in a discourse of this length because of the greater importance of her industrial and commercial life. Dodge City has ever been a leader in all those movements which have formed the west. In the territory over which she has had influence she has stood without a peer and to emphasize the riotous side of her career in an article of this length instead of treating of her industrial and commercial supremacy would be to brand her name with ignominy where credit is really due.
THIS small folder is produced to practically meet the demand for information concerning Dodge City, Kansas, the advantages and opportunities this progressive city offers to people desiring the right kind of a town in which to live and do business. It is impossible to fully set forth everything that may be considered a substantial inducement to all home seekers, but to briefly mention a few things that will appear to the best judgment of those in real earnest in their desire to find the best town and become identified with the most progressive people.
Geographically Dodge City has one of the best locations, and her commanding position will enable her to maintain the commercial and industrial supremacy which has been so firmly established here. Located on the 100th meridian and fifty miles from the Oklahoma line, about 120 miles east of the Colorado line and on the most southern point on the main line of the A. T. & S. F. Ry., means that "Metropolis of Southwestern Kansas," and "Dodge City" are synonymous terms and are one and the same place.
No city in the United States of the same size has been so thoroughly advertised. To say that one has never heard of Dodge City is to say that he does not read. No reader of books, newspapers and magazines can make such an admission. No town of its size in this country has occupied so much time of literary men and writers of books and periodicals. The early history is thrilling, interesting and wonderful. Founded upon the plains at the nearest point of the Santa Fe railroad to Fort Dodge about forty years ago, the first inhabitants began traffic in buffalo hides and such things as the wild Indians which inhabited this section of country had to trade and sell to the new-comers.
The brain and brawn of the East were necessary to cope with and subdue the savages that so greatly outnumbered these sturdy pioneers and many of these brave men are still living in Dodge City and Ford County enjoying the civilization that they did so much to estab1ish. These brainy men fixed a standard of intelligence and industry for Dodge City and surrounding country that assured progress and the development of the country.
The Great Creator seems to have deposited His choicest soil here. A rich sandy loam, to the productiveness of which all plant life must generously respond, makes the surrounding country one of the best agricultural regions to be found, and agriculture, the basis of our national wealth, is the principal support of Dodge City and all her industries.
The transformation was not swift enough to assume the character of a boom and yet was rapid enough to astound the observer.
The sod house was soon replaced by the frame building and it in turn has given way to the modern brick, stone and cement structure that modern business demands.
The population of Dodge City has increased from "Black Kelly" and his wife that inhabited the first sod house to 4,000 intelligent and prosperous people. There is no demand of modern civilization that has not been met and no convenience that the age requires but has been provided.
No intelligent person will seriously consider a locality for a permanent home without carefully considering the climate. Any person indifferent to the climate of a city or country overlooks the health, and happiness of himself and family and the number of years he is to enjoy them. Dodge City and Ford County invites a few days' visit for investigation. There is scarcely a reputable physician in the United States but will recommend Western Kansas to one for whom he prescribes a healthful climate. Our elevation is 2,484 feet above mean sea level and our average minimum temperature in June is 60.6 degrees, July 65.4, August 64.4, and September 63.5. Our mean annual temperature is 53.4 degrees. By months is as follows:
The information relative to climate is taken from the records of the United States Weather Bureau at the Dodge City station and can be verified by calling on the observer in charge.
Another equally important consideration is the purity of the water. This is the great insurmountable obstacle to the progress of many states, localities and towns, but is one of the richest of blessings to Dodge City and Ford County. Dodge City owns and operates her water plant and has an inexhaustible supply of the best and purest soft water. Here is an analysis of the water as reported by state chemists:
The careful person wants to know something about the local government of a community. Dodge City has a commission form of government. Three commissioners, one of whom is mayor, rule the city. They have been selected with reference to their special qualifications for the positions they occupy and from our best known and respected business men. This government means progress, honesty and economy. No better government has been devised and no better can be found. Our county officers are capable, affable and honest. These qualifications are all that are necessary to protect public interests and make it pleasant to transact public business.
No prudent or cultured person will consider any community or city for a permanent home that does not afford the educational, religious and social advantages of good schools and churches.
Dodge City has three large school buildings and the building of another one is now being considered. An able and efficient corps of teachers is charged with educational matters and only the best and most modern methods are employed in our schools.
Dodge City boasts of first class schools and invites an investigation. Graduates from our High School take a front rank in the colleges and higher institutions of learning.
Dodge City now has six churches and another one is in course of construction. The pulpits are occupied by successful and talented men and the several denominations have good churches and active memberships and good congregations.
Dodge City has a $35,000 Masonic Temple designed and built to afford all the conveniences and comforts desired by J:he several Masonic bodies that occupy the building. It is elegantly furnished and equipped for the work of the order. The Masonic lodges of Dodge City are renowned for the manner in which the secret work is done and the active membership. The same may be truthfully said of the Odd Fellows, Knights of Pythias, A. O. U. W., Modern Woodmen. G. A. R., Eagles, Knights and Ladies of Security, the railroad organizations and all other lodges of the city.
The ladies' social and literary clubs afford social and educational advantages to the ladies of the city that are equal-in every respect to any city. Especial attention is given to new-comers and a few days' residence here is sufficient to make them feel at home and that they are among friends.
It is evident that to establish and maintain the institutions and advantages briefly referred to above, there must be productive industries, business and employment for the men of the city.
As stated above, the foundation of the structure is .agriculture and the successful and prosperous farmers of Ford and adjoining counties. Supplementing this is the great A, T. & S. F. Ry., that maintains division offices and terminal facilities here that employ a force to which is paid between $40,000 and $50,000 per month.
The Dodge City Mill & Elevator Co. has $100,000 invested and employes a good force and has a good monthly pay roll. The Rock Island railroad also does a good business here and distributes some of the earnings to residents of the town. A Broom Factory, Steam Laundry, Electric Light Plant, Mineral Water Bottling Works, Farmers Elevator, Cream Stations, Produce Commission Houses, three good Automobile Garages, Builders and Contractors, Alfalfa Mill, Round House, two Newspapers and four Job Printing Plants, Ice Manufacturing Plant and other smaller concerns that employe labor and business managements.
The U. S. Land Office that has jurisdiction in a large territory in Kansas over all public lands and employs a number of men and brings people from the territory to Dodge City to transact business in connection with acquisition of government lands.
We have a Carnegie Library, one of the monuments Mr, Carnegie establishes in cultured communities and prominent cities.
We have a U. S. Weather Office, one of the offices connected with the Weather Bureau of the Agricultural Department and an observer and his family occupies the beautiful government building erected here for that purpose.
We have one of the best court houses in the state. We have one of the state's experimental stations and a liberal appropriation has been made for conducting experiments in farming and tree culture that is a great benefit to the farmers of this section of the state. We have the Soule College buildings which proclaim that Soule College must develop into one of the great institutions of learning in Kansas.
We have the State Soldiers' Home located at Fort Dodge, five miles east of Dodge City at the old historical government fort. This property was originally given to the state of Kansas by the government and a state soldiers' home was established there about twenty years ago and has been maintained and conducted on the cottage plan. Here an old soldier can live with his wife and family and is supported by the state. There is a population of 800 contented and happy people. A good church, schools, amusement hall, postoffice, a system of waterworks, electric lights and all modern-conveniences are provided. The management is entrusted to a board of managers and a commandant and discipline and order are maintained, although all the liberties consistent with the rights of others are accorded to the inhabitants of the institution. This is-one of the state's big institutions.
We have a large and beautiful city park. It is a large tract of land covered with good trees and is used as a public park and amusement ground. There are beautiful drives through the grounds and it is a favorite place for automobilists and pleasure riding. Here the greatest meeting of Western Kansas is held every year, the Southwest Kansas Veterans' Reunion, also Chautauqua. These meetings are attended by the great men of the nation as speakers and public entertainers. The state tents are procured and the veterans of the Civil War camp in the park for a week and listen to the best oratory, participate in amusements that are plentiful and varied and have a general good time.
The Driving Park Association maintains the race track and grandstands and other buildings on the city grounds adjoining the Park and entertains the public periodically with good races and other amusements. Base ball receives proper attention and consideration. Dodge City offers better facilition for the enjoyment of her people than any city in Western Kansas.
It is not unusual in writing or speaking of one's own town, county, state or nation, to indulge in superlatives and use bright colors and to those who are not informed about Dodge City, what we are about to say about our business men and business houses may savor of a liberal indulgence in that kind of language. To set ourselves right with the skeptical we ask all such to come to Dodge City or "stop off when you are going through and verify our statements.
We have the largest stocks of merchandise carried in towns of the size of Dodge City. We have a large department store. We have the neatest up-to-date clothing and gents' furnishing stores, the largest and most complete dry goods stores, the largest and cleanest grocery stores, more money in stock and equipment of our jewelry stores, the biggest drug stores and furniture stores. We have the best equipped cafe and confectionery stores and in fact every business house carries the stock and has a modern and up-to-date appearance. We have a Harvey House, one of the best hotels-on the Santa Fe System, other good hotels, the finest cafe in the state, restaurants and rooming houses that furnish good accommodations.
We have physicians who are known in every part of the state and two good hospitals. Dentists that are recognized to be in the front rank of their profession and both physicians and dentists require large and commodious apartments to take care of their business.
Our lawyers rank with the best of the state and practice in all the courts.
Our banks, three in number, are strong financial institutions and are safely and conservatively managed. We recommend a careful examination of their directorates and condition. Write for their statements.
Our real estate men pride themselves in doing a large volume of business and retaining every man with whom they do business as a permanent customer and friend. Only square dealing will insure such results. They can inform you in regard to property that can be purchased and meet demands for any kind of an investment.
The Santa Fe railroad will build another line of road from Dodge City southwest through the five southwest counties that have no railroad. This line will be completed in 1912.
The Arkansas Valley Irrigation Company will expend many thousands of dollars in constructing a pumping plant at the head of its large ditch that traverses Ford County. The lands under this ditch will afford special advantages to those desiring small farms for truck farming. Dodge City is a certain and good market for all kinds of farm products and will take care of everything that can be produced at good prices.
The above description of Dodge City and Ford County will help you to determine whether Ford County and Dodge City offer you opportunities that appeal to you. Come to-Dodge City and investigate for yourself. You may find the business opportunity that you have been looking for and have been unable to find. You may find an exceptional opportunity to buy a valuable farm of some kind. It may be a poultry farm, a small truck farm, a good wheat farm, a valuable alfalfa farm or a large cattle ranch. You my desire to be the first to start some new manufacturing industry or engage in some other business enterprise here.
Come to Dodge City and see this up-to-date town and one of the best counties in the state.
Ford County is in the southwest, the second north
from Oklahoma and the fifth east from Colorado. It is bounded on the north by Hodgeman, east by Edwards and Kiowa,
south by Clark and Meade and west by Gray County. Its area is 1,080 square miles, or 691,200 acres, and it ranks
fifty-seventh with a population of 11,443. It was organized in 1873 and named for Col. James H. Ford, of the Second
There are narrow belts of timber along some of the streams, mostly cottonwood, elm, hackberry and walnut.
The Arkansas river, which flows across the county, enters seven miles south of the northwest corner and flows southeast to nearly the eastern border, thence northeast near the center, entering Edwards, the next county east. There are several small streams, tributaries of the Arkansas river, of which Mulberry creek, in the south, is the most important.
Winter wheat, barley, oats and corn are the leading grains and kaffir-corn, alfalfa and sorghum for forage and grains are important crops. The county ranks well in live stock raising and there are 50,000 bearing fruit trees.
Magnesium lime stone of good quality exists near Dodge City and sand stone in the bluffs along the Arkansas river. Gypsum is common in the north, along Duck and Saw Log creeks.
There are fifty-one organized school districts and the population between the ages of five and twenty-one years is 3,008. Windhorst school at Windhorst and St. John school at Spearville, are Roman Catholic institutions.
The main line of the A. T. & S. F. Ry. enters in the northeast, passes through Dodge City in the west and info City. There are 87.37 miles of railroad main track in the county.
Bucklin and Ford, in the southeast, and Spearville, in. the northeast, are less important towns.
The new Santa Fe Trail traverses the county via Spearville, Soldiers' Home and Dodge City. This new road follows closely the old historic trail.
The Dodge City Steam Laundry is one of the old established business institutions of the city, having been founded some twenty years ago. The present proprietors, Balderston & Theis have had the institution in charge for the past three years, and during that time have placed it on a sound financial basis. At the times they took charge it was not in a paying condition, but by good management and careful work they have built the business up till it now practically includes all of the laundry trade in Dodge, besides a large trade in other places on the A. T. & S. F. Ry. and Rock Island. The plant employes some fifteen persons and the machinery it contains is modern and up-to-date in all respects. It is equipped with a variety, if not a quantity of machinery, equal to the plants in cities of twice the size of Dodge, and is doubtless the best equipped plant of any town of this "size in the west today.
Mr. Balderston is the active manager, Mr. Theis being manager of the Electric Light & Ice Co. The ability, of the management and the high class character of this institution were appropriately recognized last year by the Kansas Launderers' Association, when Mr. Balderston was made secretary-treasurer of that body.
The two most valued assets of a city are good men and good business institutions. We all praise the men' who came to this country in the early days and helped to make it what it is. We give them honor for the services they have done, We should all likewise give our business and good will to those institutions which were founded in this city in the days ' of its infancy and which have helped to make it one of the most prosperous communities of the central west.
The York Key Store fills this bill. It was established some thirty-five years ago, about the time of the rise of the cattle trade around Dodge, and has always been recognized as one of the permanent and well-established business institutions of the city. It has been accorded a good and substantial patronage and has developed along with the community it has helped to develop till at the present time it is one of the leading dry-goods and clothing stores of this section of the west.
For the past ten years this store has been under the management of Mr. D. J. Phillips, who has made it a big success. Mr. Phillips is not only a competent business man, but is a man of a pleasing personality and one whom all who are not customers of his store should take an opportunity to meet.
The store handles a general line of dry goods, clothing and shoes and customers are always treated with courtesy and right prices.