Dodge City Trail Essay

Everywhere American popular culture has penetrated, people use the phrase “Get out of Dodge” or “Gettin’ outta Dodge” when referring to some dangerous or threatening or generally unpleasant situation. The metaphor is thought to have originated among U.S. troops during the Vietnam War, but it anchors the idea that early Dodge City, Kansas, was an epic, world-class theater of interpersonal violence and civic disorder.

Consider this passage from the 2013 British crime novel, Missing in Malmö, by Torquil Macleod:

“The drive to Carlisle took about twenty-five minutes. The ancient city had seen its fair share of violent history over the centuries as warring Scots and English families had clashed. The whole Border area between the two fractious countries had been like the American Wild West, and Carlisle was the Dodge City of the Middle Ages.”

So, just how bad was Dodge, really, and why do we remember it that way?

The story begins in 1872, when a miscellaneous collection of a dozen male pioneers—six of them immigrants—founded Dodge astride the newly laid tracks of the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad. The town’s early years as a major shipping center for buffalo hides, its longer period as a “cowboy town” serving the cattle trails from Texas, and its easy accessibility by rail to tourists and newspaper reporters made Dodge famous. For 14 years, the media embellished the town’s belligerence and bedlam—both genuine and created—to produce the iconic Dodge City that was, and remains, a cultural metaphor for violence and anarchy in a celebrated Old West.

Newspapers in the 1870s crafted Dodge City’s reputation as a major theater of frontier disorder by centering attention on the town’s single year of living dangerously, which lasted from July 1872 to July 1873. As an unorganized village, Dodge then lacked judicial and law-enforcement structures. A documented 18 men died from gunshot wounds, and newspapers identified nearly half again that number as wounded.

But the newspapers didn’t merely report that news: They interwove it with myths and metaphors of the West that had emerged in the mid-century writings of Western travelers such as Frederick Law Olmsted, Albert D. Richardson, Horace Greely, and Mark Twain, and in the “genteel” Western fiction of Bret Harte and its working-class counterpart, the popular yellow-back novels featuring cowboys, Indians, and outlaws.


One visiting reporter remarked that, “The Kansas papers are inclined to make mouths at Dodge, because she has existed only one month or thereabouts and already has a cemetery started without the importation of corpses.” Another quipped, “Only two men killed at Dodge City last week.” A joke circulated among Kansas weeklies: “A gentleman wishing to go from Wichita to Dodge City, applied to a friend for a letter of introduction. He was handed a double-barreled shot-gun and a Colt’s revolver.”

Ken Curtis and James Arness in “Gunsmoke,” the hit TV show that popularized Dodge City’s Wild West aura. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

The bad news out of Dodge made its major East Coast debut in 10 column inches in the nation’s then most prestigious newspaper, the late Horace Greeley’s New York Tribune. Titled “THE DIVERSIONS OF DODGE CITY,” it condemned the village for the lynching of a black entrepreneur. “The fact is that in charming Dodge City there is no law,” it concluded. “There are no sheriffs and no constables. . . . Consequently there are a dozen well-developed murderers walking unmolested about Dodge City doing as they please.”

Conditions of well-publicized anarchy, though they sold out-of-town papers, were not what Dodge City’s business and professional men wanted. From the town’s founding they had feared more for their pocketbooks than for their lives. Their investments in buildings and goods, to say nothing of the settlement’s future as a collective real-estate venture, stood at risk. For their common business enterprise to pay off they had to attract aspiring middle class newcomers like themselves.

And so, in the summer of 1873, Dodge’s economic elite wrested control of the situation. The General Land Office in Washington at last approved its group title to the town’s land and the electorate chose a slate of county officers, of whom the most important was a sheriff. Two years later Kansas granted Dodge municipal status, authorizing it to hire a city marshal and as many assistant lawmen as needed.

From August 1873 through 1875 apparently no violent deaths occurred, and from early 1876 through 1886 (Dodge’s cattle-trading period and during its ban on the open carry of sidearms), the known body count averaged less than two violent deaths per year, hardly shocking. Still, the cultural influence of that infamous first year has colored perceptions of the settlement’s frontier days ever since. Part of the reason was a Swedish immigrant, Harry Gryden, who arrived in Dodge City in 1876, established a law practice, inserted himself into the local sporting crowd, and within two years began penning sensationalist articles about the town for the nation’s leading men’s magazine, New York’s National Police Gazette, known as the “barbershop bible.”

In 1883 a Dodge City reform faction briefly assumed control at City Hall and threatened to start a shooting war with professional gamblers. Alarmist dispatches, including some by Gryden, circulated as Associated Press stories in at least 44 newspapers from Sacramento to New York City. The Kansas governor was preparing to send in the state militia when Wyatt Earp, arriving from Colorado, brokered a peace before anyone got shot. Gryden, having already introduced both Earp and his friend Bat Masterson to a national readership, penned a colorful wrap-up for the Police Gazette.

With the end of the cattle trade at Dodge in 1886, its middle class citizenry hoped that its bad reputation would at last subside. But interest in the town’s colorful history never disappeared. This enduring attention eventually led to Dodge’s inauguration in 1902 as a staple item in the upscale mass-circulation magazines of the new century, including the very widely read Saturday Evening Post.

For 14 years, the media embellished the town’s belligerence and bedlam—both genuine and created—to produce the iconic Dodge City that was, and remains, a cultural metaphor for violence and anarchy in a celebrated Old West.

With that, the dangers of Dodge became a permanent commodity—a cultural production that was retailed to a primary market of tourists, and wholesaled to readers and viewers. Thereafter writers catering to the public’s fascination with the town’s violent reputation seemingly tried to outdo one another in lurid generalizations: “In Dodge . . . the revolver was the only sign of law and order that could command respect.” And: “The court of last resort there was presided over by Judge Lynch.” And: “When one was ‘bumped off,’ the authorities just hustled the body out to Boot Hill and speculated upon what else the day would bring forth in bloodshed.”

Dodge’s local handful of yarn-spinners endorsed such nonsense, and bogus estimates of those interred on Boot Hill ranged from 81 to more than 200. By the 1930s the town’s consensus had settled on 33, a number that included victims of illness as well as violence—but a best-selling biography of Wyatt Earp, published in 1931 by the California writer Stuart Lake and still in print, boosted the body count back up to 70 or 80. Lake’s book’s success, a burgeoning auto-borne tourism, and the Great Depression’s severe economic effect on southwest Kansas collaborated in wiping out any remaining local resistance to memorializing Dodge City’s bygone days.

Movies and then television also got into the act. As early as 1914, Hollywood had discovered the old frontier town. In 1939 Dodge got major film treatment. But it was a TV series set in Dodge that ensured its continuing cultural importance. “Gunsmoke” entertained literally millions of Americans for a phenomenal twenty years (1955-1975), becoming one of the longest-running prime-time serials ever aired. Ironically, because the hour-long weekly program appears to have prompted the “Get outta Dodge” trope, the population of Hollywood’s Dodge was an interesting soap-opera collaborative of reasonable citizens beset with weekly onslaughts of assorted trouble-making outsiders. It was a dangerous place only because of the people who did not live there.

Imaginary Dodge is still hard at work helping Americans chart their moral landscape as the archetypal bad civic example. Inserted into the national narrative, it promotes belief that things can never be as dreadful as they were in the Old West, thereby confirming that we Americans have evolved into a civilized society. As it reassures the American psyche, the Dodge City of myth and metaphor also incites it to celebrate a frontier past brimming with aggression and murderous self-defense.

"Dodge City" redirects here. For others, see Dodge (disambiguation).

Dodge City is the county seat of Ford County, Kansas, United States, named after nearby Fort Dodge. The city is famous in American culture for its history as a wild frontier town of the Old West.[6][7][8] As of the 2010 census, the city population was 27,340.[9]


See also: History of Kansas

Fort Mann was the first settlement of nonindigenous people in the area that became Dodge City, built by civilians in 1847 to provide protection for travelers on the Santa Fe Trail. Fort Mann collapsed in 1848 after an Indian attack. In 1850, the U.S. Army arrived to provide protection in the region and constructed Fort Atkinson on the old Fort Mann site. The army abandoned Fort Atkinson in 1853. Military forces on the Santa Fe Trail were re-established farther north and east at Fort Larned in 1859, but the area remained vacant around what would become Dodge City until the end of the Civil War. In April 1865, the Indian Wars in the West began heating up, and the army constructed Fort Dodge to assist Fort Larned in providing protection on the Santa Fe Trail. Fort Dodge 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 in the region, conveniently located near the Santa Fe Trail and Arkansas River, and Sitler's house quickly became a stopping point for travelers. Others saw the commercial potential of the region with the Santa Fe Railroad rapidly approaching from the east. In 1872, Dodge City was staked out on the 100th meridian and the legal western boundary of the Fort Dodge reservation. The town site was platted and George M. Hoover established the first bar in a tent to serve thirsty soldiers from Fort Dodge. The railroad arrived in September to find a town ready and waiting for business. The early settlers in Dodge City traded in buffalo bones and hides and provided a civilian community for Fort Dodge. However, with the arrival of the railroad, Dodge City soon became involved in the cattle trade.

The idea of driving Texas Longhorn cattle from Texas to railheads in Kansas originated in the late 1850s,[citation needed][11] but was cut short by the Civil War. In 1866, the first Texas cattle started arriving in Baxter Springs in southeastern Kansas by way of the Shawnee Trail. However, Texas Longhorn cattle carried a tick that spread Texas cattle fever, among other breeds of cattle. Alarmed Kansas farmers persuaded the Kansas State Legislature to establish a quarantine line in central Kansas. The quarantine prohibited Texas Longhorns from the heavily settled, eastern portion of the state.

With the cattle trade forced west, Texas Longhorns began moving north along the Chisholm Trail. In 1867, the main cowtown was Abilene, Kansas. Profits were high, and other towns quickly joined in the cattle boom: Newton in 1871, Ellsworth in 1872, and Wichita in 1872. However, in 1876, the Kansas State Legislature responded to pressure from farmers settling in central Kansas and once again shifted the quarantine line westward, which essentially eliminated Abilene and the other cowtowns from the cattle trade. With no place else to go, Dodge City suddenly became the "queen of the cow towns".

A new route known as the Great Western Cattle Trail or Western Trail branched off from the Chisholm Trail to lead cattle into Dodge City. Dodge City became a boomtown, with thousands of cattle passing annually through its stockyards. The peak years of the cattle trade in Dodge City were from 1883 to 1884, and during that time the town grew tremendously. In 1880, Dodge City got a new competitor for the cattle trade from the border town of Caldwell. For a few years, the competition between the towns was fierce, but enough cattle were available for both towns to prosper.

Nevertheless, Dodge City became famous, and no town could match Dodge City's reputation as a true frontier settlement of the Old West. Dodge City had more famous (and infamous) gunfighters working at one time or another than any other town in the West, many of whom participated in the Dodge City War of 1883. It also boasted the usual array of saloons, gambling halls, and brothels, including the famous Long Branch Saloon and China Doll brothel.[12] For a time in 1884, Dodge City even had a bullfighting ring where Mexicanbullfighters would put on a show with specially chosen Longhorn bulls.

As more agricultural settlers moved into western Kansas, pressure increased on the Kansas State Legislature to do something about splenic fever. Consequently, in 1885, the quarantine line was extended across the state and the Western Trail was all but shut down. By 1886, the cowboys, saloon keepers, gamblers, and brothel owners moved west to greener pastures, and Dodge City became a sleepy little town much like other communities in western Kansas.


Dodge City is located at 37°45′35″N100°1′6″W / 37.75972°N 100.01833°W / 37.75972; -100.01833 (37.759671, −100.018212) at an elevation of 2,493 ft (760 m).[5][13] It lies on the Arkansas River in the High Plains region of the Great Plains.[14] The city sits above one of the world's largest underground water systems, the Ogallala Aquifer,[15] and is 25 miles (40 km) from the eastern edge of the Hugoton Natural Gas Area.[citation needed] Located at the intersection of U. S. Routes 50, 56 and 283 in southwestern Kansas, Dodge City is 151 mi (243 km) west of Wichita, 199 mi (320 km) northeast of Amarillo, and 301 mi (484 km) southeast of Denver.[14][16]

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 14.55 square miles (37.68 km2), of which 14.44 square miles (37.40 km2) is land and 0.11 square miles (0.28 km2) is water.[2]


Dodge City lies at the intersection of North America's semi-arid (KöppenBSk) and humid subtropical climate (Köppen Cfa) zones,[17] with hot summers, highly variable winters, both warm and very cold periods, and low to moderate humidity and precipitation throughout the year; it is part of USDA Hardiness zone 6b.[18] Areas to the west are drier and more strongly semi-arid. Severe weather, including tornadoes, is common in the area, especially in the spring months. Dodge City is often cited as the windiest city in the United States with an average speed of 13.9 mph (22.4 km/h), which results in occasional blizzards in the winter, even when snowfall does not accumulate much.[19] On average, January is the coldest month, July is the hottest month, and June is the wettest month.[20]

The normal annual mean temperature in Dodge City is 55.4 °F (13.0 °C), while the normal monthly daily average temperature ranges from 32.2 °F (0.1 °C) in January to 79.6 °F (26.4 °C) in July.[21] The high temperature reaches or exceeds 90 °F (32 °C) an average of 67 days a year and reaches or exceeds 100 °F (38 °C) an average of 13 days a year; the last year that failed to reach 100 °F was 1958.[22] The minimum temperature falls to or below 0 °F (−18 °C) an average of 3.0 days a year.[22] The highest officially recorded temperature was 111 °F (44 °C) on June 27, 2012, while the lowest temperature officially recorded was −26 °F (−32 °C) on February 12, 1899.[20] The record cold daily maximum is −13 °F (−25 °C) on January 13, 1875, and conversely, the record warm daily minimum is 81 °F (27 °C) last set July 12, 1978.[22]

Dodge City receives an annual average of 21.6 inches (550 mm) in precipitation, with the largest share being received from May through August;[20] annual precipitation has historically ranged from 9.97 in (253 mm) in 1956 to 34.29 in (871 mm) in 1944.[22] There are, on average, 77 days of measurable precipitation each year. Snowfall averages 21.1 inches (54 cm) per season, although snowfall has historically ranged from 0.2 in (0.51 cm) in 1903–04 to 61.3 in (156 cm) in 1992–93. Measurable snowfall occurs an average of 14 days a year with at least an inch of snow being received on six of those days. Snow depth of at least an inch occurs an average of 19 days a year. The average window for overnight freezes is October 17 through April 21,[22] allowing a growing season of 178 days.

Climate data for Dodge City Regional Airport, Kansas (1981–2010 normals, extremes 1874–present)[a]
Record high °F (°C)80
Average high °F (°C)44.2
Average low °F (°C)20.1
Record low °F (°C)−20
Average precipitation inches (mm)0.58
Average snowfall inches (cm)4.9
Average precipitation days (≥ 0.01 in)
Average snowy days (≥ 0.1 in)
Average relative humidity (%)65.964.560.557.562.559.955.258.461.958.264.366.661.3
Mean monthly sunshine hours207.2201.6241.1270.0297.6332.9357.8319.0267.6248.8192.9189.23,125.7
Percent possible sunshine67676568687580767271636370
Source: National Weather Service (relative humidity and sun 1961–1990),[22][21][24]The Weather Channel[20]


Historical population
Est. 201627,453[4]0.4%
U.S. Decennial Census

2010 census[edit]

As of the 2010 United States Census, there were 27,340 people, 8,777 households, and 6,241 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,893.6 people per square mile (731.1/km²). There were 9,378 housing units at an average density of 649.5 per square mile (250.8/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 72.5% White, 2.5% African American, 1.1% American Indian, 1.6% Asian, 0.2% Pacific Islander, 19.3% from other races, and 2.9% from two or more races. Hispanics and Latinos of any race were 57.5% of the population.[9]

There were 8,777 households of which 40.3% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 51.5% were married couples living together, 13.0% had a female householder with no husband present, 6.6% had a male householder with no wife present, and 28.9% were non-families. 22.7% of all households were made up of individuals, and 8.3% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 3.05, and the average family size was 3.60.[9]

The median age in the city was 28.9 years. 31.8% of residents were under the age of 18; 11.8% were between the ages of 18 and 24; 27.8% were from 25 to 44; 19.6% were from 45 to 64; and 8.9% were 65 years of age or older. The gender makeup of the city was 51.4% male and 48.6% female.[9]

The median income for a household was $43,994, and the median income for a family was $49,957. Males had a median income of $31,400 versus $27,884 for females. The per capita income for the city was $18,350. About 16.7% of families and 19.0% of the population were below the poverty line, including 28.7% of those under age 18 and 8.1% of those age 65 or over.[9]


Meat packing is the primary industry in Dodge City. Cargill Meat Solutions and National Beef both operate large facilities in the city.[25] The city also hosts farm implement manufacturing and serves as a supply center for area agriculture. Livestock-raising is a major activity while wheat and sorghum are the area's main crops.[8] In addition, a local tourism industry, including a casino resort, has developed to capitalize on Dodge City's history as an Old West cowtown.[26] The service sector accounts for much of the rest of the local economy.[25]

As of 2010, 70.9% of the population over the age of 16 was in the labor force. 0.3% was in the armed forces, and 70.5% was in the civilian labor force with 66.9% being employed and 3.6% unemployed. The composition, by occupation, of the employed civilian labor force was: 23.3% in management, business, science, and arts; 16.4% in sales and office occupations; 10.9% in service occupations; 15.2% in natural resources, construction, and maintenance; 34.2% in production, transportation, and material moving. The three industries employing the largest percentages of the working civilian labor force were: manufacturing (33.0%); educational services, health care, and social assistance (18.1%); and retail trade (9.4%).[9]

The cost of living in Dodge City is relatively low; compared to a U.S. average of 100, the cost of living index for the city is 79.3.[27] As of 2010, the median home value in the city was $83,300, the median selected monthly owner cost was $1,013 for housing units with a mortgage and $450 for those without, and the median gross rent was $571.[9]

Top employers[edit]

Cargill Meat Solutions and National Beef are the two largest employers. Other major employers include local government, schools, retail stores, and health care providers.[25]


Dodge City is a city of the first class with a commission-manager form of government.[29] The city commission consists of five members who serve either two-year or four-year terms depending on the number of votes they receive. Every year, the commission selects one commissioner to serve as mayor and another to serve as vice-mayor.[30] The commission meets on the first and third Monday of each month.[29] Appointed by the commission, the city manager leads the city administration, executes the commission's policies, and develops operational programs to meet the city's needs.[31]

As the county seat, Dodge City is the administrative center of Ford County. The county courthouse is located downtown, and all departments of the county government base their operations in the city.[32]

Dodge City lies within Kansas's 1st U.S. Congressional District. For the purposes of representation in the Kansas Legislature, the city is located in the 38th district of the Kansas Senate and the 115th and 119th districts of the Kansas House of Representatives.[29]


Primary and secondary education[edit]

Dodge City Public Schools (USD 443) serves over 6,000 students and operates 14 schools in the city, including one early childhood center, eight elementary schools, two middle schools, one high school, and one alternative school.[33]

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Dodge City oversees one Catholic school in the city: Sacred Heart Cathedral School (Pre-K-8).[34]

Colleges and universities[edit]

Dodge City Community College (DCCC), a two-year public college with approximately 2,000 students, is located in the northwestern part of the city.[35][36] From 1952 to 1993, Dodge City was also home to St. Mary of the Plains College, a private, four-year Catholicliberal arts college.[37]Newman University, a Catholic university based in Wichita, now operates a branch campus on St. Mary of the Plains' former grounds.[38]


Dodge City Public Library, located north of downtown, is the city's main library. A member of the Southwest Kansas Library System, it has a collection of approximately 123,000 volumes, and it circulates more than 189,000 items annually.[39] It was founded as a Carnegie library in 1905 and moved to its current facility in 1981.[40] The library offers several services to the public, including computer classes, public internet access, and programs for children and adults.[41] Other libraries in the city include the DCCC Library, which holds more than 30,000 volumes and serves as a federal depository library, and the Kansas Heritage Center, a non-profit resource center and research library operated by Dodge City Public Schools dedicated to the history of Kansas, the Great Plains, and the Old West.[42][43][44]



Originally a stop on the Santa Fe Trail, Dodge City was later located on the National Old Trails Road, also known as the Ocean-to-Ocean Highway, which followed the trail's path in western Kansas upon its establishment in 1912.[45] Currently, four U.S. Highways meet in Dodge City: U.S. Route 50, U.S. Route 56, U.S. Route 283, and U.S. Route 400. U.S. 50, an east-west route, runs through the northern part of the city. U.S. 400, which also runs east-west, runs through the southern part of the city. U.S. 56, an east-west route, and U.S. 283, a north-south route, run concurrently around the city's southern and eastern fringe. A U.S. 50 business route runs concurrently with U.S. 56, U.S. 283, and U.S. 400 at different points through the southern part and around the eastern part of the city.[46]

Bus service is provided daily eastward towards Wichita, Kansas and westward towards Pueblo, Colorado by BeeLine Express (a subcontractor of Greyhound Lines).[47][48]

Dodge City Regional Airport is located approximately 2 miles (3.2 km) east of the city.[49] Used primarily for general aviation, it hosts one commercial airline with daily flights to Denver, CO and Liberal, KS.[50][51]

Three railroads serve Dodge City: the La Junta Subdivision of the BNSF Railway which runs east-west, the main line of the Cimarron Valley Railroad of which Dodge City is the northeastern terminus, and the Boot Hill and Western Railway of which the city is the northwestern terminus.[46][52] Using the BNSF trackage, Amtrak provides passenger rail service on its Southwest Chief line between Chicago and Los Angeles.[49][53] Amtrak's Dodge City station is located downtown.[54]


The Utilities Division of the city government's Public Works Department operates and maintains the city's water and waste water distribution systems.[55] The department's Sanitation Division provides trash pickup.[56] Operations Management International, Inc. (OMI), a private contractor, provides waste water treatment, pumping the city's waste water to treatment holding ponds 12 miles south of the city.[57] The Victory Electric Cooperative Association, Inc., part of the Mid-Kansas Electric Company, delivers electricity to the city.[58][59] Local residents primarily use natural gas for heating fuel; natural gas service is provided by Black Hills Energy.[27][60]

Health care[edit]

The Western Plains Medical Complex is the sole hospital in Dodge City. A 100-bed hospital accredited by the Joint Commission, it serves as a referral center for southwestern Kansas.[61]


Main article: Media in Dodge City, Kansas

The Dodge City Daily Globe is the city's daily newspaper with a circulation of approximately 7,000 copies.[62] In addition, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Dodge City publishes a weekly newspaper, The Southwest Kansas Catholic, formerly known as The Southwest Kansas Register.[63] The High Plains Journal, a weekly trade journal covering regional agricultural news, is also published in the city.[64]

Along with Garden City, Dodge City is a center of broadcast media for southwestern Kansas.[65][66] Two AM radio stations, seven FM radio stations, and four television stations are licensed to and/or broadcast from the area.[65][67][68] Dodge City is located in the Wichita-Hutchinson, Kansas television market.[69] The four stations that broadcast from the city include: one CBS and one FOXnetwork affiliate, both of which are satellite stations of their respective affiliates in Wichita;[68][70] a satellite station of Smoky Hills Public Television, the PBS member network covering western Kansas;[71] and KDDC-LD a sister station of KDGL-LD in Sublette, Kansas.[67][72]

Parks and recreation[edit]

The city's Parks and Recreation Department maintains 21 parks in the city.[73] The largest is Wright Park, located immediately south of downtown and home to the Dodge City Zoo.[73][74] Legends Park, in the northern part of the city, is a four-diamond, tournament-level baseball and softball complex that hosts both youth and adult league games.[75] The city also maintains the St. Mary Soccer Complex, which includes six full-size game pads and three junior-sized fields, and the municipal pool.[76][77]

There are two golf courses in the city, one public and one private. Mariah Hills Municipal Golf Course, the public course, is an 18-hole course built in 1974 and redesigned in 1990. It includes a full-service pro shop, driving range, and putting green. Dodge City Country Club, the private course, is an 18-hole course built in 1916 and expanded in 1982.[78]


Arts and music[edit]

Two galleries support an arts community in the city. Located in the original public library building, The Carnegie Center for the Arts provides gallery space to local artists and houses the Dodge City Arts Council.[79][80] The second gallery, the Second Avenue Art Guild, exhibits the work of regional artists in ceramics, photography, and other media.[81]

The Depot Theater Company, based in the former Santa Fe Railroad Depot, puts on theatrical productions throughout the year. Founded in 1984, the group performs in both the old depot and the Occident Theater.[82]


Each summer, the Dodge City Chamber of Commerce holds Dodge City Days, the city's annual community festival.[83] Lasting ten days, it includes the Dodge City Roundup Rodeo, a parade, a beauty pageant, music concerts, a golf tournament, arts and craft shows, and other activities.[84] Several other community events are held throughout the year.[85] In early May, the city's sizable Mexican community celebrates Cinco de Mayo in Wright Park with live music, folk dance performances, and traditional Mexican cuisine.[86] To celebrate Independence Day, the city holds its Old-Fashioned Fourth of July which includes a fireworks display and children's activities at Boot Hill.[87] Christmas in Old Dodge City, the city's winter holiday festival, starts in late November and lasts until Christmas.[85] It begins with a formal Christmas tree lighting downtown, a chili cook-off, and the Parade of Lights, a parade of floats decorated with Christmas lights.[88]

Two other annual events reflect the central role of agriculture in the local economy. The Ford County Fair is held in July and includes 4-H and FFA exhibits, competitions, and shows, as well as other activities.[89] Also in July, the Western Kansas Manufacturers Association (WKMA) holds the 3i Show, an agri-business expo of agricultural products, technology, and services.[90]

Points of interest[edit]

Located in and around the city are a number of historical sites, museums, and landmarks dedicated to Dodge City's Old West heritage. The Boot Hill Museum, located downtown, contains thousands of artifacts and a variety of exhibits portraying the culture of the city's early years. The museum's larger exhibits include: Front Street, a partial reconstruction of downtown Dodge City as it existed in 1876; the Long Branch Saloon and the Long Branch Variety Show; the Saratoga Saloon; the Hardesty House, a period-typical home built in 1879; the city's original Boot Hill Cemetery; and the Kansas Cowboy Hall of Fame.[91][92] The Santa Fe Trail Remains, located 9 miles (14 km) west of the city, are preserved wagon tracks from a section of the Santa Fe Trail.[92] The Ford County Historical Society maintains the Mueller-Schmidt House, called the "Home of Stone." Built from area limestone in 1881, it is the oldest building in the city still standing at its original site.[93] Other historical landmarks include: El Capitan, a life-sized bronze sculpture of a Texas Longhorn steer built to commemorate the cattle drives that once ended in the city; a bronze statue of famous Dodge City lawman Wyatt Earp; and the Santa Fe Depot, the largest extant train depot in Kansas.[94][95]

To capitalize on this heritage, the city promotes its downtown business district as historic Old Dodge City complete with Western-themed tourist attractions, shops, and restaurants.[96] Visitors can tour the district by trolley or by taking the Dodge City Trail of Fame walking tour.[97][98] The state of Kansas operates the similarly themed Boot Hill Casino & Resort on the west side of the city – when it opened for business in December 2009, Boot Hill became the first state-owned casino in the United States.[99][100]

Dodge City Civic Center and United Wireless Arena are the city's two main indoor event venues. The Civic Center, built in 1954, is a 2,800-seat multipurpose facility that has hosted a variety of events, including concerts and sporting events.[101][102] United Wireless Arena, opened in 2011, is a 5,500-seat multipurpose arena located next to the Boot Hill Casino on the west side of the city. Owned by the City of Dodge City and Ford County, the arena complex includes the 10,000-square-foot (930 m2) Magouirk Conference Center.[103]

Other sites of interest in the city include the Dodge City Zoo and the Kansas Teachers' Hall of Fame. The Zoo is located in Wright Park and is home to more than 45 animals.[104] Located downtown, the Kansas Teachers' Hall of Fame hosts exhibits on education in Kansas and claims to be the first of its kind in the United States.[105]


There are 33 Christian churches in and around Dodge City.[106] The Roman Catholic Diocese of Dodge City is based in the city. Established in 1951, it comprises 28 Kansas counties, roughly the southwestern quarter of the state.[107] The city is home to both the diocese's current and former cathedrals, Cathedral of Our Lady of Guadalupe and Sacred Heart Cathedral, respectively.[108] Also headquartered in the city is the Dodge City District of the United Methodist Church which consists of 22 counties in southwestern Kansas.[109]


Dodge City is home to the Dodge City Law professional arena football team. The Law participate in the Champions Indoor Football league.

Dodge City Community College's athletic teams, the Dodge City Conquistadors (or "Conqs" for short), compete in several sports in the Kansas Jayhawk Community College Conference (KJCCC).[110]

Beyond DCCC sports, Dodge City also hosts amateur baseball and professional motorsports. The Dodge City Athletics, nicknamed the "A's", are a collegiate summer baseball team in the Jayhawk Collegiate League of the National Baseball Congress.[111] Both the A's and the DCCC Conquistadors baseball team use Cavalier Field, located on the former St. Mary of the Plains College campus, as their home field.[112] Dodge City Raceway Park, located immediately south of the city, is a 3/8-mile dirt track that hosts midget and sprint car racing from April through October. Past events at the park have included National Sprint Tour and World of Outlaws races.[113] The Western Kansas Dirt Riders, a motocross team, race at Tumbleweed Raceway adjacent to the Raceway Park.[114]

In the past, Dodge City hosted college football and professional basketball as well. From 1970 to 1980, the annual Boot Hill Bowl post-season college football game was played in Dodge City. The bowl was sanctioned by the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics and featured schools such as Washburn University and Emporia State University. The last game was played on November 21, 1980.[115] From 2000 to 2007, the city was home to a minor league professional basketball team, the Dodge City Legend of the United States Basketball League.[116]

In popular culture and the arts[edit]

Starting in the 1870s, the violent episodes of early Dodge City history, particularly the exploits of Wyatt Earp, attracted national media attention. National news coverage of the 1883 Dodge City War civil strife fueled public perceptions of frontier turmoil and established Dodge City as the "Sodom of the West" in the public consciousness. Gunfighters and lawmen such as Earp and his brothers and partners became celebrities, and sensationalized versions of their activities entered period popular culture as the subject of dime novels. Over time, the level and scale of the violence in early Dodge City were significantly embellished, becoming the stuff of legend. This trend continued into the 20th century, particularly after the 1931 publication of Stuart N. Lake's book Wyatt Earp: Frontier Marshal. Regarded in American folklore as the quintessential rough and rowdy Old West frontier town, Dodge City served as the setting for numerous works of Western-themed media, including later popular films and television series.[117]

Dodge City was the setting of the long-running radio and television series Gunsmoke

Buffalo hunter Ralph Morrison who was killed and scalped December 7, 1868 near Fort Dodge Kansas by Cheyennes: Lt Reade of the 3rd Infantry and Chief of Scouts John O. Austin are in the background. Photograph by William S. Soule.[10]
National Beef plant (2006). Dodge City is an important center for meat packing.
The Boot Hill Museum (2010)
Dodge City maintains part of its downtown as a tourist attraction. (2008)


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