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Dodge City History Captured on The Dodge House Hotel Mural

Dodge House Hotel Old West Mural

1541 Francisco Vasquez de Coronado, a Spanish nobleman, set out from Mexico in 1540 to find the fabled cities of gold. Thirty horsemen, foot soldiers, guides and a Franciscan Friar, Juan de Padilla, who wrote a dairy, accompanied Coronado.

On June 29, 1541, after much hardship, the group crossed the Arkansas River (called the St. Peter & St. Paul River) near present day Fort Dodge, Kansas. Father Juan de Padilla held a mass of thanksgiving on the nearby hills, the first Christian service held in the interior of the continent, predating the landing of

Located one and a half miles east of Fort Dodge, the Coronado Cross Park allows a view of the unplowed prairie across to the Arkansas River and the Fort. Stand where Coronado stood, where the Santa Fe Trail passed and the soldiers of Fort Dodge kept watch.

1600 Searching for gold and other treasures, the Spanish explorer Francisco Vasquez de Coronado arrived here in 1540. He was followed in 1682 by the explorer La Salle, who promptly claimed the land for France.
1700 Regardless of the claims of other nations, in the mid-1700s and very early 1800s, Kansas was still a wide-open Indian territory, and a land of great potential. When the U.S. Purchased Kansas from France in 1803, as part of the Louisiana Purchase, thousands of settlers from the east began flowing across this land.

1821 Tracks of the original wagon trail used by pioneers from 1821 to 1872 are located nine miles west of town. This site, which contains the largest continuous stretch of clearly defined tracks along the entire route of the trail, is easy to reach. It is nine miles west of Dodge City on US 50 -- watch for the "Historic Marker" signs.

The Sunflower is the Kansas state flower and it was domesticated for food production by the Native Americans.

These birds were once widespread all across the oak savanna and tall grass prairie ecosystem. The Greater Prairie-Chicken was almost extinct in the 1930s due to hunting pressure and habitat loss. They now only live on small parcels of managed prairie land. It is thought that their current population is about 459,000 individuals

The western meadowlark was designated the official state bird of Kansas in 1937

Dodge City is a pure definition of the West... a gateway to history that began with the opening of the Santa Fe Train by William Becknell in 1821 and became a great commercial route between Franklin, Missouri and Santa Fe, New Mexico until 1880. Thousands of wagons traveled the Mountain Branch of the trail which went west from Dodge City along the north bank of the Arkansas River into Colorado. The Sunflower is the Kansas state flower and it was domesticated for food production by the Native Americans. Yucca plants dot the landscape, sending their stalks of white flowers skyward each May. A useful plant, the American Indians used the sturdy narrow spines for cord, cloth, sandals, and baskets; flowers were eaten raw or boiled; seeds and pods were ground into flour; leaves and roots were used as a medicinal tea; and a frothy soap was made from the roots which led to many calling the plant "soap weed" rather than its botanical name, yucca.

The birds you see in the mural were once widespread all across the oak savanna and tall grass prairie ecosystem. The Greater Prairie-Chicken was almost extinct in the 1930s due to hunting pressure and habitat loss. They now only live on small parcels of managed prairie land. It is thought their current population is about 459,000 individuals. The Western Meadowlark was designated the official state bird of Kansas in 1937 Its familiar 7-10 note melody makes it easy to distinguish; this along with the bright yellow throat and breast with its distinctive black "V".

You will see an Anole lizard in this mural, although not native to this area has adapted very well. One of the habits of a male is its ability to display a pinkish throat fan when confronted with another male or female. The native Horned Lizard is also depicted in this mural. The Prairie Rattlesnake, a venomous pit viper, is easily recognizable by the rattles on the end of its tail acquired from the regular shedding of the skin. When the rattlesnake is alarmed, it responds by shaking the rattles on the end of its tail.

For those willing to risk the dangers of waterless sand hills, a shorter route called the Cimarron Cutoff crossed the river near Dodge City and went southwest to the Cimarron River.

Just six years later in 1871, five miles west of the Fort at the foot of a hill along the Trail, a ranger by the name of Henry L. Sitler constructed a three-room sod house. Built to oversee his cattle ranch, Sitler's home became a frequent stopping place for buffalo hunters and traders. Dodge City was founded the next year, 1872, just five miles west of Fort Dodge on the edge of the military reservation, with the Sitler's home as the first building. It quickly became a trade center for travelers and Buffalo hunters.

1847 The first settlement of non-indigenous people in the area that became Dodge City was Fort Mann. Built by civilians in 1847, Fort Mann was intended 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..

1850 The idea of driving Texas longhorn cattle from Texas to railheads in Kansas originated in the late 1850s[ 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 splenic fever among other breeds of cattle. Known locally as Texas Fever, 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 Cow Town 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 Cow Towns from the cattle trade. With no place else to go, Dodge City suddenly became Queen of the Cow Towns. Short on money after the Civil War, cowboys rounded up, roped, branded and drove the wild Longhorn cattle north to the railroads of Kansas for shipment to Northeast markets. Between the years of 1875 and 1885 over 2.5 million longhorns were trailed into Dodge City. Although the era only lasted 10 years, Dodge City became forever a part of the American spirit.

1865 In those days, safety from marauding Indians was essential. Fort Dodge was established in 1865 on the Santa Fe Trail near the present site of the city, offering protection to wagon trains, the U.S. mail service and serving as a supply base for troops engaged in the Indian wars. Kiowa, Cheyenee and other plains tribes inhabited the area and wild game was abundant including vast herds of Buffalo.

Fort Dodge was established in 1865 to protect wagon trains on the Santa Fe Trail and to furnish supplies for soldiers fighting the Indian wars on the Plains. The first buildings were dugouts, tents and sod houses which were used until stone buildings could be finished. During these early days millions of buffalo roamed the Plains. When a new tanning process was discovered in Germany for turning buffalo hides into usable leather, an English company ordered 500 hides from a Fort Leavenworth dealer. A Pennsylvania tanner ordered 2,000hides at $3.50 each. The boom was on and hunters flooded the plains. A good hunter could make more than $100 a day.

1871 Showing in this mural you will see the Longhorns coming from the train. Cowboys counting the cattle as they came in. Five miles west of the Fort at the foot of a hill along the Trail, a ranger by the name of Henry L. Sitler constructed a three-room sod house. Built to oversee his cattle ranch, Sitler's home became a frequent stopping place for buffalo hunters and traders. Dodge City was founded the next year, 1872 just five miles west of Fort Dodge on the edge of the military reservation, with the Sitler's home as the first building. It quickly became a trade center for travelers and Buffalo hunters.

Dodge City was the Buffalo capital for three years until mass slaughter destroyed the huge herds and left the Prairie littered with decaying carcasses. An estimated 850,000 Buffalo hides were shipped from Dodge City in the years 1872-1874. Farmers, during hard times, gathered the Buffalo bones and sold them for six to eight dollars a ton. The bones were used in the manufacture of china and fertilizer.

The Santa Fe Railroad reached this area in September of 1872 and Dodge City was founded, just five miles west of Fort Dodge, to supply the needs of the buffalo hunters and soldiers with stores, hotels restaurants and entertainment. It was named Buffalo City but the name was denied by the Post Office Department because Kansas already had a town by that name. The town founders then chose Dodge City after Fort Dodge and Col. Richard I. Dodge, commander at the fort and a charter member of the Dodge City Town Company.

Through the years, Dodge has had many titles: Buffalo Capital of the World, Cowboy Capital, Queen of the Cowtowns, Wickedest Little City in America, Beautiful Bibuluous Babylon of the Frontier, and others. Dodge City was the buffalo capital for five years until mass slaughter destroyed the huge herds and left the prairie littered with decaying carcasses. As buffalo hunters departed the cattle drives from Texas began. They used the Western Trail and the Chisholm Trail from south Texas to Dodge City, where the Texas trade was welcomed eagerly. On the trail, the hardy Longhorns grazed for food and spaced themselves by instinct as they moved along about 12 miles a day. A steer could be driven from Texas to Dodge for about 75¢.

1875 In this part of the mural you will see how dodge was in its hay day. Dodge City- know as the ‘Wicked Little Town” Showing the famous men of it’s time.

The 15 or 20 men hired for the drive were each paid $30 to $45 per month, so by the time they reached Dodge City, $90 or more jingled in their pockets and they were ready to spend it on a good time! The first herd reached Dodge in 1875 and the drives increased until the number of cattle reached 500,000 for one year. From 1875 to 1886, more than 500,000 cattle were driven up from Texas to Dodge City. During those wild and wooly days, Dodge was home to such top lawmen and gunfighters as Wyatt Earp, Doc Holliday, Bill Tilghman, Ben Thompson, Luke Short and the Masterson brothers: Bat, Ed and Jim. The shootings were never as many or as frequent as depicted in Hollywood, but they received more publicity in the east-coast newspapers because they happened in Dodge City

The town these early men knew was laid out with two Front Streets, one on each side of the railroad tracks. The city passed an ordinance that guns could not be worn or carried north of the “deadline” which was the railroad tracks. The south side, where “anything went” was wide open. In 1876, the population was 1,200 and 19 businesses were licensed to sell liquor.

During those first years, the population varied according to the season, swelling during the summer with the influx of the cowboys, buyers, gamblers and prostitutes. Business houses, dance halls and saloons catered to the Texas trade. Saloon keepers renamed their places Nueces, Alamo and Lone Star and served brandies, liquors and the latest mixed drinks. Ice was usually available, so even beer could be served cold. Some saloons advertised anchovies and Russian caviar on their cold lunch menus.

1876 During those five years the population varied according to the season, swelling during the summer with the influx of Cowboys, Buyers, Gamblers and Prostitutes. Business houses, dance halls and saloons catered to the Texas trade. Saloon keepers renamed their places, Alamo and Lone Star and served brandies, liqueurs and the latest mixed drinks. Ice usually was available so even beer could be served cold. Some saloons advertised anchovies and Russian caviar on their cold menus. Gambling ranged from a game of five cent "Chuck-aluck" to thousand dollar poker pots. Many saloons offered some type of musical entertainment - a piano player, a singer, or as in Chalk Beeson's Long Branch, a five piece orchestra. Beeson also organized and led the famous Cowboy Band which entertained all over the west at cattlemen's conventions, concerts, dances and in Washington, D.C. at the inauguration of President Harrison.

1878 "Dodge is the Deadwood of Kansas. Her incorporate limits are the rendezvous of all the unemployed scallawagism in seven states. Her principal business is polygamy without the sanction of religion, her code of morals is the honor of thieves, and decency she knows not.” In 1878 Doc Holliday arrived in Dodge City with Big Nose Kate Elder, posing as his wife. Settling in room 24 of the Dodge House, Doc mostly drank and gambled, but occasionally, he provided professional services to the towns people. Shortly after his arrival, an ad appeared in the Dodge City Times pronouncing: "J.H. Holliday, Dentist, very respectfully offers his professional services to the citizens of Dodge City and surrounding country during the summer.”But mostly he was gambling at the Alhambra and dealing cards at the Long Branch Saloon. Though Dodge City citizens thought the friendship between Wyatt and Doc was strange, Wyatt ignored them and Doc kept the law while in Dodge City.

1821 The Sunflower is the Kansas state flower and it was domesticated for food production by the Native Americans. Yucca plants dot the landscape, sending their stalks of white flowers skyward each May. A useful plant, the American Indians used the sturdy narrow spines for cord, cloth, sandals, and baskets; flowers were eaten raw or boiled; seeds and pods were ground into flour; leaves and roots were used as a medicinal tea; and a frothy soap was made from the roots which led to many calling the plant "soap weed" rather than its botanical name, yucca.

The birds you see in the mural were once widespread all across the oak savanna and tall grass prairie ecosystem. The Greater Prairie-Chicken was almost extinct in the 1930s due to hunting pressure and habitat loss. They now only live on small parcels of managed prairie land. It is thought their current population is about 459,000 individuals. The Western Meadowlark was designated the official state bird of Kansas in 1937. Its familiar 7-10 note melody makes it easy to distinguish; this along with the bright yellow throat and breast with its distinctive black "V".

You will see an Anole lizard in this mural, although not native to this area has adapted very well. One of the habits of a male is its ability to display a pinkish throat fan when confronted with another male or female. The native Horned Lizard is also depicted in this mural. The Prairie Rattlesnake, a venomous pit viper, is easily recognizable by the rattles on the end of its tail acquired from the regular shedding of the skin. When the rattlesnake is alarmed, it responds by shaking the rattles on the end of its tail.

Dodge House Hotel Old West Mural

     
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