Dodge City, Kansas, is famous for its history as a wild frontier town of the Old West. Famous gunslingers, as well as sheriffs, Bat Masterson and Wyatt Earp, are a part of Dodge City history. The first settlement of people in the area was Fort Mann. Built by civilians in 1847, Fort Mann was intended to provide protection for travelers on the Santa Fe Trail. However, Fort Mann collapsed a short year later following an Indian attack. In 1850, the Army arrived to provide protection in the area and constructed Fort Atkinson on the old Fort Mann site, but the Army abandoned Fort Atkinson in 1853. Military forces on the Santa Fe Trail were reestablished north and east at Fort Larned in 1859. In 1865, Fort Dodge was constructed by the Army to help Fort Larned in providing protection on the Santa Fe Trail.
The town of Dodge City traces its origin to 1871 when rancher Henry Sitler built a sod house to oversee his cattle operations. Located near the Santa Fe Trail and the Arkansas River, Sitler's house soon became a stopping point for travelers. In 1872, five miles west of Fort Dodge, settlers founded the town of Dodge City. With the arrival of the railroad to the area, the early settlers became involved in the cattle trade business and Dodge City became the Queen of the Cow Towns in the West.
After a quick trip to Wal-Mart, we were off to Boot Hill. Alan loves old Western movies and was sure someone he "knew" was buried at the cemetery. When we arrived, we opted to see the museum, as well as participate in a chuck-wagon style dinner and then attend a show at the Long Branch Saloon -- all for $56 for the both of us.
Boot Hill (or Boothill) is the name for several cemeteries in approximately two dozen states, mainly in the West. During the 1800s, it was a common name for the burial grounds of gunfighters or those who died with their boots on -- usually in a violent manner. Boot Hill graves were also made for those who died in a strange town without money for a burial
The Tipi, from the Sioux language meaning "used to dwell in" provided a portable home for the tribes of the Plains.
The Tipi stayed cool on the hottest days in the summer and offered warmth and protection against the harsh winter storms. It was also easy to dismantle as they followed the bison. The circular floor plan symbolized the earth, while the dirt floor represented the fertility of the earth. The walls of the structure stood for the sky, while the poles symbolized the Great Spirit who dwelt on high. The women were the ones responsible for constructing the Tipi. They gathered the thin, long logs, stripped the bark and skinned over a dozen buffalo to create the hide walls. And it was up to the women to decide the location of the Tipi. Within an hour they would clear an area and erect the Tipi. They used a Tipi covering until it was beyond repair. Then they would recycle the scraps for something new. The top portion of the Tipi was filled with smoke and ashes from the fire which made it waterproof. The Tipi was very important to the tribes and served many needs in their lives. We could certainly learn a lot from these American Natives.
I bet you didn't know there was Tipi etiquette. If the door was open, the friend could enter. If closed, the friend announced his presence and waited to be invited in. The male visitor entered and moved to the right where he waited for the host to offer him the guest place to the left of the owner. The woman entered after the man and moved to the left. When asked to dinner, guests brought their own bowls and spoons and were expected to eat all that was given to them. No visitor ever walked between the fire in the center and the other people but passed behind the guests who leaned forward to allow room for them to pass. The men sat cross-legged and the women could only sit on their heels or with their legs to the side. If only men were present, the older ones started any conversation, while the younger ones remained silent until they were asked to speak. When the host began to clean his pipe, everyone was expected to leave. The Tipi was considered sacred and the rules were followed to show respect for the shelter and mobility it provided to the tribes.
Without many trees or stones to build homes, the settlers discovered that buffalo grass sod that covered the prairie was good building material.
According to the settlers, it was best to obtain the sod after a soaking rain or snow. Builders cut straight "bricks" 2 1/4" thick and 12" long. Because the walls settled so much, windows and doors were framed first and walls built around them. After the walls were up, forks of trees were placed at each end and in the middle. Rails were laid from the walls to the pole and then covered with anything available (sorghum stalks, willow switches, straw, etc) to keep the sod roof dirt from falling through the rafters. If a settler had the money, the ceiling would be covered in muslin to combat the dirt problem. The roof was constructed of pine or cottonwood boards, covered with a layer of sod. Tar paper was placed between the boards to help control leaks. Oftentimes, the interior walls were plastered with a mixture of sand and native clay and then whitewashed. This tended to keep down the bedbugs. Wooden floors were used to help keep down fleas.
The last area of this particular museum was devoted to the radio and television show "Gunsmoke." Do you remember listening to Gunsmoke on the radio before it became a hit on television? The man responsible for writing most of the scripts -- John Meston -- decided to expand his passion for western fiction by writing about an actual location known for its rough and untamed past -- Dodge City, Kansas.
"Around Dodge City and in the territory of the West, there is only one way to handle the killers and the spoilers, and that's with a US Marshall and the smell of Gunsmoke, starring William Conrad. The transcribed story of the violence that moved West with young America and the story of the man who moved with it."
We are truly enjoying our journey. Every day we talk about how blessed we are to have this opportunity -- so many people do not have the chance to visit such interesting places and learn so much about our great land. We hope whoever reads our blog will also enjoy our adventures.
Stay tuned for Dodge City, Kansas, Part II -- in the meantime, may God continue to bless our voyage and may God bless our family and friends.