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Boot Hill


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Boot Hill was the name given to the cemetery in Dodge City. It was so-called because so many men were killed during acts of violence and therefore "died with their boots on". Later Boot Hill became the name of most cemeteries in wild west towns.


The Original Boot Hill Dodge City’s cowtown history is finally captured well in a new tome.

In the streets of a Kansas prairie town on an evening in mid-1872, a familiar pattern unfolded-a crowd gathered, somebody fired a gun and somebody responded in kind.

History is not clear on what happened. A tall black man called Tex (or Black Jack, or both) was standing in the street in front of a saloon, taking in the action, not hurting anybody or anything. Behind and above him, on top of the platform entrance to the watering hole, a gambler named Denver pulled his pistol and senselessly shot Tex in the head.

The killer got clean away. Years later, Denver said he shot Tex “just to see him kick.”

After the victim kicked off, the body lay in the street for a time. Finally, some folks took the corpse up to a nearby rise and buried Tex.

Tex was allegedly the first man killed in Dodge City who took up residence in Boot Hill. He wouldn’t be the last.

In fact, reports say that another 15 victims of violence were buried in the unofficial cemetery in the next 18 months alone. They were buried with their boots on—hence the name of the not-so-hallowed ground.

A lot of Old West towns had cemeteries called Boot Hill, but they stole the name from Dodge City. Boot Hill became a major figure in the history of the cattle town—a story told in one of the first books written about the city, Robert Wright’s Dodge City, the Cowboy Capital. The classic may have finally met its match: William Shillingberg’s new book Dodge City: The Early Years, 1872-1886 (Arthur H. Clark Co.) is probably the most comprehensive look at the famous burg in its formative period.

The original Boot Hill was a slapdash affair. No neat rows of headstones marking the final resting place of the dearly departed—holes were dug in haphazard fashion all over the hill. Not all had coffins several lacked markers. Nobody was quite sure just how many bodies were interred there, let alone the identities of the deceased.

But we know about a few of them.

Billy “Bully” Brooks was a hard case with a chip on his shoulder. The town fathers thought he was tough enough to deal with folks of a similar bent, so they appointed him a Dodge City deputy in 1872. The details are a bit fuzzy, but he may have killed five men in the course of duty—all of whom ended up in Boot Hill. Billy himself was planted near Caldwell. Seems he couldn’t run from his own nature, and by late 1873 he was riding the outlaw trail, stealing horses and causing mayhem. Vigilantes strung him up in the summer of ’74.

Jack Wagner was a drunken cowboy disarmed by Marshal Ed Masterson in the spring of 1878. But Wagner got another gun and mortally wounded the lawman. One of the Mastersons—either Ed or brother Bat—managed to shoot Wagner, who died the next day. Wagner went to Boot Hill. Ed Masterson was buried in another local cemetery.

By that time, Boot Hill was notorious across the country. It was also prime real estate, just begging for development. But builders were skittish about the place and refused to pony up the cash for it. Ford County decided to build the area’s first public school on the site it opened in 1880.

Most of the bodies—about 50 of them, only one woman among them—were moved to other local graveyards. Reports state that some of the remains were not wearing their boots the footwear had been placed like pillows under the heads of the dead.

A museum now stands on the site, a one-block re-creation of what Dodge City’s main street looked like back in the 1870s. It includes a small section of tombstones—not real ones, just representations of what once was.

Dodge’s Boot Hill is dead and long gone. But you can’t bury a great name and interesting legend, can you?

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Boot Hill Museum/Historic Dodge City

Boot Hill Museum and Historic Dodge City are one of the 8 Wonders of Kansas History because the Santa Fe Trail, buffalo traders, cattle drives, and lawmen made the city famous then -- and now.



The original Front Street and recreation at Boot Hill Museum. Photo courtesy Boot Hill Museum
In the 1870s and 1880s, Dodge City was known as the "wildest, wickedest and woolliest" of the cowtowns as well as the "Queen of the Cowtowns". Today, the Boot Hill Museum, located on the original site of the Boot Hill Cemetery, provides visitors with a trip of nostalgia that takes you back to when Dodge City was the center for the buffalo hunters and a major shipping point for the millions of Texas longhorn cattle that came up the well known Western Cattle Trail and other famous trails.

From 1872-1874, an estimated 850,000 buffalo hides were shipped from Dodge City. By 1875, the buffalo were gone but the Longhorn cattle of Texas soon took their place. From 1875 to 1886, over 5,000,000 cattle were driven up the Western Trail from Texas to Dodge City and shipped on the railroad.

Boot Hill Museum can trace its roots back to the 1920s when a local doctor created a cemetery setting on the original Boot Hill Cemetery site for a Rotary Convention. From that illustrious beginning, the Jaycees, in 1947, established the first Boot Hill Museum building. In 1958, the first buildings of the Front Street Replica were built. As the original Front Street buildings had been destroyed by fire in 1885, this would give visitors an opportunity to walk on the boardwalk and to relive Dodge City of that era. As the Museum and Front Street grew, the famous Long Branch Variety show was created in 1957 to entertain visitors and is one of the longest running seasonal variety shows in the nation.


Actors from the long running TV series, "Gunsmoke" appear at an event in Dodge City. Photo courtesy Boot Hill Museum
The significant artifact collection at Boot Hill Museum gives a detailed and personal description of those early day families and how they lived during the 1870s through the turn of the century. Most of the artifacts were collected by the Beeson family, one of the pioneer families, who had their own private museum for many years and Boot Hill Museum acquired this collection when the Beeson Museum closed in the 1960s. The informative exhibits cover the periods of the Native Americans of this area, the Santa Fe Trail and Fort Dodge, the AT&SF Railroad, the buffalo hunters, the cowboys, along with a "Gunsmoke" exhibit to articulate the significance this long running television program with Matt Dillon and Miss Kitty. Many of the Front Street Replica buildings from the General Store to the Alhambra Saloon, were renovated in the 1980s to provide visitors with a more accurate look at what the cowboys saw when they came to Dodge City in the 1870s and 1880s. Another popular exhibit updated in 2002 is the extensive gun collection featuring guns owned by Bat Masterson, Bill Tighlman, and Ben Thompson as well as weapons used by the buffalo hunters. The "People of the Plains" received a major renovation in 2004.

A church representing the Union Church, the first church in Dodge City, is the newest exhibit and provides an interesting history regarding the development and structures of the churches of that period.

Boot Hill Museum also owns and maintains a handicapped accessible site, interpreted by the National Park Service, featuring Santa Fe Trail ruts, nine miles west of Dodge City on U.S. 50/56 near Howell. This site provides visitors with an excellent view of some very best preserved trail ruts of the historic Santa Fe Trail.

Boot Hill Museum is a private 501(c)3 charitable organization.

Open Memorial Day to Labor Day daily 8 a.m.-8 p.m. Rest of year Monday-Saturday 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday 1-5 p.m.

Admission charge : Adults $10 children 5-10 $8. More information on pricing.

Rifle belonging to infamous gunman and lawman, Ben Thompson.

VISITOR INFORMATION CENTER, 400 W. Wyatt Earp Blvd.
Pick up your walking and/or driving tour of historic sites in Dodge City. Open June-August daily 8:30 a.m.-6:30 p.m. September-May Monday-Friday 8:30 a.m.- 5 p.m.

DODGE CITY TRAIL OF FAME & WYATT EARP STATUE, W. Wyatt Earp.
An eight-foot bronze sculpture of the famous Dodge City Lawman is the center piece of the Trail of Fame . The trail is marked by several medallions.


Photo courtesy Boot Hill Museum
EL CAPITAN , Second and W. Wyatt Earp.
A bronze statue by Jasper D'Ambrosi commemorates the 1870s/1880s Texas cattle drives to Dodge City.

HISTORIC TROLLEY TOURS, Third & W. Wyatt Earp.
Visit places where history was made at Fort Dodge, the Home of Stone, other old west locations and cattle stockyards on an hour-long narrated historic site tour. Daily tours Memorial Weekend through mid-August. Admission charge. More information .

FORT DODGE, E. Hwy. U.S. 154/400.
The Fort, located 5 miles east of Dodge City on U.S. 154/400, served as a supply depot and base of operation against warring Indians from 1865-1882. It is now a Kansas Soldiers Home. Museum open daily 1-4 p.m. Self-guided walking tour signs on grounds. More information.

LONGHORN PARK, 1 mile east of Dodge City on U.S. 50/56 at airport entrance.
The park features a small herd of longhorn cattle commemorating Dodge City's role in the cattle drives.

The Kansas Sampler Foundation is a public non-profit 501(C)(3) organization. Our mission is to preserve and sustain rural culture by educating Kansans about Kansas and networking and supporting rural communities. The goal is to keep every town viable that shows the will and spirit to help itself.


Tombstone’s Cemetery: Boothill

During the wild and lawless years of the settling of the West, some sort of graveyard could be found near almost every town or camp. Because many of the people in those settlements died rather quickly and unexpectedly, usually with their boots on, and were buried with their boots still on, these cemeteries became known as ‘boot hills.’ The first and most famous of them all is Tombstone’s Boothill, which was laid out as a burial plot in 1878 and was originally called the Tombstone Cemetery. On that rocky hill at the edge of town lie many of the legendary characters of the ‘Town Too Tough To Die.’

When the rest of the world heard in the late 1870s that Ed Schieffelin had found a mountain of silver worth $85 million in the middle of Apache country, newcomers flocked in droves to the new boom town in Arizona Territory. Tombstone had no law except that of the gun and knife, and Boothill’s population grew quickly.

Then as today, Boothill lies thickly covered with mesquite, cactus, ocotillo, and crucifixion thorn. Narrow piles of rocks mark the final resting places facing the Dragoon Mountains. At the head of each grave stands a small marker with an epitaph giving the name of the occupant, the date he or she ceased to be, and sometimes the cause of death. Naturally, there are a multitude of reasons as to how the occupants came to lie under these narrow mounds of rock on this wind-swept hill.

A number of graves are marked ‘UNKNOWN,’ and there is no possible way to identify who lies in them. In most cases the identities were unknown at the time of burial. Tombstone was the wildest of boom towns, and strangers poured into the area daily. They carried no identification cards and often used aliases. The stories of these unknowns have been forgotten, but there are plenty of ‘knowns’ in Boothill whose stories live on. Here are some of them:

John Hicks claimed his plot in Boothill early in the game. He had the distinction of being the first man buried there in a white shirt. During an 1879 gunfight with Jerry McCormick and a miner named Jackson, John Hicks was killed and his brother Boyce was wounded in the head and blinded for life. John Hicks did not live to see Tombstone reach its peak. In just two more years, it would grow to have more saloons (110), more gambling halls (14), and more untimely deaths than any other town in the nation.

On July 24, 1880, T.J. Waters did two things he bought a new black-and-blue plaid shirt and then he got drunk. Little did he realize that the brightly colored shirt would cause his death. Friendly comments about his shirt from the men on Whiskey Row raised Waters’ ire. Finally, he said, ‘Now, if any man here don’t like my shirt, let him get up. I’m boss here, and I’ll knock any man down who opens his mouth about my shirt again!’

Unaware that these words had been spoken, E.L. Bradshaw entered the saloon, smiled and commented about the shirt. Waters struck him a powerful blow, rendering him unconscious. Bradshaw recovered and found a gun. He located Waters in the doorway of Corrigan’s saloon and shot him four times. Waters was falling at the second shot and was dead at the fourth. Bradshaw was arrested and brought before Judge Gray, but the times being what they were, he went free. Waters went to Boothill.

In 1887, gunman ‘Buckskin Frank’ Leslie found himself a new girlfriend, buxom Mollie Williams. There was just one problem–her current boyfriend was E.L. Bradshaw. The problem seemed to he solved one morning when Bradshaw turned up in an alley with a hole through his head. Many believe that Leslie had killed him to get Mollie. Buckskin Frank never denied shooting him…but he never admitted it, either. Bradshaw took his place in an unmarked grave in Boothill, and no more was ever said about the incident.

Johnny Blair was a member of the ‘Double’ Dobe Gang. He was out rustling cattle when he contracted smallpox. Two of his outlaw friends took him to a Mexican woman who was immune to the dreaded disease. She cared for him about a week before she proclaimed him ‘very dead.’

One of Blair’s friends went out to Boothill and dug the grave. The other rode up to the cabin and dropped a rope over the feet and around the ankles of the dead man. When he was certain the rope was secure, he dallied its other end around his saddle horn, and spurred his horse to start the funeral procession. It was quite likely the fastest ever seen in the old silver camp. At his waiting grave, Blair was hastily covered with a foot of Arizona dirt and rock. His epitaph tells the story all right: ‘JOHNNY BLAIR. DIED OF SMALLPOX. COWBOY THREW ROPE OVER FEET AND DRAGGED HIM TO HIS GRAVE.’

Charley Storms was rated by Wyatt Earp as one of the deadliest guns in the West. What caused his dispute with Luke Short in Tombstone lies forgotten in the musty records of history. Short was frequently called the ‘undertaker’s friend.’ He did not stay long in Tombstone but was there long enough to send Storms on his way to Boothill.

At the time of the gunfight on February 25, 1881, Short was dealing faro at the Oriental. Storms appeared, drunk, waving a loaded pistol about. After a brief argument with Short, he called him out into the street, telling him he was going to kill him. When the two met in front of the Oriental, both were rated as top-notch gunmen. Charley Storms was considered better with a six-shooter than Short…until their duel.

Storms offered Short the shot and Short took it, shooting him twice through the chest. Down with a fatal wound, Storms still managed to fire several times, but not accurately enough. Luke Short holstered his gun and returned to his interrupted faro game, leaving the corpse in the street. The losing gunman now sports a marker that simply reads: ‘CHARLEY STORMS, SHOT BY LUKE SHORT 1881.’

Billy Claibourne, 19, shot and killed James Hickey in nearby Charleston on October 1, 1881. Hickey was drunk, feeling mean, and reckoned the kid would add an easy notch to his gun. Consequently he followed Claibourne around, daring him to fight. Billy left Ben Wood’s Saloon and crossed the street to J.B. Ayer’s Saloon, with the taunting Hickey right behind. Again Claibourne left because of Hickey, and headed toward Harry Queen’s Saloon.

Hickey stopped him before he could enter Harry Queen’s. Claibourne said, ‘Stay away from me!’ With those words he pulled his six- shooter and fired. A blue hole appeared between Hickey’s eyes, and he slumped to the board sidewalk. Constable Clark arrested Claibourne, who stood trial in Tombstone, but was acquitted because of Hickey’s harassment.

‘Old Man’ Clanton and five other men were bringing a herd of cattle up from Mexico in August 1881 when they were ambushed. Only two men escaped with their lives the rest were shot down. Clanton and the other dead men were taken to Cloverdale and buried. Early the next spring, Ike and Phin Clanton moved their father’s body to Boothill so that he would be near their brother Billy Clanton. Billy met his end on October 26, 1881, when three of the Earp brothers–Wyatt, Morgan and Virgil–and Doc Holliday met near Hafford’s Saloon, walked down Fourth Street to Fremont Street, to the neighborhood of the O.K. Corral, and into the bloody pages of Tombstone’s history. A confrontation with Tom and Frank McLaury and Ike and Billy Clanton occurred in the vacant lot beside Fly’s boardinghouse. Guns roared and thundered for 30 seconds, leaving Billy and both McLaurys dead. On the opposing side, Morgan Earp was shot through, shoulder to shoulder, and Virgil Earp had a painful wound in the calf of his leg. The dead men were given an impressive funeral and were laid to rest in Boothill.:

Another marker up there reads: ‘Margarita, STABBED BY GOLD DOLLAR.. The latter was the business name of a prostitute known as Little Gertie, the Gold Dollar, : who was blonde, pretty, petite, and particularly fond of pretty coins. She was living with a dance hall cowboy named Billy Milgreen. Another prostitute, dark-eyed, sultry Margarita, tried to cut in on Billy, and succeeded in taking him away from Gold Dollar. Little Gertie kicked up a fuss about losing her man, and Margarita turned nasty. Gold Dollar slid a hand under her skirt and came out with a wicked-looking knife that she planted just below Margarita’s wishbone Then all there was left to do was hold the funeral and put up the marker.

Possibly the most remarkable epitaph in Boothill reads: ‘M.E. KELLOGG, 1882. DIED A NATURAL DEATH.’ Not many who did likewise are to be found in Boothill.

When Morgan Earp was murdered in a Tombstone pool hall on March 18,1882, a coroner’s jury determined that the murderers were Frank Stilwell, Indian Charlie, Pete Spencer, Joe Doe Freis and an unidentified Indian. Wyatt, infuriated at the killing of his younger brother Morgan and the earlier crippling of his older brother Virgil, rode a bloody trail of revenge. Wyatt and his posse killed Stilwell in Tucson on March 20, 1882. Two days later they rode to Pete Spencer’s woodcutter camp at South Pass in the Dragoon Mountains. Spencer was not at the camp, but Florentino Cruz was. Wyatt and his posse shot him full of holes and left him there. Taken into Tombstone, he was buried in Boothill.

Billy Claibourne, who in October 1881 had killed James Hickey and witnessed the O.K. Corral gunfight, had a deadly enemy in Buckskin Frank Leslie. One morning Claibourne stood outside the Oriental, waiting with rifle in hand for Leslie. Instead of going out the front, Leslie stepped out a side door on Fifth ‘Street and shot Billy in the side. Claibourne’s rifle fired once but only chewed splinters from the boardwalk. Buckskin Frank Leslie’s most recent victim earned a bit of immortality under the marker that says, ‘WM. CLAIBOURNE SHOT BY FRANK LESLIE 1882.’

Two years earlier Leslie had put a new grave m Boothill by shooting Mike Killen. He had met Mrs. Killen, the Commercial Hotel housekeeper, at a dance. She was separated from her husband, but he still objected to Leslie escorting her home late at night. When he found the two together on the front porch, he objected loudly. His objections earned him a long rest under a marker: ‘KILLEN 1880. SHOT BY LESLIE,’ and Buckskin Frank Leslie married the buxom widow a few days later.

One mound is marked with the simple epitaph reading, ‘DUTCH ANNIE 1883.’ The words don’t reveal very much, but quite a story lies beneath those rocks. As frequently is the case, no one ever knew her by any name other than Dutch Annie. Many a miner, broke and desperate, was grubstaked by this friend to all. When she went to her eternal rest, more than 1,000 people followed the coffin, paying tribute to Dutch Annie–Queen of the Red Light District!

On February 23,1883, William Kinsman was standing in front of the Oriental Saloon on Allen Street when May Woodman walked up and shot him. Some wag had put a notice in the Epitaph that Kinsman intended to marry Woodman, with whom he had been living. Kinsman had countered by running his own ad in the Epitaph, stating that he had no intentions of marrying May Woodman. Big mistake.

Woodman was sentenced to five years for killing Kinsman–but she apparently was so hard to deal with in the Yuma Territorial Prison that the acting governor pardoned her after she had served less than one year. Her victim resides in Boothill.

Lester Moore was employed as a Wells, Fargo Co. station agent in the border town of Naco. Hank Dunstan showed up to claim a package one afternoon. He received it, but it was thoroughly mangled. An argument ensued, and both Moore and Dunstan reached for their six shooters. When the smoke cleared, Les Moore lay dead behind his window with four .44 slugs in his chest. Dunstan, too, lay dying, a hole blasted through his ribs by the one shot Moore had been able to get off before he collapsed. Les Moore was given a space in Boothill and an epitaph that has made him famous: ‘HERE LIES LESTER MOORE, FOUR SLUGS FROM A 44, NO LES NO MORE.’ There is no evidence to indicate where Dunstan was buried.

On December 8, 1883, Dan Dowd, C.W. Sample, Dan Kelly, William Delaney and Tex Howard held up the general store in Bisbee. While two of the five robbed the store, the other three shot up the street outside, killing several people. It was discovered that John Heath, a Bisbee saloon owner, had masterminded the robbery. Eventually all six men were arrested and wound up in the Tombstone calaboose. The five robbers were sentenced to hang. However, Heath, who demanded a separate trial, was given life in the Yuma pen. At this sentence, the whole county became enraged.

Early on the morning of February 22, 1884, 50 armed men rode up to the Tombstone jail and took the prisoner Heath from Sheriff Ward. Half an hour later the lynch mob departed, leaving Heath dangling from a telegraph pole on Second Street. The other five were left in jail to let the law take its course. The five of them have one common epitaph that states they were legally hanged March 8, 1884. Heath’s epitaph relates that he was taken from the county jail and lynched by a Bisbee mob.

In 1886 a Mexico-Arizona train was held up a short distance out of Nogales. The bandits shot the train crew. Two of the outlaws, Manuel Robles and Neves Deron, decided to hide out at the camp of Manuel’s brother Guadalupe Robles. An honest, hard-working woodcutter, Guadalupe had his camp in French Joe Canyon in the Whetstone Mountains. Reluctantly, he agreed to hide the two until they could leave the country.

Cochise County Sheriff John Slaughter was a man who received a great deal of information, and it was not long until he knew where the two he sought had gone into hiding. Slaughter, Burt Alvord and one other deputy raided the hide-out one morning at daybreak. In the uncertain light, the lawmen shot at anything that moved. Consequently, when Guadalupe Robles and Deron ran out of the camp toward him, Slaughter shot them both. Manuel Robles was seriously wounded by Alvord’s shots, but still managed to get to a horse and escape. His innocent brother, Guadalupe, was planted in Boothill along with Deron.

One Boothill headstone and epitaph is a little different. It is the grave site of a former slave who outlived most of the good, the bad, the ugly and any others who happened along the streets of Tombstone. The old black man was Sheriff John Slaughter’s servant, and his epitaph reads: ‘JOHN SWAIN (SLAUGHTER) BORN JUNE 1846, FORMER SLAVE WHO CAME TO TOMBSTONE 1879, DIED FEB. 8,1946. ERECTED BY THE PERSONNEL AT FORT HUACHUCA AND FRIENDS OF TOMBSTONE IN MEMORY OF A WORTHY PIONEER.’

China Mary was the wife of Ah Lum, co-owner of the Can-Can Restaurant with Quong Keel Ah Lum was also the ‘Worshipful Master of the Chinese Masonic Lodge.’ China Mary was the absolute ruler of ‘Hoptown’ and all its denizens. She not only ruled them but also virtually owned them body and soul. Her word and her decisions were undisputed law, and none disobeyed. It was extremely unusual for a woman, any woman, to occupy such a position in the American West.

No Chinese could be hired except through China Mary none could be paid: except through China Mary. She also controlled Chinese prostitution and all the opium trade in town. She owned an interest in most Chinese businesses in Tombstone, too.

In spite of all her shady operations and the fact that she was Chinese, Mary was respected and well-liked in Tombstone. She would lend money to anyone who impressed her as honest and hard-working. No sick, injured or hungry person was ever turned from her door. She once took a cowboy with a broken leg to the Grand Central Boarding House and paid the bill until he recovered. At her death, a large number of people attended her burial in the Chinese section of Boothill. Her funeral had all the pomp and ceremony of a lavish Chinese extravaganza.

Three legendary characters of Tombstone who avoided spending eternity in Boothill were Doc Holliday, John Slaughter and Wyatt Earp. Holliday, probably Tombstone’s most cold-nerved gunman, died of tuberculosis in Glenwood Springs, Colo., six years after the gunfight at the O.K. Corral. As he lay dying, he said, ‘This is funny.’ Likely he meant it was funny for him to die peacefully in bed rather than in the midst of roaring guns.

Slaughter also died peacefully in bed. He had served four years, 1886-1890, as sheriff of Cochise County. During that time very little was spent on prisoners because Slaughter very seldom brought any back. Mostly, he left them lying where he found them. His quick gun turned the county from a haven for two bit outlaws to a place of law and order. Just before he died in Douglas, Ariz., in 1927, Slaughter said: ‘Don’t bury me in Boothill. I don’t want to be buried there because Tombstone will be a ghost town.’ His wish was granted, and he lies in the Douglas cemetery.

Wyatt Earp lived in many places after leaving Arizona Territory in 1882. He settled in Los Angeles m 1906, dying there on January 13,1929. He was cremated, and his wife, Josephine Sarah Marcus Earp, had his ashes buried in a family tomb in a Jewish cemetery at Colma, Calif., near Oakland. In fact, none of the Earp brothers are buried in Tombstone.

Ed Schieffelin, the man who brought Tombstone into existence, was another who did not wish to be buried in Boothill. He left instructions to bury him on a nearby hill where he had first found traces of rich silver ore. His pick, shovel and canteen are buried beside him amid the cholla and prickly pear.

Boothill was used until late in 1884, at which time the new ‘City Cemetery’ on Allen Street came into use. For a while after that, Boothill was called ‘the Old Cemetery’ and was almost totally neglected. Much of it was soon reclaimed by nature. The original markers were round-topped wooden slabs that eventually either rotted away, were burned in tramps’ campfires, or were stolen by souvenir hunters. In 1923, the City of Tombstone contacted old-timers who could tell them where their relatives and friends were buried. New wooden head markers were placed at the graves they indicated.

During the 1940s, Emmet Nunnelley saw the historic value of Boothill and requested that the City Council allow him to restore and preserve it. Metal markers were used to replace the old wooden ones that had, for the most part, disappeared. Harry Fulton Ohm, owner of the Bird Cage Theater, provided the new steel markers from his plant in Indiana. As the new markers were placed, each grave history was checked with relatives, friends, older residents and historical society records for accuracy. Tombstone’s Boothill has been preserved as it is seen today through the hard work of several Tombstone citizens, especially Nunnelley, who asked that he be buried there. His request was granted.

Ben T. Traywick, a longtime contributor and friend to Wild West Magazine, is Tombstone’s town historian. He has written and published many historical books about the Old West. For further reading, try his book Tombstone’s Boothill, which was first published in 1971 but has since been updated several times.

For more great articles be sure to subscribe to Wild West magazine today!


Legends of America

By Robert M. Wright in 1913

Dodge City Boot Hill Cemetery, courtesy Boot Hill Museum

The first man killed in Dodge City was a big, tall, black negro by the name of Tex, and who, though a little fresh, was inoffensive. He was killed by a gambler named Denver. Mr. Kelly had a raised platform in front of his house, and the darky was standing in front and below, in the street, during some excitement. There was a crowd gathered, and some shots were fired over the heads of the crowds when this gambler fired at Texas and he fell dead. No one knew who fired the shot and they all thought it was an accident, but years afterward the gambler bragged about it. Some say it was one of the most unprovoked murders ever committed, and that Denver had not the slightest cause to kill, but did it out of pure cussedness when no one was looking. Others say the men had an altercation of some kind, and Denver shot him for fear Tex would get the drop on him. Anyhow, no one knew who killed him, until Denver bragged about it, a long time afterward, and a long way from Dodge City, and said he shot him in the top of the head just to see him kick.

The first big killing was down in Tom Sherman’s dance hall, some time afterward, between gamblers and soldiers from the fort, in which row, I think, three or four were killed and several wounded. One of the wounded crawled off into the weeds where he was found next day, and, strange to say, he got well, although he was shot all to pieces. There was not much said about this fight, I think because a soldier by the name of Hennessey was killed. He was a bad man and the bully of the company, and I expect they thought he was a good riddance.

Before this fight, there was “a man for breakfast,” to use a common expression, every once in a while, and this was kept up all through the winter of 1872. It was a common occurrence in fact, so numerous were the killings that it is impossible to remember them all, and I shall only note some of them.

A man by the name of [William “Billy”] Brooks, acting assistant-marshal, shot Browney, the yard-master, through the head-over a girl, of course, by the name of Captain Drew. Browney was removed to an old deserted room at the Dodge House, and his girl, Captain Drew, waited on him, and indeed she was a faithful nurse. The ball entered the back of his head, and one could plainly see the brains and bloody matter oozing out of the wound until it mattered over. One of the finest surgeons in the United States army attended him. About the second day after the shooting, I went with this surgeon to see him.

He and his girl were both crying he was crying for something to eat she was crying because she could not give it to him. She said: “Doctor, he wants fat bacon and cabbage and potatoes and fat greasy beef, and says he’s starving.” The doctor said to her: “Oh, well, let him have whatever he wants. It is only a question of time, and short time, for him on earth, but it is astonishing how strong he keeps. You see, the ball is in his head, and if I probe for it, it will kill him instantly.”

Now there was no ball in his head. The ball entered one side of his head and came out the other, just breaking one of the brain or cell pans at the back of his head, and this only was broken. The third day and the fourth day he was alive, and the fifth day they took him east to a hospital. As soon as the old blood and matter was washed off, they saw what was the matter, and he soon got well and was back at his old job in a few months.

A hunter by the name of Kirk Jordan and Brooks had a shooting scrape on the street. Kirk Jordan had his big buffalo gun and would have killed Brooks, but the latter jumped behind a barrel of water. The ball, they say, went through the barrel, water and all, and came out on the other side, but it had lost its force. We hid Brooks under a bed, in a livery stable, until night, when I took him to the fort, and he made the fort siding next day and took the train for the East. I think these lessons were enough for him, as he never came back. Good riddance for everybody.

Soiled Dove or Prostitute

These barrels of water were placed along the principal streets for protection from fire, but they were big protection in several shooting scrapes. These shooting scrapes, the first year, ended in the death of twenty-five, and perhaps more than double that number wounded. All those killed died with their boots on and were buried on Boot Hill, but few of the number in coffins, on account of the high price of lumber caused by the high freight rates. Boot Hill is the highest and about the most prominent hill in Dodge City and is near the center of the town. It derived its name from the fact that it was the burying ground, in the early days, of those who died with their boots on. There were about thirty persons buried there, all with their boots on and without coffins. Now, to protect ourselves and property, we were compelled to organize a Vigilance Committee. Our very best citizens promptly enrolled themselves, and, for a while, it fulfilled its mission to the letter and acted like a charm, and we were congratulating ourselves on our success. The committee only had to resort to extreme measures a few times and gave the hard characters warning to leave town, which they promptly did. But what I was afraid would happen did happen. I had pleaded and argued against the organization for this reason, namely: hard, bad men kept creeping in and joining until they outnumbered the men who had joined it for the public good — until they greatly outnumbered the good members, and when they felt themselves in power, they proceeded to use that power to avenge their grievances and for their own selfish purposes, until it was a farce as well as an outrage on common decency. They got so notoriously bad and committed so many crimes, that the good members deserted them, and the people arose in their might and put a stop to their doings. They had gone too far and saw their mistake after it was too late.

The last straw was the cold-blooded, brutal murder of a polite, inoffensive, industrious negro named Taylor, who drove a hack between the fort and Dodge City. Whilst Taylor was in a store, making purchases, a lot of drunken fellows got into his wagon and was driving it off. When Taylor ran out and tried to stop them, they say a man, by the name of Scotty, shot him, and, after Taylor fell, several of them kept pumping lead into him. This created a big row, as the negro had been a servant for Colonel Richard I. Dodge, commander of the fort, who took up his cause and sent some of them to the penitentiary.

Scotty got away and was never heard of afterward.

When railroads and other companies wanted fighting men (or gunmen, as they are now called), to protect their interests, they came to Dodge City after them, and here they could sure be found. Large sums of money were paid out to them, and here they came back to spend it.

Cowboys at water tank in Dodge City, Kansas.

This all added to Dodge’s notoriety, and many a bunch of gunmen went from Dodge City. Besides these men being good shots, they did not know what fear was — they had been too well trained by experience and hardships. The buffalo hunters lived on the prairie or out in the open, enduring all kinds of weather, and living on wild game, often without bread, and scarcely ever did they have vegetables of any description. Strong, black coffee was their drink, as water was scarce and hardly ever pure, and they were often out for six months without seeing inside of a house. The cowboys were about as hardy and wild, as they, too, were in the open for months without coming in contact with civilization, and when they reached Dodge City, they made Rome howl. The freighters were about the same kind of animals, perfectly fearless. Most of these men were naturally brave, and their manner of living made them more so. Indeed, they did not know fear or any such thing as sickness-poorly fed and poorer clad but they enjoyed good pay for the privations they endured, and when these three elements got together, with a few drinks of red liquor under their belts, you could reckon there was something doing. They feared neither God, man, nor the devil, and so reckless they would pit themselves, like Ajax, against lightning, if they ran into it.

It had always been the cowboys’ boast as well as delight to intimidate the officers of every town on the trail, run the officers out of town, and run the town themselves, shooting up buildings, through doors and windows, and even at innocent persons on the street, just for amusement, but not so in Dodge. They only tried it a few times, and they got such a dose, they never attempted it again. You see, here the cowboys were up against a tougher crowd than themselves and equally as brave and reckless, and they were the hunters, and freighters — “bull-whackers” and “mule-skinners,” they were called. The good citizens of Dodge were wise enough to choose officers who were equal to the emergency. The high officials of the Santa Fe Railroad wrote me several times not to choose such rough officers — to get nice, gentlemanly, young fellows to look after the welfare of Dodge and enforce its laws.

I promptly answered them back that you must fight the devil with fire, and, if we put in a tenderfoot for marshal, they would run him out of town. We had to put in men who were good shots and would sure go to the front when they were called on, and these desperadoes knew it. The last time the cowboys attempted to run the town, they had chosen their time well. Along late in the afternoon was the quiet time in Dodge the marshal took his rest then, for this reason. So the cowboys tanked up pretty well, jumped their horses, and rode recklessly up and down Front Street shooting their guns and firing through doors and windows, and then making a dash for camp. But before they got to the bridge, Jack Bridges, our marshal, was out with a big buffalo gun, and he dropped one of them, his horse went on, and so did the others. It was a long shot and probably a chance one, as Jack was several hundred yards distant.

There was big excitement over this. I said: “Put me on the jury and I will be elected foreman and settle this question forever.” I said to the jury: “We must bring in a verdict of justifiable homicide. We are bound to do this to protect our officers and save further killings. It is the best thing we can do for both sides.” Some argued that these men had stopped their lawlessness, were trying to get back to camp, were nearly out of the town limits, and the officer ought to have let them go and if we returned such a verdict, the stockmen would boycott me, and, instead of my store being headquarters for the stockmen and selling them more than twice the amount of goods that all the other stores sold together, they would quit me entirely and I would sell them nothing.

I said: “I will risk all that. They may be angry at first, but when they reflect that if we had condemned the officer for shooting the cowboy, it would give them encouragement, and they would come over and shoot up the town, regardless of consequences, and in the end, there would be a dozen killed.” I was satisfied the part we took would stop it forever, and so it did. As soon as the stockmen got over their anger, they came to me and congratulated me on the stand I took and said they could see it now in the light I presented it. There was no more shooting up the town. Strict orders were given by the marshal, when cowboys rode in, to take their guns out of the holsters, and bring them across to Wright & Beverley’s store, where a receipt was given for them. And, my! what piles there were of them. At times they were piled up by the hundred. This order was strictly obeyed and proved to be a grand success because many of the cowboys would proceed at once to tank up, and many would have been the killings if they could have got their guns when they were drunk, but they were never given back unless the owners were perfectly sober.

In the spring of 1878, there was a big fight between Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad and the Denver & Rio Grande, to get possession of and hold the Grand Canyon of the Arkansas River where it comes out of the mountains just above Canon City, Colorado. Of course, the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe folks came to Dodge City for fighters and gunmen. It was natural for them to do so, for where in the whole universe were there to be found bitter men for a desperate encounter of this kind.

Dodge City bred such bold, reckless men, and it was their pride and delight to be called upon to do such work. They were quick and accurate on the trigger, and these little encounters kept them in good training. They were called to arms by the railroad agent, Mr. J. H. Phillips. Twenty of the brave boys promptly responded, among whom might be numbered some of Dodge’s most accomplished sluggers and bruisers and dead shots, headed by the gallant Captain Webb. They put down their names with a firm resolve to get to the joint in credible style, in case of danger. The Dodge City Times remarks:

“Towering like a giant among smaller men was one of Erin’s bravest sons whose name is Kinch Riley. Jerry Converse, a Scotchman, descendant from a warlike clan, joined the ranks of war. There were other braves who joined the ranks, but we are unable to get a list of their names. We will bet a ten-cent note they clear the track of every obstruction.”

Which they did in creditable style. Shooting all along the line, and only one man hurt! This does seem marvelous, for the number of shots fired, yet the record is true of the story I am about to relate.

This was one of the most daring and dangerous shooting scrapes that Dodge City has ever experienced, and God knows, she has had many of them.

It seems that Peacock and James Masterson, a second brother of Bat, ran a dance hall together. For some reason, Masterson wanted to discharge their bar-keeper, Al Updegraph, a brother-in-law of Peacock, which Peacock refused to do, over which they had serious difficulty and James Masterson telegraphed his brother, Bat, to come and help him out of his difficulties. I expect he made his story big, for he was in great danger if the threats had been carried out. Bat thought so, at least, for he came at once, with a friend.

Soon after his arrival, he saw Peacock and Updegraph going toward the depot. Bat holloed to them to stop, which I expect they thought a challenge, and each made for the corner of the little calaboose across the street. Bat dropped behind a railroad cut, and the ball opened and it was hot and heavy, for about ten minutes, when parties from each side of the street took a hand. One side was firing across at the other, and vice versa, the combatants being in the center. When Updegraph was supposed to be mortally wounded and his ammunition exhausted, he turned and ran to his side of the street, and, after a little, so did Peacock, when Bat walked back to the opposite side and gave himself up to the officers.

The houses were riddled on each side of the street. Some had three or four balls in them and no one seemed to know who did the shooting, outside of the parties directly concerned. It caused great excitement, at first, but the cooler heads thought discretion was the better part of valor, and, as both parties were to blame, they settled the difficulties amicably, and Bat took his brother away with him. Both parties displayed great courage. They stood up and shot at each other until their ammunition was exhausted. Though all did not contribute directly to the population of Boot Hill, there were many deeds of violence committed in Dodge City’s first ten years of life, that paralleled any which added a subject for interment in that primitive burying ground.

Dodge City in the late 1800’s

Such a case was the shooting of Dora Hand, a celebrated actress. The killing of Dora Hand was an accident still, it was intended for a cold-blooded murder, so was accidental only in the victim that suffered. It seems that Mayor James Kelly and a very rich cattleman’s son, who had marketed many thousand head of cattle in Dodge, during the summer, had a drunken altercation. It did not amount to much, at the time, but, to do the subject justice, they say that Kelly did treat Kennedy badly. Anyhow, Kennedy got the worst of it. This aroused his half-breed nature. He quietly went to Kansas City, bought him the best horse that money could secure, and brought him back to Dodge. In the meantime, Mr. Kelly had left his place of abode, on account of sickness, and Miss Dora Hand was occupying his residence and bed.

Kennedy, of course, was not aware of this. During the night of his return or about four o’clock next morning, he ordered his horse and went to Kelly’s residence and fired two shots through the door, without dismounting, and rode away. The ball struck Miss Hand in the right side under the arm, killing her instantly. She never woke up.

Kennedy took a direction just opposite to his ranch.

The officers had reason to believe who did the killing but did not start in pursuit until the afternoon. The officers in pursuit were Sheriff Masterson, Wyatt Earp, Charles Bassett, Duffy, and William Tilghman, as intrepid a posse as ever pulled a trigger. They went as far as Meade City, where they knew their quarry had to pass and went into camp in a very careless manner. In fact, they arranged so as to completely throw Kennedy off his guard, and he rode right into them when he was ordered three times to throw up his hands. Instead of doing so, he struck his horse with his quirt, when several shots were fired by the officers, one shot taking effect in his left shoulder, making a dangerous wound. Three shots struck the horse, killing him instantly. The horse fell partly on Kennedy, and Sheriff Masterson said, in pulling him out, he had hold of the wounded arm and could hear the bones crunch. Not a groan did Kennedy let out of him, although the pain must have been fearful. And all he said was, “You sons of b—-, I will get even with you for this.” Under the skillful operation of Drs. McCarty and Tremaine, Kennedy recovered, after a long sickness. They took four inches of the bone out, near the elbow. Of course, the arm was useless, but he used the other well enough to kill several people afterward, but finally met his death by someone a little quicker on the trigger than himself. Miss Dora Hand was a celebrated actress and would have made her mark should she have lived.

One Sunday night in October 1883, there was a fatal encounter between two negroes, Henry Hilton and N***er Bill, two as brave and desperate characters as ever belonged to the colored race. Some said they were both struck on the same girl and this was the cause.

Henry was under bonds for murder, of which the following is the circumstances. Negro Henry was the owner of a ranch and a little bunch of cattle. Coming in with a lot of white cowboys, they began joshing Henry, and one of them attempted to throw a rope over him.

Henry warned them he would not stand any such rough treatment if he was a n***er. He did this in a dignified and determined manner. When one rode up and lassoed him, almost jerking him from his horse, Henry pulled his gun and killed him. About half of the cowboys said he was justifiable in killing his man it was self-defense, for if he had not killed him, he would have jerked him from his horse and probably killed Henry.

Negro Bill Smith was equally brave and had been tried more than once. They were both found, locked in each other’s arms (you might say), the next morning, lying on the floor in front of the bar, their empty six-shooters lying by the side of each one. The affair must have occurred sometime after midnight, but no one was on hand to see the fight, and they died without a witness.

T. C. Nixon, the assistant city marshal, was murdered by Dave Mather, known as “Mysterious Dave,” on the evening of July 21st, 1884. The cause of the shooting was on account of an altercation between the two on the Friday evening previous. In this instance, it is alleged, Nixon had fired on Mather, the shot taking no effect.

On the following Monday evening, Mather called to Nixon, and fired the fatal shot. This circumstance is mentioned as one of the cold-blooded deeds, frequently taking place in frontier days. And, as usual, to use the French proverb for the cause, “Search the woman.”

A wild tale of the plains is an account of a horrible crime committed in Nebraska, and the story seems almost incredible. A young Englishman, violating the confidence of his friend, a ranchman, is found in bed with the latter’s wife. This continues for some months until, in the latter part of May 1884, one of the cowboys, who had a grievance against Burbank, surprised him and Mrs. Wilson in a compromising situation and reported it to the woman’s husband, whose jealousy had already been aroused. At night, Burbank was captured while asleep in bed, by Wilson and three of his men, and bound before he had any show to make resistance.

After mutilating him in a shocking manner, Burbank had been stripped of every bit of clothing and bound on the back of a wild bronco, which was started off by a vigorous lashing. Before morning, Burbank became unconscious, and was, therefore, unable to tell anything about his terrible trip.

He thinks the outrage was committed on the night of May 27th, and he was rescued on the morning of June 3rd, which would make seven days that he had been traveling about the plains on the horse’s back, without food or drink, and exposed to the sun and wind. Wilson’s ranch is two hundred miles from the spot where Burbank was found, but it is hardly probable that the bronco took a direct course, and, therefore must have covered many more miles in his wild journey. When fully restored to health, Burbank proposed to make a visit of retaliation on Wilson, but it is unknown what took place.

The young man was unconscious when found, and his recovery was slow. The details, in full, of the story, would lend credence to the tale but this modern Mazeppa suffered a greater ordeal than the orthodox Mazeppa.

This story is vouched for as true, and it is printed in these pages as an example of plains’ civilization.

“Odd characters” would hardly express the meaning of the term, “bad men” — the gun shooters of the frontier days and many of these men had a habitation in Dodge City. There was Wild Bill, who was gentle in manner Buffalo Bill, who was a typical plains gentleman Cherokee Bill, with too many Indian characteristics to be designated otherwise Prairie Dog Dave, uncompromising and turbulent Mysterious Dave, who stealthily employed his time Fat Jack, a jolly fellow and wore good clothes Cock-Eyed Frank, credited with drowning a man at Dodge City Dutch Henry, a man of passive nature, but a slick one in horses and murders and many others too numerous to mention and many of them, no doubt, have paid the penalty of their crimes.

Several times, in these pages, the “dead line” is mentioned. The term had two meanings, in early Dodge phraseology. One was used in connection with the cattle trade the other referred to the deeds of violence which were so frequent in the border town, and was an imaginary line, running east and west, south of the railroad track in Dodge City, having particular reference to the danger of passing this line after nine o’clock of an evening, owing to the vicious character of certain citizens who haunted the south side. If a tenderfoot crossed this “dead” line after the hour named, he was likely to become a “creature of circumstances” and yet, there were men who did not heed the warning, and took their lives in their own hands.

“Wicked Dodge” was frequently done up in prose and verse, and its deeds atoned for in extenuating circumstances but in every phase of betterment the well being was given newspaper mention, for it is stated: “Dodge City is not the town it used to be. That is, it is not so bad a place in the eyes of the people who do not sanction outlawry and lewdness.” But Dodge City progressed in morality and goodness until it became a city of excellent character.

Even the memory of the wild, wicked days will soon be effaced, but, as yet, when one recounts their wild stories and looks upon the scenes of that wildness and wickedness, one can almost fancy the shades of defunct bad men still walking up and down their old haunts and glaring savagely at the insipidity of their present civilized aspect. The “Denver Republican” expresses a similar thought in a certain short poem, thus:

The Two-Gun Man

The Two-Gun Man walked through the town,
And found the sidewalk clear
He looked around, with ugly frown,
But not a soul was near.

The streets were silent.
Loud and shrill,
No cowboy raised a shout
Like panther bent upon the kill,

The Two-Gun Man walked out.
The Two-Gun Man was small and quick
His eyes were narrow slits
He didn’t hail from Bitter Creek,

Nor shoot the town to bits
He drank, alone, deep draughts of sin,
Then pushed away his glass

And silenced was each dance hall’s din,

When by the door he’d pass.
One day, rode forth this man of wrath,
Upon the distant plain,
And ne’er did he retrace his path,

Nor was he seen again
The cowtown fell into decay
No spurred heels pressed its walks
But, through its grass-grown ways, they say,

The Two-Gun Man still stalks.

Compiled and edited by Kathy Weiser/Legends of America, updated February 2018.

Author and Notes: The Beginnings of Dodge City was written by Robert M. Wright in 1913. The article was Chapter seven of his book, Dodge City, The Cowboy Capital, and the Great Southwest: In The Days Of The Wild Indian, The Buffalo, The Cowboy, Dance Halls, Gambling Halls, And Bad Men (now in the public domain.) The article is not 100% verbatim, as minor grammatical and spelling corrections have been made. Wright came west from Maryland at the age of 16, first settling in Missouri. Later he worked as a freighter and became a trader at Fort Dodge. He then settled in Dodge City, where he was known as a farmer, stockman, merchant, and politician. He served as Dodge City’s postmaster, the city’s first mayor, and later represented Ford County in the Legislature for four terms.


Hays, Kansas – Lawless in the Old Days

The county seat of Ellis County, Hays is located a little south of the center of the county at the point where the Union Pacific Railroad crosses Big Creek. When Fort Hays was established in the early part of 1867, and that same year, the Kansas Pacific Railroad planned to make their way to the area, a number of people thought it profitable to establish a townsite. The first was William F. Cody, who had been hunting buffalo for the Kansas Pacific Railroad, and a partner named William Rose, who established the townsite of Rome in June 1867. The town grew quickly and by the end of July, the fledgling settlement boasted over 2,000 citizens.

William F. Cody, aka Buffalo Bill at age 19.

Cody and Rose however would make a fatal mistake when they refused to take on a man named Dr. William Webb as a partner in their townsite venture. Unknown to them, Webb had the authority to establish town sites for the railroad, and when Cody and Rose refused him, he established the Big Creek Land Company, which platted the town of Hays City, on the other side of Big Creek about a mile east of Rome.

A rivalry at once sprang up between the two places, but the railroad company threw its support to Hays City and Buffalo Bill Cody and William Rose were soon giving free lots away to anyone willing to build or erect a tent in the town. Despite their promotional efforts, many of the citizens and businesses of Rome soon moved to nearby Hays City to be closer to the railroad. A year later, there was nothing left of Rome.

Hays City, in the meantime, was prospering as hundreds of people flocked to the new town, especially after the railroad arrived. Within no time, the town boasted numerous businesses and dozens of new houses. Many of those that were previously located in Rome were moved to Hays City, including the Perry Hotel, which was renamed the Gibbs House, and the Moses & Bloomfield general store. In October, another hotel was built by a man named Boggs and a post office was established. Most of the early buildings were frame structures but the first substantial improvement was a stone building used as a drug store. The city’s first newspaper, called the Railway Advance, also was established that first year. For several years, Hays would be the point from which the west and southwest obtained supplies before the railroad was completed to Dodge City. Within a year, the town boasted more than 1,000 residents.

The city had a brief setback when the railroad pushed westward to Sheridan in 1868, and many businesses moved their buildings to the town. While it put a temporary check to the business of Hays, it also had its advantages, as it eliminated from the town, many of its desperate characters.

Hays, like Junction City and Great Bend, was never a major cattle market, but during the time it was the western terminus of the railroad, it had its days of notoriety. It was one of the most stirring, as well as one of the deadliest places in the West. Business was exceedingly lively, as it became the outfitting station for all wagon trains following the Smoky Hill Trail eastward. At the same time, it became the railhead for which thousands of head of cattle were driven northward from Texas to be shipped eastward. Within no time, numerous notorious characters flocked there, giving the place anything but an enviable reputation. Business houses, many of which were only of a temporary character, sprung up like mushrooms, and saloons were opened by the dozens. At the first meeting of the Board of County Commissioners, no less than 37 licenses to sell liquor were granted in two days. For a time it seemed as if all the disreputable characters of both sexes on the frontier were centered in Hays City. Saloons and brothels flourished, and against the characters that frequented these businesses, the better element of the community was powerless.

Hays City was not an exception to other frontier towns that sprung into existence as the railway stretched westward, but the sheer numbers of disreputable characters that came there was a curse to the place. The early history of Hays City is one of bloodshed and the class of desperados placed but very little value on human life.

The town was the scene of many an exploit of Wild Bill Hickok from 1867 to 1869, who served as a “Special Marshal.” Hickok’s character for daring and recklessness, his established reputation for expertness in getting the “drop,” and sureness of aim, made him the dread of others equally bad and reckless as himself. Believing that such a man was the best person to protect the law-abiding people against the thugs, the citizens employed him to help clear the town of lawlessness. While he was employed, he killed two soldiers, two citizens, and wounded several others. After killing the soldiers, he fled to evade military authorities and was next heard of at Abilene.

Hickok however, was far from the worst character that found his way to Hays City during its early days. A man named Jim Curry was one of the most depraved specimens that ever visited the western country. He was said to have been disreputable and wicked, without a single redeeming quality.

No person was safe against his attacks — his murderous weapons aimed at all alike. During his short stay in the city, he killed several black men, some of whom he threw into a dry well and he killed a man named Brady by cutting his throat, after which he threw him into an empty boxcar.

Another time he was going up the street, and meeting a quiet, inoffensive youth, named Estes, who was about 18 years old, told him to throw up his hands. The youth begged that he would not kill him, but the villain, deaf to all such appeals, placed a revolver to the boy’s breast and sent a bullet through his heart, stepped over his dead body, and walked away.

This cowardly act aroused the citizens, and they then determined to protect themselves, dealing out vigilante-style punishment upon all offenders against life and property. This action had the effect of driving many of the evil-doers away but a great deal had to be accomplished before the town would be tamed.

Not the least of those transactions which darken the pages of this city’s history was an event that occurred in 1869. That year, the government had accumulated more military supplies at Fort Hays than could be stored in the room provided, and a large quantity were piled alongside the track, covered with a tarpaulin. To prevent the goods from being stolen, two watchmen looked over them, relieving each other at midnight. The name of one of the watchmen was John Hays. One night while Hays was on duty, he stepped across the street to Tommy Drumm’s saloon to see what time it was at about midnight. Just as he was about to open the door, three black soldiers came along, one of whom shot Hays dead. These soldiers belonged to the Thirty-eighth Infantry, at that time stationed at Fort Hays, and had come to town that evening and became intoxicated. While in this condition they undertook to enter a brothel but were refused admission and began to raise a ruckus. They then went to a barber’s shop, where they began to smash things up and caused the black barber to flee for safety.

They then resolved to go out and kill the first man they met, and Hays was, unfortunately, the first man they saw — unceremoniously shooting and killing him. Next morning the barber related to the sheriff how the three soldiers had acted in his shop and what he had heard them say, whereupon the sheriff, taking the barber with him to identify the soldiers, went to the fort to arrest the men. The troops were drawn up in line, the three soldiers identified and arrested.

The murderers were then locked in a cellar in Hays City to await further examination the following morning. However, that evening, they were taken from the cellar by vigilantes, who took them to the trestle-work that crosses a ravine about 400 yards west of the depot, where ropes were adjusted to their necks. They were then lifted up and dropped down between the ties where they hung until morning. Railroad men found their lifeless bodies the next day and cut them down. Their remains were then taken back to the fort, where they were buried.

Hays was a violent place in its early days as evidenced by these two dead soldiers, Privates George H. Sumner and Peter Welsh, in front of a saloon in 1873.

While many of the worst characters left and followed the railroad to Sheridan, Kansas, the majority of the brothels and saloons remained, and in these took place many a bloody encounter. In the spring of 1872, a dispute occurred one evening in front of Kelly’s Saloon on North Main Street. At that time, Peter Lanahan was the County Sheriff, and upon hearing of what was going on, went down to quell the disturbance. Pistols were being freely used and when the sheriff tried to interfere, a man named Charles Harris, who at that time, was working as a bartender for a man named Thomas Dunn, fired at him, hitting the lawman in the abdomen. With the sheriff shot and wounded, a woman named Em Bowen, the proprietress of a noted brothel, ran out with two revolvers which she gave to Sheriff Lanahan. The lawman then immediately commenced firing, killing Harris instantly. Though mortally wounded Lanahan then went into the Kelly’s Saloon where the guns were blazing.

Another man named Kelly, who kept a saloon in another part of the town, was a participant and when the sheriff commenced firing, this younger Kelly crept under a table, and while there Lanahan reached over and fired four shots at him. However, the lawman was becoming weak and unsteady from his wound, his aim was uncertain and Kelly escaped unhurt. Lanahan, becoming exhausted, then sank to the floor and was carried into Em Bowen’s brothel, where several people rendered him the best assistance they could. While there, the younger Kelly, who had escaped from Kelly’s Saloon, returned with a rifle, and placing himself in front of the brothel where Lanahan lay dying, commenced firing into the house, wounding a man named May in the knee. The sheriff was then carried to the courthouse where he died the following day.

In Hays City there is a patch of ground known as “Boot Hill,” and why it was thus named will sufficiently indicate what kind of place Hays City was during its early days. This particular piece of ground was the burial place for those who died violent deaths – in gunfights or other aggressive manners. These parties were buried without ceremony, with their boots on, and from the fact that 45 of these rough characters were buried there, it received the name of “Boot Hill.”

Five years after the murder of John Hays and the hangings of the three black soldiers, an outbreak among the black soldiers stationed at Fort Hays occurred in 1874. At that time, the fort was garrisoned by the Ninth Regiment of Colored Cavalry, who sought to revenge the hangings of the three soldiers who had killed John Hays.

One night a party of the Ninth went to town prepared to “clean it out,” as they expressed it. The people hearing of this, armed themselves and determined to resist the premeditated “cleaning out” process. The black cavalry came into Hays City armed and a fight immediately began between the soldiers and the citizens. In the end, the citizens were victorious and six of the soldiers were killed – their bodies afterward were thrown into a dry well. From that time, on the residents of Hays City were determined that law and order should rule.

In the meantime, the law-abiding residents of the town were making progress on establishing a civilized city. The first school was a private one, established in 1869, and the following year, a public school was opened. The following year, Hays became the permanent county seat.

In 1873 bonds were issued to build a courthouse, and before long, a stone building was erected, the basement of which is used for a county jail. That same year $12,000 in bonds were issued for the erection of a schoolhouse, which was built about two blocks west of the courthouse. The Hays City Times newspaper was also established in 1873 by Allen & Jones but its existence was very short.

In February 1874, the Hays City Sentinel was established by W. H. Johnson but changed hands several times over the next several years. In 1875, the United States Land Office for the district of Western Kansas was opened in a frame building on North Fort Street. That same year, H.P. Wilson built a two-story stone hotel on Chestnut Street that was known as the Pennsylvania House.

By the mid-1870s the railroad had extended its tracks farther west and with it went the teamsters, railroad workers, soldiers and famous characters of the day. Hays City gradually quieted down and began serving as a point of arrival for immigrants, most notably a group of ethnic Germans from the Volga region of Russia.

First arriving in Hays in February 1876, these immigrants would establish a number of small villages around the Hays area, including Antonino, Catharine, Schoenchen, Victoria and several others. That same year, the Star newspaper was established by J. H. Downing, which quickly became the “official” newspaper of the city.

In 1877, Henry Krueger erected a large two-story stone building on South Fort Street which was used as a public hall. That same year, the first church was built – a frame chapel for the Catholics.

Unfortunately, Hays suffered a fire on January 13, 1879, which destroyed the Gibbs House hotel, two grocery stores and harness shop were also swept out of existence. That same year however, more substantial buildings were erected including a two-story stone building on South Main Street that was occupied by Hall & Son Hardware Store, a one-story stone building by H.P. Wilson which held the town’s first bank, a small grain elevator near the railroad, a new Presbyterian Church, as well as a number of handsome residences. The next year, the Lutherans erected their first church and a good-sized grain elevator was built by Henry Krueger.

In 1881, a larger grain elevator was built by Simon Motz and a large addition was made to the schoolhouse. In December of that year, Hays City was again visited by a fire, which carried away six buildings on South Fort Street. By this time, the boom days of the area were over, and the population had fallen to about 950. However, the town was still called home to six general merchandise stores, three hardware stores, three drug stores, three hotels, a dry goods store, harness and saddlery shop, a millinery establishment, two book and stationery stores, two jewelry stores, two bakeries and restaurants, two carriage and wagon-shops, two lumber-yards, two newspapers, and a bank. The rest of the population was primarily involved in agricultural pursuits. The German-American Advocate newspaper was established in Hays in October 1882, which was published in both English and German.

In the early part of 1889, it became known that Fort Hays would be abandoned and the Kansas legislature adopted a resolution asking Congress to donate the site to the state for a soldiers’ home. The fort closed permanently on June 1, 1889, but no action was taken by Congress on the petition for a soldier’s home.

In 1895, Hays City was once again struck by fire, this time a very devastating one, that destroyed some 60 downtown businesses. That same year, the official name of the town was changed to simply Hays. Also occurring in 1895, the Kansas Legislature again asked that the Fort Hays reservation be donated to the state as a location for a branch of the state agricultural college, a branch of the state normal school, and a public park.

Again no action was taken, and in 1899 the Interior Department declared the land opened for settlement. However, in March 1900, the Kansas delegation in Congress managed to secure the land and buildings for educational purposes. In 1901 the legislature passed legislation establishing the Fort Hays Experiment Station (part of Kansas State University) and set apart about 4,000 acres for the Western Branch State Normal School.

By the turn of the century, Hays boasted a population of almost 1,300 people. At this time, the city was run by a unique group serving as its City Council, known as the “Boys Council.” They were the youngest council in the United States to be governing a city the size of Hays, with the youngest being just 22 years old and the oldest was 30. Despite their age, this efficient group was responsible for reducing the city debt, lowering the tax levy, building and equipping the first engine house, and building a water tank in the event of fire.

The Western State Normal School began with a summer session in June 1902, and the first regular term opened in September, with an enrollment of 23 students. The school was conducted in the old fort buildings until 1904 when the central portion of what was the main building was ready for occupancy. By 1910, the total enrollment had increased to almost 1,000 students.

In the first decade of the 20th Century, Hays grew quickly, reaching a population of almost 2,400 residents by 1910. Called one of the most progressive cities of western Kansas, it had an electric lighting plant, waterworks, a fire department, a telephone exchange, and in the spring of 1911, completed a sewer system. In addition to the Western State Normal School, the city also boasted an excellent system of public schools and St. Joseph’s College, a Catholic institution. Among the industries and financial institutions of the time were two banks, three weekly newspapers (the News, the Free Press, and the Review-Headlight), flour mills, grain elevators, machine shops, marble works, a creamery, good hotels, and a number of well-stocked mercantile establishments.

Over the next century, Hays continued to grow, but was marked by disasters including devastating floods in 1907 and 1951 and an explosion of three gasoline tanks owned by Standard Oil in 1919, which killed eight people and injured about 150. In 1935, Hays, like the rest of Kansas was hit with violent dust storms.

But Hays always recovered from hardship and continued to progress. In 1914, the Western State Normal School separated from the school in Emporia and became Fort Hays Kansas State Normal School. It became the Kansas State Teachers College of Hays in 1923 and its name was changed to Fort Hays State College in 1931. It was elevated to university status in 1977.

In 1917, its dirt streets were bricked and by 1920, the population had reached more than 3,900 people. In 1931, the Palmer Stormkind oil field was founded, bringing more people to the area and in 1943, the nearby Walker Army Air Field was built adding 1500-2000 people to the population.

Officers’ Quarters, Fort Hays, Kansas by Kathy Weiser-Alexander.

By 1950, Hays had grown to a population of 9,378 and in 1955, Old Fort Hays opened as a museum. It would later be acquired by the Kansas Historical Society and became a Kansas State Historic Site in 1967, which features four original buildings: the blockhouse (completed as the post headquarters in 1868), guardhouse, and two officers’ quarters.

Today, as a center for education, business and culture for western Kansas, Hays is called home to about 20,000 people, and continues to display its rich history at not only Historic Fort Hays, but also at the Ellis County Historical Museum, Sternberg Museum of Natural History and the Boot Hill Cemetery. A historic walking tour of downtown provides 25 bronze plaques explain the significance of sites, where the famous and infamous walked the streets of Old Hays City. A brochure is available at the Hays Convention and Visitors Bureau located at 2700 Vine St. Frontier Park, located directly across from Historic Fort Hays, which includes 89 acres of land that features several walking trails, waterfalls, and scenic views, as well as a buffalo herd.

Contact Information:
Hay Convention & Visitors Bureau
2700 Vine Street
Hays, Kansas 67601


Is Anyone Really Buried In Boothill Cemetery?

Are there really any bodies buried in Tombstone’s Boothill Cemetery? Isn’t Boothill just a tourist trap with fake headstones? Weren’t all the bodies disinterred and moved to a new cemetery?

We’ve been asked theses questions, or ones very similar, many times over the years. So often, in fact, that we were beginning to doubt that Boothill Graveyard is an authentic cemetery for the dearly departed in the Old West’s most famous mining boomtown. So we decided to dig a little deeper, so to speak. Here's what we found.

Boothill is authentic. It was Tombstone’s first City Cemetery, established in 1879. It wasn’t called Boothill until the 1920’s, probably as a result of Hollywood westerns or dime novels.

After the new City Cemetery was established in 1884 at the end of Allen Street, what became known as Boothill was referred to as the Old Cemetery. Most Tombstoners wanted their loved ones buried in the New Cemetery, so there were few burials at Boothill after 1884.

In fact, after the New Cemetery was established, many locals had the bodies of their loved ones disinterred and moved to the New Cemetery. Presumably, they didn’t feel comfortable with their deceased family members spending eternity next to thieves, murderers, rustlers, prostitutes, and Chinamen.

But Boothill is also a re-created cemetery. By the 1920’s, Tombstone’s boom years were long gone. Most residents had moved away and there was almost no one left to tend to the graves. Read More

John Walker, an amateur photographer with an interest in Western history, took this picture of Boothill Graveyard in 1929. This image, and several other Walker photographs, is owned by Charles Osborn. It is presented here with his permission. You can easily see that the Old Tombstone Cemetery had not been maintained for decades. Mr. Walker's automobile is seen in this photograph parked on Hwy 80 as it passes right by Boothill Graveyard.

Boothill became a garbage dump. Most of the early headstones were wooden crosses that had disintegrated due to the harsh elements, or had been stolen as souvenirs, or trampled by free-range cattle.

When John Clum, former editor of the Tombstone Epitaph as well as former Tombstone mayor, returned briefly to Tombstone in 1929, he went to the Old Cemetery to pay his respects to his wife, Mary. Some said he became distraught when he could not find her grave.

Soon thereafter, a few of the town’s remaining citizens decided that the Old Cemetery should be cleaned up and put back together. They enlisted the Boy Scouts to clear the brush and debris. Old timers tried to recall where various individual’s graves were located. No doubt memories failed as often than not.

Yet, there are many famous people buried in Boothill Graveyard for which there is reasonable certainty as to the location of their grave. For example, China Mary was buried at Boothill in 1906. She was the undisputed ruler of Hoptown, the Chinese neighborhood in Tombstone. Her tombstone is the actual site of her grave. Dutch Annie, “Queen of the Red Light District, is buried where her marker rests. She was a popular madam and gave generously to many worth causes and men down on their luck.

Billy Clanton, Tom & Frank McLaury are buried where their headstones indicate. John Heath was the mastermind of the robbery that resulted in the Bisbee Massacre. He was lynched by a mob in 1884. His 5 accomplices were legally hanged that same year. All of their grave sites are reasonably certain.

Their final resting place, and many others, are known because their funerals were major events attended by hundreds, sometimes thousands of mourners & gawkers.

In October 2013, we tried to replicate the John Walker photograph. Using the shape of the hill in the distance, we think we got it about right.

Yet the precise gravesites of many will never be known because either (a) no one knew them at the time they were buried, or (b) friends & family moved away and their tombstones were lost to time and neglect. That’s why you see so many “Unknown” grave markers at Boothill.

The tombstones in Boothill Graveyard are relatively new, replacing ones that withered away or were stolen. Visitors to Boothill can purchase a booklet with the names & locations of about 250 graves out of the 300+ graves that are actually there.
More stories about Boothill Graveyard here.
Learn more about the sights of Tombstone on our "Things to Do in Tombstone" page.


Mount Moriah Cemetery

This is Deadwood’s “Boot Hill”. The Final resting place of some of Deadwood’s most famous residents.

Mount Moriah was established in 1877 or 1878, it was need as the Ingleside cemetery (which was located just down the hill from Mount Moriah) was more useful for building houses. Most bodies from the Ingelside cemetery where exhumed and reburied at Mount Moriah. However, human remains have been found recently in the residential neighborhood of Deadwood where the Ingleside cemetery once was.

There are numerous sections at the cemetery. The Chinese section only has a few remaining graves, as most bodies were exhumed and returned to China. There is a Jewish section in the upper portion of the cemetery. The Masonic section is located in the center of the cemetery and has some of the most elaborate grave stones.

Several unmarked grave are located in the cemetery as well. Potter’s Fields, as they are called, are the final resting place of many of the early workers of Deadwood.

How do you get to Mount Moriah Cemetery in Deadwood SD?

The easiest way is to take one of the many bus tours offered in downtown Deadwood (usually from about mid-May through September).

The road is steep to Mount Moriah, so driving RV’s and trucks with trailers is not recommended. From Sherman Street, you turn on to cemetery street at the stop light. Cemetery Street will take you to Lincoln Street in Presidential neighborhood of Deadwood. Take Lincoln street straight up the hill to Mount Moriah. There are several signs pointing the way.

Who is buried at Mount Moriah?

James Butler Hickok “Wild Bill” – Murdered August 2, 1876. He was shot in the back of the head by Jack McCall.

Potato Creek Johnny – Died February 21, 1943. He claimed to have the largest gold nugget ever found in the Black Hills. Many believed he melted several nuggets together. No matter the case, he was a colorful character.

Martha Canary “Calamity Jane” – Died 1903. Her dieing wish was to be buried next to Wild Bill and she is.

Henry Weston Smith “Preacher Smith” – Murdered August 20, 1876. He was traveling from Deadwood to Crook City, he’d left a note on his door “Gone to Crook City to preach, and if God is wiling, will be back at three o’clock.” There is a monument to Preacher Smith just north of Deadwood on Highway 85.

Seth Bullock – Bullock’s grave is 750 feet above Mt. Moriah, he requested that he be buried facing Mt Roosevelt. It is strenuous hike to the grave, if you are going make sure you have good shoes and plenty of water.

There are many more of Deadwood’s important historical figures buried here, be sure to grab a guide to the cemetery at the entrance.

Welcome to my unofficial guide to Deadwood South Dakota.  I highlight the events, attractions and hotels in this historic mining town located in the Black Hills of South Dakota.  Enjoy!


Tombstone History

In 1877, the city of Tombstone was founded by Ed Schieffelin. At the time, there was a scouting voyage in Tombstone against the Chiricahua Apaches. Ed was part of this mission and was staying at a place called Camp Huachuca. During his stay, he would leave the camp to look for rocks within the wilderness despite the fact that fellow soldiers at his camp warned him not to. The soldiers told him that he wouldn’t find stones out in the wilderness and would only eventually find his own tombstone. Fortunately, for Ed, he did not find his tombstone, but he did find something: silver. Taking the advice his fellow soldiers gave him, his very first mine was named The Tombstone.

Word quickly spread about his silver strike. It wasn’t long before homesteaders, cowboys, speculators, prospectors, lawyers, business people and gunmen headed to the area. Known as Goose Glats back then, a town site was situated near the mines in 1879 and was named Tombstone due to the first claim of silver mining by Ed.

The popular in Tombstone increased to approximately 7,500 by the mid-1880s. However, this figure only consisted of the white males over the age of 21 that were registered vote. The figure that consists of women, children and other ethnicities, the population was at least 15,000 and possibly as much as 20,000. Tombstone was considered to be between San Francisco and St. Louis as the fastest populating city. Tombstone was home to more than 100 saloons, a multitude of eateries, a huge red-light district, a larger popular of Chinese, newspapers, churches, schools, and one of the original Arizona community swimming pools, which is still being used today.

The town also housed a few theaters, with the most prominent of those theaters being the Bird Cage Theatre as well as Schieffelin Hall. The Bird Cage Theatre was more than just a theater and was a gambling hall, saloon as well as a brothel. They saw that any woman with self-respect wouldn’t step foot inside the Bird Cage Theatre. It operated 24/7/265 and opened in 1881 on Christmas and closed in 1889. The New York Times said that this theater was the wickedest and wildest night spot between the Barbary Coast and Basin Street, which isn’t far from the truth since 140 alleged bullet holes can still be seen in the ceiling and the walls. So, where did the name come from? Reportedly, the Bird Café featured compartments, similar to that of a cage, that hung from the ceiling. “Ladies of the evening” kept their customer entertained in these suspended cages. Legend says that this was the muse for a song, “She’s only a bird in a gilded cage,” one of the most popular songs in the early 1900s.

“Respectable” individuals in the town went to Schieffelin Hall for entertainment. In June of 1881, the Schieffelin Hall was opened and built by Al, the brother of Ed Schieffelin. It was used as more than a theater, as it was also a recital hall as well as a meeting venue for citizens of Tombstone. In the Southwest U.S., it is this building that is considered the largest adobe structure standing. Wyatt and Morgan Earp were both at a performance at the Schieffelin Hall when Morgan was shot dead by the bullet of an assassin. This building is still used today by civic groups and city government.

In the 1880s, there was two large fires that went through the city. Reportedly, one of the fires was at the Arcade Saloon and began when a whiskey barrel was ignited by a cigar. The fire, which occurred in June of 1881, destroyed more than 60 downtown businesses. The town was able to rebuild and continue to grow. However, just short of a year later, a second fire ignited in downtown destroying, again, a large section of the downtown businesses. But, the town rebuilt once again.

Boothill Graveyard was also a huge part of Tombstone. Founded in 1879, Boothill Graveyard was used until the new cemetery – New Tombstone City Cemetery – opened in 1884. After the new cemetery opened and began being used, Boothill Graveyard was called “The Old Cemetery.” The newer cemetery is still being used today. Stories say that Boothill received its name from the fact that the individuals there had died unexpectedly or violently and were buried boots intact. However, Boothill was in fact named after the pioneer cemetery in Dodge City hopefully helping tourism in the late 1920s. Many individuals from Tombstone are in this cemetery, including victims from a shootout that took place in 1881 between the Cowboys and Earps on Fremont Street. For years, though, the cemetery was neglected. It was taken over by the desert and gravestones were removed by vandals. Some began to clean up The Old Cemetery in the 1920s and doing research so that the grave markers could be properly replaced.

The Gunfight at the O.K. Corral is the most famous Tombstone event, although it happened in a Fremont Street vacant lot and not the O.K. Corral. The event took place on October26, 1881 when the Cowboys had a bit of a run-in with a few Earps – Morgan, Virgil and Wyatt. Not even 30 seconds and about 30 gun shots later, Frank and Tom McLaury and Billy Clanton were dead. For many, it is believed that it this sole event that has kept the city of Tombstone alive.

The following year, for about $50,000, the Cochise County Courthouse was constructed providing a number of offices for the treasurer, recorder, country sheriff and the board of supervisors. It even housed a jail and served as a symbol of both stability and law at a very disorderly time in Tombstone. Tombstone remained the home for the country until 1929, when voters decided to move it to the copper mining town of Bisbee, approximately 30 miles away. In 1931, the courthouse said goodbye to the final county office. The Museum almost closed in 2012 due to budget cuts from Governor Jan Brewer, but the Tombstone Chamber of Commerce was able to meet the demands of the state so that the museum could remain operational.

Mineshafts began to be dug deeper in order to get to the valuable ore. The mines flooded when the water table was struck at 520 feet. For several years, they were able to pump the water out of the mines, but eventually become too expensive. The mining ultimately began to slow down and people began to leave the historic town of Tombstone, although it wasn’t before $37 million worth of ore had been obtained from the local mines. Records show that the population of Tombstone was about 150 people by the early 1930s.


Old West Photograph Gallery

Emelia, in wedding dress, on bottom step Karoline Mueller and John Chambliss on front porch John Mueller and 15-year old son Henry on balcony. The wedding, at 9 p.m., with 50-people eating and dancing in the house, had a guest list with most of Dodge City and Ford County pioneers. Chalk Beeson, Long Branch saloon co-owner, and his "silver cornet band" played the music in the parlor. That night John and Emelia left on the midnight train for their honeymoon in Denver before moving to their new home at Ft. Reno, IT (Indian Territory). Henry's carved initials, HJM, are still preserved on the right side of the window seen behind John.

John and Karoline Mueller with children Emelia and Henry, 1888. Returned by Henry Mueller to Heinie Schmidt. FCHS Mueller Collection .

Adam and Elizabeth Berg Schmidt with children Heinrich (Heinie), Elma and Louis (Lew). Circa 1889. FCHS Schmidt Collection

Adam came to Dodge City in 1874 and started a blacksmith shop on the Santa Fe Trail (now, Trail St.). He married 'Betty' (name on wedding license) in 1882. She was 19 he was 41. Heinie was born in 1882, Lew in 1884 and Elma in 1885.

Elizabeth 'Betty' Berg Schmidt
Last photograph, circa 1938

Found in Elizabeth's funeral book, photograph is taken from her bedroom into the foyer and parlor of the Mueller-Schmidt House. She was the daughter of the first baker in Dodge City, Frederick Berg. In March 1878, at age 16, she arrived by train to join her family. She married Adam Schmidt in 1881. He died in 1911. Her death was on December 1, 1938.

Front Street, Dodge City, Kansas

The 1874 view of Front Street, left, with Frederick Zimmermann's gun and hardware store, George M. Hoover's liquor and cigar store, Chalk Beeson's Long Branch saloon and Charles Rath and Robert Wright's "General Outfitting Store" all at the end of the second block west of the train depot. Front Street replica on Boot Hill is based on this photograph. Famous 1879 photograph, right, taken from east end of Front Street, looking from the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad depot area. Kelley's Hall (marked 1) is large sharp roof across the middle. John Mueller's boot shop (marked 2), was on land purchased by Mueller on November 11, 1875, from Robert M. Wright. Mueller sold it on September 13, 1881. George B. 'Deacon' Cox and A.H. Boyd's famous Dodge House Hotel (marked 3) is on the right side. Cox and Boyd purchased their lots in 1874, with Cox buying out Boyd in 1882.

Dodge City Town President
Robert M. Wright's Desk and Portrait
Mueller-Schmidt House Parlor

Robert M. Wright wrote Dodge City, the Cowboy Capital at this desk between 1911 and its 1913 publication. Wright looks down from his own copy of his portrait. In the 1880s, Wright's general store on Front Street ( circa 1885 brick building, corner store) had over $200,000 a month gross income. He died broke in 1915.

Charles Rath
and Rath House (1877)
Dodge City
FCHS Rath Collection

Charles Rath, one of the first three Ford County Commissioners, in Robert Wright's buffalo hide yard in 1878. Rath is seated on rick of 40,000 hides. M.W. (Doc) Anchutz (in white shirt, back left), a baler from Meade, Kansas, said, "We had as high as 70,000 to 80,000 hides at times in the yard." Prices for the hides ranged from 80 cents to $4 each. Most were used for industrial belts. The Rath Trail (from Dodge City to Rath City, Texas) was unique, being the only trail established for buffalo hunters. Right photograph is Rath house, 1877. Mrs. Robert Wright, left, Mrs. Carrie Rath in doorway, her mother Katherine Markley on right. Carrie is expecting son Robert--born October 16, 1877. He was a playmate of Henry Mueller in the Mueller-Schmidt House.

The Rath-Bainbridge
Christmas Dinner, 1897
Rath House
FCHS Rath Collection

Self-photograph by Charles Rath's 20-year old son, Robert Rath, left, with a cable to his camera. Thomas Bainbridge is standing with Carrie Rath Bainbridge at end of table, and Bertha Rath, Robert's sister, sitting with his half-brother, Roy Bainbridge. Robert's step-father Thomas worked for the railroad and was to die in an accident less than two years later. The house, built in 1877 by Charles Rath, was located where the historic Dodge City Carnegie Library (1907) building now stands. Robert played with Henry Mueller in the Mueller-Schmidt House. Ida Ellen Rath married Robert Rath much later in his life.

Ham Bell Memorial (1939)
Boot Hill, Dodge City

Hamilton Butler Bell, longest living Old West Sheriff and Marshal. Ham remembered the end of the Civil War and had his name on a WWII Army Air Corp plane. He never shot a man--saved some cowboys from the "Earp gang"--and outlived all of his Western associates. Arriving in Dodge City in 1874, he lived in Ford County until his death in 1947. He was the first president of the Ford County Historical Society, 1931. The bell from the Union Church, the first church building in Dodge City, is on top.

Ham Bell Memorial Details

The text reads: "H.B. (Ham) Bell, Deputy U.S. Marshal, Pioneer Sheriff, Mayor of Dodge City and Grand Old Man of the Southwest Since 1874. This fountain erected by the Junior Chamber of Commerce, 1939."

Cowboy Statue on Boot Hill
In front of old Dodge City Hall (1929)

Dr. Oscar Simpson, DDS, pioneer Dodge City dentist and inventor of the gold inlay process for filling teeth (patent finally won in 1912), had his old pioneer lawman friend, Joe Sughrue, lay in a box while a mold was made with plaster. Dr. Simpson filled the mold with concrete. The statue has been on Boot Hill since 1929. Dr. Simpson also made the first Boot Hill tombstones for tourists to view.

When Simpson arrived in Dodge City by train, his tall silk hat was the target of a bucket of water from a Front Street bartender. Story goes that Simpson picked up a rock, threw it back and broke the cut glass from the bar back. Dr. John Henry Holliday is the most famous Dodge City dentist, although 'Doc' Holliday was in the city only a summer.

The current Ford County Court House was built in 1913, replacing an 1880s building. [Cowboy statue photos and Ford County Courthouse: ©2000, G. Laughead Jr.]


Boot Hill

The Boot Inn 2009 photographed by Alex McGregor on Geograph reusable under a Creative Commons licence

Boot Hill is located on Rectory Road in Sutton Coldfield west of Hollyfield Road/ Whitehouse Common Road. The 1889 Ordnance Survey map shows a small hamlet here opposite the Boot Inn.

This name, which is common across the country, has not been satisfactorily explained. It was a 19th-century term used to describe graveyards in the American West, the implication being that those buried had died with their boots on, by violence, and not by natural causes. Although the 3-hectare Sutton Coldfield Cemetery was opened on Rectory Road nearer Sutton town centre in 1881, that usage is unlikely in this country.

Here the hamlet most likely takes its name from the public house, The Boot Inn. However, it is not clear why there are many pubs of that name. Pubs and inns were recognised from Roman times by various items hung outside them. A bush was a common one. It was the custom in Ancient Rome to hang bunches of vine leaves outside wine bars as a trading sign. Vines were not commonly found in Britain and branches of a bush, often an evergreen such a holly, were displayed instead.

It may be that a boot hanging outside a pub indicated to travellers that this was an inn where they could stay the night.

Alternatively, it was common for landlords to have an occupation in addition to running a pub or inn. It may be that the publican here was also a cobbler.

Boot Hill as a placename is found on the 1889 Ordnance Survey map. The name of the inn is found in the 1871 Census.