Few places inspired newspaper editors to wax wroth as Dodge City, once described as a “perfect paradise for gamblers, cut-throats, and girls.”
The little town on the Kansas prairie was a rowdy, high-spirited mix of cowboys and rustlers, railroaders and sodbusters, gunslingers and saloon girls. It earned many endearing nicknames over the years—the “Sodom of the West,” “Deadwood of Kansas” and—our favorite —the “Beautiful, Bibulous Babylon of the Frontier.”
Considering all the gunmen, grifters and ne’er-do-wells in town, the Dodge City War of 1883 was something of a dud.
The fracas, essentially a gang fight, was over who would control the town’s saloons, gambling halls and bordellos.
Bat Masterson, Wyatt Earp and their allies thought things were fine just the way they were. Others, led by Mayor Alonzo B. Webster, spoke of reform, but were mostly looking for a piece of the action.
Things came to a head when Luke Short bought a half-interest in the Long Branch Saloon in 1883. The Webster faction booted the “dapper gambler” out of Dodge, but Earp convinced Webster that it might benefit his health if he changed his mind.
Not long after, Short moved to Texas. The “war” ended with no casualties and only a few gunshots exchanged.
The Boot Hill Museum is a must-see in Dodge City, especially its collection of historic firearms.
You can learn more about the town’s famous residents (even fictional ones like Gunsmoke’s Miss Kitty) on the Trail of Fame Walking Tour.
GOOD SLEEPS & EATS
The Boot Hill Bed & Breakfast, a grand old building—formerly known as the Burr House—is on the National Register of Historic Places.
The hearty 12-oz. ribeyes at the Central Station Bar & Grill are basted in the restaurant’s secret sauce and mesquite grilled to perfection.
NOTABLE WESTERN EVENT
Along with parades, rodeos and Western art shows, the annual Dodge City Days celebration features a professional barbecue contest, a fitting —and tasty—way to mark this historic cowtown’s heritage.