In 1872, two cowboys who were camped on a hillside west of Dodge City had a gunfight. One was killed; the murderer fled. The dead man, friendless and unknown, was wrapped in a blanket by the townsmen and buried where he fell with his boots on. So began Boot Hill. For six years Dodge City had no official cemetery. Persons dying who had friends, enough money, or sufficient standing in the community were buried at Fort Dodge. Others, penniless or unknown were buried where it was convenient to dig a hole.
Boot Hill, now a part of Dodge City, is the most famous burial ground in all Western lore, even though it was only used until 1878. Two schools were built atop Boot Hill before the Spanish-style City Hall was erected in 1929, which you see today. The cowboy statue that stands in front of this building was created by Dr. O.H. Simpson, a pioneer dentist. Joe Sughrue, and early day lawman, was the model.
The marker on the base of the statue commemorates the frontier days of the cattle drives: “On the ashes of my campfire this city is built.”
Five words are said to have originated in Dodge City.
Stinker – applied to the smell of a buffalo hunter Joint – used as a name for saloons
Cooler – described the city’s first jail, an old well 15 feet deep in which drunks were lowered to cool off and sober up
Stiff – applied to the dead bodies that had become rigid, substituting stiff for corpse
Red light district – came from railroaders leaving their lanterns in front of the brothels.
From a brochure printed by the Kansas Heritage Center.