DODGE CITY, the wildest Town in the Wild West

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This is an extract of the article, with small photos. You will find the complete article with full-sized photos in my e-book View America: North West - Part 2

In the travel series View America, North West - Part 2 covers Iowa, Kansas, Missouri and Nebraska. It is not a traditional travelogue, but a non-commercial and more or less objective chronicle of an in-depth exploration of these states. Each state is described with its own brief historical background and its main sights, tourist attractions and points of interest.

My book does not describe lodgings, restaurants or entertainment, except where these may interact with the narrative. It is illustrated with more than 150 full-sized photos.

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The origin of Dodge City

Dodge City was created around 1860, and developed rapidly during and especially after the Civil War. It was a hub of the Santa Fe Trail, the very lucrative trade route that connected Kansas City in Missouri with Santa Fe in Mexico. Very soon a strong trade developed, and along the route several Trading Posts mushroomed to supply the traders and settlers.

Jesse ChisholmIn 1872 the railroad decided to build a station and a depot in Dodge City, and it became the terminus of the Chisholm Trail. This trail had brought in more than three million heads of cattle from Texas in ten years time, for transport to the east. The Indian tribes saw the influx of cattle barons, settlers, traders and farmers, and the umpteenth violation of the treaties with disquiet, and they attacked the transports to protect their hunting grounds.

Fort Dodge was established in 1864, one of a series of forts to ostensibly protect the white colonists, but more importantly, also the vast financial interests of the railroads. In 1872 Dodge City was officially opened, and it was named after the fort.

But the military had no mandate to enforce the law, and there was no local police. The many Texas cattle drivers and cowboys, who had been underway for months, were therefore glad to be able to immediately spend their relatively high wages with eating, drinking, women and cards. This combination turned the city into a veritable nest of saloons, violence and killings, and it quickly received a notorious reputation of the wildest town in the Wild West. This period of lawlessness, debauchery and murder lasted from 1865 to 1880, until almost simultaneously several factors caused a profound change in the situation.

Industrial development

Meanwhile the local traders developed their own industry, and soon they switched to local cattle raisers, agriculture, manufacture of agricultural machinery, and their own meat processing industry. The current economy consists of 75 % agriculture, especially grain, compared with 25 % livestock.

The city has two enormous meat-processing companies, which together slaughter 20,000 cattle per day and employ 6,000 workers. The very extensive railroad network still refers to the glorious past of animal transport, but it is perfect for all transport.

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Dodge City and actually almost the entire state of Kansas also have a major water problem. The entire state's fresh water supply is pumped out of a vast underground lake with a surface of some 80 square miles (200 km2). However, modern farming techniques require a considerable irrigation, and the present water use is many times larger than the natural replenishment of the lake.

It has been calculated that the underground reservoir will be exhausted within twenty years. All kinds of important committees have already debated the issue, and though these provide ongoing work to scores of politicians, no profound conclusions have ever been reached. About the only visible measure is that the public is prohibited from washing their vehicles...

Video : Dodge City

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