Thursday, January 28, 2016

HGB Podcast Ep. 100 - The 100th Meridian and Haunted Dodge City

Moment in Oddity - The Odd Showdowns in Palisades, Nevada

You may not have heard of Palisades, Nevada, but at one time, it was considered the wildest, roughest town west of Chicago back in the 1870s. Papers called it an evil hamlet and begged law enforcement to do something about all the senseless murders, bank robberies, showdowns and Indian raids. The craziness coming out of Palisades went on for three years. Visitors arriving on train would witness all sorts of crime. They might see two men passing near the train and one would suddenly pull a gun and fire and the other man would drop dead. They might even witness a horrific massacre of the townspeople by the local Shoshone Native American tribe. Blood would be everywhere. What makes this story odd is the fact that none of this was real. The whole town was in on the drama and they staged everything from gunfights to bank robberies to massacres. Visitors would come and witness the drama, some fainting, and then they would run from the town leaving the townspeople rolling on the ground with laughter. The newspapers would report everything as real because the witnesses thought it was real. So Palisades gained a notorious reputation even though it was a law abiding town and for the three years they play acted being to roughest town around, not one real crime was committed in the town. Now that piece of Wild West history certainly is odd!

Apryl Peterson shared the following photos from a visit to the site:

This Day in History - Panama Railway Makes First Run

On this day, January 28th,in 1855 the Panama Railway made its first run from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean. The Panama Railroad was incorporated in New York on April 7, 1849. The construction contract for the railway was awarded to a company headed by George M. Totten and John G. Trautwine. Col. George W. Hughes was hired to assess the location for the railway in January 1849. He reported that the location was horrible due to many factors. There were monsoons from June through December that brought deluges of rain for periods of three days at a time. The area had steaming hot jungles that were dense and the local timber could not be used in construction. And trying to get local labor was impossible because the men were undependable. Everything had to be imported for thousands of miles. Nevertheless, construction began on the mainland around Monkey Hill in August of 1850. It took over a year for eight miles of track to be completed and the cost reached more than $1 million. Word of this development caused the railroad's stock to nose dive. It was the day before the successful run of the train that two construction crews were able to see each other as they worked towards each other. They worked through the night using large lanterns lit with whale oil. George Totten drove in the final spike. On the following morning, the train traveled the 47 miles along the track. The final cost reached over $6.5 million.


On today's show, we celebrate our 100th official episode! And we're having a rootin' tootin' good time heading to the Wild West town of Dodge City. We were looking for something special about the number 100 and came across this line that bisects the USA nearly in the middle vertically and low and behold, we found Dodge City sitting smack dab on top of it. The state of Kansas entered the Union in 1865 as a free state. The Civil War ended four years later and thousands migrated to Kansas, many of them veterans of the war. And then there were the outlaws and other famous names we know from the Old West, like Bat Masterson and Doc Holliday, and nearly all of them spent some time in Dodge City. Put on yer cowboy hat and boots and come with us as we look at the history and hauntings of Dodge City.

100th Meridian

Before we look at Dodge City, we wanted to look at this imaginary boundary known as the 100th Meridian. John Wesley Powell was the head of the U.S. Geological Survey in 1879. He established a line of longitude that was at 100 degrees of longitude west of Greenwich or as we know it officially, the 100th Meridian. What makes this line weird or some kind of scientific wonder is that it divides the arid west from the moist east. And that is a scientific backed location. East of the 100th Meridian, the average precipitation for the year is above 20 inches. Irrigation is not needed at that level so this line is the boundary between the non-irrigated east and the irrigation necessary west. The line splits North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, and Texas. Corn, wheat and soybean grow readily east of the line, but not west. The line has had other purposes in history. The Adams-Onis Treaty with Spain established the intersection of the 100th Meridian and the Arkansas River (now in south Dodge) as a corner of the boundary between the United States and Spain. Later the 100th Meridian in this area was the west boundary of the Osage Indian Lands.

As we travel down this imaginery line dividing the nation almost exactly in half, we find a city that is directly on the 100th Meridian. That city is Dodge City in Kansas and it was documented by a Boy Scout working on his Eagle badge. Dodge City lies exactly at the intersection of the Arkansas River and the 100th Meridian. The line has also been referred to as the Plague Line as recently as late last year. This is because all the Plague cases in America originated in states west of the 100th meridian. Prairie dogs which are believed to live west of the 100th meridian help the infected fleas to spread.

At the Hundreth Meridian - song by Tragically Hip

"Me debunk an american myth?
And take my life in my hands?
Where the great plains begin
At the hundredth meridian
At the hundredth meridian
Where the great plains begin

Driving down a corduroy road
Weeds standing shoulder high
Ferris wheel is rusting
Off in the distance

At the hundredth meridian
At the hundredth meridian
At the hundredth meridian
Where the great plains begin

Left alone to get gigantic
Hard, huge and haunted
A generation so much dumber than it's parents
Came crashing through the window

A raven strains along the line of the road
carrying muddy old skull
The wires whistle their approval
Off down the distance

At the hundredth meridian (hundredth meridian)
At the hundredth meridian (you're going to miss me)
At the hundredth meridian (trust me)
Where the great plains begin (at the hundredth meridian)
At the hundredth meridian (at the hundredth meridian)
At the hundredth meridian (you're going to miss me)
At the hundredth meridian (trust me)
Where the great plains begin

I remember, I remember Buffalo
And I remember Hengelo
It would seem to me
I remember every single fucking thing I know

If I die of vanity, promise me, promise me
If they bury me some place I don't want to be
You'll dig me up and transport me, unceremoniously
Away from the swollen city breeze, garbage bag trees
Whispers of disease and the acts of enormity
And lower me slowly and sadly and properly
Get Ry Cooder to sing my eulogy

At the hundredth meridian (hundredth meridian)
At the hundredth meridian (you're going to miss me)
At the hundredth meridian (trust me)
Where the great plains begin (at the hundredth meridian)
At the hundredth meridian (at the hundredth meridian)
At the hundredth meridian (baby, you're going to miss me)
At the hundredth meridian (trust me)
Where the great plains begin"

Haunted Dodge City (Research Assistants Steven Pappas & Ann Student)

Fort Dodge, located along the Mountain Branch of the Santa Fe Trail, a commercial route from Franklin, Missouri to Santa Fe, New Mexico, was established in 1865 to protect pioneers and trade wagons from Indian attacks. Another route along the Santa Fe Trail, besides the Mountain Branch, was the Cimarron Cutoff, which crossed the Arkansas River near today’s Dodge City and then headed southwest to the Cimarron River. Although travelers used the Mountain Branch, which ran along the north bank of the Arkansas River into Colorado, the Cimarron Cutoff, about five miles south of the Mountain Branch, was the preferred route because it was shorter and had no mountains to cross. However, the miles of waterless sand hills and risk of Indian attacks made it a dangerous trail to travel.

Rancher Henry L. Sitler built a three-room sod house five miles west of Fort Dodge in 1871. His sod house, located at the base of a hill along the Santa Fe Trail, made it a convenient stopping place for buffalo hunters, traders, and wagon trains. Before long, Sitler was joined by George M. Hoover, who built a sod and board saloon, Dodge City’s first business. A group of businessmen from Fort Dodge, Riley, and Leavenworth, Kansas, organized the Dodge City Town Company on August 15, 1872, and started planning the development of their new town, named Buffalo City. After learning another town had the same name, they renamed their town Dodge City, after the nearby fort.

Dodge City grew quickly with the arrival of the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad in September 1872. The town soon had two grocery and mercantile stores, a dance hall, restaurant, barber shop, blacksmith shop, and saloons frequented by buffalo hunters, railroad workers, drifters, and soldiers. By November, the town had 70 buildings. In the beginning, the town had no law enforcement and was out of Fort Dodge’s jurisdiction, so it quickly became infamous for gunfights and general lawlessness. Black Jack, the first person killed in Dodge, was buried on a treeless hill in September 1872. Others followed him and the treeless hill was named Boot Hill Cemetery, because they all died with their boots on. One source stated that before burial, the dead person's boots were removed and placed under his head in the coffin. Boot Hill was used until 1879, when the Town Company founded a new cemetery named Prairie Grove. The remains of 30 bodies were moved to the new cemetery located northwest of Dodge.

During the mass slaughter of the buffalo, Dodge City was known as the buffalo capital. Between 1872-1878, an estimated 1,500,000 buffalo hides were shipped out of Dodge City. By the time the buffalo revenue was gone in 1875, a new source of revenue filled its place. Longhorn cattle from Texas were being driven up the western branch of the Chisholm Trail to Dodge City, for shipment to Eastern markets. Over the next ten years, more than five million head of cattle were driven to Dodge. Dodge became known as “Cowboy Capital of the World” and “Queen of the Cow Towns,” as well as “the wickedest little city in America.”

After being on a cattle drive for months, the cowboys were ready to party when they arrived in Dodge, adding to the general mayhem already existing. Law and order arrived when respectable law enforcement officers such as W. B. “Bat” Masterson, Ed Masterson, Wyatt Earp, Bill Tilghman, H. B. “Ham” Bell, and Charlie Bassett were hired to keep the peace. An ordinance stating guns could not be worn or carried north of the “deadline” was passed. The law did not extend south of the railroad tracks, which was the deadline, so it was open for everything. In 1877, Dodge City had 19 businesses and 1,200 residents. During the summer, the population grew with the arrival of cowboys, cattle buyers, gamblers, and ladies of the evening. Since the majority of the cattle drives originated in Texas, businesses, dance halls, and saloons catered to the Texas trade. Saloons were renamed Lone Star and Alamo and brandies, liqueurs, and new mixed drinks were served, sometimes along with anchovies and Russian caviar.

The demise of Dodge City’s haydey started when Fort Dodge closed in 1882, and continued after two fires in 1885 destroyed several buildings, a severe blizzard in January 1887 ended the cattle drives, the passage of a cattle quarantine law, and laws against gambling, liquor, and prostitution were passed. Phil had wondered if we would be talking about Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Well, it just so happens that Butch Cassidy did come through Dodge City when he was younger. He worked as a cowboy and would rustle stray cattle along with a couple other guys and they would drive the stolen herd to Dodge City and sell them at auction there.

Fort Dodge

Fort Dodge was a key fort for the western frontier and it was established on April 10, 1865. Capt. Henry Pierce headed up the building of the fort as ordered by Major General Grenville M. Dodge, for whom it was named. The mission of the fort was to protect the wagon trains along the Santa Fe Trail on their way to New Mexico. As we mentioned with the 100th Meridian that there is an arid side and a wet side to the country, so too was there with the Santa Fe Trail. The fort was situated where these two divisions lay on the trail. The dry route came across the divide from Larned on the Pawnee River, while the wet route followed the river. The dry route was considered the journey of death. The fort was relocated and rebuilt out of stone in 1867. The fort closed for good as a military post in June of 1882. It served as a soldier's home after that and today is a museum.

Long Branch Saloon (Now the Boothill Museum) & the Shootout

The Long Branch Saloon had a peculiar start.  Cowboys were playing a game of ball with soldiers and a wager was laid down. If the soldiers lost, they had to provide supplies to build the saloon. The soldiers lost. In 1878, Chalkley Beeson and William Harris bought the saloon.  They dressed up the place and Beeson's five-piece orchestra played nightly. Gambling took place and refreshments were served ranging from milk, lemonade and sarsaparilla to beer and liquor. During the summer, everything was kept cold from ice shipped by train from the Colorado mountains and during the winter, things were kept cold from ice obtained from the Arkansas River. The saloon was located on Front Street, which burned down in 1885. Cattle drives had ended, so they were not rebuilt. In 1947, Front Street was reconstructed according to old pictures to look as it did in 1876 and was built on top of the Boot Hill Cemetery, which is why the Long Branch Saloon houses the Boot Hill Museum.

The saloon saw its share of violence despite the effort of the owners to keep it high class. Harry T. McCarty was the Ford County Surveyor. He had platted out the Prairie Grove Cemetery. In 1878, the US Government made him a marshal. On July 13, 1878, McCarty was standing at the bar in the Long Branch Saloon when a drunk cattle camp cook took McCarty's pistol from its holster. He shot McCarty when he turned around and killed him. McCarty was buried in the very cemetery he had platted out.*Fun fact: Gunsmoke made this saloon famous*

And then there was the shootout between Levi Richardson and Frank Loving. From the Ford County Globe on April 8, 1879:
"There is seldom witnessed in any civilized town or country such a scene as transpired at the Long Branch Saloon, in this city, last Saturday evening, resulting in the killing of Levi Richardson, a well known freighter, of this city, by a gambler named Frank Loving.

For several months Loving has been living with a woman toward whom Richardson seems to have cherished tender feelings, and on one or two occasions previous to this which resulted so fatally, they have quarreled and even come to blows.

Richardson was a man who had lived for several years on the frontier, and though well liked in many respects, he had cultivated habits of bold and daring, which are always likely to get a man into trouble. Such a disposition as he possessed might be termed bravery by many, and indeed we believe he was the reverse of a coward. He was a hard working, industrious man, but young and strong and reckless.

Loving is a man of whom we know but very little. He is a gambler by profession; not much of a roudy, but more of the cool and desperate order, when he has a killing on hand. He is about 23 years old. Both, or either of these men, we believe, might have avoided this shooting if either had possessed a desire to do so. But both being willing to risk their lives, each with confidence in himself, they fought because they wanted to fight. As stated in the evidence below, they met, one said "I don't believe you will fight." The other answered "try me and see," and immediately both drew murderous revolvers and at it they went, in a room filled with people, the leaden missives flying in all directions. Neither exhibited any sign of a desire to escape the other, and there is no telling how long the fight might have lasted had not Richardson been pierced with bullets and Loving's pistol left without a cartridge. Richardson was shot in the breast, through the side and through the right arm. It seems strange that Loving was not hit, except a slight scratch on the hand, as the two men were so close together that their pistols almost touched each other. Eleven shots were fired, six by Loving and five by Richardson. Richardson only lived a few moments after the shooting. Loving was placed in jail to await the verdict of the coroner's Jury, which was "self defense," and he was released. Richardson has no relatives in this vicinity. He was from Wisconsin. About twenty-eight years old.

Together with all the better class of our community we greatly regret this terrible affair. We do not believe it is a proper way to settle difficulties, and we are positive it is not according to any law, human or divine. But if men must continue to persist in settling their disputes with fire arms we would be in favor of the dueling system, which would not necessarily endanger the lives of those who might be passing up or down the street attending to their own business.

We do not know that there is cause to censure the police, unless it be to urge upon them the necessity of strictly enforcing the ordinance preventing the carrying of concealed weapons. Neither of these men had a right to carry such weapons. Gamblers, as a class, are desperate men. They consider it necessary in their business that they keep up their fighting reputation, and never take a bluff. On no account should they be allowed to carry deadly weapons."

Fort Dodge: There are reports of strange occurrences from weird sounds to light anomalies. There is a barn on the site that has all its lights go on and off at 3:30 in the morning. The doors mysteriously open by themselves as well.

Soule Intermediate Center/Former Old Dodge City High School: The library of this former high school used to be haunted by the ghost of a student who died in the school. He was wandering around under the school in the basement and became trapped and died. One day when the school was still a high school, students were walking through the hallways after hours to take down flyers they had put up about a play the school had performed when they heard the library door open and close and a male laugh. They raced over to see who else was in the school and found no one. And the library doors were locked. Suddenly the flyers were grabbed from the hands of one of the students and torn in half before their very eyes. They all ran screaming from the building.

Ed Masterson: Edward J. Masterson was the brother of Bat Masterson and he was the marshal of the Dodge City Police Department. A man was walking down the street one day and he was carrying a gun, which was in violation of the town's ordinances. The man handed the gun over, but when Ed turned and walked away, the man pulled out another pistol he had (perhaps he should have frisked the guy) and he shot Ed. The shot didn't kill Ed right away and he was able to shoot back at the man, killing him. Ed then succumbed to his own gun shot. Ed was buried at the old Fort Dodge Cemetery, but his body was later moved to Prairie Grove Cemetery. Years later, a housing development was planned and it wanted the land where the cemetery was located, so poor Marshal Ed was moved again. Or was he? His body seems to be missing and some have surmised that he is still buried in someone's backyard. Poltergeist anyone? And indeed, it would seem that Ed's restless body has led to a restless spirit. The ghost of Ed is seen walking around the old Front Street location.

Ghostly Cowboys: User going by the name S: "I saw a full-figure 1880s-looking cowboy standing next to the amtrak train at 3 am, wearing a flat hat, mustache, duster coat with pants tucked into boots. I asked the conductor about him but he disn't see the figure, which was looking right at me with a serious/mean expression."
An Anonymous person added: "I saw the same cowboy next to the train tracks by the south side on north 14th Street, looked so real as I drove by when I was on my way to the grocery store to get milk around 1 am or so. I never did tell anyone because I thought maybe it was just my imagination..
But since I moved to Dodge City I have seen more than just that cowboy by the train tracks very scary."
Show Notes:

"Drankin Song" by Kevin MacLeod (
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0

"Guts and Bourbon" by Kevin MacLeod (
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0

No comments:

Post a Comment