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Ford County Historical Society
Dodge City, Kansas

4th of July, 1890
Fort Dodge, Kansas Soldiers Home

[Photo: Early view of Fort Dodge, on the Arkansas River,
five miles east of the 100th meridian and Dodge City. All rights reserved,
FCHS.]

Located in 1859 near where the 100th meridian crosses the Arkansas River -- the southwest corner of the Louisiana Purchase -- Fort Dodge was the last US Army fort located before the Civil War and, in 1865, was the first fort opened after the Civil War. Fort Dodge was to guard travelers on the Santa Fe Trail and to keep Indian predators at bay. Fort Dodge quickly became an important military fortification.

     In 1882, when civilization had overtaken the frontier and the stronghold was no longer needed, it was abandoned by the military. Citizens of Dodge City contributed to the purchase price of the old garrison and the state converted it (on George M. Hoover's motion) to an Old Soldier's Home, accepting its first residents on January 1, 1890. Occupants included former military personnel from both the North and the South. While there were occasional replications of Civil War battles among the dwellers of the old Fort, especially on the croquet field, most former combatants were able to live together harmoniously. The first Fourth of July celebration that occurred at the Soldier's Home in 1890 provided an unusual demonstration of the cordial relations that existed between old comrades of the blue and the gray.

     On July 4, 1890, over two hundred residents of Dodge City journeyed to the Fort for special services that had been planned for that day. For most, it was an all day affair, families bringing picnic basket lunches to be eaten on the grounds of the old fortress. The rituals for the day included the raising of the national flag, which was brought from Dodge City by a caravan of carriages and wagons that left H. Juneau's lumber yard south of the railroad tracks at 10 o'clock in the morning. Upon arrival at the Fort, the first order of business was the hoisting of the symbol of the United States to the top of a specially prepared flagpole. A flagstaff that extended sixty feet above the ground had been constructed by two of the residents, one a former Rebel and the other an ex-Yankee soldier. Individually, each had prepared one half of the mast and the two parts were fitted to each other, then the entire length of the pole was bound together by iron bands.

     A Mr. Hicks who had served in a Tennessee Confederate regiment represented the South and in addition to having prepared one half of the flagpole, he was also the Johnnie who helped raise the stars and bars. Mr. Hammond was a former Union soldier who was responsible for the creation of the half of the flagpole representing the Union; however, the honor of raising the flag for the North went to Michael W. Sutton, former county attorney and political power in early Dodge City. It was noted that the two men who fabricated the flagpole had fought on opposite sides during the war but they both respected the banner now and recognized that the war had ended in 1865. "It is only the politicians that don't know the war is over."

     Following the flag raising and lunch, Post Commander Markley read the Declaration of Independence and Mike Sutton spoke about the cooperation that now existed between the North and the South as exemplified by the making of the new flagpole by Hicks and Hammond. It was customary in the early days of the Soldier's Home for the citizens of Dodge City to use the grounds of Fort Dodge for Sunday outings. (Source: the Dodge City Times, July 11, 1890 and related texts)

(Ford County Historical Society Inc. Kenneth W. Felts, author.)

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4th of July, 1890, Fort Dodge Soldiers Home
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