Built in 1865, Fort Dodge is the oldest permanent settlement in this area. It not only protected those traveling on the trail, but provided supplies and a resting place for traders and buffalo hunters. The first buildings were sod and adobe. Once lumber arrived, wooden buildings were erected.
The fort closed in 1882 its buildings became the Kansas Soldiers Home in 1890 and still functions today. Many of the original buildings remain and a few of them are open to visit. During the daylight hours you may take a self-guiding tour of the fort by foot or car and visit its small museum. The Kansas Veterans' Cemetery was opened in 2002.
Fort Dodge was established in 1865 to protect a long section of the Santa Fe Trail. Streets are named for Presidents and famous military officers.
The Sutler’s Store was operated by citizens to provided “extra” supplies to soldiers and travelers following the Santa Fe Trail.
The Commander’s Quarters, presently referred to as the “Custer House,” was the building that housed the fort’s commanding officer family quarters and administrative offices. Please note the small windows along the top of the porch’s roofline reportedly used as rifle ports.
The Post Hospital was housed in the east side of this building and included a ward with 12 beds.
The Storehouse, now the museum and library, contained a supply of food, clothing, and equipment for the fort’s troops.
The original Parade Ground is bounded by Custer, Garfield, Sheridan, and Pershing streets.
Each dormitory in the Barracks contained 22 double bunks providing sleeping spaces for 88 men. Opposite doors and windows allowed for ventilation. Wood stoves heated the quarters. A 1930 WPA construction project connected two stone barrack structures.
The Fort Hays to Fort Dodge Road marker indicates the end of an important branch of the Santa Fe Trail used by freighters from 1867-1872. When the Union Pacific Railroad reached Hays in 1867, all military freight and most commercial freight destined for Santa Fe and beyond was shipped to Hays and then hauled by wagon to the main Santa Fe Trail near Fort Dodge. Military freight volume attained immense proportions during 1867-1869, a period of warfare with the Plains Indians. This branch came to an end in 1872 when the Santa Fe Railroad reached Dodge City.
Both civilians and soldiers were buried in the Fort Dodge Cemetery. The saying then was “the rich are buried at the Fort and the cowhands and poor are buried on Boot Hill or gone to ‘hell.’” Friends and family buried Marshal Ed Masterson, Bat’s brochure, at Fort Dodge in 1878. Some drunken cowboys killed the Marshal in a dance hall south of the railroad tracks in Dodge City. The body was later moved to a cemetery that no longer exists in Dodge City. No evidence of his burial site remains today. The bodies of military personnel were removed to Fort Leavenworth in 1886. Presently, the cemetery is part of the Kansas Solders’ Home property.
From the walking tour brochure of Fort Dodge and kansastravel.org/fortdodge.htm