Roth Jewelers Then and Now

607 N Second Avenue

This building has been quietly serving Dodge City for more than 100 years. It’s one of the many which had been saddled with a modern and very unattractive slipcover for as long as I can remember. Seeing the building’s original features for the first time made me wonder about its history.

The 1887 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map shows frame dwellings at 725-726 Second Avenue. This was before the staggered street numbering system was implemented. The 1911 Sanborn shows a much larger home and a whole mess of renumbering on Second Avenue. The lot we’re looking at was assigned 607 at that time and 609 was across the alley to the north. The residential neighborhood had given way to a mostly commercial district.

The original Anderson Building at 605 Second Avenue was erected in 1912. George Anderson awarded the contract to prolific Dodge City builder, Julian Parham. Annie Anderson had a new building with a very similar look constructed on the north side of the original in 1916. The home which had occupied the lot was sold and moved to another site.

Dodge City Daily Globe, April 6, 1916

Felkel’s Inn, operated by John Felkel, opened in August of 1916.

This menu holds up to today’s standards, although I’d skip the olive nut and pimento cheese.

Dodge City Daily Globe, August 4, 1916

The line between newsgathering and advertising may have blurred a bit but I do like the idea of opening a business with an orchestra.

Dodge City Daily Globe, August 18, 1916

The 1918 Sanborn was the first to show the restaurant with rooms upstairs. The building still had only one street number. In May of 1918, John Felkel accepted a position at the Dodge City Ice Cream and Produce Company. Martin Ditch took over the restaurant, which was renamed The Inn.

Dodge City Daily Globe, May 31, 1918

That lasted about a minute. By November of 1918, Ditch had moved to Hutchinson to take another job.

Dodge City Daily Globe, August 17, 1918

By September of 1918, Moon announced the fountain would cease operations due to a lack of “sufficient competent help.” I assume World War I and the influenza epidemic were contributing factors. The dining room service continued.

W. A. Curry assumed operations of The Inn in April of 1919. The fountain was resurrected under the watchful eye of J. D. Werner. The article below is kind of confusing. Sam Stubbs, Sr. had purchased The Inn and renamed it The Pennant.

The Dodge City Journal, September 11, 1919

The Stubbs family was famous for feeding Dodge City at various venues.

Etricks’ Directory of Ford County 1920

By the time of this printing, the new Anderson Building had been assigned the second street number of 609 Second Avenue. I’m not sure about that telephone number.

Etricks’ Directory of Ford County 1920

A fire damaged the building in January of 1920 and the restaurant reopened in April. I’m not saying the phone number was responsible but I also wouldn’t rule it out.

The Dodge City Journal, April 8, 1920

A Wurlitzer orchestra piano was installed at The Pennant in November of 1920. It reportedly produced music that was “full of pep.”

Stubbs moved The Pennant to the old Reynolds Jewelry spot on Chestnut Street in February of 1921 and Rush Hardware moved in to the new Anderson building the following month.

The Dodge City Journal, October 20, 1921

If you squint, you can make out the J. S. Rush sign on the right just beyond the Santa Fe Trail Garage.

Photographer Unknown

Rush then sold the hardware store to Homer and Fred Tepe in October of 1922.

The Gray County Record, October 26, 1922

Once they took possession of the hardware store, the Tepes combined it with their plumbing and hardware business which had previously occupied the space at 315 W Chestnut Street.

The Dodger, April 5, 1927

It appears the Tepe brothers either sold or simply closed the hardware store by 1928. Homer had an accident in Clark County and an article from March of 1928 called him the former proprietor of a hardware store in Dodge. The 1928 and 1930 directories list Offerle Mercantile Company at 607 Second Avenue but I haven’t been able to find any details other than the name of the owner, H. A. Offerle. I believe that would be Harry Abner Offerle but don’t hold me to it.

Ford County Directory 1928

The building must have been remodeled into two separate storefronts sometime in the 1920s. W. G. Thomas operated Temple Shine Parlor in the north room at 609 Second Avenue.

The Dodge City Journal, June 27, 1929

Anderson Cleaners moved to the north room around 1934.

The Catholic Advance, March 28, 1936

William J Hoffman was a jeweler from Jetmore who teamed up with S. C. Walker (formerly of Mosher & Cochran) to open a store at 405 Second Avenue in May of 1925.

The Southwest News, May 28, 1925

Hoffman bought out Walker’s share around 1929 and moved to the south room at 607 Second Avenue in the mid-1930s.

Dodge City Daily Globe, October 20, 1945

By 1942, the Pollock, Mapel and Beck Shoe Company was located at 609 Second Avenue. And by 1947, the Pollock and Mapel were silent. You’ll have to read that linked post to get the (admittedly lame) joke.

1947 City Directory and Business and Professional Guide for Dodge City, Kansas

The Fairytale Shop reopened in their new location at 609 Second Avenue in May of 1953.

Great Bend Daily Tribune, May 21, 1953

This extremely relatable photo from 1954 shows the building pre-slipcover.

“Dust Storm in Dodge City,” Kansas Heritage Center Digital Archive, accessed May 19, 2023,

Dick and Betty Roth bought the jewelry store around 1960.

Dodge City Daily Globe Special Traveler’s Edition, 1960

The Bairds remained next door to the north.

Dodge City Daily Globe, 3rd Special Travelers’ Edition, 1960

In the photo below, you can see the entire block south of the First National Bank Building was modernized with a metal slipcover.

Photo by Troy Robinson

The Fairytale Shop moved up north to the mini mall in the early 1970s. Raleigh and Elaine Bristor bought Roth Jewelers around 1974.

Rose Music Company opened at 609 Second Avenue in October of 1979.

Dodge City Daily Globe, October 24, 1980

Here’s a shot from the First National Bank Building.

Photo by Troy Robinson

Although I remember shopping at Roth’s for jewelry, I think I missed the billiards section. That must have come after the Bristors sold the business.

Dodge City Daily Globe, January 10, 1997

In the years since Roth’s closed, the building has housed a bridal shop, a seamstress, a hair salon, and several retail stores. The north storefront is currently occupied by Ez Ink Studios. Although the south room is now home to Grain Belt Express, the storefront still gives away its decades as a jewelry store.

These photos were taken over a period of a year or so. Walking past and seeing the slipcover had been removed was a wonderful surprise. You will notice lots of changes in the windows over time. The north wall of the building has since been decorated with some colorful adhesive artwork.

The Google Street View images go back to 2007 so you can see how the storefronts have changed over time. I love that these buildings are being allowed to show their age and character. They still have a lot of life left in them!

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Ark Valley Telephone Then and Now

605 First Avenue

I can’t believe I’ve never noticed something that is so fascinating about this otherwise boring building. Everyone says it dates back to the 1950s but I recently saw something much older hiding in plain sight. To show you how I got there, let’s go back to the beginning.

The original Dodge City Telephone Company was formed on January 16, 1886. The City granted a franchise in June but that didn’t mean it would be operational any time soon. In fact, the business registration expired. In February of 1888, Ford County Republican reported “The Dodge City Telephone Company will soon be ready for business.” There were many false starts and at least one motivated citizen took matters into his own hands, building his own poles and a local line.

The Globe-Republican, April 14, 1898

The same “soon” story was repeated in December of 1899 but this time it was real.

The Dodge City Democrat, December 1, 1899

The original telephone exchange in Dodge City was located inside the Bee Hive at Second Avenue and Chestnut Street.

The Globe-Republican, January 18, 1900

The phone company was sold to Dr. Sharp of Larned in July of 1902. He relocated the exchange over Tiefenbach Jewelry at 213 West Chestnut Street. L. J. Pettijohn then bought the exchange in October of 1904. Pettijohn sold the company in February of 1906 and the new Dodge City Telephone Company was officially formed on March 5, 1906. Pettijohn retained stock in the new company and remained on the board.

Arkansas Valley Telephone Company bought the Dodge City Telephone Company in February of 1912.

The Dodge City Globe, February 15, 1912

Plans were immediately underway to build a new exchange and office building. Initially, the new structure was to occupy the lot directly west of the Masonic Temple on the south side of Walnut Street. Ark Valley actually purchased that lot in March of 1912 for $2,500. The plan quickly changed, however, and Ark Valley bought the lots along First Avenue on the north side of Walnut Street.

The Dodge City Daily Globe, April 23, 1912

The house located just north of the monument works was used as housing for exchange operators. It was assumed this arrangement would be very temporary but the phone company told Dodge City they would have to raise rates to cover the new building and equipment. The City told Ark Valley they could provide adequate services with the current setup and no new building was required.

In other drama, my great-grandmother and some of her coworkers went on strike in March of 1913. No one likes a tattle-tale.

Management decided they only wanted to hire local Dodge City girls as replacements!

The Dodge City Daily Globe, March 12, 1913

Beth and Merritt were married that month so I doubt she gave Miss McBee another thought. Especially since Miss Daisy was driven back to her home in Independence later that year. Local girls, indeed!

The Dodge City Daily Globe, November 26, 1913

Anyway, about that new exchange building. Ark Valley continued negotiations with the City for several months. It was learned in October of 1913 that the Dodge City operations were controlled by a Bell subsidiary in Missouri. The Missouri-Kansas Telephone Company owned approximately 17/30ths of Ark Valley stock.

An agreement was finally reached in November of 1913 and Ark Valley immediately ordered materials for the line improvements. They were trying to get the underground lines installed before the ground froze. Architect W. C. Davis finalized the building plans in March of 1914 and construction began in April.

This article goes into the intricacies of the old and new telephone systems, if you’re interested in that sort of thing. They lost me at “magneto.”

This is how the new building appeared in 1914 before the window awnings were added.

The Dodge City Journal, October 9, 1914

The new building with its modern exchange system was formally opened on December 2, 1914. The following spring, Ark Valley created a park with ornamental landscaping at the northwest corner of First Avenue and Walnut Street. Dodge City’s first school had once occupied this corner.

I find it wildly amusing that “Hello” was considered an obsolete greeting in 1917. Personally, I think we should have stuck with Alexander Graham Bell’s “Ahoy!”

Dodge City Daily Globe, January 19, 1917

The 1918 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map shows the fireproof Arkansas Valley Telephone Company at what was then 609 First Avenue. You will note this map (and each subsequent Sanborn) incorrectly shows 1913 as the year of construction.

Southwestern Bell Telephone Company took over the Dodge City exchange on August 1, 1918.

Dodge City Daily Globe, September 21, 1918

The Dodge City property was formally transferred to Southwestern Bell Telephone Company in November of 1920.

Dodge City Daily Globe, Kansas Centennial Edition, July 1961

This photo of Ida Beeson holding my grandmother was taken around 1925 outside the Chalk Beeson Theater and you can see the Southwestern Bell Building in the background.

A bell-shaped granite marker was placed in the park in 1927 to commemorate Dodge City’s first school. The park was apparently quite lovely.

Dodge City Daily Globe, August 24, 1928

A building permit was issued on May 9, 1929 for a $14,000 building expansion.

Dodge City Daily Globe, May 9, 1929

This photo which was published in 1931 appears to have been taken prior to the expansion…and prior to the window awnings. It’s very dark but you can make out a bit of the park to the left.

The Catholic Advance, February 21, 1931

The 1932 Sanborn shows the new addition at the west end of the building. You will notice the map says the addition was built in 1927 but this appears to have been a penmanship issue.

Another building permit application was approved on August 26, 1952 for the construction of a two-story addition on the south end of the original building all the way to the corner of First and Walnut.

This excavation photo facing northwest shows the 1929 addition to the back of the Southwestern Bell Building.

Dodge City Daily Globe, September 4, 1952

Construction was well underway by the Spring of 1953.

Dodge City Daily Globe, February 13, 1956

This photo was taken from the front door of the original building looking south.

Dodge City Daily Globe, May 16, 1953

The plaque which had been affixed to the bell-shaped granite schoolhouse marker was attached to the new addition and can still be seen on the south wall at First and Gunsmoke.

Dodge City Daily Globe, April 13, 1954

Remember what I said about the assertion that this building only dates back to the 1950s?

A building permit application was approved on August 10, 1954 to remodel the front of the original building to match the new addition. They planned to “remodel front of old building with yellow brick to match new building. Going to take door out completely on east side and put in small windows. Will remove step. Will build partitions for new bathrooms & lounge. Will put in a tile floor.”

This article is just dead wrong. There is nothing pleasing to the eye on the west side of this block. Nothing.

Dodge City Daily Globe, November 13, 1954

So there! Remember Marisa Tomei’s testimony in “My Cousin Vinny?” That’s basically me right now. Totally vindicated! Many thanks to the City of Dodge City for finding those permits.

Southwestern Bell expanded their building again in 1974, this time to the west. I covered the life and death of the Crown Theatre in this post.

Dodge City Daily Globe, December 13, 1975

The construction of the new addition was one thing but the installation of the equipment was quite another! It was an extremely lengthy process and the open house was finally held in January of 1976.

Dodge City Daily Globe, January 16, 1976

Southwestern Bell Company acquired AT&T in 2005 and the company’s name was changed to AT&T, Inc.

Most of the windows in the 1950s addition were updated to match those installed in the 1970s but they skipped the original building. If you walk by, you can still easily spot the windows from the 1950s remodel, when the original building was modified. And you can still see the red brick addition to the west, hiding in plain sight.

My discovery in photos:

I’ve gone past this building a fragillion times and never once noticed what was right there for anyone to see. Get out and explore your hometown. I promise you it’s full of surprises.

UPDATE: Here’s a photo I received showing a bit of the park located at First and Walnut. If anyone knows who took it, please let me know and I’ll give them proper credit.

Photo courtesy Paul Kornechuk III

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Elks Home Then and Now

711 N Second Avenue

This ugly duckling was rumored to have gotten its start as a stone stable-turned-pigsty. It makes for a fun story but it also doesn’t seem to be rooted in reality.

The most credible story I’ve found about the building’s origin came from Frank A Hobble in 1932. He told the Globe that the stone building had been the sutler’s store at Fort Dodge, which was purchased by R. M. Wright and A. J. Anthony and moved to Dodge City. Newspaper accounts from 1884 seem to confirm Hobble’s version.

The Dodge City Times, March 20, 1884

The 1887 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map shows a long, stone two-story tenement house with a single-story frame attachment on the back. The street address at that time was 905 Second Avenue. Pay special attention to the P. G. Reynolds Stage Stable to the left at Third and Vine. It will be relevant later.

By the time the 1892 Sanborn came out, the street number had been changed to 904 as the result of a building demolition to the south.

Unfortunately, the seven-year gap between available maps leaves the timeline somewhat open to interpretation. I know the building became a broom factory sometime before 1899 but as of this writing, I can’t prove which one.

In the spring of 1896, John E Harvey and L. E. Bissell opened a broom factory in Dodge City. I believe it was initially located under the Rock Island ticket office and I didn’t find any mention of it moving to Bridge Street/Second Avenue so it is unclear whether this building was occupied by this particular factory.

The Globe-Republican, April 9, 1896

Frank S Porter bought the Dodge City Broom Factory in October of 1898 and he began plans to build a new place in July of 1899. Indeed, the 1899 Sanborn shows an old broom factory still at 904 Second Avenue with the current broom factory on the east side of Second between Spruce and Walnut. So there’s that.

The 1905 Sanborn still shows the (old) broom factory at 904 Second Avenue but the frame section looks like it was removed, as were the frame outbuildings. A new frame dwelling was added to the south end. It’s difficult to tell if they’re actually connected or just very close. It appears the building was once again used as a rooming house. Mr. and Mrs. J. A. Henry opened the Block House in May of 1907.

The Globe-Republican, May 2, 1907

The block was renumbered sometime around 1909. The 1911 Sanborn shows both the old street number and the new one of 711 Second Avenue. The frame house was definitely connected according to this map. A wooden porch was added along the front and a there were also a couple of additions in the back. By this time, the Christian Church had been constructed at the southwest corner of Second Avenue and Vine Street.

I wrote a bit about Combs Automotive, which was temporarily located at the Block House, in a previous post.

Dodge City Daily Globe, February 9, 1916

The Block House was used as an emergency hospital during the influenza epidemic. It finally closed in the Spring of 1920.

The Dodge City Journal, March 4, 1920

The 1920 directory advertised 14 clean, airy, modern rooms managed by Mrs. Bertha Brumbaugh. Mrs. Henry retained ownership of the building until she sold it to the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks No. 1406 in February of 1924.

The Dodge City Journal, February 28, 1924

W. S. Leonard was hired by Mrs. Henry’s son to auction off the Block House furniture and fixtures ahead of the renovation.

The Dodge City Journal, March 27, 1924

The description in this article makes me wonder just how bad the building looked during the Block House years.

The Southwest News, July 17, 1924

This postcard from 1925 contains the earliest image I’ve been able to find and it just wasn’t an attractive building.

The 1926 Sanborn shows the structure had been further enlarged. You can see the frame dwelling to the south had been removed and replaced by the IOOF and auto sales buildings which still occupy those lots.

Boxer (and Dodge City police officer) Angus Snyder trained in the basement of the Elks Home. Several fights were held in this building over the years.

Photographer Unknown

Snyder actually held the second mortgage on the building and things were not going well for the Elks.

The building went up for sheriff’s sale in November of 1931 and Snyder bought it. The Elks, meanwhile, had eighteen months to redeem the property and announced plans to do so. Those plans were ultimately unsuccessful.

The 1932 Sanborn doesn’t show any changes to the lodge but the neighborhood had been completely transformed.

Snyder converted part of the building into apartments. There was one apartment on the second floor and two on the main floor plus a small basement apartment that was only briefly rented. The basement was mostly leased to businesses and government agencies. Snyder was even convinced to build a handball court in 1934.

The Kansas Emergency Relief Committee rented space in the building during the mid-1930s. KERC’s spot was later leased by the Ford County Board of Social Welfare as seen in the photo below from April 1, 1939. I’m not completely certain why all the BPOE signage (and the Elk!) remained.

Photo by Frank Locke

You will note a cafe had been added at the north end of the building at some point. LaGrande Beauty Shop also occupied space in the building in 1939.

By 1942, Richardson’s Cafe was at the north end and Walker Mattress Company occupied the basement. Culligan Soft Water Service had moved in by 1947 and the cafe was home to J & D Cafe. I’m not sure when the gym was cleared out and used for storage.

Western Light and Telephone Company was in the building directly to the south and the office manager, Lott G Gean, had an apartment in the old Elks Home during the 1950s. Fields Typewriter Company had taken over the basement by 1953.

The Advance Register, March 13, 1953

This photo was taken in 1954 and you can see the J&D Cafe sign in the window.

Photo courtesy Kansas Heritage Center, Angus Snyder Collection

By 1955, that north end was home to Shamrock Shine Parlor, which was quickly replaced by Red’s Barber Shop in 1956.

Dodge City Daily Globe, January 30, 1956

By 1959, the basement was leased to Perry Office Machines.

The Advance Register, April 1, 1960

Later in 1960, Perry moved across the street and the basement was left vacant. The building was completely vacant by 1962.

In this aerial photo, you can see the Christian Church on the corner had already been demolished and the site was being used as a parking lot.

Photo by Art Morenus

I don’t want to besmirch the sources for this article, who didn’t have the magic of the internet to refresh their memories. It really does seem like Ripple was pulling the reporter’s leg.

You’ll recall I drew your attention to the 1887 Sanborn, which placed the (wood, not stone) Reynolds stable around the block from the future Elks Home. The maps also confirm the building had two stories long before Mrs. Henry bought it. Observations of tenement buildings aside, I have found no indication that the building was ever a *literal* pigsty.

These photos were taken during the demolition, which took place in the Spring of 1970.

Aside from some small outbuildings, the lot has been empty ever since.

I’m always harping on the evils of Urban Renewal and the historic buildings which were taken from us. In this case, even with the legacy from Fort Dodge, it seems like the right decision.

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Crown Theatre Then and Now

208 Walnut/Gunsmoke Street

Dodge City has lost too many historic buildings and this one really makes me shake my head. I initially thought the Crown Theatre building had been extremely old when it was demolished but that was not the case at all. It was visually interesting and really should have had much more longevity. Obviously, I had to know more.

This particular lot had housed a tin shop, and later a windmill and water pump, but it was empty for more than a decade. That changed in 1923 when Dr. Winfield Thompson hired Boller and Boller of Kansas City to design a new theater building. It should be no surprise that the builder was Julian Parham!

The Dodge City Journal, April 5, 1923

W. H. Harpole managed several area theaters including the Chalk Beeson, the Cozy, the Dodge, and the DeLuxe in Spearville.

The Crown Theatre opened in November of 1923.

The Dodge City Journal, November 8, 1923

The 1926 Sanborn shows the theater at 208 Walnut Street with the stage at the north end of the building. Dr. Hellwarth’s dental office was apparently upstairs…maybe.

The Dodger, September 28, 1926

It’s a little confusing because the Crown building was attached to the building next door where many of you will remember seeing Tasker Office Supply. I found a ton of ads for doctors saying they were in the Crown Building but they were actually next door at 206 Walnut.

I could swear Dr. Gribble’s office was above Tasker’s but I’ve been wrong before.

The Dodge City Journal, December 12, 1929

It’s entirely possible that the second floor was open and the offices weren’t confined to one side or the other. They were not built at the same time and the configuration isn’t obvious.

The Dodge City Journal, April 3, 1930

Anyway, the Crown was called the Fox Crown Theatre by 1930. Fox ended up owning all of the theaters in Dodge.

The Montezuma Press, September 27, 1934

This screenshot is from a newsreel with the Richards Paint and Wallpaper sign illuminated in the background. You can just barely see the Tasker sign to the right.

“FILM STARS INVADE CITY” British Pathé newsreel

You can watch the trailer here. It’s also available on YouTube but there are a bunch of obnoxious pop-ups so good luck with that one.

Here’s what was showing at the Crown in 1942:

Photographer Unknown

The Dodge City Army Air Field newspaper offered free Crown movie passes for newsworthy stories.

Boot Hill Marauder, October 9, 1943

The Crown was remodeled and redecorated by Fox Midwest in 1947.

Box Office, August 2, 1947

Fox Plains Theatres Corporation (formed in 1933) subleased the Crown around 1949. Fox Plains turned around and subleased it to Glen Cooper, who opened the Cooper Theatre in 1953.

Dodge City Daily Globe, June 18, 1953

Cooper added a wide screen in June of 1954 without any interruption of showings. They simply hung a temporary narrow screen in front of the wide screen installation area.

Ted Page’s office moved upstairs in the late 1950s.

Dodge City Daily Globe, Kansas Centennial Special Edition, July 1961

The Cooper Theatre closed in March of 1961 and was replaced by Scholle’s Serva-Teria.

Dodge City Daily Globe, March 21, 1961

Scholle’s started moving equipment into the building in May of 1961.

Dodge City Daily Globe, Kansas Centennial Special Edition, July 1961

The Serva-Teria was remodeled in early 1967.

Dodge City Daily Globe, March 11, 1967

Ted Page had moved by that time and there were law offices upstairs.

Scholle’s moved again in 1969 and the building was vacant. Demolition began on the former Crown and Tasker’s buildings in December of 1970. In August of 1973, Southwestern Bell announced they would expand their office onto the lot where the Crown and Tasker’s (later Dodge City Office Equipment) had been.

Dodge City Daily Globe, August 24, 1973

Kansas winds caused some problems during construction but no one was injured. Notice the Janousek’s sign to the right at the old Montgomery Ward.

Dodge City Daily Globe, March 4, 1974

It took a second to get my bearings when I first saw this photo. The large building across the street to the left was the Masonic Temple, which was demolished soon after the article was printed. In the middle is the H. A. Hart building and on the right is the long dark brick building which is now part of Fidelity State Bank.

Dodge City Daily Globe, April 5, 1974

Here’s how the lot looks today:

Sigh…the 1970s, man. There’s nothing more I can say.

I’m working on a post about the original phone company building so I’ll provide more information about what all transpired there shortly.

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The Merchant Prince of South Dodge

I have only the vaguest memories of being told an actual South Dodge townsite existed on my great-grandfather’s property. I happened upon an ad for the South Dodge Town Company and before I knew it, I found myself caught up in a tale of fraud, arson, and bigamy. Definitely not what I expected!

It was no surprise to see Crawford’s name attached to the plans for South Dodge. If you look at the plat maps, his name is all over the place…but those maps weren’t created until later.

The Dodge City Times, April 16, 1885

Towns were suddenly popping up and then drying up all over the prairie.

The Dodge City Democrat, April 18, 1885

3/4 of a mile south of the bridge would be approximately South Second Avenue and Beeson Road.

The Dodge City Times, April 23, 1885

Perry Wilden. Remember that name.

Yes, THIS Perry Wilden:

The Vox Populi, November 1, 1884

The Vox Populi was a local scandal rag started by Bat Masterson. It was ugly, but in this case, probably true.

The legal description on the map above is the NE corner of the NW 1/4 of Section 2, Township 27S, Range 25W. That makes South Dodge slightly to the southwest of the city limits at that time. If you all remember the Beeson House at Beeson Road and Sunnyside Avenue, Supply Avenue would have basically been located where Merritt’s driveway was back in the day.

Perry Wilden bought (on credit, of course) about 1,400 acres and carved out 80 of them for South Dodge.

Kansas Cowboy, May 2, 1885

There was a big push for development right away.

Kansas Cowboy, May 2, 1885

I have no idea if his claims about the water table were true. Probably not.

Kansas Cowboy, May 9, 1885

I’m nodding along reading this while the wind howls outside. Minor setback.

The Dodge City Democrat, May 16, 1885

All of this stock was also purchased on credit.

Kansas Cowboy, June 20, 1885

It all sounded swell…just swell.

A new restaurant opened in July and business was brisk.

The Globe Live Stock Journal, July 21, 1885

By August, South Dodge had added a blacksmith and a saloon. Clearly, not everyone was convinced.

The Globe Live Stock Journal, August 4, 1885

Oh dear! That didn’t take long. Merchant Prince, indeed.

Let the lawsuits begin!

The Dodge City Times, September 17, 1885

Perry’s uncle (and creditor) showed up in late September, accompanied by his attorney, looking to salvage something…anything. He said Perry’s wife and children were staying with him in Ohio but he had no idea about Perry’s whereabouts. The contents of the general store had been sold at auction the previous week.

The mood was hardly somber in South Dodge, however. A “grand ball” was well attended at Wilden’s old store in November of 1885. By February of 1886, the City Council in Dodge was discussing including South Dodge in the City’s corporate limits.

The town site and then some went up for sale later in the month.

The Dodge City Democrat, February 20, 1886

Wait a minute…the Merchant Prince returned about a month later.

The Globe Live Stock Journal, March 23, 1886

Meanwhile, South Dodge was growing and more businesses were opening, including a barber shop and a plow manufacturer. Dozens of families had moved to the area. The first South Dodge Town Company was formed on April 14, 1886.

The Daily Commonwealth (Topeka), April 15, 1886

This ad ran much longer than 30 days.

The Dodge City Democrat, July 31, 1886

South Dodge even had a hotel!

The Sun, April 29, 1886

By May of 1886, South Dodge was trying to open a post office and…a… what now? Streetcars? Can you even imagine.

The Dodge City Times, May 13, 1886

Even Chalk apparently thought it was a good idea.

The Dodge City Democrat, May 15, 1886

Perry divorced his first wife, Mary, under shady circumstances. You’ll see more about this below.

The Dodge City Times, June 10, 1886

D. F. Owens is another important player. He paid $500 for the land and expected to spend $3,000 on the new house to be built by John Slaven.

The Dodge City Democrat, June 12, 1886

The directors of the South Dodge Town Company declared a 1.5% dividend on their capital stock at the June 1886 meeting.

Also in June, Perry Wilden, ESQUIRE, married the Widow Robbins in Colorado. Too soon, buddy.

The Globe Live Stock Journal, June 15, 1886

There were actually two entities formed under the name “South Dodge Town Company.” The second was formed on August 17, 1886 once Owens bought the 160-acre tract. I was wondering how the townsite ended up in Beeson hands and this explains it. More on that later.

The Globe Live Stock Journal, August 17, 1886

In other revelations, did you ever wonder how Sunnyside got its name?

The Globe Live Stock Journal, August 17, 1886

I always enjoy including snippets from the Wilburn Argus, a short-lived newspaper from a short-lived Ford County town.

Wilburn Argus, September 3, 1886

Nothing ever changes. In this election, The Dodge City Democrat declared, “South Dodge precinct is the bane of the average politician’s life.”

Wilburn Argus, November 5, 1886

The Ford County Commissioners determined there was insufficient evidence to invalidate the South Dodge ballots so their votes were counted. That didn’t keep the local papers from stating as a fact that South Dodge was crooked.

Speaking of crooked, Mary Wilden returned and wanted her property back.

The Globe Live Stock Journal, November 9, 1886

Dodge was having all kinds of problems with devastating fires and South Dodge was also not immune. But the Globe called this one in South Dodge arson.

Perry and Anna Wilden were arrested for bigamy in February of 1887. When I said it was too soon, I meant it literally AND figuratively.

The Dodge City Times, February 10, 1887

February also saw some interesting property transfers in South Dodge between the Owens and Wilden wives.

The Globe Live Stock Journal, February 22, 1887

Oh Perry…big dreams!

The Dodge City Times, October 6, 1887

But then Perry and Anna left for California later that month. She was in poor health and died in February of 1888.

Perry’s story just keeps getting weirder and weirder. Whenever a newspaper reported on his fraudulent business practices, he sued them for libel.

San Luis Obispo Tribune, November 3, 1889

This narrative from ex-wife Mary Wilden is absolutely bonkers. I’m shocked to see a discussion about a man sending his mistress away for an abortion in 1883. She also accused him of burning down their former store in Dodge.

I believe it was in 1884 that a woman who worked in the Wilden home attempted suicide due to rumors circulating about her moral character. It’s surprising Mary didn’t mention that episode as well.

Wilden moved to Little Rock in early 1890 and formed a company called Elite Furniture and Lumber Company with his brother, George B Wilden, and a woman named Annie Downey. That business was also a colossal fraud.

The Topeka Daily Capitol, November 19, 1891

Wilden and Culver were charged with bribery and found not guilty the following month. In addition to the furniture factory fiasco, he also scammed another widow out of a piece of property.

Whenever things went sideways, he just shuffled locations. But he never quit!

The Globe-Republican, March 15, 1895

Wilden just had the worst luck! Imagine being on the scene of so many purely coincidental calamities!

The Los Angeles Record, July 16, 1896

Lawsuits continued against Perry and Anna Wilden (deceased) into at least 1897, at which time their remaining land holdings were sold at the west door of the Ford County Courthouse.

Perry married another widow in June of 1898, this time Candace Elenoria (Ludlow) Huntington. Each time I thought I must have run across a different P. J. Wilden, I found some common thread to confirm it was the same rapscallion.

The Billings Daily Gazette, October 14, 1908

I’m not saying Ella’s peaches were stolen because of her husband’s shady dealings but I definitely wouldn’t rule it out.

The La Crosse (Wisc.) Tribune, October 16, 1912

Remember that movie with Rosamund Pike in which she played an evil woman preying on elderly people?

The (San Francisco) Recorder, May 31, 1916


The National City News, December 24, 1926

Amazingly, Perry ran the home in National City, California until at least the early 1930s. Ella died in 1932 so that probably put an end to his generous care and concern. Perry died in San Diego in December of 1941.

In a future post, I’ll explain what happened with the streetcar railway and how the South Dodge townsite disappeared from the map.

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