Boot Hill in Dodge City, Kansas

Boot Hill in Dodge City, Kansas

Looking out at Dodge City, Kansas, from the top of the original location of the Boot Hill Cemetery, as seen during our 2022 Dodge City trip. A cowboy statue marks the location, along with a monument celebrating some of Dodge City’s famous residents.

The name “Boot Hill” has become something of legend over the years, as a few different places like to claim its origin. You can find Boot Hill Cemeteries in Deadwood, South Dakota, and Tombstone, Arizona (which uses the “Boothill” spelling). And several other places, too.

Dodge City lays claim to the name by having its own Boot Hill Museum, which sits near the top of the city’s original location of the Boot Hill Cemetery. The museum is well worth a visit if you are in the area. And Boot Hill was often referenced in the Gunsmoke radio drama and television show, both of which were set in Dodge City with Matt Dillon as the marshal.

However, the actual top of Boot Hill is outside of the museum grounds, and we happened across it as we were exploring the town.

The cemetery was originally located here, and it got its name from outlaws being buried with their boots on. Or sometimes their boots were placed at the site of their graves. It is estimated that 32 men and one woman were buried here from 1872 to 1878, before the graves were moved to a new cemetery at the edge of town. This was later the site of a school and then a municipal building. How would you like to go to school every day knowing that you were on the site of a former cemetery? I would guess that there were at least one or two “haunted school” stories told there.

The Cowboy

Cowboy Statue on Boot Hill in Dodge City, Kansas

Also at the top of Boot Hill is this cowboy statue. It is not meant to represent one person, but rather the general cowboy who called this area home for so many years.

The plaque at the bottom of the statue reads, “On the ashes of my campfire this city is built.” Dodge City has an interesting history of going from a cowboy camp to a full-fledged city. It is nice that the past is remembered.

Also, if you are curious, a smaller plaque reads, “The model for this statue was Joe Sughrue, a cowboy and later Dodge City Chief of Police from 1933 to 1936.”

One More Statue

Cattle monument on Boot Hill in Dodge City, Kansas

One other statue at the top of Boot Hill commemorates all of the cattle that were moved through the area, and the cowboys that drove them. The plaque reads, “My trails have become your highways - seven million head of longhorns marketed from Dodge City 70’s-80’s - lest we forget - Modeled by O.H. Simpson, DDS.”

For some clarification, that would be the 1870s and 1880s, because the trails were already highways in the 1970s and 1980s.

And I don’t believe that Dr. Simpson was the model for the cow heads, but rather the sculptor. He actually made a plaster mold of Joe Sughrue for the cowboy statue pictured earlier and also sculpted these longhorns.

I liked the statue. You can’t go wrong with cows.

What’s In a Name?

Name origins are interesting, such as the Boot Hill Cemetery name. And it is interesting to see how widely some names are used, especially if you had no idea that there were so many. Wikipedia, the knower of all things, lists over 40 Boot Hill Cemeteries, for example.

I have always thought the name Steve was a somewhat common name but not widely used. But maybe I was wrong about that.

The other day, I stopped in a store on the way to the dentist. The cashier noticed my name from their loyalty program and said, “My dog is named Steve! I named him after my favorite Stranger Things character. Have you seen that show?” I have not, but apparently someone on there is named Steve, just like the cashier’s dog and me.

And after a short wait in the dentist office waiting room, the hygienist opened the door and said, “Mr. Burns?” Once I got back to Big Chair #3, she said, “There were actually two Steves in the waiting room, so I had to call you by your last name.”

It would appear that Steves were following me around that day! Maybe we should start a club or something?

“The doorkeeper opens the door for him, and the sheep hear his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.” - John 10:3

About the Photos

For whatever reason, most of my Dodge City photos have received a slight yellow tint in processing. I made that choice consciously because it seemed to fit with that “old west” feel of the town. So because I had given that treatment to the previous photos, these photos got the same treatment. However, these do have slightly more color saturation than the previous photos. I guess I was in a more colorful mood when I worked on these.

Photo: Each photo is a single Raw exposure, processed in Raw Therapee.
Camera: Sony Alpha A7 II
Lens: Rokinon 35mm f/1.8
Date: April 17, 2022
Location: Dodge City, Kansas


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Burnsland is Steve Burns, with generous help from his lovely wife Laura. Steve is a husband, father, photographer, webmaster, writer, podcaster, artist, Christian. Steve enjoys sharing his photography, art, and stories through Burnsland.com, from the Burnsland World Headquarters in Tennessee.