Black Sunday April 14, 1935

This story comes to me from my father and grandparents telling me. The dust bowl was raging across the mid sections of the United States and Dodge City was right in the middle of some of the worst of it.

On this day one of the worst storms of the period occurred and this is the story about that day.

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Jackrabbit Plagues of the Central Plains

This story comes from my dad and grandfather of early days around Dodge City, Kansas. Due to the farming methods employed and the breaking out of vast tracts of land with the plow, the rabbit populations exploded. Even when I was a youngster I recall seeing hundreds of rabbits in some areas still.

I think the use of summer fallow farming methods may have made a difference too but this is about the hunts and not the cause. In any case there were literally millions of rabbits roaming about and eating all the farm crops.

So area farmers and towns people would announce a Jack Rabbit Roundup on a Saturday and thousands of people would gather at some predetermined spot and surround a large tract of land inhabited by rabbits. Slowly they would walk toward one another in a vast circle closing with each step to a tighter surround. In the center of that effort they would erect a tall fenced enclosure and the rabbits would run toward the center until trapped in the pen.

There the butchering began. It was a horrible sight of mutilation and death as men would club the poor rabbits to death as guns were not safe with so many people in close proximity to one another. The rabbits would scream and squeal with terrible fright and if you have ever heard one in pain you never forget it.

My dad said it was too much for him and he never went again although it was a necessary evil to rid them of the vermin or they would not have a crop.

Changes in farming practices and sprays used on the fields probably ended the rabbit plagues and you consider yourself lucky to see ONE in an entire hunting season in Kansas.

Dodge City Christmas 1933

Even those of us my age can recall days when Christmas meant one gift of not too big of importance. Most of our presents were practical like new clothes or shoes that we needed anyway. We didn't have a lot of money and most people really didn't at that time. My dad said that until after WWII people didn't have much at all. You can tell that from the photos of those days and the houses don't have paint on them. People had no money for that. If you watch the Little Rascals the kids were super poor. My mom said they did that so people wouldn't feel so bad about their own situations.

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The Cement Pond-Dodge City, Kansas, Park Street

This is a story bout the Cement Pond down on Park Street in Dodge City, Kansas. Another family remembrance for you all. The farm on Park Street had some acreage next to it that my great grandfather helped my grandfather to farm. It wasn't large but due to the close proximity to the Arkansas River and shallow water table, they were able to utilize irrigation at a very early time.

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Early Power Lawnmower in Dodge City, Kansas

My grandfather, Fred Kirkpatrick Sr. was fortunate to have had one of the first power lawnmowers in Dodge City, Kansas. It was quite a treat to have those then as they cost money and there never was enough of that back in the day to go around so it seems. He was City and County Engineer and my Grandmother Eva was a milner which is someone who made hats. Every woman wore a fancy hat back then so they both had jobs very early in the day when women often stayed home all the time.

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Fishing on Duck Creek, North of Dodge.

Below, you will find a story my dad sent about fishing on Duck Creek which is North of Dodge City, Kansas. I find it interesting to note that since that time, farming practices have pretty much depleted the water found in those creeks and streams just 50 years ago. With the advent of the tractor, terracing of the land and building of small dams on the draws, there is virtually no runoff to the streams. Enjoy a look to the past.

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J.M. Kirkpatrick, Attorney Dodge City, Lodge Brother to Wyatt Earp

I am finally at the end of a long journey so it seems. For over ten years I have looked for a picture of my great grandfather, J.M. Kirkpatrick. He was born in 1854 and went to Dodge City about 1873 or before. My grandfather seemed to think he came west at age 19 so that would have been 1873. He and his brother Edward who was a year or two older came to Dodge to work and since J.M. had passed the bar exam, he was an attorney and Edward had a furniture and mortuary store. Those types of stores usually went hand in hand in the western states.

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Race Track Stadium Dodge City Kansas - Great Depression

Along with a lot of other municipal structures built across the USA, the old racetrack stands were constructed by men under the WPA program in the 1930's. This program was in response to the great Depression where millions of people were suddenly out of work and penniless. The Government came up with a NEW DEAL and got the young men into camps where they could work on projects and at least have food and shelter.

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Indian Reservation Cantonment Oklahoma

My grandmother Eva Kirkpatrick and her twin Reva Badgley, were born in 1900 I believe in Ohio. Their father was a farmer there and got hurt somehow and had to quit farming. It was a far different occupation then with horse drawn and had driven machinery and people got hurt often due to no safely rules.

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Dodge City Cowboy Band

One of the most interesting pieces of western history has to do with the formation and continuation of the Dodge City Cowboy Band. It was organized sometime in 1881 and played at various places including the famed Long Branch Saloon. I had the opportunity to visit that saloon before they tore down all the buildings on Front Street. I was a small boy and my grandfather on my mother's side, went there to pay his union dues.

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LAND CLAIM 2 Near Ulysses, Kansas

Last story brought us to the point where my grandfather, his brother and a friend had almost driven off a cliff in the darkness out on the prairies of Western Kansas. They did finally spend the night out in the open and the next day drove on into Ulysses Kansas and on to the land claim.

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LAND CLAIM Near Ulysses Kansas

This is a story about my Grandfather Fred Kirkpatrick, Sr. and his older brother. It happened sometime around the turn of the century and that's 1900 not 2000, hah.,

His brother had filed on a land claim down near Ulysses Kansas. This was free land to anyone who wanted it and you could get 160 acres per person just for living on it for a period of time and making improvements to it over time. After awhile you could then own the land and sell it or keep it. He had a shack on it with one room and so every so often would go down there and repair the shack from the wind damage and stay there a week or so to keep the claim active.

His brother had one of the first automobiles in Ford County so not sure when cars came out. His brother and a friend started for the claim and grand dad went along. The car developed engine problems and granddad had to lay on the running board and hold the cam in to keep the engine running. This meant being down in the tall grass and in those days there were tons of rattlesnakes.

He said at the edge of Dodge City there was a fence. West of that was open range and no roads. So to go to a town west of there, you just pointed in the general direction and hoped for the best, stopping along the way and asking if you found someone.

The claim was near Ulysess, Kansas about 60 miles SW of Dodge. They were late due to the engine trouble and it got dark and they kept driving along. Finally, someone decided to stop and try and see where they were. They had seen the lights of town ahead and were using those for a guide.

The friend with them walked ahead and fell off a 60 foot cliff down into the Cimarron River. He wasn't hurt but saved them from driving the car off the cliff. They stopped and spent the night on the cliff and continued the next day....

More tomorrow on their journey.....

Moving Boot Hill Cemetary

My grandfather Fred Kirkpatrick Sr. was born in Dodge City in 1889. He saw a lot of history there over the 95 years he lived in the area. He was also the City and County Engineer for probably over 40 years and maybe longer so he was involved with all of the street, water and sewer projects as Dodge grew from a Western Kansas cattle town to a booming stockyard and beef processing and farming community.

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