Boot Hill Museum is home to several historic structures that have been moved onto the property over the history of the museum. The first was the Fort Dodge Jail, acquired in 1953. The most recent is the church building that was reconstructed into the First Union Church and opened in 2008. These buildings were moved in from locations in Dodge City and surrounding communities.
Fort Dodge Jail
In the early 1950’s the Dodge City Jaycees, who had built Boot Hill Museum and were managing it, felt the old jail sitting at Fort Dodge would make a nice addition to the Museum. They asked Kansas Soldiers Home officials if the museum could have it. They were told that because is was state property it could not be donated, but if it were “stolen” no charges would be pressed. On November 1, 1953 a group of Jaycees with horses and dust masks sneaked out to the Fort during the dead of night and “acquired” the 1865 jail which now stands on top of Boot Hill.
The Hardesty house was built in 1879 by A.B. Webster. It is a Gothic Revival style home built from a kit ordered from a magazine. It was sold to R.J. Hardesty in 1881. The interior decor reflects an upper class lifestyle of Victorian Kansas. It originally stood near the current location of Sonic. It was donated to Boot Hill Museum and moved to the complex in 1970. It was moved to it’s current location in 2000 when Applebees was built.
Superior School House
The Superior School House was built in 1915 in Haviland Kansas, 56 miles southeast of Dodge City. This building is an example of the typical school houses built in the late 1800s and early 1900s that were scattered across the country.
This building is believed to date to the 1870’s It was originally located a few blocks north of its current location. It is equipped with everything a blacksmith needed to build tools and fix wagon wheels.
Santa Fe Depot
The Santa Fe Depot was built in 1930 in Sitka Kansas, about 60 miles southeast of Dodge City. It was eventually moved to Ashland Kansas where it housed a small railroad museum before being moved to Boot Hill Museum in 1970.
Santa Fe Locomotive
The “Boot Hill Special,” was built in 1903 by Baldwin Locomotive Works in Philadelphia, Pa for a cost of $19,846.98. It has a boiler that holds 8,500 gallons of water. The boiler was heated by burning oil. The oil tank has a capacity of 3,300 gallons. The locomotive has traveled approximately ONE MILLION miles!
First Union Church
This building was built in the early 1900’s as an oil drillers shack in Bucklin Kansas 30 miles southeast of Dodge City. In 1943 it was converted into St. George Catholic Church. It was used until 1991 when the parish purchased a new building. It was moved to Boot Hill Museum in 2003 and was rebuilt into a replica of the First Union Church. The exhibit opened in 2008.
The Union Church used circuit preachers and hosted a wide variety of community functions. Dodge City had a reputation in its early days of being a place so wild and sinful that even God did not venture into her city limits. The Rev. Ormond W. Wright sought to change this when he went to Front Street saloons and gambling houses to solicit funds to maintain this church as a place where cowboys and settlers alike could join together to practice their faith in Christ.
Wyatt Earp and Bat Masterson were deacons of this new church. The Union Church was the first building constructed in Dodge City dedicated to the practice of religion. With the construction of this building began the taming of the “wickedest little city in America.