DODGE CITY — Boot Hill Cemetery, in which its museum rests, started in 1872 as an unofficial burial ground for various drifters who died in Dodge City.
Most of these people died suddenly, with "their boots on" giving the name "Boot Hill" to the cemetery.
None of these people had the money required for a proper burial; many were know only by their given name and no official records were kept of the burials.
The museum summer season kicks off Memorial Day weekend and will run through Labor Day weekend. Its summer hours are 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily.
During the summer, guests are invited to visit the museum and are able to view all of the exhibits, interactive displays, and a rowdy wild west gunfight re-enactment.
The entertainers at the Long Branch Saloon will show guests how to do the can-can dance and the children are able to get deputized by the Boot Hill marshal.
Gunfights for 2019 will be at noon, 3 p.m., and 7 p.m.
Since the museum is under construction for its new exhibits building, the gunfighters will be putting on different gunfights and stories of the Old West in different areas at the museum.
During the summer season, the old-fashioned ice cream parlor will be open serving a variety of ice cream sundaes, shakes and lunch. The Old West photo parlor will also be opened.
There will be a cowpoke camp on June 7-8 for elementary school-aged children where kids can experience what it was like in the Old West through storytelling and hands on activities along with lunch.
During the Dodge City Days events, the museum will be doing the Boot Hill Bull Fry and Bash in the Boot Hill Distillery parking lot.
In 1878, an official cemetery, Prairie Grove, was platted in Dodge City and all the bodies that could be located were reinterred at that location. About 10 years later they were later moved to Dodge City's current cemetery, Maple Grove.
In the following decades, most Dodge City residents wanted to forget about Dodge City's past reputation as a rough and wild town. In the 1920s and 1930s locals began to embrace Dodge City's heritage as a frontier town and Boot Hill Cemetery became a tourist attraction.
In 1947, the Dodge City Jaycees built Boot Hill Museum as a community service project and staffed it primarily with volunteers for the first 10 years.
First housed in a 3,000-square-foot rustic “Western” building, the museum contained a wide variety of cultural and natural history objects.
A 1865 jail from nearby Fort Dodge was moved to the Museum in 1953. In 1958, the construction of a replica of historic Front Street began. In 1964, additional buildings, containing the Beeson Gallery, were added to the Front Street replica to house the collection acquired from the Beeson Museum.
Other additions during later years included more reconstructed Front Street buildings, which now consist of more than one block of 1876 period buildings, along with a restored 1880 carriage/blacksmith shop and an 1879 cattleman’s home.
Currently, Boot Hill Museum is constructing a large new exhibit building and gift shop, which will be completed by the summer season of 2020.
For more information, visit www.boothill.org.