The town of Dodge City can trace its origins to 1871 when rancher Henry J. Sitler built a sod house west of Fort Dodge to oversee his cattle. The town site was platted and George M. Hoover established the first bar in a tent to serve thirsty soldiers from Fort Dodge.
A new route known as the Great western cattle company or Western Trail branched off from the Chisholm Trail to lead cattle into Dodge City. Dodge City became a boomtown, with thousands of cattle passing annually through its stockyards. The peak years of the cattle trade in Dodge City were from 1883 to 1884, and during that time the town grew tremendously. In 1880, Dodge City got a new competitor for the cattle trade from the border town of Caldwell. For a few years, the competition between the towns was fierce, but there were enough cattle for both towns to prosper. Nevertheless, it was Dodge City that became famous, and no town could match Dodge City's reputation as a true frontier settlement of the old west. Dodge City had more famous (and infamous) gunfighters working at one time or another than any other town in the West, many of whom participated in the Dodge city war of 1883. It also boasted the usual array of saloons, gambling halls, and brothels, including the famous Long branch saloon and China Doll brothel. For a time in 1884, Dodge City even had a bullfighting ring where Mexican bullfighters would put on a show with specially chosen longhorn bulls.
As more agricultural settlers moved into western Kansas, pressure increased on the Kansas State Legislature to do something about splenic fever. Consequently, in 1885 the quarantine line was extended across the state and the Western Trail was all but shut down. By 1886, the cowboys, saloon keepers, gamblers, and brothel owners moved west to greener pastures, and Dodge City became a sleepy little town much like other communities in western Kansas.