The first settlement of non-indigenous people in the area that became Dodge City was Fort Mann. Built by civilians in 1847, Fort Mann was intended to provide protection for travelers on the Santa Fe Trail. Fort Mann collapsed in 1848 after an Indian attack. In 1850, the U.S. Army arrived to provide protection in the region and constructed Fort Atkinson on the old Fort Mann site. The army abandoned Fort Atkinson in 1853. Military forces on the Santa Fe Trail were reestablished farther north and east at Fort Larned in 1859, but the area around what would become Dodge City remained vacant until after the Civil War. In 1865, as the Indian Wars in the West began heating up, the army constructed Fort Dodge to assist Fort Larned in providing protection on the Santa Fe Trail. Fort Dodge remained in operation until 1882.
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 operations in the region. Conveniently located near the Santa Fe Trail and Arkansas River, Sitler's house quickly became a stopping point for travelers. With the Santa Fe Railroad rapidly approaching from the east, others saw the commercial potential of the region. In 1872, just five miles (8 km) west of Fort Dodge, settlers platted out and founded the town of Dodge City. George M. Hoover established the first bar in a tent to service thirsty soldiers from Fort Dodge.cherilea The railroad arrived in September to find a town ready and waiting for business. The early settlers in Dodge City traded in buffalo bones and hides and provided a civilian community for Fort Dodge. However, with the arrival of the railroad, Dodge City soon became involved in the cattle trade.