Last modified on March 23, 2021, at 10:28

Robert M. Wright

Robert Marr "Bob" Wright

Kansas State Representative
for Ford County
In office
Preceded by James Hanrahan
Succeeded by George M. Hoover

Born September 2, 1840

Prince George's County, Maryland, USA

Died January 4, 1915 (aged 74)
Dodge City, Kansas
Resting place Maple Grove Cemetery
in Dodge City
Nationality American
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) (1) Alice J. Armstrong Wright (married 1859-1892, her death)

(2) Missing
(3) Carrie De Voe Davis (married March 1, 1897, Kansas City, divorced 1898)[1]
(4) Sallie Olive Ivens Wright (married c. 1907-1915, his death)

Children From first marriage:

Robert Henry Wright (1860-1915)
Clara Belle H. Wright (1862-1882)
Elias Nelson Wright (1865-1902)
James Edward Wright (1867-1889)
Charles D. Wright (1870-1912)
Lucille Mittie Wright (1877-1905
From fourth marriage:
Connor R. Wright (1908-1970)

Occupation Businessman and politician

Robert Marr Wright, also known as Bob Wright (September 2, 1840 – January 4, 1915), was an American businessman and a founder of the frontier community of Dodge City, Kansas. For four two-year terms from 1875 to 1883, he represented Ford County in the Kansas House of Representatives.[2] He wasalso the mayor of Dodge City for a four-year term.[3]


Wright was born in Bladensburg in Prince George's County, Maryland. His father had been a boy at the Battle of Bladensburg during the War of 1812 and had administered aid on the field to wounded soldiers. The British victory allowed the army to march into Washington, D.C., and to burn many of the important government buildings in the capital city. Among the buildings destroyed was the residence and private library of Wright's maternal grandfather, Elias Boudinot Caldwell, a clerk of the United States Supreme Court for many years.[3]

His great-grandfather was a Presbyterian minister who during the American Revolution commanded troops at the Battle of the Meadows. The British destroyed his property and killed him as well. His wife was shot by a Hessian soldier while sitting at her window with a baby in her arms.[3]

Dodge City pioneer

At the age of sixteen, Wright left Maryland to seek his fortune in the American Old West. He settled in Missouri and worked until 1859 on a farm near St. Louis, Missouri. In May 1860, he proceeded to Denver. He crossed the Great Plains four times by wagon and twice by stagecoach. For three years he was employed by Sanderson & Company but soon became a contractor hauling grain and cutting hay and wood. He was appointed sutler or post trader at the since disbanded Fort Dodge United States Army outpost on the recommendation of General Ulysses S. Grant, who knew his family in Maryland. In time, he wore the hats of farmer, stockman, contractor, merchant, postmaster, and elected and appointed official.[3]

In 1872, Wright owned a general store in Dodge City, at the time that James H. "Dog" Kelley, another mayor, was co-owner with Peter L. Beatty of both a restaurant and the Alhambra Saloon.[4] Wright in his career made and lost a fortune; so did Kelley but on a lesser scale. The historian C. Robert Hayward, in The Merchant Prince of Dodge City: The Life and Times of Robert M. Wright, shows that Wright earned $200,000 a month during the 1880 cattle season, or 4 million in 2009 dollars at a time without an income tax.[3]

Stuart N. Lake (1889-1964) the author of Wyatt Earp: Frontier Marshal, a standard biography of Wyatt Earp, a deputy marshal in Dodge City and in other outposts, claimed that Wright in 1878 pocketed $25,000 as a "fee" from the South Texas cattleman and steamboat operator Mifflin Kenedy (1818-1895), for whom Kenedy County, Texas, is named. The money was paid, said Lake in a 1951 letter to the historian Stanley Vestal (1887-1957) to gain the[acquittal of Kenedy's son, James W. "Spike" Kenedy (1855-1884), in the inadvertent shooting death of the popular dance hall singer Dora Hand, who was courted by both Spike Kenedy and Mayor Jim Kelley.[5]

In his later years as he was faced with heavy financial losses, Wright tried to sell off his land and remaining 110 head of cattle but had trouble finding buyers. Though best known as state representative and mayor, Wright held a final public office, state forestry commissioner, to which he was appointed in 1899 and again in 1901 by the Republican governor of Kansas, William Eugene Stanley (1844-1910). He had also been the county treasurer of Ford County.[3]

Personal life

When he was nineteen, Wright married a 13-year-old first cousin, Alice J. Armstrong. The couple had six children; Wright outlived all except for his oldest son, Robert Henry Wright, who died in Silverton, Colorado, in June 1915, some five months after his father's passing. His fourth and last wife, Sallie Olive Ivens, bore him a son, Conner R. Wright, a United States Navy veteran of World War II, who lived until 1970.[6]

In 1913, Wright penned an autobiography with a very long title, Dodge City, The Cowboy Capital and the Great Southwest in the Days of the Wild Indian, the Buffalo, the Cowboy, Dance Halls, Gambling Halls, and Bad Men. The title is often shortened to Dodge City, The Cowboy Capital. Because of a fire at his publishing company in Wichita, Kansas, he lost money on his venture. Rare book stores sometimes have the book at a price in the hundreds of dollars.[3]

Wright once explained his fascination of the frontier experience:

If you wish to feel yourself more comfortable than a king while listening to the sweetest strains of music, come back into a warm, pleasant home with its comforts and listen to the crackle of a cheerful, open wood fire, after being out in cold and storm for a month or two, never, during that time, being near a house or comfortable habitation, while every moment being in terror of Indian attack, or suffering from cold and storm really more terrible than Indian attack, sitting up the greater part of the night to keep from freezing, and riding hard all day on the morrow. In the joy of the change, you will imagine yourself in the heaven of heavens. How many of us have often experienced these feelings on the frontier of Kansas in the early days. Yet this kind of a life gives one a zest for adventure, for it is a sort of adventure to which he not only becomes accustomed but attached. In fact, there is a fascination about it difficult to resist, and having once felt its power, one could not permit himself to give it up.[3]

After suffering declining health, Wright died early in January 1915. He is interred at Maple Grove Cemetery in Dodge City. Wright Park in Dodge City is named in his honor, as is the community of Wright, Kansas. a census-designated place in Ford County.[6]

The community of Wright, located in Ford County, is named in his behalf.


  1. C. Robert Haywood. Unplighted Troths: Causes for Divorce in a Frontier Town Toward The End of the Nineteenth Century. Washburn University at Topeka, Kansas. Retrieved on March 21, 2021.
  2. Ford County: Organization and County Officers. Retrieved on March 21, 2021.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 3.6 3.7 George Laughead (September 23, 2009). Robert M. Wright (1840-1915), Dodge City, Kansas: Town President, founder, pioneer. Retrieved on March 21, 2021.
  4. Beatty & Kelley Restaurant. Old West Festival. Retrieved on March 25, 2014; no longer accessible on-line.
  5. Susan Leiser Silva and Lee A. Silva, "The Killing of Dora Hand".; originally in Wild West Magazine (October 1, 2009). Retrieved on March 21, 2021.
  6. 6.0 6.1 Robert Marr Wright. Retrieved on March 21, 2021.