While many counties were organized while Kansas was still a territory (1854-1861), the western part of Kansas was still frontier, even when statehood was granted in 1861. Hodgeman County was organized in 1879 and covers 860 square miles on the High Plains of Western Kansas. The county seat, Jetmore, is 25 miles north of historic Dodge City; which was known as “Hell on the Plains” and was home for a time to renowned western lawmen Wyatt Earp, Bat Masterson, and Bill Tilghman.
Two legendary western trails crossed Hodgeman County in the late 1800s. In the eastern part of the county, the trail connecting the frontier forts, Fort Hays and Fort Dodge, was established so that the U.S. Army (including General George Armstrong Custer), could protect the settlers heading west along the Santa Fe Trail from marauding bands of Kiowa and Cheyenne Indians. Wagon ruts from that trail are still visible along portions of its route even today. The historic cattle trail, The Great Western Trail (the western branch of the Chisholm Trail) ran through the western part of the county as cowboys pushed longhorns from Bandera, Texas through Dodge City and on to the Ogallala, Nebraska railhead in the heyday of the cattle drives.
Today, Hodgeman County has miles of open sky, undulating wheat fields, and prairie rangeland dotted with herds of cattle. Still sparsely populated, the people (many of whom as descendants of the original homesteaders) are well educated, friendly, and retain the resilient spirit necessary to farm and ranch in the intense summer heat and the bitter winters of the Kansas High Plains.
Hodgeman County is also home to HorseThief Reservoir, whose 7,200 foot long dam was completed in 2009. When HorseThief fills to capacity, it will be the largest lake in Southwest Kansas and the park will offer camping, boating, fishing, and hunting, as well as horseback riding, and biking/hiking trails.
Hodgeman County draws hunters from across the United States for its excellent upland game bird hunting. Abundant pheasant, quail, and prairie chicken populations keep the fields dotted with hunter orange in the fall. During deer season, hunters have the opportunity to take both white tail deer and mule deer throughout the county. Hodgeman County is also home to a wide variety of wildlife, including coyote, fox, bobcat, badger, and beaver, but be sure to watch out for rattlesnakes while enjoying our great outdoors!
With good schools, a community hospital & doctor’s clinic, and a low crime rate, Hodgeman County is a great place to live, work and raise a family. Hodgeman has it …come see us soon!