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What were the top towns of the Old West?

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  • What were the top towns of the Old West?

    Dodge City, Abilene, San Francisco, Deadwood, Tombstone – the names of many towns are writ large across the annals of the Old West. Tell us what you think the top towns of the era were and why.

  • #2
    Top towns of the Old West

    The towns that can be most associated with the Old West gained significance primarily because of the railroads or mining. Ellsworth, Wichita, Hays, Abilene, and Dodge City in Kansas sprung up around the railroad terminals that made it possible to ship the cattle to the east markets. Deadwood, Tombstone, Central City, and Leadville grew as a result of the growth of mining in that area. Las Vegas NM was also a significant Old West town that eventually divided into two towns with the demarcation between Old and New town being the railroad. The fast growth of these towns and their remoteness from civilizing institutions, resulted in the "Wild" in the Wild West. All the notorious outlaws and lawmen we recognize from this period spent significant time in these towns. What is extraordinary is the short period of time in our American history that these Old West towns held significance, for many, the cattle trade or mining boom came and went in as little as 5-6 years. This period began in about 1869 just after the civil war and for most was over by 1885. For the cow towns the time line was significantly less before they evolved into typical small towns with the cattle trade reduced and the cowboys gone. Mines eventually petered out and Leadville, Tombstone etc. became forgotten partially occupied ghost towns until some entrepid entrepeneurs realized the potential tourist possibilities in the 1950's. Having grown up in Kansas and an avid fan of the Old West, I have visited many of these historical towns and at least a few have maintained some of the historical buildings and sites but, alas, most are gone.


    • #3
      Independence, MO
      St Josph, MO
      Denver, CO

      All, except Denver(Mining Center), palyed very important rolls in the settlement of the West. Either as starting points, way points or the finish line of the large wagon trains.
      "Ask not what your country can do for you"

      Left wing, Right Wing same bird that they are killing.

      you’re entitled to your own opinion but not your own facts.


      • #4
        Not a major one - but spare a thought for Bodie, California - now a ghost town.


        • #5
          Some in Arizona:

          Charleston: Bigger than Tombstone and more important in its day

          Prescott: Almost became the state capitol

          Naco: From its cavalry and Indian war days. A really "swinging" town in its time.

          Bisbee: Major mining town

          Jerome: Major mining town

          Wickenburg: Famous for the Vulture mine. Richest gold mine in the US for decades.

          Gleeson: More important for silver than Tombstone.

          Yuma: In the 1800's a seaport on the Colorado River. Important as a shipping location and notorious for its territorial prison.


          • #6
            I am always surprised at how San Antonio is left off of these lists when referring to the Old West. Most of the cattle drives started in San Antonio. In other words, the confluence of cattle being driven from various places in South Texas and Mexico would converge in San Antonio. From there they would then move to the more established trails that would take the cattle to the various railheads up north for transport.


            • #7
              Besides San Antonio, already mentioned, I'm include Ft Worth because of cattle, railroads and Hell's Half Acre


              • #8
                Originally posted by tcox View Post
                Besides San Antonio, already mentioned, I'm include Ft Worth because of cattle, railroads and Hell's Half Acre
                Exactly! One of the great gathering points, after the Civil War, for cattle moving up the Chisolm Trail


                • #9
                  for mining

                  Leadville Colorado

                  Bodie, California

                  Placerville {Coloma}, California

                  "The horizon is unlimited." Major General Matthew Ridgeway


                  • #10
                    Another city that was founded early but didn't have the rep for lack of law and order was Salt Lake City. It was fairly large and on the railroad should it be on the list?


                    • #11
                      Sutter's MIll, CA - site of the start of the '49 Gold Rush.

                      Cripple Creek and Victor, CO - the richest gold strikes in America.

                      Virginia City - The Comstock Silver Lode

                      Marble, CO - source of the marble used in most Federal buildings and monuments, and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

                      Follow the narrow gauge railroads for a list of the important towns of the Old West.
                      Quis Custodiet Ipsos Custodes? Who is watching the watchers?


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Mountain Man View Post
                        ...Marble, CO - source of the marble used in most Federal buildings and monuments, and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier...[/FONT]
                        I learn something new everyday


                        • #13
                          Kinda mind boggling nobody mentioned Santa Fe, the oldest of the significant old towns of the West, and if you include San Francisco you have to include Sacramento.

                          Virginia City, NV
                          Virginia City, MT


                          • #14
                            Dodge City

                            Dodge City, KS has got to be one the top towns of the Old West. Because without Texas Longhorns and cattle drives to Dodge, there would be no cowboys and the whole aura of the Old West would not have been so memorable.


                            • #15
                              Don't forget Ft. Smith, Arkansas with Hanging Judge Parker. He helped clean up a lot of the bad guys by giving them a neck tie. The gallows still stand next to the old court house.


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