Marshal Matt Dillon once met his real-life counterpart
James Arness sat down with the actual marshal of Dodge City.
Image: AP Photo
In southwest Kansas, in the path of the Great Western Cattle Trail, lies the historic locale known as Dodge City. To history buffs, it’s the raucous settlement frequented by notable figures like Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday. For millions of TV fans, it’s the setting of the long-running Western Gunsmoke.
The city is proud of its place both in American history and the hearts of television Western devotees. In many ways, they are one and the same.
You can drive down Wyatt Earp Boulevard or stroll along Gunsmoke Street. There are statues of Doc Holliday and James Arness, the actor famous for playing U.S. Marshal Matt Dillon on Gunsmoke.
In fact, Arness and fellow cast members Amanda Blake, who played Miss Kitty, and Milburn Stone, who portrayed Doc Adams, visited Dodge City in 1958 and helped intertwine the mythic Old West with the modern Kansas town.
They were on a promotional trip billed as "Return to the Santa Fe Trail" by Gunsmoke's network, CBS. While on the trail, so to speak, they met the real marshal of Dodge City, Ramon House. A replica of the old Long Branch Saloon, the lively establishment owned by Miss Kitty on the show, provided the perfect place for a photo opportunity of the marshal (the real one) and the three Gunsmoke leads.
It was in 1958 when a small, historic road named Walnut became known as Gunsmoke Street.
Today, visitors can stride down the cobblestone thoroughfare following the Dodge City Trail of Fame. Just like in Hollywood, plaques in the sidewalk commemorate both real historical figures, like Bat Masterson, and the actors who brought them to life. Like Gene Barry — who played Masterson on TV from 1958–61.