We take it for granted until we have to live without it. Back in early Dodge City they didn’t know what they were missing because they didn’t have it yet.
On Saturday Aug. 21, 1886, there was a big celebration when the first electric light in Dodge City came on that evening. This was just 7 years after Thomas A. Edison invented the incandescent light. The first lights in Dodge were made available by the Dodge City Electric Light Co., which had formed a few months earlier in February.
Former mayor A.B. Webster was the driving force behind the electrification of Dodge City. Other City notables including G.M. Hoover, R.W. Evans, F.C. Zimmermann, Jacob Collar and Dr. T.L. McCarty joined with him in this $10,000 endeavor.
The first generator was a 25 horse power engine capable of lighting 250 bulbs. The company soon expanded building a plant, with a large smokestack, in 1887 on the south side of Walnut Street (Gunsmoke). At the same time other utilities including sewers, waterworks, streetcars and telephones made their way into Dodge City.
Around 1893, construction was completed on the first of five power generating stations which stood at the site of the "old plant" which still stands at 709 West Trail Street. Today’s structure, which is Sgt. Pyle’s Auto Repair, was completed in 1932.
Midland Water, Light & Ice Co. bought Dodge City Electric Light Co. in 1904 and dropped the word "Water" in 1918. In 1920, the name changed again, this time to Electric Service Co.
For 20 years starting in 1925, Kansas Power Co. furnished Dodge City’s electricity. K.P.C. finished construction of a power plant west of Fort Dodge in 1927. In 1945, K.P.C. merged with, and changed its name to, Western Light & Telephone Co., Inc. W.L. & T. Co. added a new generating station to the Fort Dodge plant in 1957. This plant, the Judson Large Power Station, still serves the Dodge City area as a back-up generating facility.
Around 1992, West Plains Energy took over from W.L. & T. Co. and began serving Dodge City’s electric needs. And in 2002, Aquila, Inc. acquired West Plains.
Victory Electric, a cooperative that was founded in 1945, is Dodge City’s current electricity provider. The word "Victory" recognizes the U.S., and our allies, win over the Axis powers at the end of World War II. The cooperative’s first lines were energized in 1947 and it served areas around Dodge City. Dodge City itself was brought into their system in 2007 when Mid-Kansas Electric Co., which includes Victory and five other cooperatives, bought Aquila, Inc.
Kathie Bell is the curator of collections and education for Boot Hill Museum.