The “Residents” Up On Boot Hill

Coming back from a gospel meeting in Neosho, Missouri, with my two oldest sons (and our dog, Clover), we decided to take a state road route that brought us into Dodge City, Kansas.  This is perhaps the most famous town in that prairie state.  The TV show, Gunsmoke, brought it greater fame, though it was in the county whose leading lawmen were Wyatt Earp and Bat Masterson.  The discovery of gold and later cattle drives from Texas made it a boom town that introduced every type of vice and lawlessness nearly overnight.  Not surprisingly, then, one of the most prominent places in Dodge City was the cemetery, located up on Boot Hill.  From 1873-1878, its dirt was turned frequently as six-foot holes were dug to accommodate those unfortunate enough to need to relocate there.

There is a plaque outside a building which faces the small cemetery (grave markers litter each side of that building that sits above the restored version of the original town that includes a general store, a couple of saloons, a church building, a livery stable, a large house, etc.).  It contains historical information about the “residents” in Boot Hill Cemetery, drawn from state newspaper accounts.  J.M. Essington, part owner of the hotel, was shot by the cook.  John Wagner died of wounds incurred in a shoot out with Masterson. “Texas” Hill and Ed Williams were both killed in a dance hall by Dodge City’s “vigilance committee.”  Five buffalo hunters froze to death in a blizzard north of town.  Jack Reynolds, a railroad track layer, was shot six times.  Alice Chambers was reported to be the only woman buried at Boot Hill, and she was supposedly the last person buried there.

A couple of interesting things struck me about all of this.  First, many of these deaths would have been avoided if the victims had avoided sinful activities or places where sinful activities occur (dance halls, saloons, gambling parlors).  Righteous living often serves to preserve our lives, in the short-term and long-term.  Second, the dead were of varying occupations, different genders, different ages, and from different places of origin.  The common denominator is that they lived and they died.  Whether “immortalized” in a famous town like Dodge City or unmarked in obscurity, every grave is a reminder that man is born to die (cf. 1 Cor. 15:221 Cor. 15:22
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22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.

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; Rom. 5:12Rom. 5:12
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12 Therefore, as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin; and so death passed unto all men, for that all sinned:—

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ff).  Most, if not all, of these lawless ones, vagabonds, drifters, and townspeople, likely died outside of Christ.  That is what makes these (and most other) grave markers so sad.  Most who die, die lost (Matt. 7:13-14Matt. 7:13-14
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13 Enter ye in by the narrow gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many are they that enter in thereby. 14 For narrow is the gate, and straitened the way, that leadeth unto life, and few are they that find it.

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).  But, because Christ did not remain in His grave (Ps. 16:10Ps. 16:10
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10 For thou wilt not leave my soul to Sheol; Neither wilt thou suffer thy holy one to see corruption.

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; Ac. 2:29-31Ac. 2:29-31
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29 Brethren, I may say unto you freely of the patriarch David, that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us unto this day. 30 Being therefore a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him, that of the fruit of his loins he would set one upon his throne; 31 he foreseeing this spake of the resurrection of the Christ, that neither was he left unto Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption.

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), we can overcome death and the grave (1 Cor. 15:55-571 Cor. 15:55-57
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55 O death, where is thy victory? O death, where is thy sting? 56 The sting of death is sin; and the power of sin is the law: 57 but thanks be to God, who giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

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).  Wherever our earthly journey ends, let us be sure that our spiritual journey ends in heaven.

–Neal Pollard

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