‘Gunsmoke’: Doc Adams Actor Milburn Stone Grew Up in a Tiny Western Town Not Unlike Dodge City

by Craig Garrett

Milburn Stone, best known for his role as Doc Adams on Gunsmoke, had a major influence on shaping Dodge City. Milton appeared throughout the entire series run of the classic tv show. However, many people are most likely unaware that Stone was born in 1904 in a tiny Kansas town much like Dodge City.

The population of Burrton, Kansas, Stone’s birthplace, is now just over 1,000 people. That was not the case when Milton Stone was a young boy. According to the 1910 census, there were less than 700 individuals in his entire town. Gunsmoke lead James Arness recalls Stone often speaking about his hometown. Arness claimed the conversations about Stone’s birthplace shaped how Dodge City was portrayed on the show. The actor says it led to a real sense of authenticity.

“I remember [Stone] telling us that when he was a boy that he and his pals would be playing around in the streets of this little town and these old-timers would be sitting up on the boardwalk, whittling away and all and talking about the very times when Dodge City and other frontier towns were operating in. So he had that in his mind,” Arness said in an interview with the Archive of American Television. ” And boy, he wasn’t going to let anything get through that he didn’t feel was authentic,” he quipped.

How Milburn Stone helped influence the development of Gunsmoke

Arness praises Milburn Stone for establishing the tone on Gunsmoke early on. The older actor’s genuine Western heritage helped to adapt the popular radio drama for TV. Because of this, he became an informal consultant based on his life experience growing up in an old Western town in Kansas. “He didn’t hesitate to speak up and say, ‘Well that wouldn’t work because it’s not the way it would actually have been,” James Arness added. “Turned out to be a great help. A major contribution to the early formative years.”

However, that was not the only method in which Milburn Stone molded Gunsmoke from the get-go. Arness also credits Stone as an inspiration in regards to his work ethic. Arness seemed to believe that Stone’s upbringing contributed to that. “He was a guy that had a whole lot to do with getting us off to a good start because No. 1, he was a very dedicated actor, serious about his work and all. And No. 2, he had been born and raised in a little town in Western Kansas, back in the early part of the century.”In that regard, you could argue that Stone taught James Arness what it meant to really commit to Gunsmoke’s high standards. Perhaps this attention to detail was a factor in the show having an incredible 20-year run.