The Early History of Coffeyville
by Willaim G. Cutler (1883)
At an early period in its history, several attempts were made to establish a town in the southeastern part of the county, nearly all of which failed of success. The first attempt was made in 1869, when a town called Clymore, named in honor of an Indian chief by that name, sprang into existence, at Lushbaugh's trading store. I. C. Crawford and Eli Dennis, in the spring of 1869, laid out a town a mile or so south of Clymore, which they christened Westralia. These places, however, gave way under the absorbing influence of a town founded by Col. Coffey and N. B. Blanton, called Coffeyville, during the fall of 1869.
About a mile and a half south of Westralia, on the east side of the Verdigris, stood the town of Parker, which was started about this time, by D. T. Parker, after whom it was named, assisted by H. W. Martin and others. This town was designed to be the southern terminus of the Leavenworth, Lawrence & Galveston Railroad, then building, in consequence of which it was the chief point of attraction and outstripped, in its progress, all surrounding points. For awhile, the town enjoyed a marvelous growth, having within a single year grown to a city of more than 1,000 inhabitants.
A change, however, came across the minds of the railroad builders, who concluded to cross the Verdigris at a point a few miles above Parker, which stood upon the east side of the river, and run down on the west, instead of on the east side of that stream, as was previously the intention. In this ungenerous act upon the part of the railroad authorities, Parker read her doom. Here was a new chance presented, and, in 1871, Coffeyville, a town distinct from the one previously started under this name, was established under the favoritism of the railroad company.
Being the pet of the railroad was sufficient guaranty of its success. The removal of a few houses from Parker to the place created a "stampede," and, in a short period of time, the city of Parker was completely annihilated; the greater part of it was taken to Coffeyville, and what was left became scattered in other places far and wide, and of the once flourishing city only two or three buildings are left to mark the place whereon it stood. Parker, however, for several months, fought her antagonist vigorously, but when the break was made the dyke was swept away and the resistless flood rushed through.
The present city of Coffeyville is located in the southeastern part of the county, on the west bank of the Verdigris River, about two and a half miles from the north line of the Indian Territory, and is the terminus of what is now called the Kansas City, Lawrence & Southern Kansas Railroad.
The first town of Coffeyville, now called "old town," was established about a mile south of the site of the present city bearing this name, by N. B. Blanton and Col. Coffey, for whom it was named. It, too, enjoyed a season of flattering prosperity and prospect, stimulated by the idea of being the probable railroad terminus. Being a border town, and on the cattle trail, much disorder and confusion prevailed, so much so that the main thoroughfare took the name "Red Hot street," and crime and murder were of common occurrence. But this place, too, like many others, was robbed, not only of its population, business and prospects, but, also, of the very name, by the new town which had sprung up adjoining it on the north.
For some time Coffeyville was the terminus of the southern cattle drive, to which immense herds of cattle were driven from the Territory and Texas for shipment by rail to Eastern markets. This had the effect to stimulate the business of the town, on account of the numbers and character of its floating population. Everything was in a constant "hurrah;" men were wild with excitement, and society was a chaos. The wild, reckless "cow boy" knew no restraint; gamblers plied their avocation openly, and at all times; saloon men were hurried to serve customers with liquors, and the streets resounded with the rattle of beer glasses and the clickings of the keno and billiard rooms; quarrels were frequent, and the reports of the pistol, announcing that some unfortunate man had fallen a victim to the well aimed instrument were common; dance halls, filled with lewd women of the most beastly type, lined the streets, in which revelry, debauchery and criminalities ran riot. Gambling became so common, and of such a nature, as to become a nuisance, so that, at one time, the Mayor of the city, A. B. Clark, instructed the police officers to invade the gambling dens and arrest the offenders. The next morning the "lordly magistrate" sat in judgment upon such as had been arrested for violating the laws during the past day, evening and night; but judge of his surprise to find among those arrested in compliance with his instructions, and now arraigned before him for trial, a majority of the city council.
In the face of these discouraging features, operating to drive away law abiding and peace loving settlers, the town grew like magic. The cattle trail having long since been removed farther west, society has became organized and settled, so that the town is now quiet and peaceable as any in the State, and although it has lost that which more that anything else made its early growth so rapid, viz: the cattle trade, yet, supported by a wide scope of fertile territory, she has grown to a city with a population of about fifteen hundred, and is the second best town in the county for size and commercial importance. An extensive and flourishing trade is supplied from the Indian Territory, which, perhaps, goes far toward giving Coffeyville, her commercial superiority.
During the year 1872, Coffeyville became organized and incorporated under the laws of the State, as a city of the third class, and, at an election held for the purpose, the following officers were elected: A. B. Clark, Mayor; I. N. Neeld, Clerk; T. B. Eldridge, Treasurer; Luther Perkins, Police Judge; Peter Flynn, Marshall; O. D. Tallman, David Blain, G. W. Curry and Peter Wheeler, Council. Those having held the office of Mayor of the city since its organization are: - A. B. Clark, G. J. Tallman, J. Barricklow, T. B. Eldridge, W. C. Masten, J. M. Heddens and C. M. Hetherington.
A postoffice was first established at "Old" Coffeyville, in September, 1871, where it remained a few months, and was taken to the present city of Coffeyville. The first Postmaster was Col. Coffey, who kept the office in his store room. After the removal of the office, in the spring of 1872, S. B. Hickman became Postmaster, and has since then held the position.
Schools, Churches, Societies, Etc.
The first school in the town was taught in the fall of 1871, by J. T. Creswell, in what is now called old town, and was kept in a store room. A very excellent and commodious school building was erected in 1872, at a cost to the city, of fifteen thousand dollars. It is a two-story brick, containing four rooms, and is very commanding in appearance. The schools have undergone thorough grading, and comprise six departments, under as many teachers. The enumeration for 1882, was 428, and the enrollment was 401, with an average daily attendance of 172, under charge of M. R. Cook, as principal.
The First Methodist Episcopal Church was organized in 1871, and incorporated under the law of the State in the following year, and during the year 1874, the church house was built. A suitable parsonage building is also provided; the entire church property being valued at about $1,500. The congregation has a membership of about eighty, under the pastorate of Rev. D. T. Sommerville. A Sunday school is also run, under the auspices of the church, with an average attendance of one hundred.
The Episcopal Church, or St. Paul's Church, was organized in March, 1878, by the Bishop of the Diocese, assisted by the Reverends L. L. Holden and Beatty, and was effected in the Methodist Episcopal Church, with five members. The building of a house began in the fall of 1878, the corner stone being laid December 14, and was completed in the spring of 1879, at a cost of $1,500. It is a one-story frame building, with a capacity for seating one hundred and fifty persons. The congregation, now numbering fifty members, is without a regular pastor.
The Catholics also have a small society here under charge of Father Scholls, of Independence, and are without a church building.
There are also churches among the colored population of the city.
Coffeyville has also a fair representation of local fraternities, of which there are three in prosperous existence. These are the:
Keystone Lodge, No. 102, A., F. & A. M. was established under charter, October 19, 1871, with fifteen charter members, and E. Dennis was chosen worshipful master, and Joseph McCreary, senior warden. The lodge, now numbering sixty-five members, is under the official management of Joseph McCreary, worshipful master; J. S. Lang, senior warden, and F. W. Noblett, junior warden.
Star Lodge, No. 117, I. O. O. F., was instituted May 29, 1874, with seven charter members, and T. C. Frazier was elected noble grand, O. P. Erganbright, secretary, and M. M. White, treasurer. The lodge, at present, has a membership of forty-five, and is officered as follows: G. A. W. Faust, noble grand; J. M. Hedges, treasurer, and W. R. White, secretary.
Coffeyville Lodge, No. 1,931, K. of H., became established December 10, 1879, with fifteen members. E. L. Foster was chosen dictator; George Slosson, reporter; and J. T. Isham, treasurer. There are now forty-two members and George Slosson is dictator; T. C. Frazier, reporter; and J. T. Isham, treasurer. The lodge meets in the Masonic Hall.
Castle Elberon, No. 183, Knights of the Golden Rule, was instituted November 11, 1881, with twenty members, with A. C. Keifer, commander; J. W. Glass, secretary; and W. H. Lewark, treasurer. The present officers are O. P. Erganbright, commander; J. W. Glass, secretary; W. H. Lewark, treasurer. The lodge, numbering twenty-six members, meets in the Odd Fellows' Hall. The Masons and Odd Fellows each are provided with large and comfortably furnished halls.
The Coffeyville Journal, now the only paper in operation in the place, was established October 25, 1875, by W. A. Peffer, who, in October, 1881, associated with him his two sons, W. A., jr., and D. M. Peffer. The sheet is a five-column quarto, is Republican in politics and has a circulation of 500 copies.
The Banking House of Ayres & Steel was established May 18, 1880, by T. G. Ayres and Samuel Steel, and is the only monetary institution in the city at the present time.
Since the burning of the large flouring mill, in June, 1882, the manufacturing interests of the city are confined to the less important establishments, such as wagon and carriage factories, etc. Speedy effort, however, is being made to rebuild the flour mill, and it is only a question of short time when that concern will be replaced by a larger and better one.
In the vicinity of Coffeyville are a number of manufacturing establishments of various kinds. Thayer & Gordon own a cheese factory; Barnes and Cooper, a steam saw mill; A. Montgomery a water flour mill; A. Blake, a steam fanning mill; Long & Crum, a steam corn-grinder; Morgan Brothers, a steam saw and corn-mill.
A Slightly Later Early History of Coffeyville
by Frank W. Blackmar (1912)
Coffeyville, the largest city in Montgomery county and one of the important cities of southeastern Kansas, is located on the Verdigris river near the Oklahoma state line, 15 miles southeast of Independence, the county seat. Four railroads converge at this point—the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe, the Missouri, Kansas & Texas, the Missouri Pacific, and the St. Louis & San Francisco. It is located in the natural gas fields, the wells in the vicinity yielding about 1,000,000,000 cubic feet of gas per day.
This is furnished to the factories for three cents per 1,000 feet, which has resulted in building up extensive manufacturing interests among which are, 9 glass factories, 6 brick plants, an oil refinery, 4 foundries, a plow factory, 2 box factories, 2 planing mills, carriage and wagon factory, paper factory, zinc smelter, pottery works, excelsior factory, plaster factory, roof tile works, wire fence factory, egg case factory, novelty works, and implement works. Other manufacturing plants are under process of construction. The Missouri Pacific railroad shops are located here.
The town is advanced in the matter of public improvements, having a sewer system, waterworks, fire department, police department, 9 public school buildings, street railway, public parks and electric lights. There are 5 banks, 4 theaters, a hospital, 3 daily and 3 weekly newspapers, 4 flour mills, grain elevators, several wholesale jobbing houses, 2 ice plants, a packing house and all lines of retail trade. Coffeyville is also an important grain market and a shipping point for all kinds of farm produce. It is connected with Cherryvale and Independence by means of interurban electric lines. The town is supplied with telegraph and express offices and has an international money order postoffice with 4 rural routes. The population according to the census of 1910 was 12,687, which is nearly treble the population of 1900.
Coffeyville was founded in the fall of 1869, by Col. Coffey, N. B. Blanton, Edward Pagan, John Clarkson and William Wilson. This town was later absorbed by another of the same name located a mile north and promoted by the railroad company in 1871, as the terminus of the first railroad built in the county. The towns of Westralia, Parker, Verdigris City and Claymore were all eventually absorbed by Coffeyville. The postoffice was established in 1871 at the original town, and Col. Coffey was made postmaster. The next year it was moved to the new town.
Coffeyville was organized and incorporated as a city of the third class in 1872, with the following officers: Mayor, A. B. Clark; clerk, I. N. Neeld; treasurer, T. B. Eldridge; police judge, G. A. Dunlap; marshal, Peter Flynn; councilmen, G. J. Tallman, David Blair, C. W. Curry, W. H. Bowers and E. S. Eldridge. The first school was taught in a store building on the old town site in 1871 by J. T. Creswell. The Coffeyville journal was established in 1875 by W. A. Peffer. The first banking house was opened in May, 1880, by Ayres & Steel. A board of trade was organized in 1884, and on July 20, 1887, Coffeyville was incorporated as a city of the second class by proclamation of Gov. Martin.
In 1888 an incident occurred in Coffeyville which startled the whole state and led to an investigation by the state officials. A package directed to Winfield was left at the express office on Oct. 18. While still in custody of the express agent it exploded and killed Mrs. Upham and her daughter, Mabel. It was a package of dynamite and a political murder was intended by the party who prepared it.
In 1892 occurred the famous Dalton raid at Coffeyville. The Daltons with two accomplices, comprising a band of five, came into the town with the intention to rob the banks and commit as many murders as necessary in the process. While robbing the bank of Condon & Co., the ruffians were attacked by the citizens and one of them wounded so that he could not shoot. Undismayed by the rain of bullets, they took all the currency, amounting to $11,000, and went to the First National bank, where they secured $20,000 and went out into the alley, by which they expected to escape. Here they were fired upon by the citizens and a battle began, which lasted 12 minutes. When it was over four of the robbers were dead and one seriously wounded. Out of the ten citizens who took part 4 were killed and 2 wounded. The wounded robber was Emmet Dalton, who was at that time 16 years of age. He never fully recovered from his wounds. After serving a number of years in the state penitentiary he was released in 1909.
Coffeyville is located at 37°2'16N, 95°37'35W (37.037708, -95.626438). The city is situated along the west bank of the Verdigris River only a few miles up river from the lowest point in Kansas—679 feet (207 m), where the river crosses the Kansas-Oklahoma border. Coffeyville Municipal Airport is only a few miles northeast of the city along US-169. The city is also 15 miles southeast of Independence, the county seat. According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 18.3 km² (7.1 mi²), all land.
Coffeyville's population was estimated to be 10,359 in the year 2005, a decrease of 674, or -6.1%, over the previous five years.
As of the U.S. Census in 2000, there were 11,021 people, 4,691 households, and 2,847 families residing in the city. The population density was 602.7/km² (1,562.1/mi²). There were 5,550 housing units at an average density of 303.5/km² (786.6/mi²). The racial makeup of the city was 75.76% White, 12.12% Black or African American, 4.97% Native American or Alaska Native, 0.60% Asian, 0.04% Pacific Islander, 1.63% from other races, and 4.87% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 3.82% of the population.
There were 4,691 households out of which 26.8% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 45.0% were married couples living together, 11.9% had a female householder with no husband present, and 39.3% were non-families. 35.4% of all households were made up of individuals and 18.6% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.25 and the average family size was 2.90.
In the city the population was spread out with 24.0% under the age of 18, 10.0% from 18 to 24, 23.3% from 25 to 44, 21.3% from 45 to 64, and 21.4% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 39 years. For every 100 females there were 87.2 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 82.1 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $25,542, and the median income for a family was $33,180. Males had a median income of $29,199 versus $17,940 for females. The per capita income for the city was $15,182. About 10.9% of families and 15.0% of the population were below the poverty line, including 18.6% of those under age 18 and 10.9% of those age 65 or over.
The Coffeyville school district (USD 445), with three schools, serves almost 2,000 students. The district has consolidated its elementary schools into a single Community Elementary School with four pods. The USD 445 schools are: Community Elementary School, grades PK–6;
Roosevelt Middle School, grades 7–8;
Field Kindley High School, grades 9–12
There is also Holy Name School, grades PK-6, a parochial school operated by the Roman Catholic Church.
Coffeyville is also home to the aptly named Coffeyville Community College.
Born in Coffeyville
Phil Ehart (Drummer of the rock band Kansas)