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Long before the
area was called home by white settlers, the site of what would become Coffeyville
was occupied by the
Black Dog band of
roamed this part of
Kansas and northern
At an early period
County history, several attempts were made to establish a town in the
southeastern part of the county, nearly all of which failed. 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, but was primarily composed only of
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.
available for photographic prints
however, would soon give way under the absorbing influence of a town founded by
Colonel James A. Coffey and N. B. Blanton in 1869. Colonel Coffee original
established a trading post at the site, which thrived, exchanging supplies with
the Osage and
Indians. Situated on what is now South Walnut Street, a
small settlement grew up around the trading post on the west bank of the
Verdigris River, but grew very slowly during its first few years.
About a mile and a
half south of Westralia, on the east side of the Verdigris River, another
settlement called Parker was started about the same time, by D.T. Parker, H. W.
Martin and others. The town was designed to be the southern terminus of the
Leavenworth, Lawrence & Galveston Railroad. Parker grew quickly, within a year
supporting more than 1,000 inhabitants. However, the railroad decided to cross
the Verdigris River at a point a few miles above Parker, and the flourishing
settlement was doomed. In the meantime, Coffeyville, which had not flourished,
was chosen as the railroad’s terminus, and guaranteed its success. Within no
time, buildings and homes were moved from Parker to Coffeyville, leaving the
former town abandoned. After structures were moved, and others dismantled for
supplies, only two or three buildings remained in Parker. What little was left
was washed away by a flood of the Verdigris River soon afterwards.
The first town site
of Coffeyville was established about a mile south of the center of present day
Coffeyville, just about one and half miles from the north line of the
Indian Territory. Situated so close to the border of
and on the cattle trail, much disorder prevailed in the small settlement, so
much so that the main thoroughfare took the name "Red Hot Street," and crime and
murder were a common occurrence. Despite its wild manner, the first school was
conducted in 1869 in Colonel Coffey's house and taught by his daughter, Mary.
That same year, the
Church began in a building at Tenth and
which is the present site of the church. The first public tax supported school
began in 1870 in a building on Walnut.
When the terminus
Kansas City, Lawrence & Southern Kansas Railroad was established in 1871, most
of the businesses of the original settlement moved a mile north and the former
town site then took on the nickname of “old town.” A post office was first
established at "Old" Coffeyville, in September, 1871, with Colonel Coffey as its
first postmaster. In the spring of 1872, however, it was moved to the new town
site and S.B. Hickman became the postmaster.
The new town site of Coffeyville then became the terminus of
the southern cattle drive, to which immense herds of cattle were driven from
Indian Territory and
for shipment by rail to Eastern markets. This not only
stimulated the businesses of the city, but also earned
the status of yet another lawless
cow town. With the large numbers and character of its
fluctuating population, the town was wild with excitement, and
society was a chaos. The reckless cowboy knew no restraint,
gamblers plied their avocation openly, and saloons were quick
to ply their customers with liquor.
Cattle Trail, 1905.
This image available for photographic prints
The streets resounded with the rattle of beer glasses and the
clicking's of the keno and billiard rooms; quarrels were
frequent, and the reports of the pistol, announcing that some
unfortunate man had fallen victim to the well aimed
instrument, were common; dance halls, filled with lewd women lined the streets.
Gambling became so common, and of such a nature, as to become
a nuisance, so much so, that, that Coffeyville Mayor, A. B.
Clark, instructed the police officers to invade the gambling
dens and arrest the offenders. However, when the offenders
were taken before the judge, he was surprised to find before
him, the majority of the city council.
Because of the cattle drives, the town grew quickly but many
law abiding and peace loving settlers avoided the lawless cow
town. However, that changed as the terminus of the railroad
moved further west and the reckless cowboys found a new cow
town to haunt.
Soon, society became organized and settled, and law abiding
citizens moved to the city, which soon supported about 1,500
residents. In February, 1872, the town was organized and
The Coffeyville Journal was established in October,
1875 and the St. Paul’s Episcopal Church was completed in the
spring of 1879. Before long, other congregations, including
those for African-Americans, also were organized. The first
bank was established in May, 1880 by T. G. Ayres and Samuel
Steel, called the First National Bank.
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