History Hoydens


Historical Romance Writers Dishing the Dirt on Research

08 February 2008

Mason Jars and Manhunts: The colorful past of Coffeyville, Kansas

The site now known as Coffeyville had been occupied by the Black Dog band of Osage Indians since before the 1800s. It was first settled in 1869 as an Indian trading post, and was later known as Cow Town because it was a shipping point for cattle herds driven from Texas. When Colonel James A. Coffey migrated to the site, a town was laid out and named in his honor. Coffey spoke two Indian languages and was a “free-stater”; twice he was taken prisoner by pro-slave factions.

In 1871 the Missouri, Kansas & Texas Railroad won a three-way race to secure a right-of-way into the rich Indians lands. The Leavenworth, Lawrence & Galveston Railroad followed suit, and Coffeyville grew into a trading and commercial city. From 1870 to 1900 the town flourished as a trading center for the rich farm region and was known as an important grain and flour milling point in the Central West.

About 1900, progressive businessmen recognized deposits of clay, sand, shale, and natural gas. Within the new few years eight glass factories and five brick and tile plants were constructed. By 1901 the town had 5,000 residents, which increased over the next three years to 18,500.

The glass factories closed in 1916, but not before Mason jars were a common household item. Three Coffeyville brick factories manufactured 765,500 bricks every day and shipped them world-wide, where they are still found today, stamped “Coffeeville Kas.” A number of other industries are still active today: Rea Patterson Flour Mill (Bartlett Flour Mill), Sherwin Williams and the National refinery (Farmland Industries).

The Dalton Raid Fiasco occurred on the morning of October 5, 1892. Bob, Grat and Emmet Dalton, Dick Broadwell and Bill Powers decided they would do the unprecedented: rob two banks at the same time. [One is pictured upper right] The Daltons wore disguises and planned to tie their horses between the two banks for an easy getaway, but the street was torn up. They tied them in the alley close to the jail.

Three of the bandits–Grat Dalton, Powers and Broadwell entered the Condon Bank. Bob and Emmet Dalton entered First National. The gang demanded money from the Condon safe, but the clerk told him the safe would not open until 9:30 a.m. It was twenty past nine, and Grat said he’d wait.

That ten minutes gave the alerted townspeople the time they needed to grab guns and ammunition and defend the town. The raid was over in 12 minutes. Four of the Dalton gang were dead, and four citizens were killed in the gunplay. Emmet Dalton, the youngest, survived with 23 gunshot wounds. When he healed, he was given a life sentence in the Kansas penitentiary at Lansing and pardoned after 14 years.

He moved to California and became a real estate agent, author and actor; he died at the age of 66.

Source: Coffeyville Historical Society.


Blogger Lauren Willig said...

Lynna, I love that career trajectory-- from bandit to real estate agent, author and actor! If only all of us had such colorful CV's....

1:16 PM  
Blogger Amanda Elyot said...

It's such a world away for a northeastern urbanite like me -- thanks so much, Lynna, for a glimpse into the wild and wonderful Coffeyville and its denizens!

5:34 PM  
Blogger Kathrynn Dennis said...

Wow, 21 gunshots and survived! Gulp. Then on to multiple additional professions...would love to read HIS biography someday.

8:15 PM  
Blogger Plot Whisperer said...

Don't you just love history???

What a wonderful way to stimulate one's imagination -- through stories from the past.

Thanks for the history tour.

8:37 PM  
Blogger Gillian Layne said...

Lynna, it is such a treat for me to visit this blog and see someplace so close to home brought to life and shared with everyone.

We in the Midwest are proud of our colorful history. :)

3:02 AM  
Blogger Keira Soleore said...

Lynna, thank you for turning a place that I have never been to into one that I might puzzle over thinking I might've visited it in the recent past.

5:51 PM  
Blogger Tracy Grant said...

I love these glimpses into the past of different places. I agree with Lauren--was a fascinating career trajectory! Has anyone written a novel about Emmett Dalton?

10:00 PM  

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