Parent Category: Kansas State History Articles
Category: Kansas Local History

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Newton is the seat of Harvey County, is a trading center for the surrounding wheat country, and a main division point of the Santa Fe Railway. The city lies amid gently rolling hills. Main Street is bisected by tracks down which rattle endless freight trains carrying oil and grain to the east, merchandise and farm machinery to the west. About twenty-five passenger trains, including sleek streamliners, halt daily at the Main Street Depot.

Local economy is governed to a large extent by the activities of agriculture and the Santa Fe Ry., particularly the latter. Almost a thousand inhabitants are employed in the shops, offices, and rail mill of the Santa Fe. Railroad news often crowds politics and information of world import onto the second page of the local papers. Labor Day is an important annual festival celebrated with parades, oratory, fireworks, and brass bands.

Five per cent of the population is Mennonite. Some of them have renounced their traditional vocation of farming to enter business; there is a Mennonite Mutual Fire Insurance Company and Bethel College is Mennonite. Of the 23 churches in the community, the largest congregations are the Methodists and the Mennonites.

A house built by A. F. Horner in Brookville, Kan., in the early 1870's was the first dwelling in Newton. Horner built it in order to win a town lot offered by the promoters of Brookville for the first house erected there. Within a few months Horner moved his 2O-by-60-feet dwelling from Brookville to Florence, to Newton, to Hutchinson, winning in turn the lots offered by each town's promoters for the first dwelling. In July 1871 the Santa Fe Railway extended its line to the settlement which thereby succeeded Abilene as the terminus of the Chisholm Trail. The cattle trade turned Newton into a "cowtown" overnight. Saloons, dancehalls, and gambling houses for pleasure starved cowboys sprouted from the plain. Although this phase of Newton's growth only lasted until January 1873, when the railroad was extended to Wichita, fifty persons are estimated to have met sudden death in its saloons and dancehalls.

Most fearless of the gunmen in the booming settlement was Art Delaney, better known as Mike McCluskie, a railroad agent hired as marshal by local saloonkeepers and gambling house proprietors. McCluskie shot and killed William Bailey, a Texas gambler. Hugh Anderson, a friend of Bailey's who had driven a herd of longhorns to Newton from his father's ranch in Texas, swore to kill McCluskie on sight. He was backed by Jim Wilkerson, a sure-shot Kentuckian, and two fellow Texans, Will Garret and Henry Kearnes.

On the night of August 19, 1871, McCluskie sauntered into the gaming room of the Tuttle Dance Hall, accompanied by Riley, a thin tubercular youth of eighteen, who worshiped the gunman and followed him around like a faithful dog. Although warned that Anderson and his friends had chosen this night to avenge Bailey's death, McCluskie lingered at the gaming tables. Riley lounged near the door.

The door burst open and Hugh Anderson, Garret, Kearnes, Wilkerson, and several cowpunchers strode into the room. The click of poker chips stilled and the roulette wheels slowed to a stop. McCluskie leaped to his feet and reached for his gun. Anderson fired. McCluskie spun around and dropped, mortally wounded.

The frail Riley went berserk. Snatching a pair of pistols from his ragged clothing, he began pumping lead. When he ceased firing, Anderson and five of his henchmen lay bleeding on the floor. Jim Wilkerson was fatally shot, two of the cowboys were dead, Garret, Kearnes, and Anderson were wounded.

Riley ran from the room. Tom Carson, the new marshal, organized a posse to search for the youth, but he was never seen again.

The Tuttle Dance Hall Massacre aroused the "better element" to reform Newton. As an initial attempt the Reverend H. M. Haun, a fearless Methodist missionary, stalked into the Gold Room Saloon and announced that he intended to conduct a religious meeting. "Go ahead, parson," the loungers assented, "a little of the Word of God won't hurt us none." Thus prompted, Haun held services behind an untapped keg of beer. As he intoned the final Amen, two cowboys swept off their Stetsons and, with six-shooters in hand, took a collection. Gold coins clinked into the hats. Presenting the money with a flourish, the volunteer deacons bowed the parson out graciously with a request that he return sometime for another meeting.

Bernard Warkentin, a descendant of the group of German Mennonites who migrated to Russia during the reign of Catherine the Great, was one of the first of his faith to reach Kansas. In 1872 he settled at Halstead, 12 miles west of Newton, and established a small flour mill operated by water from the Little Arkansas River. He later helped immigration agents of the Santa Fe Railway by encouraging his kinsmen to leave the Russian steppes for the Kansas prairies. Many of these devout, industrious people settled near Newton, introducing an Old World culture to the region and greatly furthering its agricultural development. With them they brought precious Turkey Red wheat (see AGRICULTURE). In 1885 Warkentin organized the Newton Milling and Elevator Company, which subsequently became one of the largest in central Kansas.

Newton was designated a division point of the Santa Fe Railway in 1873. The water supply proved to be inadequate, however, and in 1879 the division offices were removed to Nickerson. In 1886 the Santa Fe built the Hutchinson cutoff, which circumvented Nickerson and weakened its position as a division point. The townspeople of Newton, seeing a chance to regain the division point, began to negotiate with railroad officials. An agreement was reached in 1894 whereby the Santa Fe promised to reestablish a division point at Newton if an abundant supply of good water could be provided there.

Learning that Professor Erasmus Haworth of Lawrence had completed a geological survey of Kansas, which showed that the old bed of the Smoky Hill River extended through Harvey County, the citizens of Newton enlisted his aid. Professor Haworth unhesitatingly selected a point in the bed nearest the city, which when drilled, produced a vast supply of subterranean water. For this valuable service the Professor charged Newton $13.50.

Re-designated a division point and possessed of an inexhaustible water supply, Newton forged ahead steadily, and by 1910 the population numbered 7,862. Besides its railroad industries, Newton has a creamery, four, bakeries, one of which supplies a statewide market, and four mills that annually produce 700,000 barrels of flour.


The SITE OF THE FIRST WATER WELL, 5th and Main Sts., dug by Capt. David Payne in 1872, is marked by a bronze plate. Captain Payne was a typical frontiersman, soldier, and Indian scout. He commanded a company of the 19th Kansas Volunteer Cavalry in the Indian Wars of 1867. After contributing to the development of Harvey County, where for many years he lived as a homesteader, he entered the movement to settle Oklahoma (then Indian Territory) with whites. In Kansas history he is known as the "Daddy of the Cherokee Strip."

The FROG AND SWITCH SHOP, between the main line Santa Fe tracks W. of ist St., (also known as the Santa Fe Rail Mill), supplies track fastenings for the entire Santa Fe system. It was established in 1897 and until 1927, when new facilities were installed, its operations were confined to sawing off battered rail ends. With the advent of oxyacetylene welding this work was gradually dropped.

The CARNEGIE LIBRARY, 203 Main St., is a two-story building of classic design, with two Ionic columns of cut stone supporting the portico. Construction is of brick and limestone. The building was completed in 1903 and contains approximately 15,000 volumes.

The HARVEY COUNTY HISTORICAL SOCIETY MUSEUM, 7131/2 Main St., contains a collection of historical articles including the goose quill pen with which Gov. John P. St. John signed the Prohibition Amendment to the Kansas Constitution in 1880. The original draft of the amendment, written by J. W. Ady, Newton attorney and member of the State legislature, is also preserved.

ATHLETIC PARK, west end of ist St., a 20-acre tract on Sand Creek, contains a deer park, an outdoor stage, an artificial lake, a stadium for night football and baseball, and a municipal swimming pool with submarine lighting.

BETHEL COLLEGE, 0.5 m. N. of the city limits on State 15, is the oldest and largest Mennonite educational institution in America. It was chartered on May 23, 1887, following an agreement between the Kansas conference of the Mennonite Church and the municipal government of Newton, whereby the latter offered financial aid to establish a college at Newton.

The cornerstone of the Administration Building was laid atop a small hill north of the city in October 1888, but building operations were stopped after a few months when Newton, owing to a depression, was unable to supply funds for continuance of the work. Construction was resumed in 1893, when the Administration Building was completed at a cost of $35,000. The college was opened in September 1893, with 60 students enrolled.

Bethel was maintained as a preparatory school and junior college until 1908 when the curriculum was enlarged to that of a four year standard college. The first Bachelor of Arts degrees awarded by a Mennonite college west of the Mississippi were received at Bethel in 1912 by a graduating class of six men, two of whom are now (1938) members of the faculty. The present curricula include courses in music, commerce, elocution, fine arts, and liberal arts. The German department is outstanding.

The landscaped campus is shaded by elm and maple trees. Grouped around the Administration Building are the Alumni, Music, Dining, and Science Halls. These structures are of brick and native stone. In front of Science Hall are two deeply notched cylindrical THRESHING STONES brought from Russia by pioneer Mennonites. The stones were drawn by oxen over wheat strewn thick on the ground, thus removing the grain from the stalk. The threshing stone is the symbol of Bethel College.

Since 1937 the college has been a sponsor of the Kansas Institute of International Relations, held here in June at the end of the school year. Other sponsoring and contributing organizations are the American Friends Service Committee, the Congregational Christian Council, the Kansas Yearly Meeting of Friends, the Board of Christian Education of the United Brethren Church, and the Peace Committee of the General Conference of Mennonites.

The annual Mennonite Music Festival is held at Bethel College in the latter part of May. Mennonites come to this event from all parts of Kansas. Handel's Messiah is sung in English and German by more than 500 voices.

Websites about Newton Kansas:

  1. Kansas Facts: Harvey County Facts
  2. City of Newton, Kansas | Facebook 
  3. City of North Newton, Kansas  | Facebook 
  4. The Kansan (Town Newspaper) 
  5. Newton Kansas on Wikipedia 
  6. Newton Chamber of Commerce 
  7. Newton Public Library 
  8. Kansas Community Networks: Newton 
  9. Bethel College | Facebook 
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