The UPS of Yesterday

by Kristine Schmucker, HCHM Curator

The Shop Mule, one of HCHM’s newest and most visible artifacts, had a very specific purpose.  The Shop Mule was used by the Railway Express Agency in Newton to move packages to ship on trains.

The W.F. Hebard Co., produced this unique tractor known as a “Shop Mule.”  Using the engine of IH Farmall tractors, they designed a compact machine with a lot of power. These “shop mules” were especially popular for railroad and airport use because of their size.


Santa Fe Depot, Newton, Ks late 1940s. Railway Express Agency employees with a shipment of chickens and eggs

In the 1940s, the Railway Express Agency used the shop mule to pull multiple wagons full of packages, including eggs and chickens,  to be sent by railroad. In the photo above, the shop mule can be seen at the far right of the photo.

The Railway Agency Express “The UPS of Yesterday”

Once as familiar as the UPS or FedEx trucks today, the Railway Express Agency was the way to send parcels, money and goods in the 1930s and mid-1940s.

Started in 1839 by William Harriden, the “express business” flourished into the 1920s as the American Railway Express, Inc.  In 1929, the operations of the American Railway Express were transferred to the Railway Express Agency (REA) which was owned by 86 railroads. No one railroad had control of the agency.

Santa Fe Depot, Newton, Ks 1930. The REA Office entrance was the small door in the left foreground.

REA provided terminal space, cars, and paid expenses. In Newton, the REA office was located in the depot. The profit was divided  among the railroads in proportion to the traffic.  This business model remain steady until shortly after WWII. Between 1959 and 69, various methods were tried to increase profits and save the company. In 1969, REA was sold and renamed the REA Express.  At that time only 10% of business moved by rail. In 1975, the REA Express terminated operations amid problems of fraud and embezzlement.

Reclaiming the Shop Mule: A Photo Album

W.F. Hebard Shop Mule Type A14V


A farm near Walton, Ks






At the Museum









Bill Mills

Joe Smiley

Work Begins






  • Hurley, L.M. ‘Mike’.  Newton Kansas #1 Santa Fe Rail Hub 1871-1971. Newton, Ks: Mennonite Press, Inc., 1985.
  • Drury, George H. “Railway Express Agency” 5 June 2006 at

Mrs. Hinkle’s Questionable House 

by Kristine Schmucker, HCHM Curator 

Throughout the 1890s the lives of women on the edge of Newton society were frequently the subject of newspaper stories. The tales were often tragic.

Mrs. Hinkle’s Questionable House

The March 16, 1893 edition of the Newton Daily Republican noted the death of a woman living in a house on the north east edge of the community.

“An inmate of Mrs Hinkle’s questionable house, whose real name is Lou Woods, died last night . . . from the effects of a drunken debauch which led to a fit of hiccoughs.” (Newton Daily Republican, 16 March 1893)

A sad end to a story that started roughly three years previous.

Favorably Known Railroad Conductor

On April 12, 1890, in El Dorado, Ks, William H. Wood died, the cause identified as “rheumatism.” Wood was a “favorably known railroad conductor.” He was a member of St Matthew’s Episcopal church in Newton where his funeral was held.  Wood was a charter member of Newton Division No. 11 of the Order of Railroad Conductors, and a member of the Kingman Lodge, Knights of Pythais.

He began his career with the railroad on the I & St. L Railway. In 1878, he came to Newton and was employed with the Santa Fe until 1885. For a time, he worked  a passenger run on the Wichita & Western between Wichita and Kingman. The last six months of his life, he worked for the Missouri Pacific at El Dorado. His obituary noted that he was survived by his mother and a wife.

Died in Dishonor

In 1893, the headline read: “Died in Dishonor” and the brief notice mentioned the death of Lou Woods, wife of Will Woods, while living at “Mrs. Hinkle’s questionable house.”

Newton Daily Republican, 16 March 1893.

In 1895, Mabel Wood is identified as the sole child of William H Wood and Lou Wood in a legal matter involving lots 2, 4,& 6 in Block 37 in the city of Newton.

Although both William and Lou are buried at Greenwood Cemetery, Newton, neither have a marker.

At the conclusion of the notice of Lou’s death, the newspaper reporter observed;

“The house at which this occurrence transpired is becoming a nuisance to the town.”

The Bagnio of Mrs. Hinkle: A Nuisance to the Town

The first mention of the “bagnio of Mrs. Hinkle” is in the spring of 1891 when it was reported that

A woman went to Carpenter’s livery  . . . and  procured a rig for the ostensible purpose of taking her mother . . . to her home in the country. Instead . . . she picked up Harry Emerson, Billy Moore and Jim Unknown and together they went to the bagnio of the Mrs. Hinkle.”

It seems the tragedy of Lou Wood was not the first brush with death at Mrs Hinkle’s.

“Maud, an inmate of Mrs. Hinkle’s house of ill fame, took an overdose of morphine which came near killing her last night. She took the morphine to relieve pain, swallowing 2 1/2 grains of it on top of a quantity of whisky.” (Newton Daily Republican 7 September 1892)

Image courtesy Kansas State Historical Society.

A Notorious House Burned

In early September 1893, the place was raided by officials who confiscated “beer and other refreshments.”

In September 1893, the “notorious Hinkle house” located on 12th street just outside of city limits burned to the ground in an overnight fire.

“A frame building in Northeast part of town, which has been used for several years as a bawdy house, caught fire last night and  burned to the ground.” (Newton Daily Republican, 15 Sept. 1893)

Although some “curious men and boys were soon on the ground and succeeded in saving some of the furniture . . . most was destroyed.” The paper noted that the property was owned by a Topeka company and “has for a number of years borne a bad reputation.”  The origin of the fire was unknown. No word on what happened to Mrs. Hinkle or any other inhabitants.


  • Despite being an unattended death, Lou Wood’s body was not seen by the coroner.


  • Newton Daily Republican: 14 April 1890, 12 March 1891, 14 March 1891, 22 April 1891, 7 September 1892, 14 March 1893, 16 March 1893, 19 April 1893, 20 April 1893, 8 September 1893, 15 September 1893, 10 December 1895,
  • Weekly Republican, 29 March 1895.
  • U.S. Census, 1860, 1870.
  • Greenwood Cemetery Index

Sand Creek on a Tear! the Ash Street Bridge

by Kristine Schmucker, HCHM Curator

Looking through HCHM’s photo collection for flood photos, there seemed to be a number of the Ash Street Bridge over time.  Sand Creek has flooded multiple times in Newton’s history, and the Ash Street bridge over the Sand Creek has been damage many times. The old bridge was completely replaced following the  flood of June 1965.

Sand Creek on a Tear! the Ash Street Bridge

May 1899 Flood


Evening Kansan Republican, 23 May 1899.

 May 1902 Flood

Evening Kansan Republican, 22 May 1902.

June 1904 Flood

The devastation following the June 1904 flood was overwhelming to Harvey County residents.  The Evening Kansan Republican (June 3, 1904) noted;

“Sand Creek, the despise and ridiculed, spread over its banks and overflowed the north end, for once a raging, destruction-dealing current.”

To read stories about the impact county-wide follow the link – Sand Creek Flood 1904. 


Flood of June 1904

The Flood of June 1904 was particularly hard on Newton’s bridges.

Evening Kansan Republican, June 3, 1904

At the July 8, 1904 meeting of the city commissioners it was reported that

“the West First, West Broadway and West Twelfth street bridges are now in good shape . . . work on the Ash Street bridge will be commenced by Contractor Lewelled and his men as soon as the weather will permit.”


June 6, 1916 Flood

Alarming, but did not reach the “former record.”

Evening Kansan Republican, June 6, 1916

 July 10, 1929 Flood


Ash Street Bridge, Newton, Ks, July 10, 1929. Note on the back reads “Just 10 minutes later the water was 3 feet over the top of the bridge.”

The Ash Street Bridge – 1954 & 1965


Ash Street Bridge, 1954. Photographer is looking south.

Ash Street Bridge destroyed by flood, June 1965. Photographer is looking south.

June 1965 Flood

Ash Street Bridge, June 1965.


Ash Street Bridge, June 1965.


Ash Street Bridge, June 1965 Flood. The bridge came to rest against the W. Broadway Bridge.


Debris from the Ash Street Bridge resting against the W. Broadway Bridge, June 1965.


Viewing the damage, Ash Street Bridge, June 1965.

Construction, Ash Street Bridge, 1967

Photo taken from 9th St.


New Ash Street Bridge, 1966.


Reconstruction of Ash Street Bridge, October 2012.