“The Coffee that Won the West”

On the trail, coffee was made by throwing a fistful of coffee beans into boiling water over a campfire. Tradition said if the cook threw a horseshoe into the pot and it sank, the coffee was not ready to drink.

Cowboys at breakfast. HCHM Postcard Collection

The Cowboy’s Coffee

Until the close of the Civil War, coffee was sold green. Beans had to be roasted on a wood stove or in a skillet over a campfire before it could be ground and brewed. One burned bean ruined the entire batch.

In 1865, John Arbuckle and his brother Charles, discovered a new way to process coffee beans. By roasting and coating the coffee beans with an egg and sugar glaze, they were able to to seal in the flavor and aroma. Shipped all over the country in sturdy wooden crates, one hundred packages to a crate, Arbuckles’ Ariosa Coffee was a big success with chuck wagon cooks on cattle drives.

“Who Wants the Candy?”

In addition to coffee beans, each package of Arbuckles’ contained a stick of peppermint candy. This was considered a treat for the cowboy who got the tedious job of  grinding the coffee beans. Upon hearing the cook’s call, “Who wants the candy?” some of the toughest cowboys on the trail were known to vie for the opportunity of manning the coffee grinder in exchange for satisfying a sweet tooth.

After grinding the beans, a pot was filled two thirds full with cold water. Over an open fire the water was brought to a roiling boil. Then, a pound of Arbuckles was added. The pot was allowed to slow boil for several minutes before serving.

Today, Arbuckles Ariosa Coffee, including the peppermint treat, is still available  at Arbucklecoffee.com.

History Under Foot

by Kristine Schmucker, HCHM Curator

While finishing up Christmas shopping last week, I happened to look down as I left one of the stores along Newton’s Main Street.

December 2017

Repairs were underway and the top layer in the entry way had been removed and a piece of history was revealed.

611 Main, detail, 2007

Today, the building is home to the Main Street Company, a clothing store. Originally, this building, with the fun architectural details, was Dickey’s Drug & Jewelry.

611 Main, Newton, Ks, 2007


John B. Dickey was born in Michigan in 1848.  John, “having a liking for the drug business, learned his profession in Centerville, Mich” where his father was a practicing physician.  At the age of 22, Dickey headed to Kansas and settled first in Wichita where he worked as an “assistant postmaster.”  He began to hear about a proposed town north of Wichita and the adventures of a cattle drive.  He resigned his job to herd cattle. While working as a cowboy, he contracted malaria. He went to the new drug store in Newton owned by W.P. Pugh for quinine. He argued with Pugh over the high price of the drug.  The argument ended with Dickey buying the business paying a monthly  rent of $65  to Pugh for the small wood frame building.   In June 1871, he opened “Dickey’s Drug” in Newton.  A year later,  building was destroyed by fire, but Dickey’s Drug continued.

John B. Dickey, Sr, taken shortly before his death in 1921.

 In 1879, he purchased a lot at 611 Main, Newton and built a new structure and for the next 50 years Dickey’s Drug was a Newton fixture.

Dickey’s Drug & Jewelry, 611 Main, Newton. 1883.

By the turn of the century, he had added jewelry to his stock.

Interior, 611 Main, Newton, 1887.

In addition to running his business, he served on the Newton City Council and as Mayor.  Many civic projects, including Newton’s Country Club and two public parks, Military and Themian Parks,  succeeded because of his “unfailing optimism.”

Dickey Drug & Jewelry, 611 Main, Newton, 1925.

In 1921, shortly before his death, he celebrated 50 years in business at 611 Main. J.B. Dickey died October 28, 1921.

Dickey’s visible in the background, 1950s.

Main Street Co., 611 Main, Newton,  2007



  • Evening Kansan Republican:28 October 1921, 29 October 1921, 31 October 1921.
  • “Career of John B. Dickey” in The Jewelers’ Circular, Vol 83, Issue 2.16 November 1921.
  • “New Member of the Jewelers Security Alliance” Jewelers’ Circular & Horological Review, vol. 45 (17 September 1902)  p. 44.
  • Sapone, Jane.  Presentation Boxes Tell A Story: J.B. Dickey Jeweler, Newton, Kansas.” Thimble Collectors International, Summer 2014, p. 22.

“What a Mess!”

by Kristine Schmucker, HCHM Curator

It started on Tuesday morning with freezing rain and sleet.  It ended on Wednesday afternoon and left behind a mess of downed trees and power lines. Listed number 3 on the National Weather Service’s “Worst Kansas Ice Storms,” the storm that began in the morning of January 4, 2005 and lasted until the afternoon of the 5th, coated nearly the entire state in two inches of ice. The counties of Harvey and Marion were hard hit.

Tree Damage at Moorlands, Newton, Ks, January 4-5, 2005. Photo by Gary Alumbaugh, 2005.

All day and into the night, the sound of the wind through the ice covered limbs, followed by the cracking branches and a crash as entire trees broke apart and fell under the weight of the ice, could be heard. Winds up to 20 mph caused weakened trees to break apart and huge limbs to fell to the ground.  Even the large, older trees were vulnerable to the wind and coating of ice. Trees up to 22 feet high broke and split in half during the storm. One resident noted that “it was quite a show, with all that falling, it sounded like gunshots all night long.”

Tree Damage, 5 January 2005, Photo by Gary Alumbaugh, 2005.

“Tuesday was Real”

The  Newton Kansan reporter noted in the Wednesday edition that “today held evidence of a day of the most unusual sights and sounds, proving Tuesday was real.” A disaster emergency was declared for Newton and Harvey County. Weststar Energy employees worked through the night to restore power to as many as possible. Statewide more than 86,000 people lost power.  Newton, and Harvey County, was one of the worst hit areas with more than 12,500 people without power in the bitter cold.

Photo by Gary Alumbaugh, 2005.

What a Mess

Reports from the other communities in Harvey County were just as dire. In Burrton, a fire destroyed a double-wide mobile home, and a house in Walton.  Just over the county line, a house in Whitewater burned.  Sedgwick was without power. Halstead experienced sporadic power outages that were a result of trees falling on private property and instead of the entire block losing power, only the individual homes went out.  This made the work of the crews go much slower.

West Hill Apartments, W 12th, Newton. Photo by Gary Alumbaugh, 2005.

Fortunately there were not many injuries. A carrier for the Kansan was injured from a falling tree limb and was taken to the hospital.

Area schools closed and temporary shelters were opened.

Harvey County Sheriff Byron Motter noted, “what a mess” and further encouraged people to “leave the limbs alone.  Stay indoors and let nature take it’s course.” 

West Hill Apartments, W 12th, Newton. Photo by Gary Alumbaugh, 2005.


Newton Kansan, 7 January 2005.

Restoring Power

Things started to go back to normal for some by Friday, January 7.  Several schools had reopened including Halstead, Hesston, Sedgwick and Newton. Remington, Burrton, Berean and Goessel schools remained closed. However, many areas remained with out power including Walton and Goessel.  It was noted that they could be without power for up to 10 days as crews worked to restore power.  By Thursday about 200 electric crews from around the country had arrived to help.

Newton Kansan, 11 January 2005

A week after the beginning of the storm,  power to most homes and businesses had been restored. The clean-up of the debris left behind continued for some time.

Two Years Later

Two years later, Kansas  again dealt with the another ice storm.  Listed number one of the five worst ice storms, the storm on December 10-11, 2007 affected nearly the entire state. Ice accumulations of 1-2 inches with “phenomenal 2-4 inch accumulations” in some areas. Although there were no fatalities, the damage to buildings, trees and power poles was extensive.  Some places were without power for up to 2 weeks.  Damage to the electrical infrastructure alone was estimated at $136.2 million, giving the storm the distinction of being the “costliest ice storm in Kansas history.”


  • Newton Kansan: 5 January 2005, 6 January 2005, 7 January 2005, 11 January 2005.
  • https://www.weather.gov/ict/ks_worse_ice_storms