It Was the Same Old Story: Murder on Main

by Kristine Schmucker, HCHM Curator

Part 1 of 2 posts.

Shortly before 10:00 on Thursday morning, February 14, 1895, Thomas Williams, the head cook for the Clark Hotel,  stepped out of P. Byer’s Store at 421 Main after placing an order.  He walked south toward the Clark Hotel and had reached Fred Brandt’s place when Patrick Rickman rushed out.

Some eyewitnesses said that Rickman shouted, “Now I’ve got you!” before shooting his No. 44 Colt Navy Revolver at Williams. Williams ran and Rickman fired again hitting Williams in the back. Rickman then chased Williams.  The two continued to fight. Rickman threw Williams down the stairway to a basement on the south side of the Clark Hotel.  He continued to beat Williams with the gun handle. One observer described Rickman as “insane with rage” and Williams “powerless to help himself.”

Marshall Ainsworth came to the scene and tried to disarm Rickman with little success. Two men, W.C. Conrad and Mart Covert, tried to help.  Finally, Covert gave two blows to the head and was able to daze Rickman enough that Ainsworth was able to get the gun away. By the time they were able to separate the two men six shots had been fired. Williams had a gun shot wound and was severely beaten.

Williams was carried to Dr. O.W. Roff, where he was pronounced dead.

Newton Daily Republican, 14 February 1895, p. 4.

Rickman was taken  to a nearby drug store where Dr. Miller tried to take care of his wounds, but found that Rickman was “still in a frenzied condition.”  The doctor recalled that Rickman “had the appearance of a maniac and it was with difficulty that he was approached.”

Hutchinson News, February 14, 1895. One of several area papers that ran this release.

In the Coroner’s Inquisition later that day, it was noted that Rickman shot and killed a man on Main street and “more than hundred men saw the brutal act.” 

Thomas Williams, a Black man, was roughly 30 years of age, described as “quiet, industrious, quite a flashy dresser.” He had worked for Van Duyn, manager at the Clark Hotel, for 4-5 years.  The initial newspaper reports note that he had a wife and child.  The report also noted that this “was not the first experience of this sort” involving Williams. However, “for a good number of years he has borne a good reputation.” 

Patrick Rickman was well-known in Newton and described as “a powerfully built negro of large mold and fine physical build, about 35 years . . . one-eighth Indian and has always been a steady and industrious man.” A builder by trade and he had even served for a time on the police force.

Patrick Rickman. Photo Courtesy Julian Wall.

The reporter for the Newton Daily Republican noted that the cause of the fight “was the same old story. A man came between husband and wife and paid his life as a forfeit.”

“Fatal Shooting Affray”

The difficulties started in spring 1894,  when Rickman returned to Newton from Oklahoma or “the Strip” with the suspicion that Williams was “being too free with his wife,” Amanda Burdine Rickman.  He had received an anonymous letter telling him, “he had better come home and look after his wife.” Initially, he did not believe there was any truth to the claim and  things calmed down.

Amanda Burdine Rickman. Photo courtesy Julian Wall.

Then,  in February 1895, he received several suspicious letters for his wife from a  Florence woman with reference to another man. According to friends,  Rickman was “beside himself about the matter.”  A letter he received  the morning of February 14, contained proof of his wife’s infidelity.  On that Thursday morning in February 1895, he snapped, with tragic results.

Later that day, a reporter for the Newton Daily Republican  visited Rickman in jail and observed that “the fire of passion which this morning resulted in Tom Williams’ death had burned itself out” and Rickman appeared “dazed and in pitiful condition.”

Corner’s Inquisition

A Corner’s Inquisition was held in the afternoon following the shooting. The jury consisted of James W. Hurst, David E. Scott, C. Kirlin, H.C Smith, C.L. Schafer, J.J. Risdon and James McKee, Harvey County Corner.

Cover Page of Coroner’s Inquistition

Several eye-witnesses were interviewed, as well as the doctors that attended the dying man and Rickman.

Of the men interviewed, most knew Rickman.  Only  three knew Williams, but not very well. Only one of those interviewed did not know either man.

E. E. Pollard recalled an earlier conversation he had with Rickman. At that time Rickman told him that “no man could come between him and his wife and still live.” Pollard advised him “to do nothing rash, but to wait.”

Fred Brandt, a restaurant owner  at 413 Main, recounted what he observed that morning.

“I and  Rickman stood in the door . . . I asked Rickman what he was doing this spring, if he was going to the Strip.  He answered, ‘Fred I can not tell you what I am going to do this spring’ at that time Tom Williams passed . . . Rickman pushed me and ran out and drawed his pistol – shot one shot – at Tom Williams, then fired another one – Williams went into Frank Tyson’s . . went up to Mr. Tyson’s place and seen that Rickman had Williams down on the stairway and pounding him with his gun – then the wressled awhile and Williams got away from him and run up to the Clark House tried to open the front door, Rickman catched him. . . wressled awhile . . . Mr. Ainsworth – City Marshall- went on the South side of Clark House – Rickman and Williams were down there, Rickman was hammering Williams with that pistol – Weir Conrad and Mart Covert went down in the stairway and assisted the City Marshall.”   

Another witness, George W. Geary, noted that by the time the two men were by the Clark House “quite a crowd had arrived – good many cried for Pat to let him alone” while the Marshall and two other men tried to get the gun away.

A.R. Ainsworth, Newton City Marshall,  described  efforts to separate the men.

“The parties were in the basement – south of the Clark House – I told Rickman to give me his revolver that he had killed him any way – I grabbed  hold of the gun with both hands and told him to let me have it – he resisted and I tried to take it from him but could not.  W. C. Conrad came and took hold of the gun -we both tried to take it from him. He held on to it. Then,  someone came and struck Rickman over the head – he let go – Conrad took the gun and I took Pat – brought him to Newton Drug Co. and had his head dressed and took him to the County Jail.”

“With Felonious Intent”

The Jurors came to their conclusion on Friday, February 15.

Thomas Williams Coroner’s Inquisition, February 14 & 15, 1895.

“Thomas Williams (Colored) a resident of Newton, Harvey County Kansas, came to his death as the result of a Gun shot wound from a Revolver in the hand of Patrick Rickman (Colored) on Main Street City of Newton, Harvey County, Kansas on the 14th day of February 1895 about the hour of 10 o’clock a.m. upon the above named Thomas Williams (Colored) and that his death was caused by said wound, and that we do find that the said Thomas Williams (Colored) death was caused by the said Patrick Rickman (Colored) with Felonious Intent.”

The editor of the paper expressed frustration that it took two days for the jury to reach a verdict.

“It seems queer that it should require nearly two days for the Corner’s Inquest to find that Thomas Williams was dead, that a gun shot wound was the cause, and that Patrick Rickman did the shooting . . . more than 100 men saw the brutal act committed.”

Beyond the initial newspaper report of a wife and child, the family of Williams was never mentioned. Thomas Williams was buried by the county in Greenwood Cemetery in an unmarked grave, the location in the Original addition, Block 1, Lot 7, Space 10.


  • Newton Daily Republican: 14 February 1895,  16 February 1895, 1 March 1895.
  • Hutchinson News, February 14, 1895.
  • “Corner’s Inquisition: Thomas Williams.” HCHM Archives Box 7A, File 05.06.
Part 2 will be published next week and will focus on the trial.
Follow this link for  the happier story of  Patrick Rickman   and his second wife, Mary Ruth Martinsdale Rickman.

Building Harvey County: Churches

Enjoy these photos from our collection of church construction in Harvey County.

St. Mary’s Catholic Church, 1902.

8th & Main, Newton, Ks.



1st Presbyterian Church, 1903.

Corner of Main & E. 7th, Newton, Ks.


German Evangelical Church, 1906.

W. 7th & Plum, Newton, Ks.



Plymouth Congregational Church, 1912.

4th & Commercial, Sedgwick, Ks



Sacred Heart Catholic Church, 1917.

119 Poplar, Halstead, Ks.


First Methodist Church, 1917

801 N. Main, Newton, Ks


First Mennonite Church, 1931-32

429 E. 1st, Newton, Ks


First Church of the Nazarene, 1947.

E. 9th, Newton, Ks.


Bethel College Mennonite Church, 1953.

Bethel College, North Newton, Ks.


East Side United Methodist Church, 1961.

1520 E. Broadway, Newton, Ks.


Golden Plains Free Methodist Church, 1977.

224 NW 60th, Newton, Ks.


Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, 1978.

1201 N. Grandview, Newton, Ks


Truly One of the Pioneers of Kansas: J.H. ‘Pap’ Anderson

by Kristine Schmucker, HCHM Curator

“Three Cheers for Pap Anderson Friend of Newton!”

Late summer and early fall in 1899 was a time filled with optimism about the future of Newton, Kansas.

Newton Main Street, ca. 1885 looking north from the Clark Hotel.

“Newton is  Entering upon a Career of Unexpected Progress, Unparalleled Prosperity. “

Newton Daily Republican, 13 August 1889.

The Ragsdale Opera House was full to overflowing on a Monday evening in 1899 as a group of business leaders and citizens met to “consider the welfare of the city and provide for future prosperity.” Members of the Newton Board of Trade were on hand to report on their efforts and to secure more funds to promote the town. Prominent men, including S.R. Peters, H.W. Hubbard, J.C. Johnston, were on the board and had already contributed significant money. These men were the “Boomers,” promising the future growth of the community.

James H. ‘Pap’ Anderson was one of the most outspoken “boomers” on the Board. At the Monday evening meeting, he spoke of the need for an additional $75,000 to  be added to the what had already been raised.  By the end of the evening, the full amount was raised. The Newton Kansan gave much of the credit to James H. Anderson, noting that the group gave “three cheers for Pap Anderson” at the conclusion of the meeting.

James H. ‘Pap’ Anderson. Photo in the E.L. Parris Family Photo Album.

Anderson also invested.  The reported noted that he “was so confident the results would be in his favor that he put his last cent into real estate . . . “

For much of 1890, Anderson traveled around the country promoting Newton.  The Newton Kansan called Anderson “the most persistent worker and most enthusiastic friend that Newton has ever had.” When he returned to Newton in April. He was greeted at the train station by three hundred people “anxious to grasp the hand of the man who had devoted so much of his valuable time to the interests” of Newton.  At a “Reception and Banquet” in his honor at the Clark Hotel, he assured people that there would soon be results from all of the hard work and money.  His speech was frequently interrupted by applause from the audience indicating their “gratification.”  The event concluded at 11:30 pm with another “three cheers for Pap Anderson, Friend of Newton.”

Again in September 1890, Anderson returned to Newton to assure people “that in a very short time Newton would be a hive of industry.”

“Fortunes were swept away in an instant”

Newton Kansan, 27 November 1890, p.1.

Thursday evening, November 20, 1890, “men who retired at night happy in the thought that they were on the road to wealth, awoke in the morning to find that the boom had busted and their wealth only a myth . . . the collapsing of the boom left him  [Anderson]  penniless.”

In the years following the Newton Panic, Anderson worked on promoting and selling his inventions. One invention was a chimney cleaner and he traveled the U.S. promoting and selling.

“But, as many of our readers know, it was a constant struggle to obtain enough to keep body and soul together, and Mr. Anderson was no exception to this rule.”

“Once a Man of Good Circumstance”

Trouble began to appear in fall 1896. Under the heading, “Mixed Politics and Business,” the Newton Kansan reported while selling his inventions in Logansport, IN, Anderson began to “appeal to people to vote for Bryan . . . because the single gold standard impoverished people.”  The report gave some background on Anderson noting that he came from Newton, Ks and was “once a man of good circumstance . . . and he has always been a Republican until this year. . . ”  The report concluded that while he had permission to sell his wares on the street, he did not have permission “for preaching free silver.” 

“His One Queer Idea”

In October 1899, Anderson was arrested in New York for disorderly conduct outside of Helen Gould’s Fifth Avenue home.  He insisted that she was his wife and he needed to see her.  Gould reported that he had sent her 48 letters, addressing her as his wife. At that time the New York authorities sent him back to Kansas at some expense “where he was turned loose.” 

Wichita Beacon, 6 October 1899.

His wife, Estella Berry Anderson, had remained in Newton while Anderson traveled. She died 10 June 1900. The writer of her obituary noted that “the family seems to have had more than its share of misfortune lately.” 

In June 1901, Anderson was again arrested in front of  Helen Gould’s New York home, insisting she was his wife.  The authorities in New York, not wanting the expense of sending him back to Kansas a second time, committed him to Believue for “mental observation.”   Drs. Fitch and Wildman examined Anderson and noted that “he is sane on everything except the delusion that Miss Gould is his wife.” They  “pronounced him a hopeless lunatic” and recommended hospitalization. He remain in a Washington hospital until his death.

Evening Kansan Republican, 3 June 1901

Topeka Daily Capital, 12 October 1901.

“Truly One of the Pioneers of Kansas”

Despite his difficulties in later years, his obituary portrays a hard working man that somehow was over come by the struggles of life.

“But, as many of our readers know, it was a constant struggle to obtain enough to keep body and soul together, and Mr. Anderson was no exception to this rule.”

His obituary gives some details of his early life.  James H. Anderson was born in 1835. During the Civil War, he was with Co. K, 5th Ind Calvary. Anderson married Estella Berry in 1868.  She had two children, Luella and Sebastian, from a previous marriage to Thomas Berry.  Berry had been killed at the battle of New Hope Church in Georgia on 24 May 1864.

“Took up a  Homestead”

The J.H.  Anderson family arrived in Harvey County in March 1871.  They homesteaded a claim in Macon Township, Harvey County, Ks.

[Anderson] “took up a  homestead . . . he erected a sod house for the protection of himself and wife, and with the aid of a team of oxen proceeded to break up the prairie and prepare the ground for the reception of seed.”

The couple had one additional child, Belle.

In the early 1880s, the family moved closer to Newton and for a short time, he ran a one-horse dray business. Anderson soon saw opportunities in real estate and he invested heavily.  The newspaper frequently referred to “Pap” Anderson as “the most enthusiastic man in the city . . .his faith in the success and prosperity of Newton is unbounded. . . “ and “he always backs his faith in the future events by his money.”

After the 1890 Newton Panic, Anderson was “penniless.”  He invented a chimney cleaner and traveled the country selling his invention.  During one of his travels, he saw Helen Gould, the daughter of New York financier Jay Gould, and became convinced that she was his wife.

Following his third arrest in 1901, Anderson was “confined in a hospital in Washington” until he died June 26, 1908. Anderson was survived by a daughter, Mrs. (Belle) Carl Sasher, and stepson, S. T. Berry.

“Pap” Anderson was buried in Greenwood Cemetery, Newton, Ks following “simple services” attended by “old time friends.”


  • Newton Daily Republican: 17 May 1887, 16 September 1887, 13 November 1887, 15 December 1887, 8 March 1888, 11 May 1888, 6 June 1888, 13 August 1889, 15 August 1889, 29 November 1890,25 May 1896.
  • Newton Kansan: 10 April 1890, 25 September 1890, 27 November 1890, 4 December 1890,  22 October 1896.
  • Evening Kansan Republican:4 January 1892, 6 October 1899, 11 June 1900, 13 June 1900, 3 June 1900, 22 April 1901, 12 October 1901, 31 March 1908, 9 May 1908, 27 June 1908, 2 July 1908.
  • Hutchinson News: 13 October 1888.
  • Wichita Daily Eagle: 11 January 1889.
  • Wichita Beacon: 5 October 1899.
  • Topeka Daily Capital: 24 April 1901, 12 October 1901.