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.

Queen of Central Kansas: Newton in 1887


In the December 31, 1887 edition of the Newton Evening Kansan, editor Charles Kurtz highlighted the progress and prosperity of Newton.  He noted that the future for the “Queen of Central Kansas” is “a gloriously busy and a growing one.”


Drawings were included and they portray a town full of industry and growth from Main Street . . .



To the banks and businesses . . .





and the private residences.




Source: Newton Evening Kansan, 31 December 1887.

Something of a Mystery

by Kristine Schmucker, HCHM Curator

Recently, the museum was asked to install an exhibit at the Newton Public Library for the months of November and December 2014.  The exhibit Main Street Miniatures, includes a set of five  dioramas with scenes from Newton history.

The diorama of Newton’s Main Street is on exhibit as part of our on-site exhibit, Stuff We Love.  The other four are on exhibit at the Newton Public Library.  While working on exhibit preparation, we noticed that none of the dioramas had information on who made them or when they were made.  Instead, there was a mystery.

A number of years ago, before any of the current staff or volunteers were involved at HCHM these dioramas came to the museum in an interesting way.  Over a period of time, a diorama was left at the front door of the museum with no additional information.  At that time, we understand that a newspaper story was written asking for information on the mysterious diorama builder, with no response.

The subjects of the dioramas are:

  1. Newton Main Street, 1871
  2. Ragsdale Opera House
  3. Carnegie Library
  4. Anderson’s Bookstore
  5. AT & SF Depot, Newton, Ks 1871.

We are again asking to see if the creator of the dioramas is now ready to come forward.  We would really like to know who made them, when and perhaps why – was it for a special occasion? a hobby?

The dioramas are on exhibit at the Newton Public Library in November and December. In addition, one of the WPA Kansas Museum Project Dioramas and a model of the first AT&SF Depot in Newton are part of the exhibit.