Many a Building  Stands Today Due His Skill: Pat Rickman & Joe Rickman

by Kristine Schmucker, HCHM Curator

The 3rd in our series of posts celebrating Historic Preservation Month focusing on the people behind the buildings.

Newton in the 1880s was a booming town. Businessmen filled with optimism were constructing lavish buildings for their businesses and homes.

In most cases, we know about these men and their families or the information is fairly easy to find. The names of the architects and contractors for the building are frequently mentioned in the newspapers. But, who were the men who did the actual work of putting the stone upon stone or crafting the beautiful woodwork? Their names are harder to find.

Administration Building, Bethel College

Perhaps, the most recognized historic building in Harvey County is the Administration Building on the Bethel College Campus, N. Newton. The idea for a Mennonite College came largely from a group of  leaders, including David Goerz, in the early 1880s.  They envisioned a grand building fit for a place of higher learning.  The businessmen of Newton were also enthusiastic about the idea of a college near to town.  Little did anyone know how long it would take to finish this project. (see note at the end of post)

The Building Committee, led by David Goerz, first approached the well known architectural firm, the Varney Bros. They had designed  the Clark Hotel and the Hoag House. The excited committee met with the architects and described their desire for a splendid building on the empty Kansas prairie north of Newton. Discussions with the Varney Bros seemed to stall at one point and no usable plans were produced. The building committee regrouped and decided to go with a new Wichita firm, Proudfoot & Bird.  Ed Slater, a local man, was chosen as contractor and work began.

Detail of stone arch, Ad Building.

Pat Rickman: Contractor & Stone Mason

Almost everyday, young Hazel Rickman would walk across the prairie, cross Sand Creek and bring lunch to her father, Patrick Rickman.  Perhaps she sang while she walked or simply enjoyed the sound of the birds. Rickman was one of the stone masons working on the new college building. Perhaps she brought lunch for her other relative, Joe Rickman.  In later years, Hazel remembered this time fondly.

Patrick Rickman  was a well-known  craftsman in Harvey County. According to family tradition,  Rickman was the head of the construction company that employed several members of the larger Rickman/Anderson family.  To support Hazel’s memory, the Newton newspapers provide several clues that link Pat Rickman and E. Slater, the contractor for Bethel College.

Detail of stone work, Ad Building.

In October 1886, the Newton Daily Republican, noted that E. Slater,
who is the mason work on the Swenson Block, ran out of stone . . . and laid off all the men but Pat Rickman.” When the shipment of stone came in, he asked the men to come back, “but they refused . . . their grievance was that Mr. Slater had kept Rickman, a colored man, at work . . .while they were laid off.”

Swenson Building, 1886, northeast corner of 6th & Main, Newton. Varney Bros, Architect. The home of the First National Bank. Demolition in the late 1970s.

E. Slater was also the contractor for the brick and stone work for the Clark Hotel, built in 1887, and Pat Rickman was likely among the skilled laborers in the crew.

Clark Hotel, 409 N. Main, Newton, Ks. Architect Varney Bros.

Finally, the working relationship between the two men becomes apparent when Slater testified in Rickman’s murder trial in February 1895. Ed Slater testified that Rickman worked with him often and concluded “I had always been friendly” with him.

Rickman also worked with another contractor, Ed Fox. The newspaper reported that the two worked together to repair the base blocks at the Ragsdale Opera House. Over the winter the stones had became water soaked, froze and then crumbled.

Newton Daily Republican, July 2, 1890.

“A Great Deal of Work to be Done”

Throughout the 1880s, there was a great demand for skilled stone masons.  The editor of the Newton Daily Republican, after speaking with one of the contractors noted, “the truth is that there is a great deal of work to be done and many brick and stone masons are employed on other buildings.” The same article noted that most of the stone masons and brick layers received between $3.00 and $3.25 a day in 1886. (Newton Daily Republican 12 March 1886)

Improving Newton’s Streets

Patrick Rickman also had a crew that bricked many of Newton’s streets.

Pat Rickman’s crew paving the streets in front of St. Mary’s Church , corner of 8th & Main, Newton.

Pat Rickman’s crew paving a residential street.

Patrick Rickman
Photo courtesy Anderson/Rickman Families
Born in White County, Tennessee on July 31, 1857, Pat came to Harvey County in 1879.  He was a skilled stone mason and brick layer and ran his own construction company. He  also participated in local politics serving as a Republican delegate for the Fourth Ward several years.

Newton Daily Republican 11 October 1886.

At the time of his death, Pat Rickman was “one of the best known workmen in this section, as well as one of the most dependable, respected workman.  Many a building  stands today as a monument to his skill and industry.” (Evening Kansan Republican, 25 August 1926, p. 2.)

Joe Rickman: Stone Mason

Pat Rickman no doubt hired many of his relatives to work for him. With skilled stone masons in high demand,  Joseph C. Rickman was among those working.
Joseph C. Rickman
Photo Courtesy Anderson/Rickman Families

Joseph Rickman was twenty-one years old when he came to Kansas with his mother, Mary Rickman Anderson, to homestead alongside his stepfather, David, sisters; America, Lucy and Tennessee, and brothers; Wayman, Jefferson, and Nathaniel.

Joe worked as a laborer and a stone mason.  According to family tradition, he helped to build several Newton landmarks including the Warkentin Mill (today known as the Old Mill). He also worked for  Pat on the Administration Building on the Bethel College Campus. It is not known what other buildings Joe might have worked on over the span of his career.
He likely was part of  Pat Rickman’s crew that  laid the bricks for Newton’s streets.

Warkentin Mill, 3rd & Main, Newton, ca. 1900.

Unfortunately, Joe appears in the newspapers more frequently for fighting, usually with Arthur Childs, than for his work. His name may not appear in the newspapers for his skill as a stone mason, but  Joe Rickman was one of the many who used skill and hard work to build the city of Newton. Joseph C. “Joe” Rickman died in May 1918 at the age of 68.


  • The cornerstone for Bethel College was placed October 1888. Shortly after that construction work halted due to lack of funds.  The building was completed and classes began in 1893.


  • Newton City Directories, 1885, 1887, 1902, 1905, 1911, 1913, 1918. Harvey county Historical Museum & Archives, Newton, Ks
  • Newton Daily Republican: 1 October 1886; 11 October 1886; 12 March 1886; 14 May 1887
  • Evening Kansan Republican, 25 August 1926
  • Sprunger, Keith L. Bethel College of Kansas, 1887-2012. N. Newton: Bethel College, 2012.





“Because he was in the free air:” The Gomez Family and the AT&SF

by Kristine Schmucker, HCHM Curator

Note:    For the month of May we are focusing on the people behind the trails, rails and buildings that form the foundation of our community. For this post, I am indebted the Newton Public Library oral history project from 1977. On May 3, 1977, A. W. Holt interviewed Antonio Gomez about  his experiences as a child in Mexico, the trip to Kansas and what it was like for his father working on the railroad and later for Antonio himself.  Antonio was 10 when his family came to Kansas as one of the first Mexican American families to settle permanently in Newton, Ks. The transcript for the interview, along with several others, is available at the Newton Public Library, Newton, Ks.
As much as possible, I let Antonio tell his story.

Coming to Newton

In 1905, 10 year old Antonio Gomez boarded a train with his family and started the long journey that would change his life. To get to Walton Kansas, from Villa Obergon in Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico, the family first went by “three cars and the express in a small engine.” At El Paso, TX, they boarded the train that would take them to Kansas. Antonio later recalled the journey noting, “I came here with my father and my stepmother in 1905.”

Antonio described his impressions of Newton.

 “There was not any pavement when I came here on Main Street, and I remember how . . . when they passed the track, those horses, cars of horses and horses left much mud, all that. Then they brought a man with a little car cleaning all that the horses had thrown, the earth and all in that.”  He also recalled that the buildings were “littler . . .and then some  . . . were completely redone . . renovated from little to bigger.”

The Gomez family was comfortable in Villa Obergon, where the elder Gomez was a butcher and Antonio was able to attend six months of school. Antonio’s mother, Nicolasa (Varrientos) Gomez died, and his father remarried. Mostly life was normal.  Despite this, Margarito must have felt there were more opportunities for his young family in the United States.

Unlike many other Mexican men that worked for the Santa Fe Railroad in the early 1900s, Margarito did not want to work seasonally. Traditionally, the laborers would go to the US to work for the railroad during the summer months to earn money and return to Mexico for the winter.   Margarito, however,  was of the mind that if he was going to go work in the United States, the family would go with him and stay. The family, which included Margarito, his 2nd wife, Antonio and a sister, came to Kansas.

“Because He was in the Free Air”: Margarieto Gomez

Margarieto found work with the railroad that summer, but, because he wanted to stay past the summer season,  he was forced to move to Wichita to find construction work. The family moved to Wichita.  They lived in a tent all winter and a very cold March. In a 1908 report, March 1906 was recorded as the coldest March in the middle Plains in 40 years.  In May, they returned to Newton.

Section Crew, ca 1900.

Gomez recalled one other time the family had to move for his father’s work. They spent eight months in Herrington, Ks, while Margarieto worked for the railroad.  Ultimately, Margarieto found regular year round work with the Santa Fe Railroad in Newton at the roundhouse and the Gomez family able to put down roots. At that time, he was paid ten cents for ten hours of work.  Eventually, the elder Gomez changed to section track work, which he enjoyed more “because he was in the free air.” 

Unidentified Section Workers

Track men or section workers lived along and maintained a six to eight mile section of the railroad.  Most of their responsibilities included reinforcing weak railbeds, tapping down loose pins, and clearing debris from the track and the area around it. They worked six days a week for ten hours. Typical pay was  $1.10 to $1.25 a day.

Marshall, photos. Section workers on the job. Photo is not taken in Kansas, but illustrates the type of labor these men did.

Margarieto also kept in contact with his family in Mexico. His name frequently appears in the newspaper under the section “Advertised Letters” indicating he had mail to pick up.

Margarieto Gomez, husband, father, adventurer, dedicated employee worked until December 1915 when he died at the age of  49 years old.

Evening Kansan Republican, December 1, 1915

Margarieto’s second wife died from influenza in 1918, and 23 year old Antonio remained with the recently orphaned children “two little girls (chamaquitas) and two boys (chamacos), they were four.  One year later, their grandparents in Mexico sent for the children to live with them.

Beginning a family: Antonio and Yrene Gomez

Shortly after the children went back to live with their grandparents, Antonio married Yrene (also spelled Irene) Pedrosa. The couple had six sons and two daughters.

Evening Kansan Republican, 23 May 1919

“I began to work about the age of sixteen:” Antonio Gomez

Antonio Gomez  went to work for the AT&SF at the age of sixteen. He recalled that they did not want to give him a job, “but, always my father signed, and they gave me work.” Antonio worked in the roundhouse and described his responsibilities.

“The roundhouse had thirty-seven housings where they enter the engines. . . and extinguish the fire. Then there was one [person] that changed the water and washed  and flushed them. I worked there when I was very young. Then, one put all the flushers in, return position and we filled them with water and then there was a  man who started the fire and then they began to have steam and leave, with the steam on the outside.

I began to work releasing the steam from the engines, filled on return with water. . . .that was my first work I did there. Then I was working with the boilers for six month and stoked the boilers to give steam for the roundhouse and to the depot. . . from there I changed to the coal chute. There was in the coal chute . . . sand and coal for the machines. . . well I remained working all those years from ’15 to ’64.”

“It was not necessary to amputate the leg”

The railroad was a dangerous place to work. Although Dioniso Gomez may or may not be connected to the Antonio Gomez family,  his story illustrates the dangers faced daily by these men. Due to a mishap with some of the cars, his leg was crushed. The brief announcement in the paper concluded with “It was not necessary to amputate the leg as some supposed.”

Evening Kansan Republican, 28 March 1910.

Luckily, Antonio Gomez seems to have escaped serious injuries in his work. The loss of fingers from coupling cars or any other dangers working with the big engines was a constant concern.

“I worked continuously”

Antonio Gomez worked for the railroad from 1915 to 1964 or as he put it “I worked continuously without leaving . . . thirty-four years.” He was one of the first Mexican American children to come and live permanently in Newton, Ks. With only six months of school, he did not know how to read and write, but he learned. Largely self taught, he did recall a man who him taught the basics of reading and writing. The rest he learned by reading newspapers and books.

Antonio B. Gomez died April 11, 1983.  He is buried in St. Mary’s Cemetery.


Marshall, photos.


  • Gomez, Antonio interviewed by A.W. Holt, 3 May 1977. Newton Public Library, Newton, Ks. Call Number K K687.292
  • The Yearbook of Agriculture. U.S. Government Printing Office, 1909. Google Books.
  • Ducker, James H. Men of the Steel Rails: Workers on the Atchinson, Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad 1869-1900. University of Nebraska Press, 1983.
  • Marshall, James. Santa Fe: the Railroad that Built and Empire. New York: Random House, 1948.

One of His Most Notable Achievements: The Black Beaver/Col. W.H. Emory Trail

by Kristine Schmucker. HCHM Curator

We continue with our focus on Historic Preservation and the people who established the trails, built the buildings, laid the railroad tracks and were pioneers in health care.

The Black Beaver/Col. W.H. Emory Trail

When asked to name a trail in Harvey County, most people immediately think of the Chisholm Trail. However, even the Chisholm Trail followed an older trail through Harvey County, the Black Beaver/Col. Emory Trail. The story behind the trail is part of  Kansas’ story at the very start of the Civil War. In 1861,  out of necessity a trail was created by two men, Black Beaver and Col. William Emory through the heart of what would become Harvey County.

Trail Blazers

Black Beaver: “Guide & Interpreter” 

Black Beaver, born in Belleville, Ill, 1806.

Black Beaver, the son of a Delaware chief known as Capt Patterson, was an experienced guide in 1861. Described as an unassuming man with a “roving disposition,” Black Beaver was frequently used as an interpreter and guide. In 1840,  Black Beaver served as a guide for an expedition organized by famed naturalist John Audubon. Throughout the 1830s, 40s and 50s, he worked for the American Fur Company as a scout and guide. He spoke eight Native American languages and was fluent in sign language in  addition to English, French, and Spanish.

One expedition led by Black Beaver as guide and interpreter included his friend Jesse Chisholm. The two men were guides for Col. Henry Dodge to the main village of the Wichita on North Fork of the Red River in the summer of 1834. During the Mexican/American war, “Captain Black Beaver” led a group of Indian scouts and American expeditionary forces.

Black Beaver was well respected and known for his truthfulness and honest dealings with everyone he met from military officers to the “wild Indians of the plains.”

Col. William H. Emory “Map Maker”

Called “Bold Emory” by his West Point 1831 graduating class, William H. Emory was born in Anne’s City, Maryland.  Although he was involved in the military in many ways, Col. Emory was best known for his mapmaking skills.  Early in his career, he surveyed harbors and the Delaware River. He was commissioned as a surveyor by the president to establish the Gadsden Purchase boundaries. By the start of the Civil War, due to his mapmaking skills with attention to detail and accuracy, Col. Emory was considered the authority of the trans-Mississippi west.

The Challenge – April 1861

In 1861, Col. William H. Emory was in a vulnerable position.  Tensions were high between southerners or secessionists and the Union north. Stationed at Fort Washita in Indian Territory, Emory, a Federal officer, was surrounded by secessionist states. In April 1861, he was forced to evacuate his troops after receiving reports of the advance of Confederate troops from Arkansas and Texas.  At Fort Cobb, Emory was able to move against a Confederate advance guard  under the leadership of William W. Averell. Emory was successful in part due to an advance warning from a Delaware scout, trader and rancher, Black Beaver. With the information provided by Black Beaver,  Emory was able to capture the first prisoners of the Civil War.

Following the battle, Col. Emory was responsible for “the largest concentration of federal troops in Indian Territory” which included:

“eleven companies, 750 fighting men, 150 women, children, teamsters and other non-combatants. . . about eighty wagons with about six hundred horses and mules.”

The challenge? To get to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas safely with his troops and the captured prisoners.  He needed to navigate through miles of open, uncharted prairie and territory occupied by Confederates and Indians.

Emory needed a knowledgeable guide. He turned to his friend, Black Beaver.

The Trail: “Without Map or Chart”

At the opening of the Civil War, Black Beaver, now in his 50s, was focused on ranching. However, Col.  Emory “appealed to Black Beaver as a guide in an effort to extricate . . . the garrisons.”  Black Beaver was reluctant to leave his successful farm with “considerable stock” a few miles from Ft Cobb. He feared without his presence, the farm would “fall into the hands of the enemy and be lost to him.” Emory promised “the government would fully recompense him for any losses.” So, he agreed.

Years later Black Beaver would note that

one of his most notable achievements was that of piloting the garrisons of abandoned federal military posts in the Indian Territory out of the country to Fort Leavenworth, Ks at the outbreak of the Civil War.” 

They traveled over “300 miles, more than two thrids (sic) of which was a trackless wilderness, but Black Beaver was not at a loss.  . . .Without map or chart, straight as the crow flies, he laid his course and men still travel the route.” to Ft Leavenworth, Kansas.

Upon arriving at Leavenworth, Col. Emory noted everyone was in “good condition, not a man, an animal, an arm, or wagon . . .lost except two deserters.”

Black Beaver’s trail goes directly through present day Newton and Harvey County.

Where did the Trail go?

Ancient Native American Trails have been discovered all over the city of Newton. One runs just west of Main from 1st street to 10th street where it joins another trail leading to a spot near Sand Creek where several trails come together.  Other trails meet at a spot where the Ash Street Bridge is located today. Most of these trails remain unnamed or indicated on maps a “Indian Trail.”

The Black Beaver/Col. Emory Trail was a significant  north/south route through Sedgwick, Harvey and Marion Counties and pre-dates the Chisholm Trail. In fact, Black Beaver would later suggest this route to his friend Jesse Chisholm.

The Route In Harvey County

The trail enters Harvey County on S. Anderson Rd. Brian Stucky discovered a unique trail pattern while researching.  He identified seven pairs of wagon tracks sandwiched between two sets of Indian trails suggesting military wagons and equipment.

Detail of Black Beaver Trail through Newton, Ks. Courtesy Brian Stucky.

The main branch enters Newton south of the Newton Medical Center and crosses Walmart parking lot and interstate going north. There is a slight turn east near the Newton Country Club and continues north  past St. Mary’s and Greenwood Cemetery and Chisholm Middle School, continues north along Duncan street over 12th street  to Centennial Park.

The trail exits Harvey County at Spencer Rd and the Marion County line. This matches the historic documentation of the Black Beaver/Col Emory Trail.

Black Beaver/Col. Emory Trail through Harvey County

After the successful venture each man went on with their lives. Col. William Emory devoted 45 years to the military of the United States and died on December 1, 1887, in Washington, D.C.

Black Beaver returned to his ranch and discovered his fears had come true. “Turned His Face Toward Home tells the rest of Black Beaver’s story.

A previous version of this post, A Roving Disposition: Black Beaver was published on December 20, 2019.


  • Thank you to Brian Stucky for the Pioneer Trails in the Newton Area Maps, 2013 and the related written guide. The maps, created by Brian Stucky, of the trails in Harvey County are available to study at the HCHM Archives, Newton, Ks.
  • Wichita Daily Eagle 17 September 1922. Written by Joseph B. Thoburn.
  • Pioneer & Indian Trails Map, Brian Stucky, HCHM Archives
  • Thoburn, Joseph Bradfield. A Standard History of Oklahoma: An Authentic Narrative of Its …, Volume 1.  The American Historical Society, 1916. Accessed via google books, p. 278-279.
  • Warde, Mary Jane. When the Wolf Came: The Civil War and the Indian Territory. University of Arkansas Press, 2013. Accessed via google books, p. 50-51.