The Dark Period: The Spivey Ticket 1871

by Kristine Schmucker, HCHM Curator

To celebrate Newton’s 150th Birthday, we are sharing stories from the very beginning of Newton. The time between May 1871 and early 1873, was a turbulent time for the new railroad town with the reputation for being a violent, lawless town.

In his History of Harvey County 1871-1881, Judge R.P.W. Muse wrote, “the time elapsing between the organization of the county and the Fall of 1875 may be classed as THE DARK PERIOD in the history of Harvey County.” He then recounted some questionable activities in those first years.

Judge RWP Muse

Missing County & City Records

Most questionable were the missing records. Judge Muse reported in 1881 that Dr. Gaston Boyd was to take a census in 1871, but Muse could find no evidence it was taken. Also absent were the minutes of the proceedings of the first city and county commissions and large amounts of money were unaccounted for.

We have examined the files and records of the office of the county clerk and can find no record of the report of said census, nor can we find aught in the proceedings of the County Commissioners . . .all important papers, which should have been filed in that office, are missing.” 

He ominously charged that a “Tweed Ring” had formed in early 1872. “Large amounts of money had been wrongfully issued in the shape of warrants and paid out without sanction of law.” 

He further noted that

“Indignation Meetings” were held to find the truth of what happened, but it was soon apparent that “it was an uphill business to commence proceedings against the suspected officials, and the matter was finally dropped.”

Missing money and records were visible result of the power play for Newton’s future in the earliest years.

The Dark Period

The Topeka and Emporia newspapers, along with Judge Muse’s 1881 history, help build the picture of what was happening in Newton in 1871-73 – “THE DARK PERIOD.”

Law Enforcement

The August 23 issue of the Daily Commonwealth described the law enforcement situation in Newton, “a town of fifteen hundred inhabitants, among which are some of the most uncouth and reckless men in the world, who need the restraints of the law . . . has to rely upon the township organization for its government.”

There were two township justices and two constables that lived in Newton along with a deputy sheriff. One of the constables and the deputy sheriff received pay from a funds raised by the gamblers and saloon owners. There was no city government and county law enforcement came from Wichita in 1871.

Against this backdrop of lawlessness and violence, a city was trying to organize. There were two groups battling for the future of Newton. One group consisted of the law-and-order businessmen, including men with railroad interests. Largely from the north, the group included Union Civil War veterans and those interested in creating a town that was free of violence, known for prosperity and attractive to families. Leaders from this group included Judge RWP Muse and R.M. Spivey.

The other side became known known as the “Gold Room Faction,” named for the popular saloon in the 600 block of Main owned by Isaac Thayer, where the men gathered.  The Gold Room Faction consisted of the saloon owners and others that benefited from the transient and cowboy trade, including a contingent of men from Texas. They reportedly owned at least a third of the town. (Daily Commonwealth, 27 Aug 1871) Many of these men were former Confederate soldiers, adding to the tension.   The conflict between the two factions played out in the earliest two elections for city council in the late summer of 1871 and 1872.

“The Compromise Ticket

The shocking violence early on Sunday morning, August 20, 1871, where five men ultimately died, made everyone aware that changes had to be made. The day following the “Newton Massacre, there seemed to be an attempt to achieve some sort of unity. Several steps were taken to address the violence. One reporter went so far as to note that “no people [had]more regret about the sad shooting affray than the Texas men.”  (Topeka Commonwealth Sept 7, 1871).

A notice appeared in the August 25, 1871 edition of the Topeka Daily Commonwealth that stated, “The citizens of Newton have formed a vigilance committee and have issued a warning against all dance halls.”  The August 27 issue reported an ordinance was in place that forbade the carrying of weapons in Newton.  The leading men from both factions worked together to hold an election to form a city government.

The initial ticket was a compromise with representation from both businessmen and the Gold Room.  From the businessmen, R. M. Spivey was nominated for mayor, and Jerry Johnson Barker, a ST&SF Railroad lawyer, was nominated for police judge. Of the other five nominees for city council only one was a businessman with no ties to the cowboy trade, L.E. Steele. Bill Dow, E. Chamberlain and J. B. Cunningham operated saloons, and James Gregory, a major force in Newton, was a partner in the most lucrative wholesale liquor business in Newton.

Tom Carson was nominated for sheriff. Carson was already at odds with the cowboys in town and not a popular choice.

Spivey was an interesting choice for mayor and his nomination may have been viewed as a bridge between the two groups. Unlike most Civil War veterans in Harvey County, Spivey was a Confederate soldier. Spivey was well respected by the business community and his nomination may have been to appeal to the Texans.

R.M. Spivey

An election was held on August 28, and according to the newspaper “passed off quietly. The utmost good feeling prevailed, as all the tickets contained candidates generally acceptable to the people.

Daily Commonwealth 29 August 1871.

At the last minute, James Gregory put his name in for mayor, breaking away from the compromise. Even though R.M. Spivey was elected mayor and  George Halliday police judge, the  wedge between the two groups was reopened.

Even with the renewed rumblings from the Gold Room Faction, the first meeting of the new council reportedly went well.  The Topeka Daily Commonwealth was encouraged noting:

“A meeting was held a few days since, at which it was resolved to bury all past difficulties, and to appoint a police force composed of Texas men and Newtonians.  It departed amid a burst of enthusiasm and good feeling.” (27 August 1871)

“Rogues, Gamblers and Lewed [sic] Men and Women”

The town’s reliance on the transient cowboy trade in 1871, gave the men of the Gold Room Faction tremendous influence. One person observed that it seemed as though “the rogues, gamblers and lewed [sic] men and women run the town” even as steps toward law and order were taken. (Wichita Tribune, 24 August 1871). In addition, the close tie with the cattle trade and the success of the town was critical in 1871. As one reporter observed; “Texas support is, and will be, the foundation of the prosperity of Newton. The cattle trade is the jugular vein of its business.” (Topeka Commonwealth, 27 August 1871)

Between the fall of 1871 and the spring of 1872, it is not clear how much Spivey was able to accomplish.  He faced constant challenges from the powerful Gold Room faction, while at the same time working toward establishing Newton as a third class city. Although the violence lessened, Newton remained a lawless town. James Gregory remained a powerful force.

On February 22, 1872, the District Judge in Cottonwood Falls approved the petition to establish Newton as a third class city. The first election for city officers was scheduled to take place the first Monday in April 1872.

*As a result of wounds received during the war, Spivey had lost one arm.

Part 2 will continue the story of Newton’s Dark Period – Gold Room Faction 1872.

Additional Sources

  • Muse, Judge RWP. “The History of Harvey County 1871-1881.”
  • Waltner, John. “The Process of Civilization on the Kansas Frontier, Newton, Kansas, 1871-1873” M.A. Thesis, Department of History, University of Kansas, May 1971.

“Slanderous Reports:” the Election for County Sheriff in 1908

by Kristine Schmucker, HCHM Curator

On November 7, the people of Harvey County will have the opportunity to vote on several local issues of importance.  Today, candidates use a variety of methods to get their message out to the voters. Social media, including twitter and Facebook, can have a huge impact on results, both locally and at the national levels. The influence of television was experienced in 1960 and  the first live Presidential debates between John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon. Where people today rely on TV and social media for information in past years, local newspapers have been an important avenue for candidates.  The race for Harvey County sheriff in 1908 could be one example.

“An enviable record as a soldier, and his bravery, . . . is unquestioned.”

Avery R. Ainsworth was a respected member of the Newton community.  He served as City Marshall in the early 1900s.  In the bid for re-election in 1900, the editor of the Evening Kansan Republican noted:

Ainsworth “has always been on hand when needed, and as a enforcer of the law is cordially hated by the ‘gents’ that frequently float around the community living at the expense of the other fellow. . . he has an enviable record as a soldier, and his bravery . .  is unquestioned.”

Avery R. Ainsworth, Newton City Marshal, Western Journal of Commerce, Newton, Ks 1901, p. 8.

Evening Kansan Republican, 5 February 1900.

While serving as City Marshall, he assisted the County Sheriff on raids “made on ‘refreshment stands'” or “joints” to enforce prohibition.

Ainsworth Home, 1901. Western Journal of Commerce, Newton, Ks, 1901.

He also served on the Board of Education for the Newton schools in 1904.

Avery R. Ainsworth, NHS 1904 Yearbook, Board of Directors.

Harvey County Candidates in 1908.

In 1908, Ainsworth  announced his candidacy for sheriff on the Republican ticket. In the republican primary he faced W.E. Johnston, “one of the staunch and true republicans of Highland township.” In the August primary, Ainsworth prevailed to get the republican nomination for sheriff.

Evening Kansan Republican, 30 July 1908, p. 6.

The Evening Kansan Republican urged party unity. In the section titled “Comments Wise and Otherwise,” the editor S.R. Peters noted;

“If he [a voter] takes part in the primary he is honor bound to stand by the ticket nominated by the system, regardless of his personal feelings or bias.”

In the fall of 1908, rumors and controversy  swirled around Ainsworth and in October, editor Peters, sought to answer the critics.

Good Faith for Public Good?

He posed these questions:

“Are J.C. Johnston and Dr. Boyd opposing Mr. Ainsworth and other candidates on the republican ticket in good faith for the public good, or are they airing sore spots and seeking revenge?or airing sore spots and seeking revenge?”

Evening Kansan Republican, 23 October 1908.

Using more than a full page of newsprint, Peters carefully reviews the facts as he knew them in defense of A.R. Ainsworth and the “republican ticket.” He noted that it was important in this case to name the people involved to understand the motives.

  “These men claim to be republicans, but are outdoing all the others in their efforts to oppose a number of the republican candidates.”

“These men are leading . . . the dirty fight . . . against Ainsworth”

Who were the leaders against Ainsworth? Two well known Newton men, Dr. Gastor Boyd and J.C. Johnston. The editor gave some back story related to the two men. He noted that Dr. Gaston Boyd, was “a life long democrat until he was defeated” in a recent election.  It was observed that Dr. Boyd  secured a promotion for his son when he was Newton’s mayor and appointed his “own son city clerk.”

J.C Johnston was a Republican with a total of 12 years of service in various capacities in county government including County Clerk and County Treasurer.  The recently defeated candidate for sheriff, W.C. Johnston was likely a relative**. The editor of the paper noted: “after a long term in office, his [Johnston’s] luck changed.”

Johnston applied or ran for various positions from pay master in the general army to the superintendent of construction of the new Harvey County courthouse. He was not able to secure any of the positions and the editor noted that after not receiving the position under the McKinley administration “he abused McKinley.” In 1894, a suit was filed against him by  Harvey County “to recover about $5,000.00 in fees which as county clerk and treasurer he had failed to pay into the treasury.” The editor concluded that “by this time he was out with practically all republicans” further noting that “these are the men that are leading. . . the dirty fight . . . against A.R. Ainsworth for Sheriff.”

Boyd and Johnston charged that Ainsworth was “guilty of compounding a misdemeanor about seven years ago.” They claimed that Ainsworth

“accepted $15 from James Riley for his agreement not to prosecute said Riley for crap shooting and he received $50 from Thomas Berry about 13 years ago for releasing him from custody when he was wanted in Nebraska for stealing horses and sheep. “

We have investigated these charges”

Editor Peters set out to answer the charges. The first case was a muddled exchanged involving a forged check issued at Murphy’s Hotel and innocently cashed by Mrs. Van Aiken and a  man by the name of Riley who was involved in an illegal crap game in July 1901.  Peters was adamant, after talking with those directly involved, that Ainsworth had done nothing illegal. He summarized by noting that Ainsworth merely “recovered and returned to its owner the money obtained from Mrs. Van Aiken as a result of a criminal act . . . no extortion was involved.”

The second charge made by Boyd and Johnston involved the release of a man wanted in another state, Thomas Berry, for money.  The editor concluded that it was a matter of poorly timed information from the sheriff in Nebraska that led to the release of the man charged with stealing horses and sheep.

Peters observed that these events transpired thirteen to fourteen years ago and Ainsworth has served in “honorable positions in the community” all of this time. “Nothing,” Peters continues, “is heard of this matter . . . until late day when Ainsworth is a candidate for sheriff.”

Office of Sheriff

Even with the conflict, A.R. Ainsworth was elected sheriff for Harvey County. The November 5, 1908 paper noted that “while the majority for Ainsworth was not as large as his friends expected, it was sufficient to place him in the office of sheriff next January.” 

Principals Have Been Sued”

Ainsworth did file suit against Dr. G. Boyd, J.C. Johnston, and Joseph Hebert “for conspiring to defame his character on the eve of the election.”

Avery R. Ainsworth died at the home of his son, Clayton, in  Newton at the age of 76 in 1921.  Born in Ohio in 1845, he was in the 5th Ill Calvary, Co C during the Civil War.  He married Sadie J. Corey in 1870, and the family came to Newton in 1879. The couple had three children, but only one lived to adulthood, Clayton.  In Harvey County, he served as Newton City Marshall for several years, as Deputy Sheriff  for two terms and one term as Harvey County Sheriff.  He also served on the Newton Board of Education and was involved with the Episcopal church in Newton.


  • ** W.C. Johnston was likely a brother to J.C. Johnston, but at this writing (10/27/2017) it could not be confirmed.


  • Western Journal of Commerce, Newton, Ks 1901, p. 8.
  • Evening Kansan Republican:  5 February 1900, 26 March 1900, 10 April 1900, 12 October 1900,25 March 1901, 21 August 1901, 2 August 190430 January 1905, 15 December 1905, 6 March 1908, 12 May 1908, 5  30 July 1908,  5 August 1908, 23 October 1908,5 November 1908,  20 May 1921, 24 May 1921.
  • For more on the first televised Presidential debate:

“A Most Valued Woman:” Elizabeth Clarke Boyd

by Kristine Schmucker, HCHM Curator

 “Newton thus loses one of her most valued women and one who has done great things for the city along cultural lines.”  Evening Kansan Republican, 13 November 1923.

Some people leave a legacy that stretches beyond their lives. Elizabeth Clarke Boyd, who moved to Newton in 1887,  created a foundation for many cultural activities in Harvey County.

Born in London on July 12, 1852 to Robert and Mary Clarke, Elizabeth Clarke came to the U.S. after her parents died. She graduated from the Boston Conservatory of Music and in 1884 from Shimer College (also known as Mount Carroll Seminary).  In addition, she was “recognized  as a concert singer.”  She was the head of the Music Department at Bethany College in Topeka until her marriage to Dr. Gaston Boyd.

Elizabeth Clarke Boyd

Elizabeth Clarke Boyd

Dr. Gaston Boyd was a respected physician in the Newton community.  In addition, he was involved with the forming of Harvey County and the city of Newton since the beginning. In 1868, he married Jennie Williams.  They moved to the rough new town and lived in an apartment above Dr. Boyd’s building at 619 N Main in Newton. They had five children, Two daughters, Lois and Mable died of diphtheria in 1877.  Tragedy struck the Boyd home again on May 5, 1886.  Jennie Boyd was giving her 8 year old daughter, Edith, a music lesson in the parlor.   During the lesson, Mrs. Boyd was “taken with a sinking spell and the child ran first for the house girl and then for her uncle B.Y.Boyd.”  The Newton Kansan reported the events of the next few minutes:

“Her sufferings lasted but a few minutes, and when Dr. Boyd arrived the spirit of the loving wife whom he had but a few minutes before left in good spirits . . . had passed to the world beyond, leaving a husband, two children and a babe two months old.”

The infant son, Gaston Guillam, died six month later. Dr. Boyd was alone with two young children, twins Eric and Edith.

 He met and married 35 year old Elizabeth Clarke in 1887.

The late 1880s were a time of growth in Newton and the interest of the leading citizens was on cultural activities.  The new Ragsdale Opera House was complete, new homes were going up on west Broadway and east 1st. The violent cow boy era was indeed gone.  Into the era of excitement and interest in cultural improvement Dr. Boyd brought his new wife, who had a passion for music and education. They made their home at 408 West Broadway in Newton.

Boyd Home, 408 Broadway, Newton.  Photo taken in 1990.  HCHM Photo Archives.

Boyd Home, 408 Broadway, Newton. Photo taken in 1990. HCHM Photo Archives.

Director of Music for Newton Schools and Local Organizations

Mrs. Boyd immediately put her skill as a musician and concern for education to use. She took a position as the first director of music in the Newton schools.  She had the talent of recognizing and encouraging talent in others and a “number of Newton people were encouraged through her to look toward higher attainment.”

She also felt it was important that adults have the “opportunity for musical expression.” The Newton Musical Union was formed under her direction for that purpose.  Members participated in a music festival in Hutchinson with choruses from all over the state singing some numbers  as one big group with Mrs. Boyd as the director.

Newton Musical Union, Hutchinson, Ks May 1897

Newton Musical Union, Hutchinson, Ks May 1897

Mrs. Boyd also helped with the organization of the Treble Clef Club and served as the first president. The Treble Clef Club still meets today. She was the director of the choir at St. Matthews Episcopal Church in Newton.

Composer of music


"Flag of a Thousand Battles" by Mrs. Gaston Boyd, in the Assembly Hymn & Song Collection, 1912, 1914.

“Flag of a Thousand Battles” by Mrs. Gaston Boyd, in the Assembly Hymn & Song Collection, 1912, 1914.

Author of Poetry

johnnyjumpup-1 001

“Johnny-Jump-Up” poem by Mrs. Gaston Boyd, illustrations by Edith K. Woodbury, 1919.

State and National Organizations

Throughout her life, Mrs. Elizabeth Boyd was involved in a number of national and state organizations, often holding leadership positions. Some of the these organizations included the Woman’s Auxiliary for the Diocese of Kansas (Episcopal Church) Educational Secretary, Vice-President of the Kansas State Music Teachers Association, Kansas Authors Club, president of the Women’s Temperance Union, World’s Advising Council of Music and president of the Kansas World’s Fair Music Board.

wtu 001

Words to song written by Mrs. Gaston Boyd for the W.C.T.U. HCHM Archives

Elizabeth Clarke Boyd, mother, teacher, musician, composer and writer, died November 2, 1923. At her memorial service members of the Treble Clef Club sang a song written by Mrs. Boyd.

Typewritten copy of 'Vesper Hymn" by Mrs. Gaston Boyd.  HCHM Archives.

Typewritten copy of ‘Vesper Hymn” by Mrs. Gaston Boyd. HCHM Archives.

“the number that which touched the hearts of most deeply was a Vesper hymn of which the words and music were the composition of Mrs Boyd herself.”

She was 71 years old.


  • “Sudden Death,” Newton Kansan 6 May 1886, p. 3. (Obituary for Jennie W. Boyd)
  • “Dr. Gaston Boyd,” Evening Kansan Republican 22 November 1919, p. 7.
  • Evening Kansan Republican November 13 & 123, 1923, p. 2. (Obituary for Elizabeth Clarke Boyd)
  • Boyd, Mrs. Gaston (Elizabeth).  Women in Music, in The Congress of Women: Held in the Woman’s Building World’s Columbian Exposition, Chicago, U.S.A, 1893, edited by Mary Kavanaugh Oldham Eagle,  Chicago, Ill: Monarch Book Co.,  1894. p. 570 – 573.
  •                                                       Teaching Music in Graded Schools without a Supervisor, Western Journal, Topeka, Ks, in Music: A Monthly Magazine  Vol 15, 1899, p. 601-603.
  • Frances Shimer Quarterly 3:2, p. 33.
  • City of Newton Burial Records online at
  • “Pioneer Women in Harvey County,” The Homesteader 3:2, May 2007.
  • Poems for publication by Elizabeth Clarke Boyd, 1919. HC Residents, Box 1B,File Folders 31, 32, HCHM Archives.
  • Sheet Music Collection, HCHM Archives.
  • Photo Archives, HCHM.