A Woman of Strong Personality: Mrs. Anna B. Butler

by Kristine Schmucker, HCHM Archivist/Curator

Mrs. Anna B. Butler

Her hat caught my attention, then I noticed her strong, confident face and I wondered, what is her story?

Born in 1861 in Adams, Illinois, Anna Eliza Balfour Butler eventually married Henry J. Butler. The couple had one son, Carl. The family came to Newton perhaps as early as 1885. The 1885 City Directory lists “Mrs. H.J. Butler, crayon artist” as a boarder at the Howard House Hotel, Newton, Ks.

Henry died of “nervous prostration” in the late 1890s. Very little information can be found about him.

Mrs. Anna B. Butler was active in the Newton community. In 1898, she was the president of the newly formed French Club and active in the Themian Club, where she also served as president. Meetings were often held at her house 203 E Broadway. She was active in developing Themian Park in Newton.

“Practiced Law Here”

In 1902, Anna is listed as a lawyer in the Newton City Directory. Her obituary also makes note of her profession in Newton.  “Mrs. Butler was a former resident of Newton and practiced law here.” (Evening Kansan Republican,  7 Jan. 1919)

What did it mean? “Practiced Law Here?”

While women were admitted to law school as early as the 1860s, there were other ways to become a lawyer. In the late 1800s-early 1900s, a person could “read” for the law and were “examined” by a designated group of attorneys and judges, usually at the county or judicial district level. Once they passed, they could practice law.  Most of the early women lawyers in Kansas “read for the bar” in a lawyer’s office rather than attending law school. It is likely that Anna was one that “read for the bar.” Kansas apparently had a fair number of women lawyers. Linda Diane Henry Elrod writes, “by the end of the nineteenth century, Kansas had enough women lawyers that an 1898 newspaper article indicated that Kansas had more successful women lawyers than any other western state.”

In 1906, Anna sold her household goods and moved to Manhattan to be closer to Carl while he was in school at the university.

Evening Kansan Republican, 26 May 1906.

“Renewed Faith in Manhattan”

While she return to Newton to visit frequently, Anna and Carl put down roots in Manhattan, Ks. Anna became well known as a savvy businesswoman and land agent.

Morning Chronicle, 26 July 1911

She also did not waste time getting involved  in Manhattan, purchasing several properties along 14th Street.

In 1911, the Manhattan city council  proposed to enlarge 14th Street to connect the new city additions with old. The main property owner affected was Anna B. Butler. According to the newspapers, she argued for a different route than the one that went straight through her property. After she presented her ideas, “the matter was thoroughly – at times heatedly – discussed.” In the end, The city council went with the initial proposal with compensation for Anna to move one house and cover the damage to the property.

This  incident did not stop her. She continued to invest in the Manhattan  community. According to the Riley County Democrat, 5 April 1912, “Mrs. Anna B. Butler is exhibiting renewed faith in Manhattan by building three new houses on West Laramie street.” In 1916, she built another house at 14th & Laramie in Manhattan for $2,500 to use as a rental property.  (Morning Chronicle 15 July 1916)

She was “vitally interested in a business  way in the growth of the town. She was a woman of strong personality, deep convictions upon spiritual matters and a fine business woman.  . . . the center of her life interest was her son Carl. Between the two existed a sympathy, understanding and love of the highest type between mother and son.” (Manhattan Tribune, 9 January 1919)

In the winter of 1918, she traveled to Berkley, California to be near her son Carl, who was in the aviation branch of the service near Riverside CA. She died January 6, 1919 after sudden  illness which was later revealed to be stomach cancer. Her body was brought back to Newton for burial.

Both Henry and Anna are buried in Greenwood Cemetery, Newton, Ks.


  • Newton Journal: 17 January 1919
  • Newton Daily Journal: 12 February 1898, 21 February 1898
  • Evening Kansan Republican: 28 May 1906, 15 August 1907, 12 September 1910, 15 September 1910, 15 July 1913, 7 January 1919, 13 January 1919, 15 January 1919, 22 August 1922
  • Riley County Democrat: 5 April 1912
  • Morning Chronicle: 26 July 1911, 15 July 1916
  • Manhattan Tribune: 9 January 1919
  • Manhattan Republican: 29 June 1911, 19 October 1911
  • Manhattan Mercury: 8 January 1919
  • Elrod, Linda Diane Henry. “Washburn Law School Celebrates a Century of
    Welcoming Women” Washburn Law School, Vo. 42. p. 854-907.

“The latest and most popular styles can always be found here.”

by Kristine Schmucker, HCHM Curator

We often think that women owning and operating their own business is a relatively recent occurrence. However, a closer look at Harvey County businesses over time reveals  that women have long been successful entrepreneurs.  The “Millinery Parlor” was one business that allowed a woman to work  from her home or at an actual store.


Mrs. T.E. Young Millinery Parlors

Mary M. Young, (Mrs. T.E.) operated a millinery business out of her home on east 8th, Newton, in 1901-02.  A successful business woman in Newton, Mary Morris arrived from Ireland as a single woman. She married Thomas Young, a widower with four children, in 1893.   In addition to the children,  Thomas’ mother was also living with them in 1900.  Thomas was a traveling salesman.

Even with the demands at home, Mary was able to keep her millinery business going.  She made hats for many of Newton’s prominent citizens and she was noted for her excellent workmanship and hats that were of “the latest and most popular styles.” No doubt the extra money from the millinery business was welcome with a large family.
Mrs Young

In 1911, Mrs. Young was listed as the head milliner for the Newton department store, Conrad & Dutcher.

Conrad & Dutcher Clothing, 607-609 Main, Newton, ca. 1911

Conrad & Dutcher Clothing, 607-609 Main, Newton, ca. 1911

After Thomas died in 1914, Mary Young “had her home made into an apartment house and has ‘mothered’ many a lonely young man or woman, and helped many a bride in her first attempts at homemaking.” In addition to being a successful businesswoman, Mary gave back to her adopted community.  She was involved in the organization of the Newton Country Club and was a member of the Eastern Star and the Beauceant.  With her “magnificent contralto voice,” she was a member of the Musical Union and St Matthew’s Episcopal Church.

Her obituary described this “public spirited” woman in this way:

“Hers was a fine character and typically Irish especially in the quality of her faithful and true friendship.”

Mrs. T.E. Young passed away March 15, 1924 at the age of 67.

For Posts on Other Harvey County Businesswomen see:

  • The Story of Carrie Van Aken: https://hchm.org/carrievanaken/
  • The Story of Augusta Goerman: http://harveycountyvoices.blogspot.com/2013/03/mustard-plaster-and-warm-iron-goerman.html
  • The Story of Lizzie Coult: http://harveycountyvoices.blogspot.com/2012/07/she-hath-done-what-she-could.html


  • Western Journal of Commerce, 1901, p. 13
  • Newton City Directory, 1902, 1911
  • Newton Kansan 15 March 1924.  Obituary for Mrs. T.E. Young
  • HCHM Archives Marriage License Index,  https://hchm.org/research-library/
  • HCHM Photo Archives
  • United States Census, 1900, 1920

Sharing Stories and Connecting Community

museum line drawing

On A Quest: Why We Do What We Do

by Kristine Schmucker, HCHM Curator

Late, on a quiet Friday afternoon, a group of four people made the trek up the museum steps.

We are on a quest, but we are not sure what questions to ask.”

After some questions, it was discovered that they were searching for their grandmother’s cafe. Their parents had moved out of  state, but the two sisters had a vague memory of visiting Newton, maybe once, as children. Their grandmother’s name was Carrie Van Aken and they remembered the cafe as being across from the depot. Could we help them discover the exact address of the cafe?

It turned out we could help them and more.

Born in Michigan in 1867, Carrie Douglas Van Aken would grow up to be a “pioneer resident” in Harvey County, Kansas and an active businesswoman.

Shortly after Carrie and Edward van Aken were married in November 1884 in Michigan, they moved to Nickerson, Kansas where Edward was employed by the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railroad as a telephone operator.  Both of their children, Mildred and Lawrence, were born in Kansas.

In 1896, the AT&SF Railroad division headquarters moved back to Newton. As a result, Edward moved his family to Newton.  For the next 43 years, until his death in 1931, Edward worked as a telephone operator for the Santa Fe Railroad.    The family established a home at 120 East 1st after 1910.

Carrie soon became involved in the thriving restaurant/ hotel business in Newton. In 1905 Mrs. Carrie Van Aken is listed as bookkeeper at the Murphy Hotel and Cafe located at 411-415 Main, Newton.  Joseph W. Murphy was the proprietor.  Her daughter, Mildred, also worked for the Murphy Hotel as a clerk in 1902. Eventually, Carrie established her own restaurant business.  The 1917 Newton City Directory, lists Carrie Van Aken as the proprietor of the Auditorium Cafe located at 122 E. 5th, right across from the Santa Fe Depot.   During this time, she also served as secretary on the Chamber of Commerce.

Over the years the cafe at 122 E. 5th was known by several names – the Auditorium Cafe, the Santa Fe Cafe, or simply Mrs. Van’s Cafe. No doubt, she provided a meal to many travelers and railroad workers over the years.

Mrs. Van's Cafe, 122 E. 5th, Newton, Ks, 1921 Also known as Auditorium Cafe and Santa Fe Cafe

Mrs. Van’s Cafe, 122 E. 5th, Newton, Ks, 1921
Also known as Auditorium Cafe and Santa Fe Cafe

In the photo below, the cafe was located in the three story building adjacent to Marshall’s Furniture Store (originally Duff’s Furniture and Undertaking).  The building was torn down shortly after this photo was taken to make space for a parking lot.

Santa Fe Cafe and Hotel, 122 E. 5th, Newton, Ks, ca. 1980.  Courtesy Jack Unruh.

Santa Fe Cafe & Hotel, 122 E. 5th, Newton, Ks ca. 1980. Photo courtesy Jack Unruh.

Carrie Van Aken’s obituary, on the front page of the   Newton Kansan (2 February 1954), called her a “pioneer resident.”  She was not only a pioneer in the sense of an early resident of Harvey County, but also as a Newton businesswoman.  Her employment with the Murphy Hotel & Cafe, followed by running her own cafe for many years, allowed her to be a leader in the business community.

At the museum, we were able to connect her story with her two granddaughters over 60 years later through photos and documents.

This connection is why we do, what we do.


  • Newton City Directories: 1887, 1902, 1905, 1911, 1913, 1917, 1919, 1931, 1934, 1938.
  • Newton Kansan 50th Anniversary Ed. 22 August 1922, p. 49, 51, 82.
  • Newton Kansan 20 February 1931; Edward M. Van Aken obituary.
  • Newton Kansan 2 February 1954, p. 1; “Mrs. Carrie Van Aken, Pioneer Resident, Dies.”
  • United States Census, 1900, 1910, 1930, 1940.