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.

Note:

  • 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.

Sources

  • 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.

 

 

 

 

“Our Good Laundryman:” Harry Lum

by Kristine Schmucker, HCHM Curator

Harry Lum, probable friend to all, but close to no one, was a man that lived on the edges of the Newton community, providing a much needed service as “our good laundry man” for close to 30 years. He also had the distinction of being Newton’s first, and for many years, only person from China.

In 1880, 26 year old Harry was a miner in Humboldt, California.  At the time, he was living in the household of Po Bar with a group of six other men, all from China. Harry must not have enjoyed mining as within three years he was living in Newton, Kansas. He married 22 year old Beckie Swader on May 29.

 

Chinese Laundry: Harry Lum, Prop.

Newton Daily Republican, 22 August 1888

In January 1884, the Lums opened a “new Chinese laundry” in Newton at their home at 116 W 4th. The Weekly Democrat noted that he “comes well recommended, and guarantees satisfaction.”

Tired of ‘Wedded Bliss.”

Shortly after their marriage, the Lums began to have trouble. The Newton Daily Republican reported that “Harry Lum, the celestial who presides over the washee [sic] house on West Fifth street, has commenced suit for a divorce.” Rebecca “Beckie” Lum, described as a “lady of color,” was accused of “infidelity, abuse, gross neglect of wifely duties, frequent absences from home and finally abandonment” when she went to Sterling and had not returned “to his knowledge.”

By December 1886, the marriage was over and Lum put a notice in the Newton Daily Republican indicating that Beckie Lum had deserted him and “not to trust her on my account.”

Newton Daily Republican, 9 November 1886

A year later, Lum married Alice (or Alize) Plice. Alice, a colored woman born in Kentucky in 1853, was also divorced from her first husband, Abraham Taylor, of Sedgwick County.

The Newton Kansan described the marriage ceremony:

Harry Lum, a Chinaman without a queue and Alice Plice, a colored woman with out bangs, were licensed to marry to-day.”

Newton Kansan, 1 December 1887

There are brief mentions of Harry in the late 1880s. On November 10, 1887, the Newton Kansan reported that a drunken soldier went to Lum’s laundry and “raised ‘peculia hellee’ to use the language of the excited Chinaman” [sic] when reporting the crime. He was also mentioned in the obituary of Mrs. Lucy Russell, who was “dearly loved and greatly respected by those of her race,” and the mother of his second wife Alice.

“Renounced Allegiance to Chinese Empire”

The Newton Daily Republican reported in February 1889 that Harry Lum “our good laundry man . . .who was born and reared in the Celestial Empire . . renounced allegiance to Chinese Empire” and became an American citizen. The editor noted that Mr. Lum “has always borne a good reputation and will not abuse the privilege this day conferred upon him.”

Even though Lum became a US citizen, he was still subject to the anti-immigration laws focused on the Chinese in the 1880s and 1890s. The Weekly Republican reported in the November 18, 1892 issue that “Revenue Collector McCanse . . . was here to secure a photograph of Harry Lum, our sole Chinese resident.” 

 In 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act  was enacted, however it was only valid for 10 years. The Geary Act in 1892  extended the exclusion of Chinese laborers for another decade. The Act required Chinese residents in the U.S. to carry special documentation—certificates of residence—from the Internal Revenue Service. Those who were caught not carrying the certificates were sentenced to hard labor and deportation, and bail was only an option if the accused were vouched for by a “credible white witness.”

An example of the required Certificate of Residence. Although this is not Harry Lum, it is an example of the document he would have carried.

In the spring of 1892, Harry suffered a painful accident. While ironing clothes for the Clark Hotel, two of his fingers got caught between the rollers causing a severe injury. The Evening Kansan noted “it will be some time before he is able to resume work.”

“All old scores are blotted out and friendships renewed”

A reporter from the Newton Daily Republican took some time in February 1894 to interview Lum about the Chinese New Year. During the holiday, “all old scores are blotted out and friendships renewed.”  According to Lum, “the Chinaman who does not forgive a fellow countryman during these two weeks is a black sheep and all other Chinamen turn their backs up on him.”  Lum noted that “like white men, many Chinamen get hilariously full on New Years and paint the town a bright crimson hue.”

Lum, however, celebrated the holiday like Christmas and had “dispensed with the insignia of all devout heathen . . . and follows the custom of his brother Kansans and is strictly temperate.”  The editor closed with this description of Lum; “he has an idea that it is a capital offense to drown one’s senses in Kansas bug juice and he will neither drink whisky nor hit the opium pipe.” (Newton Daily Republican, 6 February 1894)

“A Little Gambling”

 Lum apparently enjoyed  gambling.  The Wichita Star, August 1888, noted that Lum, “the christainized celestial from Newton was taking in the races to-day and betting his money allee samee like white man.” [sic]

Gambling also brought trouble to Harry. This was the case in August 1900, when Lum reported a robbery.

“Frank Weston, a gentleman of color, had procured a sum of money from him in a manner not prescribed by law. It seems there was a little gambling device operated in a shed back of the laundry.” At the end of the evening. Lum was counting his winnings when “Weston grabbed a handful of silver, alleged to be $20 and forthwith made his escape.” Weston was arrested. (Newton Kansan, 3 August 1900)

Of Some Notoriety”

Harry’s wife, Mrs. Alice Lum, was more notorious in the Newton community.  In 1892, she was found guilty of keeping a bawdy house and fined $50. Fights at the Lums  were not uncommon. Abe Weston, also a Black man, was frequently involved.  On March 26, 1892, the Evening Kansan Republican reported that Mrs. Harry Lum had issued a complaint against Abe Weston, who was arrested for assault. In return, Weston reported that Mrs. Lum kept a bawdy house and as a result she was arrested.

In 1907, Lum’s was the site of a shooting. John Allen shot Frank Jordan, both Black men, in  the home of Lum. This gained statewide attention.

The Lum’s home was again the site of a drunken brawl in 1909 during which “Joe Rickman stuck his stiletto into Arthur Childs.”  The reporter observed that “it had to be said to the credit of Harry that he does not seem to have participated to any great extent, if at all.” (Evening Kansan Republican, March 11, 1909)

What happened to Harry Lum?

In 1902, Lum sold his Newton business to another Chinese man, Shung Lee, and worked at Peabody during the week and spent Sundays in Newton. This business arrangement apparently did not last long.  Shung Lee was not mentioned again and Lum returned to Newton to oversee the business.

Harry Lum’s exit from Newton seems to have passed without notice or comment. On December 28, 1910, Harry Lum and wife sold Lot 20, block 13, in Newton to Mary O. Grant for $1300. Shortly after that an announcement in the paper noted that Mrs. Harry Lum was moving to California, where she likely lived for the rest of her life.

Evening Kansan Republican, 23 May 1911.

A Mrs. Alice Lum died March 17, 1915, and was  buried in Evergreen Cemetery, Oakland, Alameda Co, CA.  She was 62. It is possible that this was Harry Lum’s wife.

Evergreen Cemetery
Oakland, Alameda County, California.
PLOT Garden of Serenity

Harry Lum, born in China in 1852 to Ward Lang Lum and Lara Lum, Newton’s “good laundry man, ” disappeared  from the record after 1910-1911. A notification of Harry Lum’s death, or a place of burial has not been found.