The Robinson Library >> American History >> United States: Local History and Description >> The West >> Kansas >> Cities and Towns

a city in Montgomery County

location of Coffeyville

Coffeyville welcome sign


In the 1860's, many Osage Indians camped in the Verdigris Valley area west of the Verdigris River. White traders also settled in this area, with many of them settling on the east side of the Verdigris River in a settlement established by James Parker. In 1869 James A. Coffey traveled from Humboldt specifically to trade with the Osage and set up a trading post on the west side of the River. Because the Osage did not have to cross the river to trade with Coffey, his post prospered and, as more traders and settlers came, quickly became a thriving town.

Many small towns sprung up around Coffeyville, and the trading competition was intense. In 1871, a wrought iron bridge was completed across the Verdigris River at Parker, making it a lot easier for people to travel back and forth. Also in 1871, the Leavenworth, Lawrence & Galveston Rail Road, changed its route so as to pass through the new trading post. The promoters of this railroad laid out the townsite of Coffeyville, about a mile north of Coffey's post, and which soon absorbed the original Coffeyville and the towns of Westralia, Parker, Verdigris City, and Claymore. The town was incorporated in March 1872, but the corporation was found to be illegal and it was again incorporated in March 1873. It was incorporated as a city of the second class on July 20, 1887.

Dalton Raid

On October 5, 1892, the Dalton Gang attempted to rob the First National and Condon banks, located across the street from each other, at the same time. Although both robberies were initially successful, residents had seen the gang members going into the banks and a hastily organized posse attacked them as they fled. The ensuing gunfight lasted no more than twelve minutes. By the time it was over four of the bandits -- Bob and Grat Dalton, Bill Power, and Dick Broadwell -- were dead and Emmett Dalton was seriously wounded. Four Coffeyville citizens -- including the town Marshall -- were also killed, and another three were wounded.


Coffeyville began as a trading and commercial city and through the years it has never lost that character. Oil was first discovered in 1881 and petroleum continues to be a major part of the city's economy. Coffeyville has also been home to a wide variety of manufacturing industries over the years.

Sites and Attractions

Dedicated to early aviation and pioneer pilots of the area, the Aviation Heritage Museum features many displays that include memorabilia from the Coffeyville Air Base.

Completed in 1904, the Brown Mansion is a three-story, 16-room mansion built at a wholesale cost of $125,000. [website]

The Dalton Defenders Museum was established to honor the citizens who lost their lives during the Dalton Gang's raid on Coffeyville, but also displays items from the city's earlier years, as well as exhibits relating to some of Coffeyville's past notable residents. [website]

The graves of three of the Dalton Gang members killed during the raid on Coffeyville, as well as those of two defenders, can be seen at Elmwood Cemetery, on the south edge of the city.

Dalton Gang graves

Coffeyville Celebrities

Johnny Rutherford, three-time winner of the Indianapolis 500, was born in Coffeyville.

Reb Russell, football player-turned-early western movie star, grew up in Coffeyville.

Omar Knedlik came up with what is now known as an ICEE while the owner of a Coffeyville Dairy Queen franchise.

Walter "Big Train" Johnson, Washington Senators pitcher and one of the first inductees into the Baseball Hall of Fame, lived in Coffeyville during the off-season.

Actor Gary Busey attended Coffeyville Community College, as did heavyweight boxing champion Buster Douglass.

Wendell Willkie, who was defeated by Franklin Roosevelt in the 1940 presidential election, taught school in Coffeyville in 1913-14.

City of Coffeyville

Dalton Gang
Reb Russell
Wendell Willkie
Franklin Roosevelt

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The Robinson Library >> American History >> United States: Local History and Description >> The West >> Kansas >> Cities and Towns

This page was last updated on August 26, 2017.