Early Area History

Chief Black Dog

The Osage Indians were the first settlers in this area. As early as 1803, Chief Black Dog and his band of Osage Indians made a trail through Coffeyville to hunt buffalo. Chief Black Dog was 7 feet tall, weighed 300 pounds and was blind in his left eye.

Coffey Establishes Trading Post

During the Civil War in the 1860s, many Osage Indians camped in the Verdigris Valley area west of the Verdigris River. They had to cross the river to trade with the white men. Soon the white man began to settle in this area with many of them settling on the east side of the Verdigris River in a settlement established by James Parker. James A. Coffey traveled from Humboldt specifically to trade with the Osage and set up a trading post - on what is now known as South Walnut - on the west side of the River. The Indians deciding it was easier not to have to cross the River began trading with Coffey and soon his trading center became a thriving town. Thus, Coffeyville was founded in 1869 and named for James A. Coffey. The area between 13th and 15th Streets on Walnut became a hub of activity because of the Indian trading. There was also some farming done in the area along with cattle grazing and herding.

The first school was conducted in 1869 in Colonel Coffey's house and taught by his daughter, Mary. The first public tax supported school began in 1870 in a building on Walnut. Also in 1869, the Methodist Church began in a building at Tenth and Elm Street which is the present site of the church.

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. This made it a lot easier for people to travel back and forth.
Also in 1871, there was a three-way railroad race to secure a right-of-way into the rich Indian lands. The race was won by the Missouri, Kansas and Texas Railroad, which crossed the lines at Chetopa. Immediately one of the other railroads, the Leavenworth, Lawrence and Galveston, changed its route so as to pass through the new trading post. The promoters of this railroad laid out the townsite of Coffeyville and essentially the entire settlement of Old Parker moved to the new location.

Coffeyville began as a trading and commercial city and through the years it has never lost that character. It was incorporated in March, 1872, but the corporation was found to be illegal and it was again incorporated in March, 1873. During the last thirty years of the 19th Century, it steadily grew and flourished as a trading center of a rich and prosperous farming region. Moreover, it came to be known as one of the most important grain and flour milling points to the Central West.

Cow Town

In the early 1880s, Coffeyville was known as Cow Town due to the numbers of cattle grazing the open range and the fact that it was a shipping point for cattle herds.

Oil was first discovered in 1881 by a man digging a water well on West Ninth Street. Farmers plowing their fields also reported an oily substance oozing out of the ground. Coffeyville became an important grain station.

A charter was granted to the First National Bank of Coffeyville on March 17, 1885. The bank remained in the same building at 809 Union and it was this bank and the Condon Bank that the Dalton Gang rode into town in 1892 to rob.

Glass and Brick Factories Established

About 1900, the progressive businessmen of Coffeyville recognized the possibilities of the proximity of deposits of clay, sand and shale, together with natural gas as a fuel. Within the next few years their efforts brought to Coffeyville eight glass factories and five brick and tile plants. The result was rapid expansion into an industrial city. In 1901, as a trading city, Coffeyville had a population of 5,000. By 1910, as an industrial city as well as a trading city, its population had increased and continued to increase for the next five years to 18,500. By 1916, the glass factories had closed their doors. At that time Coffeyville did, however, have a number of industries that are still active today: Rea Patterson Flour Mill (Bartlett Flour Mill), Sherwin Williams, Acme Foundry and the National Refinery (Coffeyville Resources).

Coffeyville continued to grow in the late 1890's and early 1900's. The Coffeyville Commercial Club promoted Coffeyville by advertising the community as having a good geographical location, excellent shipping and a mild climate. They were able to attract many businesses and factories. At the time Coffeyville had a fire station, electric light plant, six newspapers, seven schools, 4 brick plants, 10 glass companies, a roofing tile plant, six lumber yards and an overall and clothing factory. The Interurban Line was begun which connected Coffeyville to Nowata, Independence and Parsons. There were three railroads operating out of Coffeyville - the Missouri Pacific, Katy and the Santa Fe.