Coffeyville, Kansas, located in the southeast corner of the plains state, only 75 miles north of Tulsa, Oklahoma, is not particularly an RVing destination. However since 2008, dozens of Workampers have descended on the former manufacturing city to work the pre-Christmas season at the amazon.com fulfillment center. The historic town of 10,000 has some points of interest for those RVers, as well as for others traveling across the country. Hand painted murals on business walls tell stories of an early trading post on the edge of Indian Territory. Brick streets and vintage light posts add to a downtown charm. Gracious two-story homes point to prosperous times in the early 1900s when factories produced bricks and glass. Yet, the town’s character is cast in legends of outlaws and brave store owners and businessmen.
On October 5, 1892, five members of the Dalton Gang attempted to rob two banks in Coffeyville. Townspeople recognized the young men and defended their property with guns passed out at two downtown hardware stores. In a bloody shoot-out, four of the Dalton Gang died, alongside four businessmen known today as The Defenders. A downtown museum located at 113 East 8th Street displays history of the attempted robberies, early Coffeyville, and memorabilia from its citizens. Hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Saturday and 1 p.m. to 4 p.m., Sunday. The museum is closed Thanksgiving, Christmas Day, and Easter.
W.P. Brown, a businessman who defended Coffeyville against the Daltons, later invested his lumber and natural gas assets in a four-story 16-room Mansion completed in 1904 at a wholesale cost of $125,000. The first house in Coffeyville to have electricity, the Mansion’s main floor includes a living room (called the hall), a parlor, the music room, the library, a conservatory, the dining room, a billiard room, entry, kitchen, and maids’ quarters. Guides relate that the designer of Tiffany lamps personally hung the signed Tiffany chandelier over the family’s dining tables.
Five bedrooms and three full baths fill the second floor. A ballroom takes up the third floor. A full basement holds the laundry, tool room, and wine cellar. The family’s original furnishings remain in the house, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Placesss. The Music Room showcases an 1881 square Chickering piano and a 1943 Steinway baby grand. The room shown through the doorway is the parlor with custom made furniture to accommodate Mrs. Brown’s petite size.
The Browns had three children who survived birth: William, who lived to age four; Donald who died at age eleven, and Violet who, as an adult returned to Coffeyville in the 1930s to take care of her aging parent. When they died, she inherited the Mansion and continued to live there as long as her health permitted. She sold the Mansion to the Coffeyville Historical Society and left most of the family’s furnishings and personal items to the museum.
Brown Mansion is open Thursday through Tuesday from March through October. Tours are typically given three times daily. November and December tours are limited to weekends. For additional information go to www.brownmansion.com and www.coffeyville.com/History.htm. Call (800) 626-3357 to confirm the schedule.
Traveling in their motorhome several months each year, Arline and her photographer husband, Lee Smith, make their permanent home in Heber Springs, Arkansas. She currently is a presenter for Workamper Rendezvous, sponsored by Workamper News. Arline has dozens of magazine articles published, as well as five books: “Road Work: The Ultimate RVing Adventure” (now available on Kindle); “Road Work II: The RVer’s Ultimate Income Resource Guide”; “Truly Zula; When Heads & Hearts Collide”; and “The Heart of Branson”, a history of the families who started the entertainment town and those who sustain it today. Visit Arline’s personal blog at ArlineChandler.Blogspot.com