Forgotten Treasure's USA: Coffeyville, KS

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

A while back we decided we would start a blog series called forgotten treasures. Put simply this series would highlight the places or things that were at one time sought after, then obtained, and eventually left to rust. So much of the modern American life centers around consumerism. I find myself asking this question often: "How much is enough?"

Recently we had the chance to spend a few months in Coffeyville Kansas. This town reminds me so much of home. With a population of around 10,000 people Coffeyville is a proud town with a rich history and so many locals trying to hold on to their own American dream. However, unlike my hometown that sits in the middle of several metropolitan areas Coffeyville is in the middle of no-where Kansas. Right off of highways only used by truckers and locals.

We spoke with a local shop owner, who is a full-time employee of the local hospital and works full-time as the owner of Chatter Box Gifts. She said her husband and herself moved to Coffeyville a while back and would love to see downtown return to its former glory. Her shop sits on a prominent corner of historic downtown Coffeyville, yet business is still slow.

Since national chains have moved into town with large parking lots and unmatched prices it is hard for any of the mom and pop shops to keep up. We love small shops, and prefer to shop locally whenever possible.

Coffeyville was founded by Colonel James Coffey as a trading post, for commerce with the Osage Indians in 1869. Coffeyville was also a railroad stop, and the downtown area is nestled right up to the historic tracks.

Coffeyville became popular because it was rich in natural gas and clay. The brick companies in Coffeyville became famous worldwide for the impressions they made onto the bricks. Some of the bricks say Coffeyville Brick & Shale, others highlight the popular don't spit on the sidewalk campaign of the time. According to the Official Coffeyville website:

"When Coffeyville's brick factories were operating to capacity, about 765,500 bricks were made every day. Today these bricks can be seen literally throughout the world and have become a collector's item to many"(1).


Today Coffeyville is home to refineries, the railroad, Sherwin-Williams plant, and other raw mineral processing facilities.

A huge flood in 2007 left the citizens of this small town in despair, and forced many local shop owners to close their businesses. You can still find the mark the flood left on the town through the disheveled pavement and brown water stains up to six feet high that remain on some buildings.

Overall I feel that Coffeyville was a safe place for us to learn about living full-time in an RV, and I instantly felt connected with the town. We were welcomed into this community with open arms and made many friends that we plan to stay in touch with.

One of the best times to visit Coffeyville is during the Dalton Gang Festivities (Robert is working on a post about our experience now). The small town of Coffeyville attracts thousands of people during this festival and the locals really enjoy celebrating their history with travelers.

Coffeyville is only an example of the small towns across America that press on in times of great recession and natural disasters. When we say that Coffeyville falls into the Forgotten Treasures category we are not implying that this is a ghost town; rather a treasure that many have overlooked.

1:Official Coffeyville Website: Coffeyville.com



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