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Albert A. Newman has been a resident of Kansas since 1868. It is almost a half century of purposeful and earnest citizenship and business activity. Though his first home in the state was at Emporia, Mr. Newman had been principally identified with Arkansas City since 1870. Among all his contemporaries it is conceded that his had been the chief constructive enterprise and influence for the upbuilding and development of that fine city of Southern Kansas. The town was not in existence until the spring of 1870, and it was his foresight and keen judgment, backed up by untiring energy, that realized and utilized the splendid natural resources and advantages of a city eligibly placed upon a great natural water course and for years one of the gateways into the Indian country south of the Kansas line.
Many will account for Mr. Newman’s striking business success by referring to the fact that he was born in the Pine Tree State, a state which had furnished as many sturdy citizens as it had been notable for its sturdy and towering forests of pine timber. He had behind him several generations of high minded and patriotic American citizens. Mr. Newman was born at Weld, Maine, January 19, 1843. His grandfather, Ebenezer Newman, was born at Billerica, Massachusetts, in 1791, and was the son of a soldier who fought for the cause of the Revolution with the Massachusetts troops. The Newmans were originally English people and were colonial settlers in Massachusetts. Ebenezer Newman was a farmer by occupation, spent many years at Weld, Maine, and was a frequent summer resident at Stillwater, Minnesota, where he died in 1857. He held the rank of colonel in the Maine State Militia. He married Miss Judith Dowse, who was born at Billerica, Massachusetts, and died at Weld, Maine. None of their children are now living.
Augustus G. Newman, father of the Arkansas City merchant, was born at Weld, Maine, in 1821. He lived there most of his life, followed merchandising, and died in 1893. He was a not infrequent visitor to Kansas, coming in 1870, again in 1891, and at other times. He began his voting career as a democrat, but subsequently became a republican, held all his local town offices, and for many years was a selectman. In religion he was a Free Will Baptist and assisted in building the church of his denomination in his Maine Village. He also served as colonel in the State Militia. Augustus G. Newman married Caroline Beedy, who was born at Phillips, Maine, in 1821, and died at Kingfield in that state in 1895. Albert A. Newman was the oldest of their five children. G. W. Newman, the next younger, had also made a name for himself in business affairs in Kansas, and is manager of the G. W. Newman Dry Goods Company at Emporia. Mary C. is the wife of R. C. Haywood, a broker at Berkeley, California; F. C. Newman is president of the Citizens National Bank of Emporia; Hattie lives at Framingham, Massachusetts, widow of C. W. Purington, who was a minister of the Free Will Baptist Church.
From this brief outline it is evident that Albert A. Newman comes of good American stock, but his early ambition was not spoiled by over indulgence and luxuries, and he had that environment and training that makes for good character and the exercise of all the talents and abilities in a man. He grew up in his native village, attended the local schools, and besides the high school course was a student in the Main State Seminary at Lewiston.
He was about nineteen years of ago when he gave up his books and studies in the seminary in order to fight for the cause of the Union. He enlisted in 1862 in the Tenth Maine Infantry, was afterwards transferred to the Twenty-ninth Maine Regiment, and lacked only two months of serving the full term of three years. He came under fire in some of the great battles in the East, including Antietam and Chancellorsville, afterwards was transferred to New Orleans and finally was in the army of the gallant Sheridan up the Shenandoah Valley, participating at Winchester, Fisher’s Hill and Cedar Creek.
After coming out of the army Mr. Newman went to Fayetteville, Tennessee, and was a dry goods merchant there three years. In 1868 he arrived at Emporia, Kansas. He became a general merchant in that city, and continued in business there until 1872. In 1871 he had been attracted to Arkansas City, where he opened a stock of general merchandise, and since the following year had had his permanent home in that city.
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To tell all that Mr. Newman had done and had been instrumental in securing done in Arkansas City would be to give a rather complete account of the industrial and business development there. He is perhaps most widely known as a successful merchant and as president of the Newman Dry Goods Company. In the course of forty-five years the business grew into a department store recognized as the largest in this section of the state. During 1916-17 a magnificent home was erected for this store at the corner of Adams Avenue and Summit Street. There are other buildings in the state taller, but none so well constructed nor so thoroughly equipped for its present purposes. The building is 100 by 132 feet, five stories high, with basement and sub-basement and built throughout of concrete and of fireproof material. Large as the building is it is none too large for the vast volume of business transacted by the Newman Dry Goods Company. The store is equipped with one freight and two passenger elevators and a spiral for the delivery of goods. It had an improved heating and cooling process, and in hot weather air is drawn through a curtain of water. The heating plant is in the sub-basement. The sub-basement comprises two floors and there had been such a liberal distribution of light that the entire basement is as well lighted as the upper floors. The basement is so arranged that wagons and trucks can be driven to this floor direct from the street above and every facility had been provided for the prompt and efficient handling of goods. The first floor had a large gallery or mezzanine story. The second floor is for general merchandise, men’s goods and dry goods, the third floor is for women’s ready to wear goods and carpets, the fourth floor is house furnishings and furniture, while the fifth floor is a warehouse and stock room. One feature of the building is a marquee twelve feet wide, extending from the building over the sidewalk and providing shelter against the sun and rain.
Mr. Newman had also been prominent in financial affairs. He was president of the Cowley County Bank, the second bank of Arkansas City and the first public bank organized under the laws of the state. He was president of this institution from 1874 for a number of years, and was also one of the founders of the Home National Bank.
Hardly less credit is due him for his foresighted endeavors in improving and developing the magnificent water power at Arkansas City. This water power is the Arkansas River itself, from which the waters are diverted by a canal five miles long and finally discharged into the Walnut River, after a drop of twenty-six feet, which is sufficient to create many thousands of horse power. This water power is used by the flour mills and is converted into electricity by the Electric Light Company, which in turn furnishes electric power to all the manufacturing concerns. It was Mr. Newman and his associates who built the first flour mill in Southern Kansas. It was erected on Walnut River, and that mill for several years furnished all the flour used by the Indians in Indian Territory. Mr. Newman freighted flour to Fort Sill in the southern part of Indian Territory and to army posts in that locality during 1876-77. He finally sold the mill in 1879, but had had many other interests in the industrial development of that city. He is a director of the City Milling Company, which he served a number of years as president; is president of the Newman Investment Company, a real estate and building company, and is president of the Land and Power Company of Arkansas City, a corporation owning large land holdings. Together with James Hill, W. M. Sleeth, R. C. Hayward, T. H. McLaughlin and Stacy Matlack he founded the Arkansas City Water Company and the Arkansas City Gas and Electric Light Company, both of which corporations he served as president for a number of years. They finally sold these public utilities to the Kansas Gas and Electric Light Company in 1915. In earlier times Mr. Newman’s interests extended to the land and cattle business, and he was president of the Three K Cattle Company and had leases on 40,000 acres of land in the Kaw Reservation in Indian Territory. The Newman home, built in 1873, had long been a residential landmark in the city and is located at 301 North B Street. He owned a number of other pieces of improved and unimproved property and various business buildings and had farms in Cowley County. He furnished the capital for the erection of a number of business structures, and in one long block every building was put up by him except two. Thus the credit given him for having done more to develop Arkansas City than any other man is due to his varied activities as a pioneer, a builder, a manufacturer and a merchant.
Mr. Newman had always been a straightforward republican. For two terms he held the office of mayor of Arkansas City. For the past thirty-five years he had been a trustee of the Presbyterian Church. Fraternally he is affiliated with Crescent Lodge No. 133, Ancient Free and Accepted Masons, at Arkansas City; Bennett Chapter No. 41, Royal Arch Masons; Arkansas City Commandery No. 30, Knights Templar; Wichita Consistory No. 2 of the Scottish Rite, and Salina Temple of the Mystic Shrine at Salina.
Mr. Newman was married at Weld, his native village in Maine, in 1869, to Miss Mary M. Houghton. Her parents were Sewell and Maria (Jones) Houghton. Her father was a farmer. Mr. and Mrs. Newman have three children: Pearl, the first born, is the wife of Major Hase, who is a major in the coast artillery service, lives at Washington, D. C., and had offices in the Army and Navy Building; Earl G. is manager of the Newman Dry Goods Company at Arkansas City; Albert L., the youngest, is manager of the Kansas Gas and Electric Light Company and Water Power Company at Arkansas City.