There is a rough time in Newton's history — one that had the city labeled as the "Wickedest City in The West" — that keeps resurfacing.
Locally, it is known as Newton General Massacre, or the gun fight at Hyde Park.
That occurred Aug. 19, 1871. An estimated five people died that night, though accounts of what happened are unclear and conflicting. A historical marker, titled "Newton's Cowboy Era," was erected in the 100 block of West Second Street last year, noting the neighborhood where it all occurred.
And this year, a new book will be published that will give the history again, along with some other stories of murders in Kansas. "Murder & Mayhem in Southeast Kansas" by Larry E. Wood is set for release March 25 by Arcadia Publishing and The History Press.
"Some of the stories in this book, like the Dalton gang’s ill-fated attempt to hold up two banks simultaneously at Coffeyville, will give readers, I hope, a greater appreciation of southeast Kansas’s important place in America’s Wild West era," Wood said "But some of the violent incidents chronicled in this book were committed not by notorious gangs but by everyday people. They grew not out of great criminal schemes but out of all-too-human emotions like jealousy and anger. So, I hope the book also fosters on some level a deeper understanding of the dark side of human nature."
While it is a piece of history that at one time some wanted to be forgotten, Newton's Hyde Park, or Hide Park depending on where research is coming from, is one of importance. The Newton General Massacre, which left at least five men dead in Perry Tuttle’s Saloon, led to gun surrender laws throughout the west. Published reports in newspapers of the day led to Newton being dubbed The Wickedest City in the West.
The nearly five-page account in Wood's book, citing research from newspapers in Topeka, Abilene, Emporia and Newton, is just the latest to shine the light on what happened in Newton just after the town sprung up from seemingly nothing in the 1870s. Last year, a movie titled "Deadman Standing" by distributor Lion's Gate Films was released. The film went directly to DVD after being shown at film festivals.
The Sand Creek Summer Daze Festival committee will host a free showing of "Deadman Standing" as a festival kick-off party at 7 p.m. April 6 at the Meridian Center, 1420 E Broadway Ct.
Independent movie maker Nicholas Barton, a Great Bend native, co-wrote and directed "Deadman Standing." Sand Creek Festival, Inc., will supply free popcorn, tea and water. The Meridian Center staff will have beverages for sale. This event is free to the public.
Barton has been an independent movie maker for about 10 years; a native Kansan, he grew up in Great Bend and graduated from Kansas State University. It was during a 2013 screening of his fictitious western “Wichita” in Newton that the seeds of this new movie were planted — a moviegoer told him to check out the stories of the Newton massacre and Hyde Park.
“I went home and looked it up and did some research,” Barton said. “It piqued my interest, and the more I looked into it, I realized there is a really, really cool story here. So many westerns and stories that we know about have the same, basic three or four characters with Jesse James, Wyatt Earp and Billy the Kid. I’m more into telling stories that have not gotten their shine yet.”
He wrapped production of his movie in 2017. It was purchased by Lions Gate in 2018 and released in December.
One can take a walk on the sidewalk in what was once Hyde Park, in Newton — but geographically, the Newton General Massacre and Hyde Park have all but been erased. The historical marker is located about a block away from where the event actually occurred. No structures are preserved from the summer of 1871. The area of Hyde Park, in the 200 block of West Second, is now filled with residential homes. One business, a plumbing business, is on the block.
The area was filled with saloons and brothels. The two largest were saloons owned by Perry Tuttle and Ed Krum.
The shootout occurred in Lot one of block 52 in Newton, now the 200 block of West Second — just over a block from the historical museum located at the intersection of Main and Second. According to county records, houses constructed in the area of Tuttle Saloon were built between 1900 and 1920.