Kansas Roadtrips: McElangelo of Coffeyville, KS

On a crisp November morning the only sound in the historic downtown Coffeyville, KS  was the uncontrollable laughter of two people sitting in a small car in front of a mural hanging on a brick wall. Two people have been doing this for some time, and when one of them would stop laughing, the other pointed to the mural again and both would start giggling again, feverishly wiping away streaming tears. Two people were not strangers to the small town folk art but just like visitors to the Sistine Chapel they knew this could never be surpassed.

Click on these images of perfection, magnify, study them from the gap-toothed person in the middle to the lion on the right. I laugh at the Louvre and the Nelson-Atkins Museum for having mural-sized holes in their collections; I look down upon fancy gallery openings and wine-sipping pretentious art lovers who attend them; I give a stink-eye to the beret-wearing bearded so-called artists. You will never achieve the level of someone named Don Sprague – an unsung (until today) mural painter who lived an created in Coffeyville Kansas.

The murals are mapped on a wall of the Isham Hardware located next to the Dalton Museum. Notice that in the inception-like stroke the building marked “You are here” has a replica of the mural you are looking at.

Full-size painting of the corpses of the Dalton Gang is the crown jewel of the collection. Notice someone peeking through the hole in the fence.

Other than its magnificent murals, Coffeyville looks like a typical Kansas town, with historic area well preserved but not exactly bustling with activity.

Do Christian karateists turn the other cheek? In any case, someone named Einberg got the last laugh.

If the magnificent murals didn’t convince you to visit Coffeyville, maybe the rock-bottom prices on prescriptions will.

You will definitely breathe easy again.

  • King Xavier

    I was born in Coffeyville, KS in 1955. My grandpa used to take me with him to that Post Office to check his mail. Then we’d have breakfast at a local cafe where he was quite the celebrity. He was a detective with the Coffeyville Police Department back in the 30’s and had a reputation as being one steely-eyed, tough sonofabitch. That Terminal Bldg that houses Sprague signs used to be the Greyhound bus depot. There was a barbershop in it and my dad took me there to get my haircuts. They always had stacks of DC Comics mixed in with the more typical barbershop selection of huntin’ & fishin’ magazines. Probably the first place I was exposed to superheroes. The Dalton Raid was a big deal. Local townsfolk rose up and gunned them down when they had the balls to try and rob 2 banks at once in broad daylight. There was some sort of big anniversary where men could be jailed for not growing a beard or mustache commemorative wooden nickles were distributed and there was a live reenactment of the Dalton Raid. I also remember our garbage man was an elderly black gentleman who came through the alley with a mule-drawn wooden wagon collecting trash. We moved away in 1962 when I was 6 or 7, but I still have memories and family there.

    • You know I am a sucker for the old towns. We also stopped at Iola and Chanute on the way to Tulsa. Coffeyville seemed to be the least busy, even though it’s bigger than the other two. It’s didn’t look abandoned by any means but there were maybe 5 more people in the entire downtown area.

  • David Superdave Larson

    Coffeyville has always been a town I like to visit and really has some interesting cool things about it. The W.P. Brown mansion and the story behind the Brown family as well has always interested me. I like to go there sometime with XO so he could tell me even more things about the town. I had a friend who lived their who was a city cop before getting on the Kansas Highway Patrol. I can show you the filling station where he back over a gas pump one night after forgetting his patrol car was still in reverse there at the corner where 169 turns south towards OK.

  • Vera Baker

    My aunt, Emma Smothers, lived in Coffeyville with her husband, Lauren. I was told by a cousin that she was a baptistery mural artist and I’m trying to find her work. I’ve had no luck googling her name.