E. W. Grimes.
Walter Hutchison wrote a column for the Traveler called “Folks Hereabouts” which was published Nov. 16, 1933.
“Coaloil Johnnie,” the man who built the first filling station and operated it in this city, selling gasoline and oil for motor cars, still is in the same business here.
This man is E. W. Grimes, now 69 years old, and he says he is still ‘running on high.’ Mr. Grimes has been a resident of Arkansas City since 1895. He now operates the Grimes Filling station, at 200 North First street and his son, Harry, is a partner in the business. ‘True the first station was equipped with a curb pump, but still, it was a filling station.’ Mr. Grimes said.
Mr. Grimes also has the distinction of having been the first man to bring a motor truck to Cowley County. The car was bought at Wichita and Mr. Grimes placed a tank on it, from which he supplied other stations a little later on, with gasoline. Mr. Grimes’ first station was at 300 North Summit street. It was in 1914 that his first station was built. The station at First street and Chestnut avenue, Mr. Grimes has operated for ten years. This station he built, also he said, but with another man’s money.
The name “Coaloil Johnnie” was given Mr. Grimes at the time he first sold oil from a tank wagon about the city, the wagon being drawn by a team of small red mules.
Mr. Grimes excels in Odd fellowship and is one of the best known members of that order in Kansas. He also is a Methodist. He has a wife, one daughter, Mrs. Mazy Ledeker, and one son, Harry.
Going back to the time the Grimes family came to Kansas, Mr. Grimes said in an interview today: “My parents, the late Mr. and Mrs. John Grimes, came to Cowley County in November 1874, and settled on a farm near Atlanta, in the northern part of the county. We came from Illinois in a covered wagon drawn by a team of horses. Father traded the horses for a team of oxen, which he used in breaking the soil with an old fashioned plow.
“At that time there were five boys and two girls in the family. My folks had started for Pratt County, but were stopped here by a severe snow storm and so decided to settle in Cowley County.” he said.
Two years later I went to Douglass where I worked for a farmer for 7 years, then took his daughter in marriage and came to Arkansas City. I came here in 1895 and plan to remain here. My first occupation here was the operation of a small meat market. Two years later I took a job with the Santa Fe as night foreman of the coal chute at the south yards. After working there for two years I went to work for J. F. Roebuck in his grocery. I quit Mr. Roebuck in 1904, bought the team of red mules and started selling coal oil from house to house.”
Later Mr. Grimes bought the grocery store of Ora Dakin, located where the A. C. Floral Company now is and operated that place for seven years. Then he broke into the filling station business and has since followed that line of work. Mr. Grimes and his son, Harry, now have one of the best equipped filling stations in Arkansas City and claim they are getting their share of the business here.