“The Best Evergreen Nursery West of Topeka”

by Kristine Schmucker, HCHM Archivist/Curator

Thanks to Jim Brower for sharing this advertisement card to start us on our search.

Many of us are happy to be able to get out into our gardens again after a long winter.  We have our favorite nursery or Garden Store to go to for supplies, seeds and plants. Just like now, 1880s Harvey County had several nurseries, including the Harvey County Nursery, Halstead, Ks owned by Joseph Cook.

Joseph Cook was born in Indiana in approximately 1825, he first appears in the Halstead paper in 1881 as an agent for Dr Ryder’s American Fruit Dryer or Pneumatic Evaporator which was advertised as being “equal to canned goods and is saving the cost of cans, jars etc.” He had one on his farm 3 1/2 miles north of Halstead in operation and “he would be pleased to have his brother farmers come and see work and test the fruit.” (Halstead Independent 5 August 1881) In the 1875, he is listed with his wife Mary and three children John Jay, 18, Emma, 14, Melona 3.


Edward Plat Map Harvey County, 1882, Halstead Township.

By 1882, Joseph Cook had an establish tree stand that included fruit trees. He had 160 acres in section 15 and 80 acres in section 14, Halstead Township, Harvey County, Kansas. In addition to the orchid, the plat indicates a residence and two other buildings. A one room school was also located at the corner of section 15. The map also shows the location of the Friends Church, of which he was a member, and the cemetery.

Harvey County Nursery

Halstead Independent, 17 October 1884.

In 1885 the Halstead Independent reported that they would be publishing a “treatise on “Growing an Orchard in the Arkansas Valley'” written by Joseph Cook. At that time the Harvey County Nursery were known for their Apple, Pear, Soft Maple, Hardy Catalpa and Russian Mulberry trees, grape vines and evergreens. In the spring of 1885 their goal was to be the “best evergreen nursery west of Topeka.” To meet that goal they had several thousand evergreens for sale. He also wrote advice columns on growing various plants occasionally for the Halstead Independent.

In the fall of 1885, Cook made the decision to move his business closer to Halstead. Business had increased over the summer and it was inconvenient to be a distance from town. They purchased 60 acres of land from Frank J. Brown.

By the end of 1886, Cook was advertising to sell the nursery. The editor of the Halstead Independent  noted, “while we should regret to see these parties retire from the business . . .it is a rare opportunity for some enterprising man . . . to invest in a profitable and pleasant business.

August 5 1887 in an advertisement for his farm Cook describes a two story house with seven bedrooms, close to 60 acres within a half mile of Halstead, and finally a sweet potato farm, 500 bearing apple trees, 300 bearing grape vines, pear, peach, plum and cherry in abundance.


Halstead Independent, 5 August 1887

From Halstead to Rialto, CA

October 14, 1887 make their homes not only in Southern California, but at the beautifully located projected town of Rialto.” Among those than made the mover M.V. Sweesy, former editor of the Independent, J.W. Tibbott, dry goods and stock raiser, Joseph Cook, farmer and “influential member of the Quaker church,” J.W. Sweesy,, farmer. Wm Tibbot, merchant, Frank Brown, farmer, and Leroy and Mr. McDonald, “two estimable young men.”

The Halstead Independent kept up with Cook for a few years in the November 11, 1887 issue a letter from Cook in California was published. Then in May 1888, there was a report that Joseph Cook and the Tibbot brothers “were on the outs.” Cook himself felt compelled to answer writing; “there is not the least bit of foundation for the slang about me and Tibbots . . . I look upon it simply as malicious lying, nothing less.”

One final mention of Joseph Cook in the Halstead Independent came from the Rialto Orange-Grower in California. “Mr. Cook and family have returned for Jennings, La to Rialto . . . Mr. Cook has not yet determined definitely as to his future movements. He may remain with us or may move to some point farther north on the coast. We trust he will find it to his advantage to remain and make his home in Rialto.”

“Two Prohibitionists Discussing Prohibition”

In addition to growing his business, Joseph Cook had a passion for temperance.  From 1883 to 1886, Cook’s name appears frequently advocating for temperance and supporting strict enforcement of Kansas’ Constitutional law. He wrote several lengthy articles published in the Newton Kansan and Halstead Independent. 

At the Prohibition Convention in September 1886, Cook was elected president and gave “a short but appropriate speech.”

On October 29, 1886, Cook engaged in a discussion at White’s school house with Hon. T.J. Matlock. The Halstead Independent editor noted that “it was, however, a rather queer discussion. Two prohibitionists discussing prohibition.” While both gentlemen acquitted themselves well, “it was conceded, we believe, that Matlock got the better of the argument and really out Ceasared Ceasar himself.” 

Cook spoke again November 5 1886 at a political meeting featuring the Hon T.J. Matlock, two other men spoke Charles Bucher, of Newton on November 5, 1886 and gave lectures at the Y.M.C.A. in Newton.

It is not known if he continued to be active in the Prohibition movement once in California.


  • Kansas State Census, 1875.
  • United States Census, 1880.
  • Halstead Independent: 5 June 1885,  30 October 1885, 20 November 1885,10 Sept 1886, 29 October 1886,   3 December 1886, 11 January 1889.


Snapshot in time: George Kirk Family

by Kristine Schmucker, HCHM Curator

When researching history, sometimes the only clues are a photograph. This is the case of a photograph of the George Kirk farm.

George Kirk Farm, ca. 1885, near Halstead, Ks. Photo courtesy Jim Brower.

George Kirk Farm, ca. 1885, near Halstead, Ks. Lt-Rt ground: William, George Sr, Albert, Jane Kirk. Balcony Lt-Rt: Agnes, Maggie, James, Thomas, Jane, George Jr. Photo courtesy Jim Brower.

George & Jane Cooper Kirk: Harvey County Pioneers

The obituary for George Kirk of Halstead, Kansas noted:

“He at once distinguished himself as a pioneer of the kind that has made Kansas the leading commonwealth of the world.”  (The Wichita Beacon, 12 December 1916, p. 3.)

So, who was this early Harvey County settler?

George Kirk born in Torrence of Campsie a suburb of Glasgow, Scotland 18 January 1840. He married Jane Cooper 21 October 1861. Their first child, William, was born in 1863 in Scotland.

George saw opportunities in the United States and in 1863 even “though the Civil War was raging, he set his face westward to bring his little family to the land where he thought there awaited them larger opportunities than were present in his native land.”

At first he worked as a coal miner and later, as a shaft foreman in the mines of northern Illinois.  In the spring of 1871, the Kirk family moved to Kansas and took a homestead a mile and half north of the growing town of Halstead.

Halstead Township, Harvey County, Historical Atlas of Harvey County, Philadelphia: J.P. Edwards, 1882.

Halstead Township, Harvey County, Historical Atlas of Harvey County, Philadelphia: J.P. Edwards, 1882.


George Kirk Farm, Section 26, Halstead Township, Harvey County, Edward’s 1882.

The Kirk family experienced tragedy in 1892. Nineteen year old, George, Jr, was living in Dighton, Ks, with his sister, Agnes and husband, William Curtis, when in a state of despair he “severed the Gordian know that bound him to this mundane state” and shot himself. In the letter he left to his parents he apologized for being “a very disobedient boy.”  He noted that they had “suffered more on my account than any of the rest of the family”  and urged his brothers “to obey their father and mother and they never will regret it all their days.” George had been living with his sister’s family for two months working with his brother in law on the railroad.  Agnes, his sister, had not seen any signs “which would lead him to the rash act.” She had brought the gun back with her from Halstead a few days earlier.

George Sr died at home in Halstead, Kansas 7 December 1916. He was  described as “hard working man of splendid integrity, faithful in every relation of life.” His wife, Jane Cooper Kirk, died 11 September 1917. They were survived by seven of their eight children.

L.A. Furlong, Halstead Photographer

Who was the photographer?

The photo was taken by L.A. Furlong, Halstead, Kansas. A census search revealed that John and Martha Furlong did live in Halstead at this time, but no connection could be found to L.A. Furlong.

A Google search revealed that there is at least one other photo attributed to “L.A. Furlong, Photographer, Halstead, Kansas.”



Other clues do not help much.

The 1867 St. Joseph, Missouri resident business directory lists L.A. Furlong.  In addition, L.A. Furlong is mentioned as a “Gen’l Western Agent of the New Nork [sic]Central railroad . . . at Olis” in the Atchinson Daily Champion, 28 January 1876.

The photo of the Kirk family was taken around 1885 based on the possible ages of the Kirk children.  The photo of “Chief Bull Thunder” is dated October 1885.

One other clue might be a brief news item in the Ottawa Daily Republic, 14 January 1888.  A “well-dressed man, supposed from the papers on his person to be L.A. Furlong, of Illinois” was left by the train conductor in San Antonio, Tx. Reportedly, the man was “insane or bewildered from the effects of some drug” and he could not “talk coherently, and nothing can be learned from him.”

furlog 001

No other information could be found related to the man left at the train station or about L.A. Furlong, Halstead Photographer.

Sources: George Kirk Family

  • The Wichita Beacon, 12 December 1916, 14 September 1917.
  • Evening Kansan Republican 14 December 1916, 11 September 1917.
  • Leavenworth Times 8 June 1892.
  • Dighton Herald, 9 June 1892.
  • Historical Atlas of Harvey County, Philadelphia: J.P. Edwards, 1882. HCHM Archives, Newton, Ks.  See also the Kansas State Historical Society at  http://www.kshs.org/p/county-atlases-or-plat-books/13859.
  • Old Settler Official Program, 1917. HCHM Archives.
  • U.S. Census 1880, 1900, 1910.
  • Voter Registration, 1898, 1897. HCHM Archives.
  • Harvey County Marriage Licenses, HCHM Archives.

Sources: L.A. Furlong, Halstead Photographer

  •  Ottawa Daily Republic, 14 January 1888, p. 1.
  •  Atchinson Daily Champion, 28 January 1876.
  • St. Joseph, Missouri Residential and Business Directory, 1867. Jim Brower e-mail conversation with Susan K. Forbes, Historical Research Division, Kansas Historical Society, regarding the identity of L.A. Furlong.
  • http://historical.ha.com/itm/photography/la-furlong-cabinet-photograph-of-chief-bull-thunder-medicine-man-bull-thunder-is-pictured-in-this-4-x-6-sepia-cabinet-c/a/679-72191.s
  • Re: John & Martha Furlong Family. Evening Kansan,  25 February 1893, 18 May 1898, 26 May 1898, 31 December 1898, 9 January 1899,

“Vehemence Unprecedented” The 1886 Blizzard

by Kristine Schmucker, HCHM Curator

January 5, 1886 “was beautifully warm, sunny and very quiet. . .” but changes were coming.

Later, Christian Krehbiel, Halstead,  recalled watching “flies flitting about the barn as if in midsummer” causing him to remark to another in German “Morgen gliegen sie nicht so.” (rough translation: ‘They won’t fly like that by tomorrow morning.”) Krehbiel’s words proved to be prophetic.  By the next morning, “the temperature had dropped to 20 below zero and the wind was blowing fine snow around so that it was impossible to see.” (Halstead Independent, 1961)


Blizzard 1886, Homestead, central Kansas.

In Caldwell, Ks, another farmer was also suspicious of the spring-like weather in early January. His daughter later told of how her father observed  the weather “was so warm that the cattle stood and drank water because of the heat.” As a result, he “feared a storm and drove two cow ponies and a light wagon to the new village 18 miles away to lay in a supply of food stuff and fuel.” He barely made it home before the storm hit on January 6. (Carrie Omeara, Caldwell, Ks)  Many other Kansans were not prepared for what was to come.


Blizzard 1886 near Dodge City, Ks.

The Saturday, January 9, 1886 edition of the Topeka Daily Capital, noted that a blizzard, which had been raging with “a vehemence unprecedented” since Thursday, continued interrupting the railway and all communications.  The thermometer registered 40 degrees below zero and many locations had drifts well over 6 feet.

Topeka Daily Capital, 9 January 1886, p. 1.

Topeka Daily Capital, 9 January 1886, p. 1.

The blizzard began in northwest Kansas on January 6 and moved rapidly to the southeast and east. At 2:00 am on January 7, the storm roared through Ness City and by 5:00 am Wichita. In Harvey County, snow began to fall around 10:30 pm on the 6th and continued for the next four days. At times, the blinding snow made objects over 20 feet away invisible.

The number of Kansans that froze to death during the blizzard was estimated at 100. Many simply were not prepared. The primitive homes could not provide the needed protection against the chilling temperatures and high winds.  Also devastating, was the loss of livestock.  Cattle left on the open range drifted for miles until they dropped from hunger and exhaustion. In some areas of western Kansas, up to 75% of the cattle died during the storm.

Sketch by Henry Worrall of 1886 Blizzard in Harper's Weekly, 7 February 1886.

Sketch by Henry Worrall of 1886 Blizzard in Harper’s Weekly, 7 February 1886.

Only three passenger trains made it to Denver the entire month of January in 1886.


Train stopped during Blizzard 1886. Ford County, Ks. Image courtesy Kansas Historical Society.



“Rotary” Bucking the Snow on Santa Fe West of Newton, Kas, ca. 1900. HCHM Photo Collection

The winter of 1911-1912 was another year for the record books. The most devastating storm hit on February 25 and 26, 1912. Drifts of eight to ten feet blocked roads and disrupted trains service. Throughout January and February regular temperatures of 20 below and weekly snowfall, left the ground covered with snow through March.

Stalled west of Newton, Ks Janaury1912

Stalled west of Newton, Ks, January 1912.  HCHM Photo Archives

More recently, on February 21, 1971, the “worst snowstorm of the 20th century hit Kansas.  For thirty-six hours most of the state was paralyzed as the storm, compared to the Blizzard of 1886, roared through leaving up to 14 inches of snow in Newton, Ks. The most impressive aspect of this storm was not the snowfall totals, but the driving winds that caused huge drifts.  With winds howling at 25-40 miles mph, the blowing snow reduced visibility to near zero at times.

Lucile Mitchell Miller photo of porch on February 22, 1971.

Lucile Mitchell Miller photo of porch on February 22, 1971.

Do you remember the Blizzard of 1971? What about later ice and snow storms? Feel free to share below or on our Facebook page.


  • Newton Kansan 7 January 1886, p. 2.
  • Topeka Daily Capital, 9 January 1886, p. 1.
  • Halstead Independent 1961.
  • www.kshs.org/kansapedia/blizzard-of-1886/11982, June 2003/modified June 2011.
  • www.cappersfarmer.com/humor-and-nostalgia/anticipates-great-blizzard-omeara
  • Lawrence Daily Journal-World 23 February 1971, p. 2.  “Storm Nearly Equals Famous Kansas Blizzard”
  • http://mikhaeltheteacher.com/?p=1950
  • http://www.mikesmithenterprisesblog.com/2009/12/blizzard-of-71.html – “Blizzard of ’71” posted on 23 December 2009.
  • Smurr, Linda C. Editor. Harvey County History, Harvey County Historical Society, Dallas, TX: Curtis Media Corp, 1990.