Museum Mystery Man: “ol Hoss Collins”

by Kristine Schmucker, HCHM Curator

Several months ago, we published Museum Mystery Man and noted that the identity of the man in the drawing was unknown.

At that time the only clue to the identity of the man was that it was drawn by Will R. Murphy in 1898.

Recently another clue came to light. A descendant of Will R. Murphy called HCHM.  His family has another copy of the pen and ink drawing exactly like the museum’s. Included with their drawing is the name “ol Hoss Collins.

There are two  men with the last name of Collins in the Newton City Directories in the late 1880s through 1910: Edgar Collins and Robert Collins.  Both came to Harvey County in the 1870s and were respected businessmen.

Ad Newton Daily Republican, 3 August 1886.

Who were these two men?

Edgar Collins: “An Enviable Trade

Edgar Collins was born in Cook County Illinois in 1852. By the age of 9 both his parents had died.  He was  sent to Kansas to live with the O’Brien family in Wathena, Ks.  He apprenticed as a harness maker.

At the age of 19, he came to  Newton and entered into the harness business.  He lived and worked in the Newton, Wichita area for the rest of his life. In addition to the harness business, he engaged in real estate and other business ventures. In 1877, he married Mary M. ‘Mollie’ Stiles and they had one son who died in infancy, and two daughters.  The family lived at 818 Oak,  and Collins maintained a harness shop at 612 N. Main, Newton.

Mollie died in 1893.  In January 1904, Collins married Viola Spore and the couple had two children.

The obituary in the  Evening Kansan Republican described E. Collins as  

“one of the highly respected citizens of the town. He was admired both in Wichita and Newton for his business acumen and his honest and fairness in dealing with others, at the same time making conservative and level headed decisions.”

Given his occupation as  harness maker, the description of ‘ol Hoss Collins’ makes sense.  With a Newton business, he no doubt would have known W.R. Murphy.

Another possibility . . .

Robert Collins: “Faithful & Efficient Employee” 

Robert Collins was born in Belfast, Ireland in September 1842. He was the sixth of ten children and his father was a Presbyterian minister.  At the age of 16, Collins left Ireland for the United States. He lived various places including Crockett, TX, and later Philadelphia.  While in Philadelphia, he learned the trade of carpentry and building. At the outbreak of the Civil War, he joined Co. H, 6th Regiment Pennsylvania Cavalry.  He participated “in all the battles and campaigns in the army of the Potomac, from the first Bull Run to Gettysburg” and was wounded at Gettysburg.

After the war, Collins spent time in Oklahoma and Kansas. When he first arrived in Newton he established a carpentry business at 120 N. Main.  He married Jane Powers in 1878 and their residence was at 325 E. 2nd, Newton.  The couple had five children.

In 1886, Collins built a two story brick building on E 4th to meet the need for a planing mill or “sash and door factory.”  He employed fifteen men in 1887.  His building projects in Newton were “monuments to his energy and ability.” One  example was the Swensen’s Building, a three story brick structure at 6th and Main, Newton, completed in 1887.

Swensen Building, 6th & Main Newton Daily Republican 24 July 1887.

By 1902, Collins was working for the Santa Fe Railroad on  bridges and buildings. In his work Collins oversaw building projects for the Santa Fe Railroad including the Santa Fe hospital in LaJunta, Co, the Arcade Building in Newton, and the crossing gates and watch tower at Florence, Ks.

Santa Fe Depot and Arcade Hotel, Newton, Ks, ca. 1899.

In 1906, Collins was promoted to “building inspector on the eastern grand division. . . well deserved . . . for no more faithful or efficient employee can be found among the big army of Santa Fe employees.”

Robert Collins was active in the community and he served as councilman for the Third Ward, Newton, for several years. He was involved in several community organizations including the  Masons. Collins retired in 1908 from his work with the Santa Fe.  He died 5 May 1909.


  • Edgar Collins (1852-1930)

    • Newton Daily Republican: 3 August 1886,  16 February 1887, 16 June 1887, 22 June 1887, 23 June 1887, 15 July 1887, 4 March 1891, 18 February 1893, 20 February 1893.
    • Evening Kansan Republican: 20 October 1930.
    • Newton City Directories: 1885, 1887, 1902, 1905.
    • Old Settler’s Card File, HCHM Archives.
  • Robert Collins (1842-1909)

    • Newton Daily Republican: 26 May 1887, 24 July 1887, 7 August 1887.
    • Evening Kansan Republican: 12 September 1899, 4 April 1902, 24 August 1906, 5 May 1909, 6 May 1909.
    • Newton City Directories: 1885, 1887, 1902, 1905.
    • Old Settler’s Card File, HCHM Archives.
    • Wittenberg, Eric J. Rush’s Lancers:  The Sixth Pennsylvania Calvary in the Civil War,  Appendix, Westholme Publishing, 2007.

Both men were buried in Greenwood Cemetery, Newton, Kansas.

“The Best Pictures:” W.E. Langan, Photographer

by Kristine Schmucker, HCHM Curator

Their names are printed in small letters at the bottom of the photograph or on the back. They are the forgotten recorders of history – photographers.  Glancing through Harvey County photos, studio names begin to be familiar – Tripp, Langan, Murphy, and Cox.


Photo taken by W.E. Langan, ca. 1887.

Today, we snap a photo with our phone – sometimes we keep the image others like with snapchat it is gone after a few minutes – we take photos for granted.

However, when photography was new, having your photo taken by a photographer was an event. Casual photographs were rare and often a person only had one or two photos taken throughout their life.  Local photographers also took photos of buildings, providing us with a valuable record of buildings landmarks that are gone or so altered it is difficult to see the original.

Newton Depot, Main, looking northeast across railroad tracks, 1890. Photographer unknown.

Newton Depot, Main, looking northeast across railroad tracks, 1890. Photographer unknown.

Harvey County had several early photographers including Charles L. Gillingham followed by  Frank D. Tripp in Newton, Ks. While Tripp may be the more recognized name, he was not the only photographer of early Newton. From 1887 to 1897, Tripp’s main rival seems to have been a  man by the name of William E. Langan.

W.E. Langan

William E. Langan

William E. Langan was born in 1855 in Missouri to Irish parents. His wife, Emma, was born February 1865 in Illinois.  They were married in about 1885.  In 1887, at the age of 32 Langan moved to Newton, Ks with his family. The couple had four children: Vincent V. (1885) born in Missouri, Alphonsas M (1891) and Leo G (1894) born in Kansas and Agnes W (1898) born in Missouri.

Once in Newton, Langan quickly set up a studio in the Hamill Block at the corner of 5th and Main Street (116 W. 5th) in Newton.

Notice in the Newton Daily Republican, 7 august 1887, p. 4.

Notice in the Newton Daily Republican, 7 August 1887, p. 4.

W.E. Langan Group Photo, 1888. Id Back Ros:Marie Krehbiel Suderman, Ed Lupfer?, James D. Nicholson, Sue Clark?. Front Row: Lydia Harmston?, Anna Davis, Harry Bowman, Mazie Converse. HCHM 2010.205.72

W.E. Langan Group Photo, 1888. Id Back Rose Marie Krehbiel Suderman, Ed Lupfer?, James D. Nicholson, Sue Clark?. Front Row: Lydia Harmston?, Anna Davis, Harry Bowman, Mazie Converse. HCHM 2010.205.72

Two years later, an open letter probably written by Langan in the Newton Daily Republican stated that Langan’s Studio was one “of the best galleries in the state.” With low prices, new scenery and the only ground floor gallery in the county, the anonymous writer declared that Langan was “turning out some beautiful work.”


Unidentified child.

“Tripp has nothing to do with my gallery, don’t forget that.”

Two years later, a rivalry had developed between the two Newton photograph studios of Frank D. Tripp and W.E. Langan.

Newton Daily Republican, 26 July 1889, p. 3.

Newton Daily Republican, 26 July 1889, p. 3.

Langan responded to Tripp’s accusation in a letter published in the Newton Daily Republican, that his gallery was not making “any’ Cheap John’ pictures,” rather he was “doing to much work and had  too many orders.” Business was good. Langan noted that he had “orders from Moundridge, Hesston, Burrton, Halstead and all surrounding towns for our genuine crayon portraits.” Langan continued to expand, adding on to his business on west 5th street  to include a “printing room” in November 1889.


Martha Jane Dart and son, Floyd, 1892 or 1893.

A year later, Langan was commissioned to take the photos for the NHS Class of 1890. The rivalry between the two studios was clear. The feud produced several pointed articles in the Newton Daily Republican during June 1890.

In one, Tripp accused Langan of producing cheap work and trying

“to establish himself by raving at me and slandering my work.  I have let him have his own way, for I knew the man and his capabilities, etc.,  and thought to give him rope and would hang himself. . . I am doing first class work . . . and he can’t bulldoze this intelligent community. . . I am paying my debts out of my self sustaining gallery.”

Carrie Stewart, 6 December 1890

Carrie Stewart, 6 December 1890.

The next day Langan responded, encouraging readers to

consider the source. Everybody knows that every word of it is false, as are all his attacks against the gallery . . . Don’t be discouraged. I am not going to write a whole column of vile epithets; he is not worth it and I have not got time. . . Everybody goes to Langan’s for GOOD photographs.”


Walter J. Trousdale

After trading insults in the Newton Daily Republican, the two must have come to a truce as nothing more could be found in the paper at this time.

In 1895, Langan remodeled his studio with new floors, coat of paint and the “latest designs in wallpaper.”  The result was “very cheerful and a real art gallery.”

A violent wind storm struck Newton in August 1895, damaging many businesses.  Newton’s photographers “were the heaviest losers.  F.D. Tripp, W.E. Langan and U.T. McDaniels lost their windows and will suffer from the thorough wetting their studios received.”

Langan stayed in Newton for two more years.  

Newton Daily Republican, 28 Sept.1897, p. 1.

Newton Daily Republican, 28 Sept.1897, p. 1.

Langan sold  his studio to W.R. Murphy 10 August 1897 and moved to Nevada, Missouri with his family. Tripp left the Newton area roughly three years later between 1900 and 1903.


Remnants of Langan Studio sign visible in this detail of Murphy Studio, 116 W 5th, Newton, 1897. Full photo below.


Murphy Studio, formerly Langan Studio at 116 W. 5th Newton, Ks. 1897. In October 1941, Murphy sold the studio to J.F. Woodall, Woodall Portrait Studio.

The 1900-01 Nevada City Directory listed Langan’s Studio at 107 1/2 N. Main, Nevada, MO. The report back to his friends in Newton was that he was well pleased with his new location, stating that it is one of the most progressive cities in Missouri.

On June 11, 1904, tragedy struck the Langan family when the oldest son, Vincent, “was run over and instantly killed by a Missouri Pacific passenger train” in front of the depot in Bartlesville, Indian Territory. He had attempted to board a train and was thrown under the next to last coach. In a strange twist, another son, Leo, died in “an accidental fall from a box car” while working, ten years later, on August 3, 1914.

William E. Langan may have died before 1914, as only Mrs. W.E. Langan was listed on the Death Certificate for Leo Langan. The 1920 U.S. Census listed Emma as a widow. No other information could be found at this time on W.E. Langan, creator of “artistic photography” in Newton, Kansas for roughly ten years. Emma died August 13, 1958 at the age of 90 in Kansas City, Missouri.


  • Newton Daily Republican, 7 August 1887, p. 4; 25 March 1889, p. 3; 26 July 1889, p. 3; 5 November 1889, p. 3; 3 June 1890, p. 4; 17 June 1890, p.4; 18 June 1890, p. 4; 19 June 1890, p. 4; 24 June 1890, p. 4; 26 March 1892, p. 4; 30 March 1895, p. 4; 20 August 1895, p. 4; 9 September 1897, p. 4; 28 September 1897, p. 1.
  • U.S. Census, 1900, 1920
  • “Run Over By a Train” Weekly Examiner (Bartlesville, Indian Terr.) 11 June 1904.
  • Certificate of Death, Missouri State Board of Health, “Leo Langan” 3 August 1914.
  • Certificate of Death, Missouri State Board of Health, “Emma Langan” 13 August 1958
  • “William E. Langan” Vernon County, Missouri, A US GenWeb Project at
  • “Emma Thorne Sheppard Langan” Find-A-Grave Memorial # 127649270.

Additional information on people in photographs:

  • Carrie Stewart (1863-1937)  was the sister of Charles H. Stewart, a well-known Harvey County judge.  She married Daniel King Calyer in 1891.  She is buried in the Highland Cemetery, Lawton, Comanche County, OK.
  • Martha Jane Spore Dart (1863-1949) was married to Andrew H.Dart they had at least two children – Charles Milburn Dart (1882-1954)  and Floyd Floyd Dart (1890-1988).
  • Walter J. Trousdale (1891-1935).


Ruins of Fire: August 4, 1914

by Kristine Schmucker, HCHM Curator

“At last the weary watchers see the spiteful tongues of flames sink lower and lower and the fire is conquered.  But where is the  most populous block in Newton? In ruins!  Nothing now can be done save rebuild . . .”  – Marie Tayer, NHS sophomore and winner of essay contest about the “Newton Fire” published in the Evening Kansan-Republican , October 2, 1914.


Postcard, “Ruins of Fire Newton Kan. Aug 4, 1914”

On the morning of August 4, 1914, Harvey County residents woke to devastating news that a massive fire was burning  “the most populous  block” in Newton. By the time the fire was put out the entire east side of the 500 block of Main was in ruins.  This disaster changed the face of Newton’s Main Street.

Newton Evening Kansan Republican, 4 August 1914

Newton Evening Kansan Republican, 4 August 1914

Fire Protection in Newton, Ks:  “A good demonstration was given.”

Fire was a very real danger to the Newton community almost from the beginning.  Dry, wood buildings tended to burn quickly and fire at the various livery stables was a constant concern.   After a November 7, 1872 fire, the Newton Hook and Ladder and Bucket Company was formed. A volunteer fire dept was created in November 1877 with B. McKee as the fire chief.  Josiah Foltz became the first “partly” paid fire chief in 1899.   In 1910, Israel Richardson became the first fire chief to receive  a salary for full time work.

In 1914, the City of Newton purchased an American LaFrance Type 12 triple combination pump, hose and chemical automobile fire engine.  It was fueled by gasoline.


Demonstration of the new fire truck, July 9, 1914.

To show the  power of the new engine the Newton Fire Dept gave a demonstration by the Sand Creek Dam on July 9, 1914.  The new engine cost $8,500.00.

The new machine was soon pressed into service.

Newton, Ks Main Street, 500 Block east side pre-1914.

August 4, 1914: “Fire Destroys a Block of Business Buildings”


August 4, 1914 Smoke billowing over buildings on the east side of the 500 block of Main.

The most devastating fire in Newton’s history started at 2:00 a.m., August 4, 1914 in the City Auditorium at 124-126 E 5th.  From there the fire quickly spread to the north and west.  Even though the fire fighters were able to get there in minutes, after an hour of trying to gain control, they made the decision to call the Wichita Fire Dept., which arrived on the train at about 5:00 a.m..  A fortunate shift in the wind kept the fire from spreading even further.

This was the first test of the new motorized fire engine purchased in May.  The pumper ran continuously for 16 hours, breaking the old record of 8 hours of continuous pumping.  At times the heat from the fire was so intense that the paint on the engine blistered.


Photo August 4, 1914. New American LaFrance Pumper Fire Truck.

Despite the hard work of the firemen to fight the fire,

“it was evident that the odds were against them.  The wind blew the burning embers about.  There was not sufficient hose to play the water on so many places at one time and not enough men to manage the hose. Their work was most fatiguing, but they stuck in it, even through the day. “


Photo of August 4, 1914. After the fire, men are loading hoses onto a horse-drawn wagon.

The Newton Fire Dept. consisted of Chief O.N. Eberle, driver Ed. C. Warhurst, fireman Israel Richardson and seven volunteers.  In addition to the Wichita Fire Dept, members of the Santa Fe Railroad Fire Dept and many volunteers. also helped fight the fire that day.

1914  Newton firemen: E.C. Warhurst (Driver); Guy Kemper (Fire Chief); O.N. Eberly (Volunteer Fireman); E.P. Moore & Israel Richardson (Firemen),

1914 Newton firemen: E.C. Warhurst (Driver); Guy Kemper (Fire Chief); O.N. Eberly (Volunteer Fireman); E.P. Moore & Israel Richardson (Firemen),

“Several Injured During the Fire”

Remarkably, no lives were lost in the fire and very few injuries.

An alert Santa Fe switchman, Patrick Hays, was working “at the Sand Creek switch yard early Tuesday morning, when he noticed flames in town.” Thinking the Santa Fe roundhouse was on fire, he ran to help only to discover flames coming from the Auditorium Hotel on east 5th.  Hayes was one of the first ones on the scene and he immediately started helping the firemen. He was even able to hold  “the hose direct from the engine for an hour without relief.  . .  work  that usually took  four men or at least two.” Hayes fought the fire until he collapsed from fatigue and was taken to Axtell Hospital.  It was noted that Hayes had been renting “a room at the Auditorium hotel and had lost all in the fire.

Another fireman, Aster Early, was “overcome by the heat” and suffered from smoke inhalation. He was taken home and soon recovered. W.C. Moore also received  minor injuries.

Aftermath of the Fire: Postcards


The fire destroyed the east side of the 500 block of Main and several businesses located in the 100 block of E. 5th and 6th. Buildings on the west side of Main were damaged, mainly with broken windows and smoke damage. Volunteers set up a brigade and “worked so persistently on the tops of buildings on the west side of Main street.”  They were credited with saving the buildings.

Aftermath of Fire: Photographs


Murphy Studio Photograph looking west to the back of the Main Street Buildings after clean up had begun, August 1914

Murphy Studio Photograph looking west to the back of the Main Street Buildings after clean up had begun, August 1914


  • Kansan, 7 November 1872
  • Newton Evening Kansan Republican, 4 August 1914, 5 August 1914,  6 August 1914, 7 August 1914, 17 August 1914, 22 August 1914, 8 September 1914, 14 September 1914, 15 September 1914, 17 September 1914.
  • Evening Kansan-Republican , October 2, 1914.
  • HCHM Photo Archives
  • HCHM Postcard Collection
  • Warhurst, Elvin E. “Early Fire Protection in Newton, Kansas: 1872-1922”, 1995 HCHM Archives, Newton, Ks