Arkansas City, Kansas.

Lois MacAllister Hinsey, late Arkansas City historian, had a number of notes and an article that appeared in the 1976 Bi-Centennial Edition of the Arkansas City Traveler. [Date of this edition not known.]

Note. At first Mrs. Hinsey showed "A. J." Kirkwood. Later she corrected his name to show "R. G." Kirkwood.

Mrs. Hinsey had an undated hand written note, which showed the following.

In 1888 R. G. Kirkwood came to Arkansas City from Pennsylvania with the intension of launching into the manufacture of the first steel windmills to be made in the Midwest. He had owned such a plant in his home state for a number of years.

He erected a two-story building near a group of other manufacturing enterprises at the foot of the canal and started the designing and building of the Kirkwood Direct Stroke Steel Windmills.

According to a booklet from the company, these back geared mills had a greater advantage over other types and were more easily erected on either wood or steel towers. They were more serviceable and less expensive though in every respect first class. Pumps, cylinders, pipes, tanks, etc., were also available to customers.

This factory was located near the "Plummer Chair Factory." The Arkansas City Water Power Company had an electric power plant, according to D. Ray Henderson, which had a wire rope pulley located on the outside of the buildings [Kirkwood's and Plummer's] that ran to the electric power plant which guaranteed power from a turbine at the canal.

The Kansas Mattress Factory was not far away.

The Kirkwood Wind Engine Company changed hands a couple of times over the years. W. H. Wilson acquired it from Kirkwood about 1900.

In 1903 Alcon C. Jordan purchased the concern and retained ownership until his retirement. Mr. Jordan, having been born in 1868 in West Virginia, came to Geuda Springs, Kansas, from Phelps County, Missouri. He made the Cherokee Strip Run in 1893, returning to Geuda Springs where he served as Mayor from 1894 to 1901. He came to Arkansas City in 1903 and purchased the Windmill Factory. Jordan died on May 6, 1959.

The building which housed the Kirkwood Wind Engine Company and Arkansas City Foundry & Machine Shop was owned by the Kansas Gas & Electric Company for a number of years before it was razed in the 1970s.

Note. Portions of Hinsey's notes were written up in the article that appeared in the 1976 Bi-Centennial Edition along with a photograph that had the following caption:

"In 1888, A. J. [R. G.] Kirkwood brought his design for windmills to Arkansas City and established the first windmill manufacturing company in the Midwest. The wind engine company (right) shared space with two other companies on land now occupied by Dixie-Portland Flour Mills."


On September 29, 1979, the Winfield Daily Courier, Winfield, Kansas, had an article written by Brian Coyne.

Early windmill made in county is sought.


ARKANSAS CITY.A Texas researcher has brought to light that Arkansas City in the 1880s and 1890s was the home of a factory that manufactured windmills which were distributed all over the United States.

And T. Lindsay Baker, associate curator of history for the Panhandle Plains Historical Museum at Canyon, Texas, is scouring the northern half of Cowley County and adjoining Chautauqua and Sumner Counties in an extensive search for any parts or remnants of any of the Kirkwood Iron Wind Engines.

Baker feels certain that somewhere in old run-down or renovated barns or sheds in the three counties there are the parts and portions that he is seeking.

And there might even be some in new barns, he says, because farmers are not prone to throw away parts and items that might become useful in later years. He thinks the items could be stored almost anywhere.

The Kirkwood Manufacturing Company even printed and distributed throughout the western half of the United States a descriptive catalog of the Kirkwood Iron Wind Engine.

Parent company for the Arkansas City firm was the Progress Engine and Machine Works at Summerfield, Maryland, which handled the Eastern trade for the company.

Baker said the wrought iron Kirkwood machines were popular in western Kansas, the Oklahoma panhandle, the Texas Panhandle, and West Texas, in addition to this area.

The catalog described the Kirkwood product as "the best in the world for pumping water from wells, springs, and brooks, to supply railroads, residences, stock, and for irrigating purposes."

The old Arkansas City plant, virtually unknown even to many city historians, was composed of native stone buildings.

The windmills made here were the same as those that won firsts in the Virginia State Fair in 1883, the Maryland State Fair in 1883, the Louisville Exposition in 1885, the Pennsylvania State Fair in 1886, and the Kansas State Fair in 1887.

They also swept honors at numerous county and local fairs.

The Kirkwood Iron Engine also was successful over 16 competitors for a place on the grounds of President Grover Cleveland's home near Washington at Georgetown.

Cleveland's Iron Wind Engine was used to supply his new residence and out-buildings with water.

The 10-foot windmill installed by Kirkwood for Cleveland raised water from a well 53 feet deep, and forced it into a tank about 35 feet above the well, according to the Kirkwood catalog.

Prefacing a number of testimonials to the windmill's successful operations, the catalog said "the requisites of a good Wind Engine are power, light running, self-governing strength to withstand storms, durability, and simplicity."

The Arkansas City-published brochure on the Kirkwood pointed out the wind engine had no rattling and vane that would not blow out. It had no arms to clog in the wind and was automatically governed.

It was pointed out that the tail vane or rudder was made of iron on a new principle composed of two tail bars or tubes of wrought iron, their ends fixed in castings on a vertical tube, and braced by rods extending from the top of the tube to the center of the tail bars. They were braced together at intervals by castings upon the vanes and were mounted and supported by flat bands and elliptic braces.

The edges of sheet iron vanes were rolled over the rods to stiffen them.

The wheel was mounted on a bracket made to revolve on a vertical tube to which the tail bars were secured. On the bracket was a stud on which a circular flange was pivoted with an arm carrying a flat vane and which had sufficient wind-resisting surface, when multiplied by the distance from the center pivot or tube on which the wheel and bracket revolved. This nearly balanced the wheel when moving in or out of the wind in storms.

When the wheel was running in a light breeze, the flat vane was low down behind the wheel and presented a surface for the wind to act upon.

As soon as the wheel was forced out or deflected to excessive pressure of the wind and began to move on its vertical pivot, the vane began to rise and move into position to resist the tendency of the wheel to go out of the wind or be deflected from facing the wind.

By this arrangement, it was pointed out, Kirkwood was able to accomplish "what other manufacturers have failed to do by the use of weights of varying resistance and multiplying weights which either act too quickly or not quickly enough, and produce strains or jars which break their mills down and fail to govern them in high winds.

Baker currently has left Cowley County to extend his search for Kirkwood wind engines into New Mexico, but he feels confident this is the area in which he eventually will come up with what he is looking for. When he finishes in New Mexico, he plans to return here.

Meanwhile, others whom he has interested in the old wrought iron windmills are continuing to go into the hills and hollows of the three counties in this area in search of a Kirkwood or as many parts of one that he can find.


Page 12 of COWLEY COUNTY HERITAGE, published in 1990, had an article submitted by Liz Speck, which covered briefly the Kirkwood company. The article contained much of the article written by Brian Coyne and had some other pertinent comments.

"In 1888 Kirkwood opened one of several windmill companies at the floodgates of the canal in Arkansas City."

"The plant joined the Plummer Chair Factory and a mattress factory near the Arkansas City Flour Mills in Sleeth Addition.

"Shortly after Arkansas City was established, a group of men who worked for the Land Improvement Company and the Arkansas City Water and Power Company had built the canal from the Arkansas River southeast of town. With a fall of approximately 20 feet, power was provided to serve the factories along the route.

"By 1904 the Kirkwood Company had several competitors in Kansas and nearby area including the Great Northern Supply Company in Atchison, the Dempster Mill Manufacturing Company in Kansas City, Missouri, J. A. Crandall in Newton, Lowell Windmill Manufacturing Company in Salina, Curry Brothers, Topeka, and the Southwestern Pump Company and Waltersheid Brothers in Wichita.

"In 1911 competitors included the Ira Saunders in Effingham, Woodmanse Manufacturing Company in Kansas City, Missouri, Fallis and Cochrun in Luray, Ottawa Manufacturing Company in Ottawa, Adams and Adams in Topeka, Clipper Windmill and Pump Company in Topeka, and Currie Windmill Company in Topeka.