JOHN A. FIRMIN, a business man of Hugoton and one of the early settlers of the southwestern end of Kansas, came into Stevens County in May, 1885, driving from Anderson County with a team. He was at that time a single man, and lacked $5 of the amount necessary to pay for filing on his claim. His interest in the team and wagon was but one-half, and he was accompanied by his brother, James P. Firmin, who was identified with this part of the country until the opening of the "Cherokee Strip." John A. Firmin filed on his homestead four miles east of Hugoton, the northwest quarter of section 17, township 33, range 36, and, having six months in which to occupy his claim, went to Garden City and secured employment in a livery barn, remaining there until spring.
He was not in a position to select the kind of employment that he desired. He was in circumstances that made it necessary that he take whatever honorable employment presented itself, and his occupations at the livery barn were those of a common laborer. But he did not remain long as such. Through his energy and ambition he gained recognition as an industrious and able man, and before long he found a friend who loaned him sufficient money with which to buy a "plug" team, a second-hand wagon and a few implements, which to a man of his energetic nature seemed enough with which to make a start, and accordingly he and his brother went to his claim. Mr. Firmin built a dugout, 10x12 feet, with a board roof and dirt floor, and that spring planted a crop with cheerful expectations of early success. However, he was doomed to disappointment, for his crop failed and he was compelled to sustain himself during the next fall and winter by freighting from Hartland to Hugoton, fifty miles apart. In the spring he resumed farming, but the money which he had accumulated through his hard work proved insufficient to carry him through, and he was again compelled to give up his agricultural work on his own place, and for some time spent his energies in breaking sod for others better situated as to finances. The second year the brothers secured a contract with a seed house to grow watermelons for the seed, and the profit accruing in this direction was such as to warrant them to continue the business for some five years. In the meantime they had acquired a few head of cattle, starting with one or two cows, and as they went along added to their little herd and encouraged their increase.
In this manner the brothers were able to tide themselves over the hard spells, the watermelon business being mainly responsible for keeping them in this part of the state. Finally their farming resolved itself into maize, kaffir corn and broom corn growing, these feeds having been discovered or developed about that time, and through this kind of farming the brothers made a success. With the coming of the continued drouths and the consequent exodus of many of the settlers the range was again thrown open and made free and John A. Firmin drifted into the cattle business, in which he continued for six years. The hard winters, however, as well as the low prices securable made this industry barely self-sustaining, and mange in the stock through a part of this period was a troublesome factor, detrimental to success. Land during or up to this time had dropped to a low ebb in values; it seemed that it was not desired by anyone, and it looked as though there was no prospect of it again becoming valuable. Notwithstanding this Mr. Firmin began investing in it, with rare foresight and faith in the future, and gathered up some twenty quarter-sections. His faith was justified a few years later when the settlers began coming in, and soon the country was settled to such an extent that the range was occupied, and he sold his stock, turning the proceeds into farms. From that time forward he made a success of farming, his crops in the main being rain,[sic] broom corn and forage. He continued actively engaged as a farmer until 1904, improved his homestead substantially before he disposed of it, and moved to Hugoton about 1907. However, he is still a farmer and accounted one of the extensive agriculturists of Stevens County, with his specialties as broom corn, maize and wheat.
When Mr. Firmin removed to Hugoton he did so to take the office of clerk of the District Court, an office which he held for six years. He was first elected on the republican ticket and later as a populist. Soon after retiring from the clerk's office he was elected register of deeds of Stevens County, and served two terms in that office. During his incumbency he took up abstracting and when he retired from public service engaged in the abstract and real estate business. At the present time he is making loans as well.
Mr. Firmin engaged in the merchandise business at Hugoton soon after giving up his duties as a public official. For two years he conducted his business alone, and then associated himself with William J. Blackburn as Blackburn & Firmin. When the Santa Fe Railroad built its line through this section the partners went to Elkhart and established a business there, now known as the Blackburn & Firmin Mercantile Company, of which concern Mr. Firmin is president. He is likewise a stockholder and a director of the Hugoton State Bank and as a man of public spirit is appealed to to help carry on the community's movements toward the general welfare.
Mr. Firmin came to Kansas from his birth state of Ohio, and prior to coming to Stevens County resided for a short time at Garnett. He is a native of Findlay, Ohio, born February 28, 1863, and had his education in the public schools there. As a youth he worked as a farm hand, working thus until he was twenty-two years of age, when he decided to try his fortunes in Kansas, making the trip here by rail and joining his brother at Garnett. His father was Edmund Firmin, a Massachusetts man, who was married in that state and moved to Ohio before the Civil war. While he was not a soldier himself, one of his sons, Willis, fought for the Union. Edmund Firmin was a shoemaker by vocation and passed the greater part of his life at Findlay, where he died in 1880, aged about seventy-five years, in the faith of the Methodist Church. He had children by three wives, his first union being with a Miss Phelps, who bore him a son and a daugher:[sic] Willis and Mrs. Sarah Spooner, both of whom are now deceased. Mr. Firmm's second wife was Edna Stoughton, whose children died in infancy. The third marriage of Mr. Firmin was to Nancy Plummer, a daughter of Jonathan Plummer, who came from Pennsylvania. Mrs. Firmin died in 1882, having had the following children: Lorenzo Melville, a resident of Branson, Missouri; Mrs. Eunice A. Bright, who resides at Findlay, Ohio; James P., of Seattle, Washington; Lewis D., of Findlay, Ohio; John A., of this notice; and Mrs. Emma Marvin, of Findlay, Ohio.
The paternal grandfather of Mr. Firmin was John Firmin, whose forefathers came to the New World about the time of the Pilgrims, Giles Firmin being the original ancestor from England. John Firmin died in Massachusetts. His children to emigrate to the West were Edmund and Lorenzo, both of whom settled in Ohio.
John A. Firmin was married in Stevens County, Kansas, April 23, 1898, to Anna L. Scheaffer, a daughter of Jonathan Scheaffer, who was originally from Pennsylvania, of the Pennsylvania Dutch stock, and a farmer by vocation. He came to Kansas with his family and settled near Hugoton in 1886. Mrs. Scheaffer bore the maiden name of Hannah Huffert. Mr. Scheaffer took a homestead, remaining thereon until recent years, when he moved to Nickerson, Kansas, where he died. His widow, who resides at that place, is the mother of Mrs. Firmin, born December 18, 1874, at Reading, Pennsylvania; Miss Katie M., of Nickerson; Mrs. Sally Matheny, of Spratt, Michigan; and Miss Roxie, of Nickerson. Mr. and Mrs. Firmin are the parents of the following children: Eunice Adella, the wife of Marvin Baker, a nephew of Secretary of War Baker, and now in the United States Aviation Corps; Iris Christine, the wife of J. M. Shull of Amy, Kansas; Hannah M., Joe J., Nancy Lucile, Lorenzo Edmund, Lewis, Giles and John A., Jr. The older children attended the Hugoton High School, the two eldest being graduates, and Eunice is now a teacher.
Mr. Firmin is a past noble grand of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows. While not a church member, he fraternizes with and attends the Methodist Church, of which several of his children are members. He built his residence at Hugoton, and is the owner of much improved and other property at the county seat. His standing in business and social circles is exceptionally high.
Transcribed from A Standard History of Kansas and Kansans, written and compiled by William E. Connelley, Secretary of the Kansas State Historical Society, Topeka. [Revised ed.] Chicago: Lewis Publishing Co., 1919, c1918. 5 v. (xlviii, 2530 p.,  leaves of plates): ill., maps (some fold.), ports.; 27 cm.
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