It was a normal Saturday night for Ira Cook and his family. Ira Jacob Cook had been born in Ontario, Canada, during March of 1838, had married Alice Starley in 1861, and had moved his family together with his siblings and parents to what was becoming Harvey County in 1871.
Ira and Alice, with their 7-year old son, John, had settled down on their homestead north of Halstead, Kansas where they lived for 3 years when, on this particular Saturday night, the family’s barking dogs awakened Ira from his slumber sometime after midnight.
What he heard next concerned him most – a commotion among the cattle meant that something was wrong. Without waking his wife he got up and went outside. While at the cattle yard he heard steps of a horse near by, but it being very dark could not distinguish anything at the distance, and only supposed it was his own. From the cattle yard he passed to his oats bin near by, and from there observed a man on horse back about four rods from the bin; approaching him he said, “What are you doing here?” to which the rider made no response, but cried, “Run boys!”
At this two men sitting on the ground near by fired at Cook, one shot striking him in the right shoulder, near the arm joint. At this Cook hallowed, and after that heard a well known voice speak, and who was one of the party – Cook then ran to a hay stack near by, when another shot was fired; from this he ran to the house, when another shot missed him but a little. From this the murderous party were heard to leave by a wagon, which shortly afterwards passed within sixty yards of the house, the mules – as the tracks show them to have been – on a keen run.
Word was immediately sent to neighbors and Doctor Boyd called to attend Mr. Cook, who the community was glad to know was doing well. Within 75 yards of the house a large revolver was found next morning. It is thought the parties could be identified and brought to justice, but they never were.
According the the local newspaper, “Mr. Cook is a quiet and peaceable citizen and highly esteemed by those who know him, and they will try and see that such acts do not go unpunished. Attempt to steal is the supposed cause of the affair.” The Newton Kansan, Newton, Kansas. Thursday, September 10, 1874. Page 3.
Ira Jacob Cook was born March, 1838 in Williamsburg, Ontario, Canada. He was married to Alice V. Startley in 1861. He served in Co. H, 31st Iowa Infantry, during the Civil War. Moving to Kansas in 1871 with his parents and siblings, Ira homesteaded north of Halstead. His children included John Elmer Cook, born January 20, 1867 in Fairfield, Iowa, and William Ralph Cook, born November 8, 1880. Ira & Alice moved to Wichita later in life, where Ira died on April 24, 1910.
Ira & Alice Cook are interred at the Maple Grove Cemetery Mausoleum, Wichita, Kansas.
Deadly Encounters 1871-1899
Murder In Harvey County's Cowboy Days
Eyewitness newspaper accounts recall scenes that took place when Harvey County was little but unbroken prairie. Read the various accounts of life and death in this newly forming county, the very same reports that shocked and horrified your ancestors at the time.