Friday, Nov. 23 2012 8:24AM
A new name for a dirt road
By Russ Pulley
Ever wonder why Second Street turns into Langsford Road just north of Lee’s Summit Historical Cemetery?
You might suspect, and you would be right, that there’s a connection with the Langsford Funeral Home, a family business in Lee’s Summit for more than 75 years.
The Langsford clan got its start here when Nicholas Byrum Langsford purchased farm land in 1877, moving from Kentucky. Here’s how Buck Langsford, a great grandson, recalls the story:
Nicholas Byrum Langsford’s son Ray had a greenhouse and dairy on that farm. In those days Second Street didn’t cut through and Missouri 291 didn’t exist.
The farm was just outside the city limits.
Along the edge of town a dirt road called Cemetery Road ran along the east border of the graveyard then swung east past farms, including Langsford’s, until it intersected with Milton Thompson Road.
A spinster sister, Margaret, a teacher in Kansas City, prodded Ray Langsford to get the road’s name changed to after their family name.
Ray Langsford went to the county to inquire on the procedure. He was told that all he needed was to get the signatures of the other four families living on the road agreeing to the change. He hesitated.
“He was a little embarrassed about asking people to change it to our name,” Buck Langsford said.
Margaret had no qualms. She collected the signatures and Ray Langsford took them to the county court.
The greenhouse was at the site of the now-vacant Earl May Garden Center. Buck Langsford worked there when he was a boy.
He said his grandfather sold bedding plants, petunias, periwinkles and vinca vines and such to highway departments, state parks and hospitals all over the southwest, particularly Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Georgia.
All the work was done by hand, planting seeds in 2-inch pots, then transferring the plants to 3-inch pots to grow some more.
Buck Langsford said that in 1905 his grandfather sold the plants at 3 cents each or $3 for 100. When Ray Langsford died in 1957 he was still selling plants for 3 cents each or $3 for 100.
“He never heard of anything like inflation,” he said.
He recalls that in the winter his grandfather had to shovel coal for two boilers every two hours to keep the greenhouse warm. He’d go to bed at 10 p.m., wake up at midnight, shovel coal, sleep until 2 a.m., shovel coal, then get up at 4 a.m. shovel coal and stay up.
Langsford also had the distinction of being the first dairy farmer to start delivering milk in bottles in town by dawn.
“If it the milk wasn’t there before light people would complain,” Buck Langsford said.
Ray Langsford’s son and Buck’s dad, N.B. Langsford, started Lee’ Summit’s first flower shop.
That enterprise led to the funeral home because another funeral director knew N.B. from the flower shop. N.B. was a strong, tall man and the director kept asking him for help picking up bodies.
N.B. Langsford also ran an ambulance service many years before it was taken over by the city. Langsford Funeral Home started in a house at First and Douglas, then moved to Third and Jefferson streets.
Remarkably, N.B. seems to stand for Nicholas Byrum, but on his birth certificate there are only the initials N.B. He was known as either N.B. or B until his death in 1979, Buck Langsford said.
Buck’s daughter and son-in-law, Sandy Langsford-Cox and Brad Cox, own the funeral home today.