Seeking Laura Tower

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I’m back to work on my ancestor-hunting. Family Search has added Indiana marriages for a wide range of years, so I pounced on that database.

Putting in my key ancestor, great-great-grandfather Abraham Bates Tower, I found a number of marriages where his name appeared. No, he wasn’t married a number of times, it was on his children’s marriage records that I found him.

That led me to pursue his daughter, Laura A. Tower through her marriage on 11 March 1886 to William Lewis Taylor. I already had that date, but the record provided me with his parents’ names. Always helpful to have that.

I already had a daughter for the couple, Rhoda Taylor, born the next year. Still, I needed more. I had no date of death for Laura. I hunted up some census records for William Taylor in Dubois County, Indiana. He shows up in 1900 with daughter Rhoda, some other children and a new wife, Eva.

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Laura Tower’s daughter, Rhoda Taylor. Rhoda’s husband is Tom Grigsby. (photo provided by another genealogist, kiss110418, on Ancestry) 

Oh oh, that could mean that Laura died prior to 1900 or they got divorced. In 1899, William Taylor married Eva Taylor (former name, Eva Thomas?) and Rhoda now has an older step-brother Everett Thomas born in 1871 1892.

William Taylor has 2 additional sons in that census, Herman Taylor born December 1889 and about 10 years later, William T. Taylor born March 1900. Could Herman be Laura’s son and she died in childbirth or did she die sometime later before 1900?

I’ll be searching further for some clues on this and to find out what happened to Abraham’s daughter Laura.

I posted this to the Tower family group on Facebook and got this input from another Tower descendant: “There’s a Grigsby family association, too! (Which I am also a member of. And Du Bois. Ancestry is fun! :)) National Grigsby Family Society. Looks like Eva Thomas had two kids with Taylor, William Thomas Taylor and Alpha Taylor then ran off and married John F Thorn (according to the 1920 census listing Eva Thorn and the Taylor kids). Everett Thomas (later adopted the Taylor name?) was 8 in 1900, so born in 1892, not 1871, transcription error there! No help for tracking down when Laura died or where she was buried though.”

The Martin Family at Prairie Belle School

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Written by Gail Martin in the fall of 1985 for the Flinthills’ Folk Life Class at Madison High School taught by Anne Wilson.

One hundred years of memories takes us to the beginning, when Prairie Belle School District of Greenwood County, Kansas was formed as District #102 in the fall of 1885. The new district received state funds of six hundred dollars. Then Isaac Cox, L.T. Grooms, and W.A. Barnes were elected to the school board. They spent every penny of the starting fund to acquire the school site, the school house, furniture, supplies and a teacher to be ready for the spring term of 1886.

The school site was acquired from Isaac Cox and consisted of a one-acre plot in the southwest one-fourth of Section 9; Township 23; Range 12 and eighty rods north of the southwest corner on the west line. This site was chosen by a county-appointed committee.

The school board hired Daniel Focht of Madison, Kansas to build a one-room school house for four hundred and fifty dollars. Focht built the house according to the basic plans put out by the state of Kansas. The building with the door, facing the county road on the west, opened onto a landing and a rough flight of steps. A series of three windows were placed on the north and south sides of the school.

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Prairie Belle School, # 102, in Kansas. Photo taken in April 1943.

School furniture was ordered from Burlington Furniture Company in Burlington, Kansas. It was shipped by railroad to Madison, where it was picked up and delivered by wagon to the school. C.L. Allen agreed to teach but resigned after two and half months and H.G. Porter finished two more months. Both teachers received thirty dollars a month. Thus the new district struggled through their first year.

C.L. Thompson was hired to teach eight months beginning in the fall of 1986. That year the school board clerk, C.T. Grooms, recorded a school census of nineteen school-age children from five to twenty-one years of age. The students, that first full year of school, were all from farming families in the district.

The 1886 census included John Thomas Martin, twenty years old; John’s brother, eighteen-year-old Frank Marian and their ten-year-old sister, Cora Gazena. The Martin children’s father, Charles Coleman Martin died that fall on August 16th and their mother, Sarah Ann (Ellison) Martin died the following year, December 27, 1887. Both were buried at No 8 Cemetery.

Those three children were the first of the four generation of Martins to attend Prairie Belle. All five of John Thomas Martin’s children, Archie Lloyd, Charles Lorenzo, Robert Cecil, Roy, and Anna Faye attended through the late 1890’s and early 1900’s. John’s sister Cora’s children, Forrest Edgar, William Vernon and Glen Thomas attended around 1909-1913, making up the second generation.

Dorothy Mae, the oldest of ‘Ren’ Martin’s family, started to school in the 1921-1922 school year. Followed by Helen Elizabeth, Vivian Ruth, Zella Irene, Ralph Edward, Clyde Owen, and Howard Raymond, who attended last in 1943.

Lloyd’s three children, Mildred Maxine, Laverna Elnor, and Leonard John were attending during the same time as Ren’s family, completing the third generation.

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Some of the last students at Prairie Belle School.

Some of the fourth generation attended until the school district closed in 1951 and sent them by to Madison Grade School. They were Dorothy’s two children, Kenneth Orville and Donna Carolyn Stafford and Zella’s four children, Barbara June, Thomas Eugene, Sharon Marie, and Marilyn Grace.

Some of the other farming families attending during those years were the Barne, Groom, Long, Overholt, Wolford, Cox and McClinic families.

(This essay was retrieved with the Wayback Machine from the My History Is America’s History website which no longer exists.)

 

Nancy Melvina Tower Vining

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As part of the 52 Ancestors Blogging Challenge, I’m featuring my great-aunt Vina. The photo shows her (in a white dress) with Lealon McGhee and an unidentified young woman holding a doll.

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Lealon McGhee and Melvina Tower with an unknown girl holding a doll.

She was born the 8th of August in 1899 in Jet, Missouri and named Nancy Melvina Tower. Her father, William Warren Tower, was 28 and her mother, Margaret Ann Peller (or Pillar), was 25. She had three sisters, Myrtle, Bessie Pearl and Edith and a brother, Charles.

 

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Nancy Melvina Tower and her younger sister, Bessie Pearl. Probably ages, 5 and 1.

In 1920, Vina Tower was 20 years old and lived in North Seminole, Oklahoma with her father, mother, and 2 sisters. Her older siblings, Charles and Myrtle, were no longer living with the family.

The highest grade Vina completed in school was 8th grade. High school was not always available in small towns or for country folk.

I presume her mother Margaret died, as her father married a second time to Emma Hill Roberds. Emma was widowed and had two sons (James and Almeda) from her previous marriage. William Warren Tower and Emma had a baby, William Lee Tower February 9, 1925.  He was usually called Billy.

 

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Looks like Bertha McGhee (rear, left). Gail Martin indicated on the back of the photo that it included Edith and Pearl Tower. Could one of these be Vina Tower or Ruth Vining?

In 1925, Melvina Vining was 25 years old and lived in Tyro, Kansas with her husband, Albert. They were newly married. He had served in France during WWI. You can read more about that at this site: Albert Vining in World War I. Albert’s first wife, Edith Flossie Hawkins died in 1923.

 

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Albert Vining and his first wife, Edith Hawkins.

 

Five years later, the census shows Melvina Vining was 30 years old and lived in Jefferson, Oklahoma with her husband, Albert, age 36.

Vina Tower Vining and nephew Donald Vining 1944

Vina Vining and nephew, Donald Vining

The next census on April 1, 1940, we find Melvina Vining at age 40 and living in Jefferson, Oklahoma with her husband, Albert.

Also with them was their 18-year-old nephew, Donald Vining. Family lore does not record why he was living with them instead of with his father, Luther Vining. Albert worked for the Canary Oil Company as a pumper and Vina was a homemaker. They never had children of their own.

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Albert and Vina Vining

She was a widow for 33 years after Albert died in Tyro on September 10, 1960.

This is my mother visiting her aunt Vina Vining. We were related both through the Vining and the Tower family. This might be Vina’s birthday. I see a balloon in the picture.

 

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Gail Martin visiting her aunt, Vina Vining in the nursing home.

 

Nancy Melvina (Tower) Vining died on December 17, 1993, in Coffeyville, Kansas, at the age of 94, and was buried there. The Tower family were very long-lived.

Her Tower family line is Nancy Melvina Tower -> William Warren Tower -> Abraham Bates Tower

The photo below shows her grandfather, father, brother and nephew. Abraham Bates Tower with a beard, his son William Warren Tower, holding the child, Billy Tower in overalls and the child is Troy Tower.

 

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Four generation photo – Tower family

 

Some of Our English Roots

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Some months back, I took the Ancestry DNA test. As expected, it showed much of my heritage links back to the British Isles. That part matches what I’m finding as I work on my family tree. Below the chart, I list some of the family lines and where they came from in England.

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Our English Ancestors:

  • Bates family came from Aston Clinton, Buckinghamshire
  • Bixby ancestor came from Thorpe Morieux, Suffolk
  • Browning family came from Maldon, Essex
  • Collier family came from Southwark, Surrey
  • Goodale ancestor came from Ipswich, Suffolk
  • King, West, and Pease ancestors came from Great Baddow, Essex
  • Long ancestors came from West Riding, Yorkshire
  • Putnam ancestors came from Tring, Hertfordshire
  • Tower family came from Hingham
  • Vining ancestors came from Wincanton

I found one suggestion that our Joy family changed their name from Joyce in the 1500s when they moved from Ireland to England. I’ll have to search further on that.

Karen has found indications that the Martin family may trace back to France. There will be more work on that line. We know the Rosebaugh line is from Germany. Various invasions of England over the centuries might account for the Scandinavian part of the DNA. Vikings, you know.

Minda or Armin or Arminta or Amanda?

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My great-great-grandfather had a step-daughter that has me puzzled. The 1880 census lists her as the 18-year-old step-daughter of William Newton McGhee. The handwriting is hard to read, but it looks like Arminta or Arminda Micheal.

There don’t seem to be any hints on the ancestry site to help me out, so I’ve been poking around in other people’s trees looking for clues. I’ve tried variations on her name and stumbled across a possible husband for her (Lewis Davis).

Dresses on display at the Eureka, Kansas historical society.

Dresses on display at the Eureka, Kansas historical society.

Mitchell seems to be the maiden name for her mother, Elsie Jane, and possibly the census taker didn’t know how to spell that. Elsie Jane (also called Elsa in one family tree) appears to have a previous marriage as her name was Evans when she married William.

I found two Evans brothers to go with Arminda/Minta and even found Evans as a last name for Arminda on some trees. The brothers are Andrew and John W.

This raises the question of who was Minda’s father? Was it Thomas Evans who seems to be the father of Andrew and John, or was Arminda born out of wedlock before Thomas Evans married Elsie Jane?

As I mix and match the first and last names for her, I’ve found the listings for the husband and the brothers, but none of the trees include documentation like the census or a gravestone.

I wish I could solve the mystery of Arminta/Amanda/Armin/Minda with the last name of Evans/Micheal/Mitchell. She was born around 1862 in Arkansas.

Here’s what Velma Ann Roger’s had in her notes, with some additions of mine in (bold):

Samuel Newton McGhee was the second of three children born to William Newton McGhee and Elsa Jane Mitchell Evans.  Children of Wm. Newton McGhee and Elsa Jane were

1-John McGhee

2-Samuel Newton McGhee

3-Houston McGhee

William Newton McGhee had seven children by a previous marriage.  The first wife’s name is unknown. (I have Matilda E. Booker)

Their Children

1- Fate (Solomon Lafayette McGhee)

2-Lucinda (Lucinda Pearl McGhee)

3-Jane (Zilloh Jane McGhee)

4-Margaret

5-Eveline

6-Victoria (Victoria Isabell McGhee)

7-Matilda (Harriet Matilda McGhee)

8 – (Fidomia)
Elsa Jane, nee Mitchell, Evans had three children by her first marriage. 1- Andrew Evans, 2-Minda Evans (see the story above), 3-John Evans. According to scant information her husband’s name was Thomas Evans.

*An interesting footnote; Andrew Evans married Lucinda McGhee, and John Evans married Matilda McGhee. Brothers married stepsisters.  When Andrew died and Matilda died, John then took Lucinda as his 2nd wife.

What’s Next? I need to do more work on the whole batch of McGhees, Evans and Mitchells in Perry County, Arkansas. There’s a McGhee family cemetery on Find-a-Grave, so I’ll chart out a bunch from there and see if any fill the gaps in our tree.

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mcghee martin family tree

Elmer McGhee

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When Elmer Lee MCGHEE was born on February 6, 1910, in Tyro, Kansas, his father, Samuel Newton McGhee, was 34 and his mother, Viola Matilda Tower, was 37. He had seven brothers and two sisters. He died as a child on April 5, 1921, in his hometown.

Here’s the bare bones information from the U.S. Federal Census:
►1910 -Elmer McGhee was less than a year old and lived in Caney, Kansas with his father, mother, 5 brothers, and sister. His siblings are Clarence, Jesse, Roy, Bertha, Lealon, and Loren.
►1920 – Elmer Mcghee was 9 years old and lived in Caney, Kansas with his father, mother, 4 brothers, 2 sisters, and 82-year-old grandfather, Abraham Tower.  Added siblings for Elmer are Austin and Ethel. There was an 18-year-old boarder living with them who worked on the public road.

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The occasion above seems to be a visit from the Texas branch of the Tower family (Alice and daughters, Helen and Willie Bell) to Tyro. Elmer and Austin McGhee are in the front.

Samuel Newton McGhee and son Elmer in Tyro KS

Samuel McGhee holding his son Elmer. Their home in Tyro, Kansas, with the smaller Vining family home in the background.

The background story on Elmer is he and his brother Austin had polio at a very young age. You see Elmer and his father, Samuel Newton McGhee here in front of their home in Tyro.

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Austin McGhee, still in baby dress and his older brother Elmer. Note the step made from a packing box.

The family got a pony so Elmer could go to school. The other children walked to school, but Elmer was too disabled by the polio.

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Elmer and Austin McGhee, Tyro, Kansas.

Here’s the Tyro School picture with Elmer and Austin.

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Elmer and Austin McGhee, Tyro School, guessing it is around 1919 

Elmer and Austin McGhee are in the 2nd row from the blackboard…the 1st two boys in dark shirts.

Elmer McGhee was buried in Robbins Cemetery near Tyro, Kansas. You will find a number of Tower, McGhee, and Vining graves there.

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Bertha writes about the photo of her father Samuel holding Elmer.

Old Tower Family Photos – an Analysis

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What a pair of cuties. These babies below from a bygone era belong to the Tower branch of our family tree. Fortunately for me, my mother put them in an album and wrote next to the picture.

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Reuben Tower’s son William Ray Tower on the right. Lorene Underwood, daughter of Ida (McElvaney) and Ras Underwood on the left.

There are several pages of these old studio portraits and a note saying she got them from Bill Tower who had them from W.W. Tower. That was enough to get me oriented. William Warren Tower lived in Tyro KS and was the brother of my great-grandmother, Viola Matilda Tower McGhee.

Hmm, then Bill Tower is my grandfather’s cousin, which would make him a second cousin to my mother, third cousin to me. OK, so now we’ve worked out the source of the photos.

If we had no label, that provenance would be some help in dating and naming the subjects. Don’t assume the ownership of the photos means the people in the photograph are part of that immediate family.

In this case, the two children lived in Oklahoma and the photo was sent to W.W. Tower by his brother, Reuben Tower better known as Shorty. The baby (right side of the photo) is Reuben Tower’s son William Ray Tower, usually called Ray. Don’t be fooled by the dress, as it was standard wear for baby boys of that era. It probably made it much easier to change diapers.

The other infant is a cousin to Ray. The baby girl is Lorene Underwood, daughter of Ida (McElvaney) and Ras Underwood. Ida was Pearl McElvaney’s sister (Shorty’s wife).

We’re lucky to have all that background information about the photo. Now, what can we tell from the photo itself? The wicker chair that the children are sitting on probably is from the 1890s or more recent. The fanciness of the children’s clothing shows the family is in comfortable circumstances and the fact that they can afford a studio portrait indicates that as well. The Tower family in Tyro did not have many photos like that, but I’m finding the Towers in Prague, Oklahoma had quite a few taken.

In the case of these two babies, I have their names and the parent’s names. A quick check on ancestry.com gives Ray’s birthdate as 29 Mar 1910 and Lorene’s as 11 Jun 1910. Ray seems to be sitting up on his own, but someone at the left edge of the picture is holding Lorene in place. I’d guess the photo is towards the end of 1910.

What happened to the children? In October 1911, baby Lorene died. Her parents had 5 children after her and her mother lived to be 94. Little Ray lived to be 82 years of age.

Sometimes vintage photos have the name of a photographer and a town, this one did not. If they are in an album held in place by photo corners, you can check for writing on the back.

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The baby boy at the top of the page is now the older boy in this photo. I’d guess about 8 or 9 years old.

The “VV” refers to Vina Vining (originally Melvina Tower, daughter of William Warren Tower). The baby on the chair is Glenn Bates Tower. He was 8 years younger than his brother William Ray Tower. Audrey Mitchell lived with the Tower family.

Audrey Mitchell lived with the Tower family. The 1920 census shows her in the household when she was 12 years old, so she is 3 years older than Ray. I found a possible family for her in the 1910 census where there is a 4-year-old Andra Mitchell with parents Eva and Zack Mitchell.

The boys are Melvina’s cousins, the children of Reuben (Shorty) Tower.

Shorty (Reuben) and Pearl Tower, the parents of the two boys. (Thanks to Pat Ruble for these photos)

Shorty (Reuben) and Pearl Tower, the parents of the two boys. (Thanks to Pat Ruble for these photos)