F is for FIRE


I browsed through the clippings I’d saved about my ancestors. “Fires,” there must be some about fires in the 1,953 stories that I’ve saved on Newspapers.com. Ah, here’s one:

Fire at Roy Taylor’s

Tuesday morning as the family of Roy Taylor were sitting down to their breakfast fire was discovered in a wardrobe. If it had not been for Jesse McGhee and his knowledge of fighting fire learned in Boy Scout lessons, Roy Taylor would have no home left. As it was, with all doors closed the fire was confined to the wardrobe, burning and scorching the woodwork and walls and burning all clothing, which, tho a loss, is not to be compared to what it might have been. It is not known how the fire originated.

This story was front and center on page one of the Tyro Truth newspaper on the 10th of August 1917. I wondered why Jesse (my grandfather’s brother) was at the Taylor house at breakfast time.

After further searching, I discovered from his WWI draft registration that Jesse, age 20, was working at the farm of Roy D. Taylor in Caney. Since farm work starts early in the day, he probably was staying at their place as the hired man. Caney and Tyro were 8 miles apart.  In those days of limited cars, it was too far for Jesse to travel daily on foot from his family home in Tyro.

The draft registration described Jesse as being of medium height and build, and as having gray eyes and brown hair.

jesse mcghee by tree

Jesse Mcghee

For those unfamiliar with a wardrobe, it was a large piece of furniture used for storing clothing in before houses started having closets. It might have shelves inside or just a rod for hanging clothes or hooks.

antique-wardrobe, pixabay

This story has me wondering.

  • In whose bedroom was the wardrobe? Was it Jesse’s room?
  • Did anyone in the house smoke cigarettes? I wonder if Jesse or someone else had a discreet smoke before breakfast, then hid the presumed-extinguished cigarette inside the wardrobe.
  • Were there any young children in the household who might have been playing with matches?
  • I didn’t know that there were Boy Scout troops in Tyro at that time. I wonder if my grandfather, Clarence, was ever in the Scouts.

Although we can’t answer these questions, I’ll just share the clipping here with the presumption that Jesse McGhee was a hero for saving the Taylor family home from burning down.

Jesse McGhee - fire in wardrobeJesse McGhee – fire in wardrobe Fri, Aug 10, 1917 – 1 · Tyro Truth (Tyro, Kansas) · Newspapers.com

Emporia Mystery Photos


I’ve received a further batch of photos from my Ellison distant cousin. We first connected through our both taking the Ancestry DNA test. We are working together trying to solve the mystery of who these shared ancestors in the unlabeled vintage pictures might be.

The ones I’m sharing today are all from studios in Emporia or Eureka, Kansas. I’ll share this in the Kansas History Geeks group on Facebook and send it to the historical societies in Greenwood and Lyon Counties. Who knows? Someone might recognize their great-grandparents or have a photo with these same people in it.

Just for fun, I ran the photo through the automatic colorizing offered on the Family Search website. It gives an added dimension to the people but didn’t help me in identifying them.

Who I Think They Are

The Ellisons and the Martins come together on my family tree when Sarah Anne Ellison married Charles Coleman Martin in 1854 in Knox County, Illinois. They came to Kansas Territory around 1860. Their fourth son, Francis Marion (Frank) Martin, was born in Emporia, Kansas in 1868 and their last child, Cora Gozena (Grace) Martin was born in Madison, Kansas in 1875.

Martin or Skaggs?

Since these photos are in the possession of a descendant of their daughter, Effie Martin Skaggs, it seems likely that the Emporia and Eureka photos could be either Martins or Skaggs. Siblings of Henry Talbot Skaggs who lived in the Emporia area would have sent photos to him in Oregon or Effie’s Martin siblings likewise would have sent photos. The photos mailed to them would have been 1890 or later. They could also be family photos prior to 1890 that they took with them when they moved to the Pacific Northwest.

Let’s Start With One Photo

The woman below might be a mother of Effie or of Henry.

  • Effie’s mother, Sarah Ellison Martin, died in 1887 in Madison, Kansas.
  • Henry’s mother, Rebecca Osborne Skaggs, died in 1900, possibly in Missouri. There’s a small possibility that she would have a photo taken in Kansas while there on a visit.
  • It’s possible that a picture of an aunt might have been sent from the Emporia area out to Effie and Henry in Oregon also.
  • Effie’s aunts: Minerva Ellison Redmon 1846-1921 (in Greenwood County, KS in 1886, later lived in ILL), Elizabeth Ellison Piper 1838 – 1917 (in Missouri), Mary J. Ellison Andrews 1837 – 1912 (in Abingdon, ILL)
  • Henry’s aunts: Mary Ann Skaggs Schwartz 1851 – 1927 (in Missouri), Martha Elizabeth Mattie Skaggs 1865 – 1929 (unsure of location)

ellison skaggs 20, older woman

I need to research the dress style to pin down the time frame for this photo. My first guess would be around 1890. I’ll also look into the years that these photo studios were doing business in Emporia. Here’s some information on F.A. Trader that gives 1887 as the start of his business in Emporia. That’s a valuable clue for this picture. The deep-black dress might indicate a widow in mourning.

The rest of the photos will be examined in-depth in future posts. One was from L.S. Page  which did business in Emporia from 1873 to 1899.

Dear Diary


My family is fortunate to have some vintage diaries preserved in our family treasures. I’m in possession of my great-uncle’s pocket diary from WWI and also my grandfather’s from that same time.

albert's wwi diary journal

Albert Vining’s World War One Pocket diary

One wonders if these were given as a gift from a loved one to a soldier as he departed for France. Perhaps they were just something available in the commissary for the troops to buy on payday.

Whichever was the case, the wear-and-tear on the slim notebooks was considerable over time in the service. Perhaps the veteran brought it out to show the family over the years or to jog his own memory of the life or death struggle he survived.


WWI soldiers that Albert Vining knew

The diary was the perfect place to record the names and home towns of pals so they could keep in touch after the war. I wonder if letters were exchanged or not.

Albert Vining served in Company B of the 852nd Infantry. On the right-hand page above, he noted the names of people he wanted to remember from that time. I’ll post them here in case ancestors might hunt for them online.

I was curious if his pals survived the war so I researched them on Find A Grave. The ones I found are highlighted here and you can see their gravestone and in some cases information about their life.


Albert Vining’s WWI pocket diary

Albert used the pocket diary to log the movements of his company during the war. He was stationed in France. One of the places you see above is Badincourt. You can read more about Albert Vining’s WWI experience on the Hubpages site.

uncle albert

Albert Vining

C is for CAMPBELL Ancestors

log-cabin-maybe TN pixabay

(photo from Pixabay) A typical cabin of early settlers in Tennessee

Lucinda Jane Campbell married Solomon McGhee on January 26, 1832, in Washington County, Tennessee. This is the eastern end of the state, an area of mountains and valleys. It was first formed in 1777 by settlers from North Carolina and Virginia. Solomon and Lucinda are my 3rd great-grandparents.

Ancestry com - Tennessee Marriage Records 1780-2002 mcghee & campbell

The Campbell Line (unverified)

I need to sift through all the marriage records, early census, and mortality records to verify Lucinda’s parents. I have 32 DNA matches that make it likely that it is John or James Campbell and Catherine Phillips but there seem to be a number of different Campbells with those common first names. A further generation back with 36 DNA matches make her grandparents likely to be John Adams Campbell and Catherine Wilkes. I’d like to track the line to Ireland or Scotland.

The Alabama Years

By 1840, Lucinda and Solomon had moved their young family to Cherokee County, Alabama. The census shows 3 male children in the household below the age of 9. That same year, Solomon’s father, William McGhee died back in Tennessee. (It’s likely the family moved in 1835 or 1836 to Alabama based on the birth dates of their youngest children)

The family kept growing and the 1850 census for the 27th District of Cherokee County shows them with their sons William 17, James 16, John 14, David 9, Robert 7, and Lawson age 1. The first two were born in TN and the next four were born in Alabama. One wonders if there were some children between Robert and Lawson might have died. There’s a McGhee cemetery in Cherokee County with some small stones with names but no dates.

The Arkansas Years

By 1860, the family had moved to Petit Jean, Perry County, Arkansas. Solomon, age 51, is farming. Lucinda is 57 and there’s a domestic in the home, Harriet Robertson. Five of the sons are still at home (ages 25 to 11). Nearby, their oldest son, William and wife Matilda E. live with their 3 young children (Lucinda, Zela, and Solomon) and a domestic, Phebe A.E. Booker. Three-year-old Zela was born in Alabama and one-year-old Solomon was born in Arkansas so we can estimate their arrival in the state as around 1858 or 1859.

“Solomon moved with several McGhee families, Campbells, Kikers, Greens, Smiths, and Tanners into central Arkansas from Alabama in 1858. Most of the McGhee’s settled in Perry County, around Casa, Adona, Perry, and Opelo.” (source) Solomon’s widowed mother moved there along with her adult children.

In November of 1864, Lucinda Jane Campbell McGhee died. In the previous month, her son Robert Witt McGhee died on October 19, 1864. He was in Company C of the 3rd Arkansas Cavalry. I’m presuming that he died at the Battle of Cedar Creek that was also called the Battle of Belle Grove which was fought October 19, 1864 near Strasburg, Virginia. “Confederate Lt. General Jubal Early launched a surprise attack against the encamped army of Union Major General Philip Sheridan.” Over 8,000 Union and Confederate soldiers died there.

Robert was buried at the National Cemetery in Little Rock, Arkansas. Solomon’s grave is in the McGhee Cemetery in Adona, Perry County, Arkansas. On the reverse of his stone is the name of his second wife, Jane, who died in August 17, 1898. Where Lucinda Jane is buried is unknown. I also checked the Casa Cemetery nearby and Solomon’s mother is buried there but none of the 60 McGhee gravestones were for Lucinda.

Here’s the line of descent:

Lucinda Jane Campbell 1801-1864
3rd great-grandmother
William Newton MCGHEE 1832-1902
Son of Lucinda Jane Campbell
Samuel Newton MCGHEE 1875-1922
Son of William Newton MCGHEE
Clarence Oliver MCGHEE 1895-1973
Son of Samuel Newton MCGHEE
Gail Lee MCGHEE 1924-2013
Daughter of Clarence Oliver MCGHEE

B is for BUCKLAND Ancestors


It’s always a treat to see an ancestor’s dates and family clearly laid out in book just waiting for you to discover it. My mother found it years ago and wrote about Almira Buckland’s life. She did a great job putting it into story form and it’s also included in Mom’s book, My Flint Hills Childhood.

I’m following in my mother’s footsteps, retracing the tree and seeing what further details might be revealed online that weren’t available to her in the 1970s.

Those were the days of visiting libraries, using the microfilm machine, taking day trips to cemeteries, and waiting for replies from distant relatives to your letters. Not everything is online even now, so genealogists still need to track down some information in person.

My 2x great-grandmother Almira Buckland pioneered in Kansas with her husband, James Vining. For background information on her family, I was delighted to see this entry in The History and Genealogies of Ancient Windsor, Connecticut Vol. II 1635 – 1891 by Henry R. Stiles. The book includes East Windsor, South Windsor, Bloomfield, Windsor Locks, and Ellington. It was published in 1892 and you can read it on Google Books.

The_History_and_Genealogies_of_Ancient_Buckland Only - almira buckland

Review of Details from the Book

  • Almira H Buckland was born on July 13, 1813, in East Windsor, Connecticut, to Sarah Heath, age 38, and Erastus Buckland, age 39. Her father held the title of Captain. Sarah Heath Buckland (born April 19, 1775, died October 21, 1850, at the age of 75). Erastus Buckland born Apr 2, 1774, died November 28, 1820, at the age of 46, so Almira would have been only 7 years old. He graduated from Wilbraham Academy/Trinity College and owned a mill according to the Stiles book.
  • Her siblings are Erastus 1799, Emily 1800, Sarah 1804, Harlehigh 1805, Harriet 1809, Marilla 1815, and Lorenzo 1810.
  • This even gives the names of her maternal grandparents Polly Osborn and Stephen Heath of East Windsor. On her paternal side, Almira’s father was the son of Alexander, who was the son of Jonathan, who was the son of Thomas.

Two Children With the Same Name

It intrigues me to read that Harlehigh was given the same name as a baby brother who died two years earlier. The name seems so unusual to me, that I want to research further to see if it might be a surname of some earlier grandmother.

The Siblings Who Moved Away from Connecticut

Also intriguing was the dispersal of the siblings away from their traditional location. Emily moved to Guildhall, Vermont with her second husband. One of sister Sarah Buckland Bower’s sons moved to Cleveland, Ohio. Harlehigh attended college at Trinity and Yale, then practiced law in Springfield, Mass. For Almira, it merely says that she removed west. The next 2 siblings died as infants. A brother, Almanzo, also removed west.

mural covered wagon st louis

Covered wagon (St Louis museum)

Some Further Research Is Necessary

The Stiles book gives Thomas Buckland as the immigrant ancestor of Almira Buckland. He would have been her 2nd great-grandfather. My problem is that I have William Buckland in that slot. Ack! About 10 other trees have William Buckland as Jonathan’s father as well.

This is boggling me, so I’ll have to go over all the sources I’ve used and do some in-depth research on Thomas Buckland to sort this out.

In an earlier section of the Stiles book, there’s more information about Thomas Buckland who was in Massachusetts Colony as early as 1635. He received a grant of land for his part in the 1637 Pequot fight. I had to look that up. It took place between 1636 and 1638 in New England between the Pequot tribe and an alliance of the colonists and other tribes. It makes me sad to read of ancestors involved in killing off and enslaving Native Americans.

A is for Almost Drowned


Gail McGhee and Clyde Martin married at the end of WWII. It was a struggle for the young couple who had 4 children over the next 6 years.

cylde and cindy

Little Cindy and her father, Clyde Martin.

It helped when Gail’s parents rented “the little house” to them, though it must have been quite a squeeze for a family of six. The house was fairly basic and had a few cinder blocks for the front step.

Rental house - owned by Clarence McGhee in 1951

The little house that the Martins rented from the McGhee.

Here’s the Story in Gail Martin’s Own Words

“My husband and I with our four children were living 3 miles northwest of Madison in northern Greenwood County, Kansas in the summer of 1951. We had never had to worry about the river, as it was a good half-mile away. But in 1951, after several days of steady rain, the Verdigris river became fuller than ever before.

While we were asleep the river started backing up every creek and stream that normally flowed into it. When our youngest woke up in her baby bed and began to cry at the sight of water in our bedroom, she woke us up. What a shock it was to swing my warm feet into cold, muddy, river water.

The river had silently backed up the tiny stream nearby and overflowed everywhere. It had slowly crept into our back porch on the ground level, then up higher and higher above the two cement block high foundation, before spreading its dirty mess into our house.

We waded around through the house trying to put everything up high on cabinets, the sink, and the stove because they were already standing in two feet of water.

When we first discovered the situation, the water in the county road was already three feet deep, so all we could do was watch the water rise higher and higher to the door handles of our car, parked in the driveway.

Our children, Owen, Susan, Ginger, and the baby, Cindy, were wild with the excitement of actually ‘wading’ in the house until they saw the rabbit hutches had tipped over into the water drowning their beloved pets. We never had swift water, so I think my terror came from the silence as the water just steadily flowed backward, rising higher all the time.

My brother-in-law, Norman Harlan, waded in from the shallowest west side and helped carry the children to safety. Our toddler ran out to jump into his arms and not being able to tell where the floor ended, she stepped off into the water and would have sunk if he hadn’t been quick to grab her.

I’ll never forget the beautiful breakfast my sister, Melba, had ready when my bedraggled, wet family arrived on her doorstep.


Gail’s sister, Melba and Melba’s husband, Norman Harlan. Their children – Vicki, Tim & Bob.

Of course, the rain did quit, the water went slowly away and we were left to clean out the mud and haul away what couldn’t be saved. Our children held a quiet funeral and mass burial of their pets.

To this day, some of our furniture has knee-high watermarks, sad reminders of what can happen while you sleep.”

flood madison 1951

The Emporia Gazette Emporia, Kansas 26 Jul 1951, Thu • Page 9

More memories of the Flood of 1951 and memories by Madison residents of the flood.

Women’s History Month – Quilter


On both sides of our family, generations of women quilted. Maybe in pioneer times, it served to use the pieces from damaged, worn clothing made from wool or flax while turning it into a warm cover for the bed. Once it turned dark outside, the wife and daughters would stitch pieces together as they sat by the fireside.

Growing up in the 1950s and 1960s, it was Mom, Grandmother, and various aunts keeping the craft alive. They had more leisure time and often worked with store-bought materials and intricate patterns.

Cora Martin_roxio

Cora Joy Martin

Grandmother Cora Martin set an ambitious goal for herself to make a quilt for each grandchild to have when they married and a woven rag rug too. Here’s my Cousin Vicki with her quilt.

Each one was different. My sister, Karen’s, quilt from Grandma Cora was like a nine-patch quilt with postage-stamp-sized pieces within each one. I think for this one, our grandmother was able to use many of her fabric scraps saved over her many years of sewing.