At the Courthouse – Ashlock/Babcock Marriage


I’m carrying on my mother and grandmother’s work on our family history. In their time, working on genealogy meant trips to courthouses and cemeteries. If those were too far away, Mom sent a letter. It must have been an excruciating wait for that bit of information that might move the family line forward.

Here’s an example:

It seems that she already has the dates, location, and names, so I’m not sure what further information she felt might show up in the marriage application. Of course, it would be pretty nifty to see your ancestor’s signature.

Sadly, the requested document was not to arrive.

The record keeper in Gentry County, Missouri responded with a short two sentence reply that was thriftily typed at the bottom of Mom’s handwritten letter. “We are unable to help you on the above request. The Courthouse in Gentry County, Missouri, burned in the year of 1885, destroying all records prior to 1885.”

How disappointing. I checked on Ancestry to see if somehow a copy of the marriage papers might miraculously have been saved and now online. Nope, the ashes are long blown away in the Missouri winds and no record remains.

Now, Gentry County has an online site with the email address of the Recorder which saves the cost of a stamp and gets your query there much faster. To search their records online, you’ll need a credit card. Ten dollars buys a fifteen-minute search pass so have your questions well-thought out and ready to make the most of that time.

Here’s the new, since 1885, courthouse in Gentry County, Missouri.

Gentry County, Missouri courthouse (By Americasroof – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

So, how did the marriage of Burr Ashlock and Nancy Jane Babcock turn out? The couple had three children:

Sarilda Jane Ashlock 1867–1951
James F. Ashlock 1869–1879
Isaac Alonzo “Ike” Ashlock 1872–1945

Less than a year after the birth of the youngest son, Burr Ashlock died on the 22 of September in 1973 in Johnson, Missouri. I couldn’t find any old newspapers to explain why he died at the age of 30.

Nancy Jane (Babcock) Ashlock remarried six months later in Wilson County, Kansas at the home of her parents, Ezra B Babcock (1821–1886) and Ellenor Nancy Jane Wright (1820–1882). The groom was Henry Francis Vining who had come to Kansas from East Windsor, Connecticut in the 1850s. It was not unusual to marry fairly quickly in those days with young children needing support.

(This post is part of the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks blog challenge. Check back for future posts.)

Photo – Sam McGhee


My great-grandfather, Samuel Newton McGhee, was born on the 29th of November in 1875 in Perry, Arkansas. He married Viola Matilda Tower in 1895 and they started a family. In 1907, they came to Montgomery County, Kansas to help with Tildy’s mother who had had a stroke.

Over the years, Sam worked for a sawmill marking trees for the logging crew to cut (in Arkansas), then in Kansas he found work with his team of horses, ” helping farmers, grading roads and in the new industry in Kansas–the oil fields. Along with the oil, a new fuel had been discovered, natural gas. Gas lights and gas burners for heating and cooking were a great improvement over wood or kerosene we had been using.” (from daughter, Bertha McGhee’s memories)

They moved to Tyro where Sam took a job as night watchman at a glass factory which made chimneys for lamps and lanterns. He prepared the sand and chemicals for the following day’s run. When the factory moved to Oklahoma, Sam took an extra job hauling ice from an ice plant in Caney to the ice house of a local grocery store and also made home deliveries on a country route offered by the store.

He found work with the Montgomery County road maintenance crew. He also rented some farmland and grew sorghum cane and made molasses in the fall. In 1914, Sam became foreman of Montgomery County road maintenance and did extra hauling with his team for both the grocery store and in the oil fields.

By age 46, he was working in the oil industry in Montgomery County, Kansas. The photo below shows him with two of his sons, Roy and Clarence. the dog’s name is unknown.

Sam McGhee and Sons at Oil Well

Samuel McGhee

Sam McGhee died in an accident at work in October 1922. It was only recently that I uncovered some details of that accident after searching in

Sam McGhee crushed oil well accident

Enter a caption

The Coffeyville paper, The Morning News, gave some more information, “Sam McGhee was injured Saturday morning when he was cleaning out a mill on the Harding place, about two miles east of Tyro.”

The Wichita Daily Eagle described the accident this way, “an engine being used in connection with an oil rig near Coffeyville exploded.”

The Independence Daily Reporter clarified the incident, “Mr. McGhee was injured when a machine used for cleaning out oil wells broke on the Harding lease, east of Tyro, last Saturday. He was so seriously injured that no hopes were entertained for his recovery at any time.”

More details emerged in The Morning News which noted, he “died at the Southeast Kansas hospital here Sunday night from injuries received Saturday when a well-drilling rig on which he was working broke, crushing his head and puncturing a lung.”

About two months later, a settlement was suggested (The Coffeyville Daily Journal, 12 Dec 1922, Tue, Page 5).

“Chas. D. Ise of this city, acting as referee in the matter of the compensation of Viola Matilda Mc-Ghee, administratrix of the estate of S. N. McGhee, against the Kansas-Oklahoma Consolidated Oil company, has recommended a payment of $3,200.40. McGhee died recently of injuries sustained in an accident on a lease near Tyro.”

I was curious about whether that was a good offer or not. Here’s a chart showing wages at that time. I also found that average earnings in 1924 were $1,303. So the offer was only equal to a few year’s wages.

“Wages And Hours Of Labor In The Petroleum Industry, 1922. “. Hathitrust.

Sam was survived by his wife Viola Matilda Tower, five sons and two daughters. The sons, Clarence, Roy, Lealon, Austin, and Loren, lived at home, while son Jesse resided at Morgan, Texas. The daughters, Bertha and Ethel, lived at home. Ethel was only 7 years old and Austin just 10. The other children were in their teens or grown. The McGhees had lost a young son, Elmer, just the year before.

Years later, Sam’s daughter Bertha shared her memories with her niece, Gail Lee Martin.

“Papa worked for hire with his team of horses helping farmers, grading roads for Montgomery County and hauling pipe in the new industry in Kansas — the oil fields. My earliest memories are of running to meet him as he came home from work. He would swing me up on the wagon seat to ride the few feet home with him making me feel so special.

At home, Papa loved to play the pump organ and when I would learn a new song at school or Sunday School or Campfire Girls, I would be eager to sing it to papa. Papa had a good tenor voice and sang in the choir at our local Methodist Church. He had learned music in Arkansas when a tuning fork was used to get the pitch and the melody was learned by singing do, re, me’s. So papa could take a piece of music and sing the notes until he had the melody in his head, then he’d set down and play it on the organ by ear – just adding chords for the left hand. 

Often on Sunday afternoon neighbors and friends would come visiting and stand around the organ to sing while papa played. On the back porch, Mama and the boys would make a freezer of ice-cream to be shared after the singing was finished.” 

For more of Bertha McGhee’s memories, visit the Our Echo site to read Sam McGhee, Memories of Hayrick Mound, and From Melbourn, Arkansas to Tyro, Kansas.

Love and Happy Couples


The topic for the 52 Ancestors Challenge this week was LOVE, so I started searching through the family photo album for examples of happy couples.

Raphael Tuck printed in Saxony

A vintage valentine from my collection. It’s a Raphael Tuck printed in Saxony, after 1866.

Of course, my first discoveries were my own parents and then the grandparents. There’s no wedding picture from my parents’ end-of-WWII marriage at the parsonage, but I do have both sets of grandparents in wedding pictures.

Now, I’m sure that each of these couples went through the rough patches that beset all relationships, but they persevered. Charles Lorenzo Martin and Cora Myrle Joy were married in February 1915 in Madison, Kansas and that marriage lasted 55 years until Ren’s death. They raised eight children through the 1920s, the Great Depression and past World War II when their last child, Charles went away to college at MIT in the 1950s.

My mother’s parents, Clarence Oliver McGhee and Ruth Vining married in July 1917 shortly before he left for the Great War. He survived the horrible warfare in France and returned to work many years for Phillips Petroleum. They raised three daughters. Their  43 years of marriage ended when Ruth died of a heart attack.

My parents, Clyde Owen Martin and Gail Lee McGhee, married in June 1945 and were together for 67 years. Along the way, they raised six children.  My dad had a favorite punchline when people asked what was the secret for a long marriage. He’d say, when we got married, we agreed that whoever asked for divorce had to take the kids.

Not All Succeeded

There were some unsuccessful marriages among my ancestors. My 3rd great-grandmother, Nancy Ann Daggs married Thomas I. Long in pioneer Indiana. Nine children and 38 years later they called it quits with a divorce. Quite unusual in the 1860s.

Here’s the transcription of the divorce papers:
State of Indiana
County of Crawford

Be it remembered that at the Febr’y Term of Crawford Circuit Court, the same being 13th day of February 1866, Before the Hon. William F Parrell, the then sole Judge of the Crawford Circuit Court of Indiana, the following proceedings were herd in the cause of Thomas Long vs. Nancy A Long for Divorce.
And now comes the plaintiff and the Defendant being Thrice solemly Called, Come not but herein make default and it appearing to the satisfaction of the Court that said defendant has been notified of the pendence Of this suit, more than ten days before the 1st day of the present term of this Court and the Court having heard the evidence and being advised in the premises finds that a divorce ought to be granted herein. It is therefore Considered by the Court that the Bonds of Matrimony heretofore existing between plaintiff and defendant …..

The official divorce is dated 1866, but I noticed that in 1860 Nancy Ann was living with her son-in-law and daughter (Abraham and Nancy Angeline Tower). In 1870, the census seems to show her in the household of Susannah Esrey (Perry County, Indiana), but I haven’t yet figured out how they connect.

It seems that 12 days after the divorce, Thomas Long marries Charlotte Anthony. The 1870 census shows Thomas and Charlotte Long and two children that might be from a previous marriage of Charlotte (Anthony Lydia Long and Waldo Long). Further research might clarify the origin of those two children.

Most Stayed Together

For the most part, I’d say the happy couples outnumber the unhappy ones on my family tree.

Clyde Martin and Gail McGhee

Just friends in high school, Gail and Clyde where happily married for 67 years.

A Surprise Death


It was just a few days before Christmas in 1896 when Joseph Harvey Mikesell suddenly died. The news appeared in The Neodesha Daily Sun, (Neodesha, Kansas) 24 Dec 1896, page 2. His wife Sarilda Jane Ashlock was my grandmother, Ruth Vining’s half-sister. They were 30 years apart in age, as Ruth was the youngest of the large family.

Joseph was described by the Wilson County Sun as a fisherman and trapper. He was just returning with wagon and team from a two or three weeks trapping expedition up the river. He had stopped at Dun station to sell his hides when he was stricken with apoplexy and died in C. S. Adell’s store, about nine o’clock at night.

Joseph Mikesell’s headstone (Photo by William Fischer, Jr. on Find-a-Grave)


At Dun Station, Wednesday, Dec. 23, 1896, Joseph H. Mikesell, of this city. Mr. Mikesell had been on a protracted hunting and trapping expedition, and was on his way back to Neodesha to spend Christmas. He stopped at Adell’s store at Dun yesterday at about 3 o’clock in the afternoon and disposed of his game, hides etc., and had stepped outside the door when he suffered a stroke of apoplexy and died at 9 o’clock last night. He was unconcious almost from the time of the stroke and did not suffer. The stroke, it is supposed, was brought on by exposure, and was unheralded by any warning whatever.

Joseph H. Mikesell was born in Elkhart county Ind., April 17, 1847. During the year ’64 he enlisted and had the distinction of being the youngest soldier in the 16th Kansas Regiment, Company I, which was stationed at Fort Leavenworth. In the winter of ’64 he went with Gen. McCook’s brigade to Santa Fe, N. M . to quell the Indian-Mexican troubles. Returning to Kansas in the spring of ’65 he participated in the expedition against the Price raiders. At Neutonia, Mo., he was wounded, but remained in the hospital at Fort Scott only a few days, and returned to service while scarcely able for duty, and served until mustered out by honorable discharge.

He was married, Jan. 30, 1884 to Miss Sarilda Ashlock at this place, and leaves her with five children to mourn the loss of a kind husband and father.

The remains were brought home this afternoon and funeral services will he conducted at the home on Ohio street, between 5th and 6th, by Elder Bays, tomorrow at 10 a.m.

Here’s the actual funeral as described by the newspaper: There were so many people that the house could not hold them all.

J.H. Mikesell's FuneralJ.H. Mikesell’s Funeral Fri, Jan 1, 1897 – 5 · Neodesha Register (Neodesha, Kansas, United States of America) ·


These two accounts made me wonder about the effect it must have had on the family left behind. In an era with no safety net, few jobs for women, and with children aged 5 to 11 years, Sarilda faced an uncertain future at age 29. She only had a third-grade education (according to the 1940 census).


Sarilda Ashlock

Their Children

Grace Mikesell

Fayren Louis Mikesell

Ethel Mikesell

Inez E Mikesell

J Collins Mikesell

Joe Mikesell's funeralJoe Mikesell’s funeral Sat, Dec 26, 1896 – 4 · The Neodesha Daily Sun (Neodesha, Kansas, United States of America) ·

The Pound Party

The very next month, the neighbors and friends held a pound party for Sarilda. I’d never heard of this custom, but the clipping gives some insight into it. Searching further, I found that a pound party is where each person brings a pound of something as an offering of support. I suppose many of the packages would have contained a pound of flour or other food.

The widow of the late J. H, Mikesell was treated to a generous surprise Sunday evening. When she returned home from a visit of several days in Chetopa township and entered the little home so recently saddened by the death of her husband, she found new paper on the walls and overhead, a carpet which she had recently finished, all sewed together and nicely put down, and the table laden with packages, parcels and bundles of the substantial of life.

Such was the method adopted by her many sympathizing neighbor friends who put into deeds their thoughts of love and pity. The pound party occurred and all was in readiness Saturday night for Mrs. Mikesell’s appearance but the inclement weather made her return home impossible, until Sunday afternoon. The great source of Good certainly has his abiding place in the hearts of many Neodesha people, for it has been our observation that such incidents as this have been more numerous here than in any of the surrounding cities during the past few years.

Clipped from The Neodesha Daily Sun04 Jan 1897, MonPage 4

What Happens Next?

The 1900 census shows Sarilda Mikesell, widow, supporting her five children by working as a washerwoman. The family is living in Neodesha, Kansas in Wilson County. In 1902, her oldest daughter, Grace, marries at age 16.

Sometime after 1900, Sarilda marries John B. Addis. I presume they divorce, as he continues living in Neodesha, Kansas while she leaves for Haskew, Oklahoma to prove up a claim she took there in the summer of 1903. She takes the two youngest children with her. Ethel Mikesell, the oldest girl at home, “will keep house for her uncle Dave here.”  (The Neodesha Daily Sun, May 24, 1904,  Page 4)

It was eight years after Joseph Mikesell’s sudden death that Sarilda was able to get a pension. I presume this is from his military service.

“B.S. Peavy, the pension agent of this city, has secured the allowance of original pension tor the minor children of the late Joseph Mikesell, in 73 days from the date of filing a claim therefor in the pension office, also the accrued pension due to Mrs. Sarilda Addis under widow’s certificate No. 463.504.” (Wilson County Sun, Neodesha, Kansas, 05 Feb 1904, Page 5)

Another Marriage

Addis (formerly Mikesell) marries John AugsburgerAddis (formerly Mikesell) marries John Augsburger Fri, Apr 21, 1905 – 4 · The Neodesha Daily Sun (Neodesha, Kansas, United States of America) ·

Sarilda and her new husband, John Augustus Augsburger, eventually move to Texas. By the 1920 census, the children are grown and out on their own. It says she is working as a midwife. Then in 1930, she’s working as a nurse. By 1935, Sarilda is widowed again. She lives sixteen years as a widow, dying at age 83 in 1951.

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks


I decided to participate in a writing challenge, and this year I will be following Amy Johnson Crow’s 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks. It will motivate me to regularly profile ancestors on our Then and Now blog. This post will serve as the index for the 52 Ancestors posts.

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks – A blog challenge posed by Amy Crow Johnson

The January Prompts
Week 2 (January 8-14): Challenge ~ RALPH MARTIN – AIRMAN FROM KANSAS
Week 3 (January 15-21): Unusual Name – DACY RICHARDS JOY
Week 4 (January 22-28): I’d Like to Meet – MEET THE RICHARDS – A PIONEER FAMILY

Week 5 (January 29-February 4): At the Library – AT THE LIBRARY – 1860S TOWER FAMILY

The February Prompts
Week 6 (February 4-10): Surprise – A SURPRISE DEATH
Week 7 (February 11-17): Love – LOVE AND HAPPY COUPLES
Week 8 (February 18-24): Family Photo – PHOTO – SAM MCGHEE
Week 9 (February 25-March 3): At the Courthouse – AT THE COURTHOUSE – ASHLOCK/BABCOCK MARRIAGE

The March Prompts
Week 10 (March 4-10): Bachelor Uncle
Week 11 (March 11-17): Large Family
Week 12 (March 18-24): 12
Week 13 (March 25-31): In the Paper

At the Library – 1860s Tower Family


Years ago, I made a trip to southern Indiana to search for my Tower ancestors. I hustled to visit the Old Tower Cemetery, comb through the vintage records at the Crawford County Historical Society, and then spent hours at the Crawford County Public Library in English, Indiana.

I’d brought along a wand style scanner but it ran out of batteries quickly. I resorted to taking photographs of the records. Photocopies would have been too expensive and difficult to do with the oversized record books.

insane records for Crawford County, Indiana

The archives even included the records of people judged to be insane. There was one Tower listed but not a name I recognized.

I was greatly impressed with the genealogy collection at the public library which contained local books that were not available elsewhere. One title, Buried ‘Neath the Waters by H.O. Jones, gave some insight into my great-great grandparents’ lives.

Abraham Bates Tower was working as a cooper before the Civil War according to the 1860 census. He lived in Jennings Township, Leavenworth, the largest town in Crawford County, Indiana with his wife Nancy Angeline, their daughter (8-month-old Sarah), his mother-in-law (54-year-old Nancy Long) and another couple and child.

The Buried ‘Neath the Waters tells of the Ohio River traffic with flatboats carrying away local goods from Leavenworth. These included barrels filled with smoked and pickled meat, barrels of lime created in local lime kilns, and barrels of whiskey and brandy made from local corn and fruits. The boats traveled down the river selling their cargo and going as far as New Orleans. Abraham Tower and S.J. Linn made the barrels for this trade.

1878 indiana map

Map of Crawford County, Indiana from 1878. Note Jennings Township and Leavenworth by the Ohio River.

The book describes Leavenworth as thriving right before the war with five general stores, three saloons, two hotels, a tailor shop, a millinery store, jewelry store, drugstore, bootery, two dressmakers, a confectionary shop, and a saddle and harness shop. There were doctors and lawyers and carpenters, with a barber and a blacksmith as well.

When I visited in 2012, only remnants of the town remained near the river. Repeated floods had forced the town to move higher and also they lost the county seat.

I still have not resolved the mystery of the other family living with the Towers. Their names were S.J. Linn (male, age 22), Rebecca J. Linn (female, age 21) and Mary E. Linn (female, age 7 months).

Meet the Richards – A Pioneer Family


In an earlier post, I profiled Dacy Eliza Richards but realized by the end of writing it, that the dates and names didn’t line up properly. It was pretty improbable that she should be the daughter of George Richards and Sarah Ann Sasscer of Maryland and Pennsylvania, who both died within a few years of her birth. Supposedly, Sarah Ann was 59 at the time.

dacy richards tree mistake

Here’s the ancestors that I now realize were mistakes. Some other trees have these names too but I’ve removed them all from my family tree.

Casting about for a more likely family, I found three families of Richards in the 1860 census (Eudora, Kansas Territory). There was a female Dadey in one household. Was it Dacy? The age of 18 was a match, as she was 20 when she married George Washington Joy in Eudora in 1862. The handwritten record is hard to decipher, so  I think it could be Dacey.

Fortunately, as a pioneer Kansas family, and as early settlers in other states, there was quite a bit of documentation. One of Dacy’s brothers, Oscar Grinman Richards, later served in the legislature and earned space in the Kansas Biographical Dictionary of 1879 (pages 300 – 301).

Xenophon Richards (Dacy Richards father)

The entry mentions the father, Xenophon Richards who was prominent in the Indian wars and was a soldier in the Blackhawk War.

Xenophon is an ancient Greek name with some history to it. For our Zenophon Richards, the Biographical Dictionary says he was “a man of but fair common school education.” It went on to say that he was “of superior mental abilities and the highest moral character; universally respected for his integrity, generosity, and philanthropy, and in every respect an eminently good man; he was of Scotch-English descent.” Now perhaps that is just the rhetoric of the times, but it’s fascinating to have this insight into your 3rd great-grandfather.

family histories oscar richards - eudora site

Oscar Grinman Richards. Photo Citation: Family Histories P-R. (2019). Retrieved 15 January 2019, from

Oscar Grinman Richards (Dacy Richard’s brother)

His son Oscar Grinman Richards was with the Kansas forces under General Lane during the border-ruffian war. He took a claim near Manhattan, Kansas which he improved and cultivated and then sold in 1857. He moved to the Douglas County area, then known as “the Shawnee Absentee Lands” bringing with him a party of 27 settlers. Those early Kansas settlers included his father, brothers, and others.

ancestry com kansas biographical dictionary 1879 oscar g. richards

1879 Kansas Biographical Dictionary – part of the entry for Oscar Grinman Richards.

This gets us to the point where Dacy Elizabeth Richards meets and marries George Washington Joy in Eudora, Kansas Territory in 1862.

I’m glad to know that my ancestors played a role in keeping Kansas a free state and blocking slavery. It’s sad to see that they also played a role in suppressing the Native Americans and taking their lands in several states. I’ll need to read more about the Indian wars in Illinois and the removal of Indians from Kansas.

One last bit of evidence connecting Dacy to this family. In 1865, Oscar Richards marries his second wife and the wedding takes place at the home of George Joy.

Just a few days ago, I wrote about Dacy as an unusual name. Now, I find that her father and brother had even more unusual names.

Week 3 of the #52Ancestors Challenge – The topic for the week was Ancestors I’d Like to Meet.

Update – January 20, 2019 – I’m in a quandary, as there is another possibility for Dacy’s parents. Since at age 18, she was in the household of Xenophon Richards in Eudora, Kansas in 1860, I assumed that was her father. That was one of the census forms that did not include relationships for the household. Then I found in the 1850 census in Illinois, that Dacy Eliza was living (age 8) with George and Sarah Richards. George was Xenophon’s brother.

So, the question is which one is her father and which is her uncle? I’ll keep looking for further documents relating to her life that might shed light on this mystery.

2nd Update – January 25, 2019 – I’ve found gravestones in New Michigan, Illinois for Sarah and George W. Richards who died in 1851. It seems likely that the 8-year-old Dacy in their household in 1850 was their daughter and that after their deaths, she was taken into the family of her uncle, Xenophon and Lucy Richards. Later, they ended up settling in Eudora, Kansas in 1858.