Effie’s Mystery Man


A while back, I shared a painting by Effie Skaggs, my great-aunt. That one featured baby Effie sitting on the knee of my 3rd great-grandfather, Thomas Ellison. It seems that Effie was quite the painter but unfortunately, the family does not know who the subjects are in some of the portraits.

Now, my challenge is to figure out who is the man in this painting.

This painting shows an intense, reasonably young man with dark hair. That hairline might be a help in identifying this mystery ancestor. Another clue is the tie which looks like the style from the 1860s where most of it is hidden by the shirt collar.

painting unknown man by effie martin skaggs

Portrait of unknown ancestor by Effie Martin Skaggs

Let’s round up some possibilities. I’d love for it to be a Martin or an Ellison, but we must also consider Skaggs and Osborn on her husband’s side of the family.

Effie’s husband was:

Henry Talbot Skaggs
BIRTH – 14 SEP 1848 • Indiana
DEATH  – 25 DEC 1920 • Enterprise, Wallowa, Oregon

I’m thinking it may be a generation older than Effie and Henry. So it could be one of these men below. I don’t have any photos of either of them to compare to this painting.

Her father was:

Charles Coleman MARTIN
BIRTH – 26 JANUARY 1831 • Kentucky
DEATH – 16 AUG 1886 • Madison, Greenwood County, Kansas

Her father-in-law was:

Solomon Skaggs
BIRTH – 23 MAY 1822 • Lawrence County, Indiana, USA
DEATH – 21 OCT 1864 • Alton, Madison, Illinois

It could even be an uncle of Effie’s or of her husband, Henry. That gives us these possibilities: Charles Coleman’s brothers are Thomas Claggett Martin, William Allen Martin, James Henry Martin. Solomon Skaggs’ brother was John Wesley Skaggs.

Now, I do have a photo of Thomas Martin but he is older and with a white beard, not easily compared to Effie’s painting. My eye is drawn to his son, Hal Roach Martin, standing behind him. Look at the dark hair and the hairline but with the mustache, it is hard to see his mouth for comparison purposes.

I’m still thinking that Henry/Hal Roach Martin (born in 1855) is the wrong generation for the painting. Consider this, could he be a good representation of what his father looked like twenty years earlier or maybe even his uncle, Charles Coleman Martin?

People in the photo are Martha Ann, Elizabeth J, Henry Roach, Mary E, Laura Belle, front row: Milton T, Thomas Martin (bearded man), wife Mary Margaret Sullivan, Sadie L. photo from Merle Martin, sent to Gail Lee Martin.

H Roach Martin (2)

Looking at them side-by-side, I’m just not sure. The nose, hairline, and maybe even the ears look like a good match, but the subject in the photo has more angular cheekbones. I really would love to attach a name to this painting by Effie. It’s quite possible that it’s my direct ancestor, Charles Coleman Martin.

It would be great if the cousin who has the painting could find the photo that it may be based on and that it might have the name of the person written on the back. One can hope!

Reunion – 71 Years Ago


Seventy-one years ago in July, the McGhee family gathered for a reunion. Thank goodness, someone labeled the photos or I never would have figured out the people in this photo.

1948 mcghee reunion ruth dora

July 1948 – McGhee family reunion

Even with the names, I’m hard put to match them up. I’ll have to put our Facebook cousins group to work figuring out this one.

The casual pose captures the relaxed camaraderie of siblings and their offspring gathered together.  Boards resting on barrels serve as tables with a checked table cloth to dress them up. The glass pitcher is probably filled with freshly-squeezed lemonade. The plate on the grass appears to have sandwiches on it. I’m sure there was fried chicken, potato salad, and baked beans too.

1948 mcghee reunion1948 mcghee reunion 2

The women are wearing dresses and the men have slacks and long-sleeved shirts. This is probably Kansas and therefore quite hot in July. It was a more formal time and the attire is what was appropriate in that era for a special picnic with the extended family.

Chairs were brought out from the house and impromptu seating concocted as well. Blankets were spread on the ground under the shade of a big tree.

1946 Reunion

Two years earlier, this 1946 reunion photo captures some of the McGhees. Neatly lined up, the names are more readily attachable to individuals. Left to right: Treva Mae Davidson, Viola McGhee (back), Frances McGhee, Nita Cleo Davidson, Melba McGhee (back), Viola Matilda Tower McGhee, Roy McGhee (back), Bertha McGhee.

Treva Mae, Viola, Frances, Nita Cleo, Melba, Viola Matilda, Roy, Bertha; 1946.

1946 McGhee Reunion

Although not as candid, it does give us a better view of people’s faces.

Let this be a reminder to us as we gather with family this summer. Take lots of photos and label them with names and dates. Future generations will appreciate your effort.

2000-03-01 gail martin celebration of life 001

1946 McGhee Reunion

Jesse’s Car Business


The hint this week for Sepia Saturday showed some vintage cars parked outside a courthouse. I’ll show you the photo that it brought to mind first and at the end, the inspiration picture.

As you can see in my photo, the auto is parked outside an early service center called the Liberty Garage.


Early auto in Morgan, Texas at the Liberty Garage

What we know about this photo:

  • The Liberty Garage was in Morgan, Texas.  Nowadays, you’d cruise down I-35W from Fort Worth, then across to Morgan in Bosque County. It’s 40 miles west of Waco.
  • Only 490 people live there now, and it was only slightly larger back in the 1920s. It peaked around 1900 at a population of 850 and started its downward slide after that.
  • From our family letters, we can place the photo as being around 1919 to 1922.
  • The garage seems to have taken over an existing storefront and the canopy partly obscures the previous name. I’m wondering if that old name might have been “Orient?” The word under that is too long to be cafe or store, but none of my searches turned up a list of stores in long-ago Morgan.

How it relates to our family:

  • Our great-aunt Bertha McGhee wrote, “There were six children still at home when Papa was killed.   Elmer had died the year before and Clarence was married and Jesse was in Tex. with Aunt Alice’s family–working as a mechanic.   Clarence and family lived on the oil lease where papa was killed and Roy was working with Papa at the time.”   “Papa” (Samuel Newton McGhee) was killed October 28, 1922.
  • Another tidbit from Bertha, “Jesse went to Texas soon after he took the automotive course in K.C.   In 1919, I think.   I know he was there the summer of ’19 when Papa was gone those months having suffered amnesia after being beaten and robbed.   I was 16 and Roy was the oldest one at home.   Clarence had got home from Overseas and was working for Phillips in Okla. south of Caney–his first job with Phillips–if my memory is correct.”
  • Our second cousin 1x removed, Helen Ruth Johnson wrote that her mother, Helen Newton Morris, and our Jesse McGhee had a couple of businesses together when he lived in Morgan, Texas; the first business was the Liberty Garage.   Helen sent a Liberty Garage paper signed by Jesse, as well as a photo of the garage to my sister.

Here’s the Sepia Saturday inspiration photo:

Seized Vehicles (1942) Vancouver Public Library : Sepia Saturday 477

Further Photos of Jesse McGhee During This Time


Jesse McGhee with cousin Helen Newton and a friend


Jesse McGhee and a friend


Helen Newton Morris with Jesse McGhee (early 1920s)

Jesse McGhee

Jesse McGhee – not sure of the date on this or the lady. If this is later, it could be back in Kansas and this might be his first wife.

I turned to the 1920 census to see what kinds of businesses and workers there were in the town of Morgan. I previously had not found Jesse in 1920, but there he was in the household of S.L. and Minnie Leigon. He was noted as being a cousin and they misspelled his last name as McGheehee.

His age was 21 and his work was mechanic at Country Engine. So, it must have been after the January 1920 census that he and his cousin opened the Liberty Garage. He was not the only one working on cars. Three other men were listed as working at various garages.

List of Businesses and Workers in Morgan, Texas in 1920

  • Grain buyer
  • Real estate
  • Keeper – boarding house
  • Proprietor – hotel
  • Lineman – telephone
  • Farmers (lots of farmers)
  • Superintendent – public school
  • Dentist
  • Cashier – bank
  • Accountant – bank
  • 2 Physicians
  • Plumber
  • Shoemaker
  • Telegraph operator – railroad
  • Druggist
  • 4 Baptist ministers
  • 3 Merchants – grocery store
  • Merchant – dry goods
  • Meat market
  • Lumber
  • Editor – town paper
  • Postmaster
  • Mail deliverer
  • Cook – restaurant
  • Well driller
  • Electrician – light company
  • Tailor shop
  • Carpenter – house
  • Proprietor – garage
  • Dressmaker – at home
  • Salesman – grocery
  • Traveling salesman – grocery
  • Washerwoman (there were a number of these. One was the wife of a Baptist minister)
  • Clerk – oil company
  • Cook – private family
  • Salesman – dry goods
  • Proprietor – jewelry store
  • Oil company bookkeeper
  • Laborer – public roads
  • Retail merchant – drugs
  • Proprietor – furniture
  • Cook – hotel
  • Laborer – waterworks
  • 3 Blacksmiths
  • Laborers – cotton gin
  • Barber

There were a few teachers for the public school (Adell Majors, Minnie and Bertha Starr) and three high school teachers (Gertrude Crow, Mattie Hall, Ana Harrell).  Quite a few people worked for two railroads (the MK&T and the GC&SF). They included clerks, section hands,



Independence Day 1861


My mother, Gail Lee Martin, wrote this story in 2006 for the Our Echo website. We are so lucky that she instilled in us an appreciation of our family’s heritage and that she worked so diligently to research and preserve it. I’ve added some vintage graphics and a newspaper clipping to her written account.

1861 – Our Family’s Patriotic Heritage

Have you ever wondered how the early settlers celebrated the 4th of July in Kansas for the first time after becoming a state? I traced my Mother’s family from Connecticut to Iowa, through Missouri to the Kansas territory in 1859. I always wondered how my great-grandparents, James and Almira Vining, celebrated that special occasion.

The Vining family settled on a small homestead near the Verdigris river three miles east of the tiny community of Madison Centre in April 1857. At that time the family consisted of James and his wife, Almira; their children: Henry, my grandfather, 21; Erastus, 19; Isreal, 15; Charles, 13; James Jr. 11; Franklin, 6 and their only daughter, three-year-old Jane. When Kansas became a state the four older boys had already enlisted to serve in the United States Calvary and were away fighting in the Civil War. With four sons in the service of their country, I’m sure the Vining family attended the patriotic ceremony that was held in their neighborhood that July.

In July 1861 Madison Centre was in Madison County twenty miles south of Emporia. The Emporia News, the only newspaper in that area at that time, reported the following:

Madison Centre, Madison County
Mr. Editor: Early in the day, a number of citizens of this township assembled for the purpose of raising a Union flag, which was accomplished to the satisfaction of all present. The Declaration was then read by John J. Greenhalgh, in a loud, clear distinct tone. He did justice and honor to the memories of the great and good men who made it.” Then the news report went on to tell about the bountiful dinner everyone enjoyed. “The meal was furnished by the ladies of the community including roast mutton, roast and boiled chickens, chicken pies, cakes, tarts and other ’knicknacks’ too numerous to mention.”

How proud I am that my ancestors were there to observe the raising of the first Union flag in Madison Centre, Kansas.

Our family still celebrates July 4th with lots of good home cooked food and a few fireworks, mostly sparklers. For many years we had family picnics at Peter Pan Park in Emporia on the 4th of July. We still remember the lovely rose garden and who could forget the funny antics of the monkeys on Monkey Island?
1948 reunion clipping

In 1948, the Martin family reunion was delayed until July 18th.

My husband’s grandmother, Marie Joy, always made a big heavy crock full of “thick fruit salad” because invariably the weather was hot and we didn’t have ice available on almost every corner as we do now. Grandma Joy would use twice the amount of Jell-O that the recipe called for then added lots of fruit with bananas and marshmallows until it was almost solid. But we loved it! Since we raised our own chickens, we always had big containers of fried chicken with all the pieces including the neck, liver, heart, gizzard, and the coveted wishbone. As a special treat, we sometimes had store-bought “pork & beans.”

High flying flags always arouse my patriotism and I see them flying in so many different places. For instance, postage stamps through the years have been one way of showing patriotism for our country. I delight in sending my mail with stamps showing flags or eagles. Every year the postal department issues new designs. I recall one I especially liked. It had the flag flying briskly over the words, “I pledge allegiance …” I guess I thought flags could only fly briskly in Kansas.

Family Dates for July




Henry Alfred Joy (paternal great-grandfather)
Died – 2 July 1937 • Hamilton, Greenwood, Kansas

Eleanor Dunn (paternal 3rd great-grandmother)
Died – 3 July 1850  • Butler County, Pennsylvania

Marie C. Kennedy (paternal great-grandmother)
Died – 6 July  1945 • Topeka, Shawnee, Kansas

Mary “Polly” Bysebe/Byxbe/Bixby (3rd great-grandmother)
Born – 8 July 1799 • Somerset, Pennsylvania

birthday banner (3)

Thomas Ellison (paternal 3rd great-grandfather)
Born – 10 July 1809 • Madison, Kentucky

Sarah Vest Munroe (maternal 3rd great-grandmother)
Born – 10 July 1811 • Kentucky

Almira H Buckland (maternal 2nd great-grandmother)
Born – 13 July 1813 • Broad Brook, East Windsor, Hartford, Connecticut

Mary “Polly” Bysebe/Byxbe/Bixby (maternal 3rd great-grandmother)
Died – 13 July 1851 • Wabash, Indiana

Clarence Oliver McGhee & Ruth Vining (maternal grandparents)
Married – 14 July 1917 • Tyro, Montgomery, Kansas

birthday banner (2)

Ezra B Babcock (maternal 2nd great-grandfather)
Died – 15 July 1886 • Piatt, Illinois

John Thomas Martin (paternal great-grandfather)
Died – 27 July 1944 • Madison, Greenwood, Kansas

Henry Francis Vining (maternal great-grandfather)
Died – 28 July 1897 • Chetopa, Wilson, Kansas

The format is what genealogists use (day month year) and for locations (town, county, state). Paternal and maternal refer to whether it is my father or mother’s side of the family. The relationships are how they are related to me, but other family members like cousins will have to adjust that to fit themselves. For privacy reasons, no living names were included.

Fishing Photo – Sepia Saturday


The challenge this Saturday is to choose a vintage photo from our family album that relates in some way to the photo below. I’ll have to think about this. Which element sparks a memory of a photo we have. Boat, fish, boy sitting on rocks, a young man with a fishing pole?

Fishing, Old Weir, Killarney : National Library of Ireland (Sepia Saturday 476)

There’s not a lot of water out on the Kansas prairies where generations of my ancestors lived. My family album did include this picture of my grandparents, their daughter Carol Jean, and a high school friend of hers. They are boating on the Cottonwood River.


Mother Daddy on cottonwood River boat

I’m thinking this must be the early 1950s. The white shirts and rolled up jeans were probably the teen attire of that time. Her father, Clarence McGhee, has the oars and her mother, Ruth McGhee has the seat at the back.

The river looks high with the trees or bushes on the opposite bank in the water. May have had some recent heavy rains.

My mother wrote about the family’s camping excursions along the Cottonwood. They would catch lots of fish and pick wild berries. You can read more about it here ‘Gone Fishing’ on the Cottonwood River.

Hugh Martin and George Washington


Our family had a legend that was passed down that a Martin ancestor was in some way involved with George Washington. In my childhood years, I pictured this ancestor in the boat as the general crossed the river to attack the British.


In retirement, I started following my mother and grandmother’s trail of bread crumbs back through our family history. I found a mention of Hugh Martin in Kentucky and my sister Karen has been researching him the last couple of years. Since Hugh Martin lived in Kentucky and fought in the militia there during the Revolutionary War, it is unlikely that he was crossing the Delaware River with George Washington. 

karen in ks 2

Sister Karen, retired librarian and avid genealogist.


What she did find was still pretty exciting. There’s a letter in the National Archives from Hugh Martin to George Washington. Apparently, they were corresponding about a treatment for cancer he learned from the Indians. Washington’s mother and sister had cancer. This link has details about Hugh Martin’s discovery.
“Dr. Hugh Martin had allegedly learned the formula for his famous “cancer cure” from the Indians while stationed as a military surgeon at Fort Pitt during the Revolutionary War.”
Here’s part of the letter from Hugh Martin to George Washington:
Acknowledge I was in suspence whether you remembered me or not, as I have grown Considerably Since 79 when I had the honor of being introduced to you, at the time we lay at Middle Brook when your Head Quarters was at Mr Wallaces, But I hope my youth and a want of more Experience will Appologize for my freedom….”

So it was in New Jersey in the Revolutionary War that Hugh Martin and Washington met. Here’s some historical background on this.

After looking at these sources, I’m thinking somehow, it isn’t adding up. I don’t think our Hugh Martin was a doctor. Hugh Martin built a number of handsome houses in Muhlenburg County, Kentucky and was quite a successful man according to histories of that area. But none of those name him as a doctor.

We have evidence that he served in a Kentucky militia, so he’s unlikely to have also been in the 8th Pennsylvania. The DAR database lists Hugh Martin’s service in the Revolutionary War as part of George Rogers Clark’s Illinois expedition in 1778.  This is apparently the picture that I’ll have in my mind now.

March_to_Vincennes clark expedition hugh martin

March to Vincennes – Clark Expedition (public domain picture from Wikipedia)