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.



Women’s History Month – Nearly Forgotten


Ancestor of the Week:  Marie Kennedy and Helen Martin
Prompt of the Week: 52 Ancestors week 12 – Nearly Forgotten

My great-grandmother, Marie Kennedy Joy, sent a keepsake to her granddaughter, Helen Martin Hunnicutt in California many years ago. It was a pen point that Marie estimated as being 140 years old. She wrote that it belonged to Helen’s great-great granddad.

David Kennedy_Marie Joy_Pen Point_Ireland_Dinnegal

The gold pen point and the letter is in the possession of Helen Martin Hunnicutt’s daughter, my cousin Lori. So, we are talking about our 3x great-grandfather. I sure wish that Marie had included his name. It could be Edward Kennedy, but he was born in Pennsylvania.  Edward’s father was born in County Monaghan, Ireland.

Our 3rd great-grandfather – Edward Kennedy
Born – 10 OCT 1789 • Philadelphia, Delaware, Pennsylvania.
Died – 24 MAR 1864 • Muddycreek Township, Butler, Pennsylvania

Our 4th great-grandfather is DAVID KENNEDY.
Born – 1752 • Monaghan Co., Ireland
Died – 17 DEC 1840 • Portersville, Butler, Pennsylvania, USA

Then I puzzled over the phrase “who came from Dinnegal.” I looked at the list of villages in Ireland, but there was no Dinnegal. I knew there was a County Donegal so I looked for information on that county. It said the Ulster-Scots called it Dinnygal. That fits, as I knew the Kennedys were Ulster-Scots or Scots Irish as Americans usually say.


Marie and Alfred Joy with their grandchildren. I’m not sure which one is Helen. I think the baby is my dad, Clyde Martin. About 1924 or 1925.

The 1942 date next to Marie Kennedy Joy’s name is when she sent the heirloom to her granddaughter. She died in 1945. Helen Martin Honeycutt died in 1989, so perhaps the 1981 date is when she gave this to her daughter.

I liked the last part where she said Helen’s great-great granddad ate potatoes, “skins and all.” I’m guessing that in the 1940s everyone peeled their potatoes. Now for higher fiber, it’s not uncommon or considered low-class to eat potatoes with their skins on.

Here’s a photo gallery of Marie Kennedy Joy

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


Amy Johnson Crow challenges genealogy bloggers and non-bloggers alike to think about our ancestors and share a story or photo about them. The challenge is “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks.” This is week 12 of the 2020 challenge.


Away in the Army


Ancestor of the Week: Owen Lee Martin
Prompt of the Week: 52 Ancestors – So Far Away

I was a teenager and then a college student as the Vietnam War ramped up and started taking away the young men in our community. My older brother was the prime age for the draft. Attending college to study engineering should have exempted him but somehow that didn’t work out.

After several times of getting “accidentally” dropped off the exempt list and having to appeal that error to the draft board, he gave up and enlisted. We laughed at the photos he sent us from Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri. That army haircut was terrible.

Getting through basic training was tough and at one point he ended up in the hospital there. He’d gotten an infected blister from those awful long marches in stiff boots. A number of times, the family drove from Kansas over to Missouri to bring Owen home for weekend leave. It didn’t give him much time to relax and see his friends, but he made the most of being away from the Army. Returning to Missouri (which he pronounced “misery), must have been so hard for him.


Owen Martin – U.S. Army (Vietnam War era)

The family worried, the same as families all across the country did, that their loved one would end up in the jungle warfare of Vietnam. Two of our cousins who were in the Kansas National Guard were sent there. Other people we knew ended up dying in Vietnam and one returned blind from a booby trap in a tunnel.

With a sigh of relief, the family heard the news that Owen was assigned to Germany. So far away, but sounding so safe compared to Vietnam. Long months would go by and many letters were sent. The family bought a small reel-to-reel tape recorder to send messages to Owen. A duplicate recorder was sent to him so he could listen to the tapes of the family news, then tape over them and return the tape with his own messages. Too bad that it didn’t occur to us or were too thrifty to get additional tapes and save the messages.

The letter below was to his little sister back in Kansas.

owen letter to shannon from germany

Owen was assigned mail duty which sure beat toting a gun or repairing engines on army trucks or peeling endless potatoes in the mess. Since he was assigned regular hours, he was able to take a job in the evening to make a little extra money. He ran the projector in a movie theater.

Homesickness and loneliness plagued the young soldiers. Luckily, Owen struck up a friendship with some great guys. One was married and lived in an apartment off the base. That gave Owen time away from the military and held the loneliness at bay.

Owen gave the little dachshund to his friends in appreciation. Years later, he got in touch with this buddy who now lives in Florida. Our sister, Susan, was able to track him down on Facebook. He sent these photos to Owen a few years ago.

So, here’s one last photo of my brother in Germany, so far away. He was able to take one short trip to the Netherlands while he was stationed in Europe. I don’t remember seeing any photos from that excursion though.

Owen Martin with a friend in Germany_edited-1

I don’t know the story behind this picture. Looks like they were on leave and sightseeing someplace–Black Forest?

Eventually, his enlistment was over and he was able to return to college.

Amy Johnson Crow challenges genealogy bloggers and non-bloggers alike to think about our ancestors and share a story or photo about them. The challenge is “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks.” This is week 5 of the 2020 challenge.


A Dream Gone Bust


This story about my father didn’t make it into his book, Clyde Owen Martin: Family Stories of His Life And TimesHere’s what Mom said when I asked about including it, “Let’s leave the Dream Gone Bust out. I think it needs more to it. I wrote it and added the pictures as a sample for one of the Shepherd Center writing assignments, so it was really short. As I read it over it triggers more memories of that time.”

Unspoken perhaps was the feeling that Dad might not want to be reminded of this time of failure.

Clyde Martin farm sale roxio

In Gail Martin’s memory piece, she gave 1948 as the year of the mastitis, but the sale announcement is from 1947.

For some background, here are my sister Karen’s notes on that time, “As a young couple, they started a dairy operation with an Ayrshire herd, only to have that dream dashed when, after a particularly rainy season, mastitis spread through their herd. State health regulations forced them to sell the herd as butcher cattle at a loss.”

You can see from the sale flyer that they sold 33 head of cattle and some of the equipment is listed as “nearly new.”


Clyde Martin with his registered Ayrshire calf – 1946.

Mom’s Memories of

The Dream Gone Bust

In 1983 while writing about the places they had lived over the years, Gail Lee Martin wrote that when she and Clyde married, they lived on a rented farm south of Madison. To be exact, she described it as 4 miles south of Madison, 2 miles east, 1/4 mile south.

The next winter, we moved into the Martin homestead back west 1/2 mile. Dorothy (Clyde’s older sister) and Orville Stafford were still living there, while they were getting their house in town fixed up. Clyde’s folks had retired and moved into town.

We lived there and farmed the home place and had a herd of milk cows. Clyde milked them and we bought several registered Ayrshires to go with the other cows. In the summer, we baled hay for people with Haynes and Marion Redding. They gave the nickname Butch to our son, Owen. 

The winter and spring of 1948 were very wet and mastitis, a dairy disease, got in our herd and we had to sell them as butcher cows. The Ayrshires were separate so we were able to take them to Uncle Jesse’s in Missouri for awhile. Later, we were able to sell them when they didn’t get the disease.

Here are the topics Gail wanted to add to the piece but never did,

“Using milking machines, and the cream separator and the cleaning and reassembling of all the parts. cleaning the cows’ udders and putting on the restraints for the two cows that always wanted to kick.  Learning to help Clyde milk the cows before we got the milking machines. Selling the cream that was picked up each morning by a truck. The big garden space, all those baby chickens that grew into big ones and the grouchy old hens that didn’t want you to get their eggs. More about baling hay for hire with Haynes and Marian. Following in Cora’s footsteps was a hard act to follow.” 

The 1924 Trip to Oregon


At age 57, my great-grandparents took an adventurous trip to the west coast of the United States. They left the plains and the rolling Flint Hills of Greenwood County, Kansas near Madison, on June 4th, 1924 for a two-and-a-half-month excursion with their daughter Faye (Anna Faye, age 22). The original plan was an auto trip of the Martins and a friend. When R. Wolcott canceled, John Thomas Martin and his wife Cordelia Jane (Stone) decided to go by rail.

They sent a card to R. Wolcott (I think this is Rolla Wolcott of Madison). The card was mailed from Tennessee, Colorado, which is a high mountain pass in the Rocky Mountains. It has an elevation of 10,424 feet. The card said they had just passed through the Royal Gorge.

train 1924 - Colorado

 Sun, May 25, 1924 – Page 22 · The Ogden Standard-Examiner (Ogden, Utah) · Newspapers.com

The Martins were accompanied on the trip by Mrs. Effie Skaggs who was returning to Oregon after a visit to the Martins in Kansas. Effie was John Thomas’ sister. John Martin was the only one of the siblings who did not move to the west coast.

Miss Laura Brenkman went as far as Salt Lake City with them, where she would spend the summer with her parents, Mr. and Mrs. Lewis Brenkman. (I haven’t been able to figure out how she may relate to the family)

The Oregon trip was for John Thomas Martin to visit his brother, Frank. M. Martin in LeGrande and sister, Grace (Cora Gozena) Payne, and her family in Enterprise, Oregon. Frank made annual trips to Kansas bringing train carloads of apples to sell from his orchard.

John Thomas Martin is listed in the 1925 census as a carpenter and must have done quite well with it to be able to take this much time off and pay the costs for a trip like this.

john martin in oregon

John Thomas Martin in Oregon in 1924

The Hamilton Herald of Kansas reported on Friday, Aug 15, 1924 on page 3 about the trip.

“J. T. Martin and wife and their daughter, Miss Fay, returned home from Oregon Sunday morning, where they spent the summer visiting relatives and seeing the sights. There was a good wheat crop out there and the apple crop is good. They attended the Rose Carnival in Portland. In Portland, they saw a garden in which 700 different kinds of roses were growing. Miss Fay took 13 dozen Kodak pictures while she was in the west and on the trip.”

I found a camera ad that shows the kind of camera used at that time. Perhaps more pictures survive from their adventurous trip. I’ll look further for those. Perhaps the Halligan family has them.
kodak camera sale graphicKodak camera graphic Tue, Jun 24, 1924 – 9 · The Times Recorder (Zanesville, Ohio) · Newspapers.com

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.