Bearded Men on the Family Tree


The prompt for the 52 Ancestors challenge was “beards,” so I started hunting through my family photos for bearded fellows. Wanting to be thorough and systematic, I started with the Kansas Vinings. It turns out that they were a pretty clean-shaven bunch.

I did find some handsome mustaches that must have been a popular look for the early 1900s.

Vining Family

Kennedy Family

I had better luck with the Kennedy family of Baldwin, Kansas. David Greacen Kennedy wore an impressive beard. His son, Jim, choose to go with a mustache.

Tower Family

For the Tower line in Kansas, my Civil War ancestor wore a beard most of his life. Abraham Bates Tower opted for the chin beard minus the mustache.

Martin Family

Three Martins with mustaches represent the Martin family.

McGhee Family

The McGhee family moved from Arkansas to Montgomery County, Kansas. Samuel Newton McGhee is the fellow with the mustache here.

Sam & Matilda 1903, with their children Clarence 7; Jesse 5; Roy 2; Bertha baby.

Gone to Texas


Mom had this intriguing photo stashed away. None of the faces looked familiar, so with trepidation, I turned the photo over. Thank goodness, she had the names on it. Even so, I was still clueless about who these people were. It’s odd how something like this gets handed down, but along the way the stories are lost.

The Robert David McGhee Family

Robert David Mcghee & family 1890s edited

Robert David McGhee family – 1890 – Dallas County TX

About the Photo Above

1890 – Dallas County, Texas

Seated: Robert David McGhee and wife Margaret Bryant. Standing: William Sevier McGhee, sister Annie Mae McGhee (later Meek), and Dudley Johnson McGhee.

About the Photo Below

Then I found a second photo with the same 5 people plus two more. Here are the names for the larger group:

Standing L to R: William Sevier McGhee, Robert David McGhee, Margaret (Bryant) McGhee. Sitting L to R: John R. Carson, Annie May McGhee (later Meeks), Anna (Bryant) Carson, Dudley Johnson McGhee.

Probably the pictures were taken the same day.

Robert David Mcghee & family 1890s

The photo has “Papa” written on the front with an arrow. At one time, it was in the possession of a child of Dudley McGhee. 

How the People in the Photo Relate to Each Other

Having the names was a huge help, so I went to work on Ancestry to figure out how these McGhees in Texas fit with my McGhees in Arkansas. The two women are sisters, Anna and Margaret Bryant. The three children are Margaret and Robert David McGhee’s. John Carson (seated) is married to Anna, so he is Robert and Margaret McGhee’s brother-in-law. 

I found an obituary for Dudley McGhee (the seated boy) which provided an interesting tidbit. He was born in a covered wagon near Little Rock, Arkansas, as the family was moving to Texas. His life spanned from 1881 to 1949. They settled near Kaufman, but later moved to Dallas County.

How the People in the Photos Relate to Us

I found that Robert David McGhee was my 1st cousin 4 times removed, so I guess I can be excused for not knowing of his existence. His father (Robert M McGhee) and my 3x great-grandfather (Soloman McGhee) were brothers. That makes Robert David McGhee a first cousin to my 2x great grandfather (William Newton McGhee). 

robert david mcghee relationship chart

The McGhee Family Movements

The McGhees were in Tennessee in the early 1800s, then in the 1830s in Alabama, and by 1860 had moved to Perry County, Arkansas. Their father, William McGhee, was born in Surry County, Virginia in 1770. Their mother, Leah Ann Broyles, also was born in Virginia, in Culpepper County. They were both a part of the general westward migration. The couple married in Tennessee.

By the time, the family ended up in Arkansas, William had died, but 84-year-old Leah moved along with her sons and daughters. Within one generation, Robert David McGhee moved on to Texas. It took two generations for my branch of the family to leave Arkansas and move to Kansas.

Our ancestors were more mobile than we might think, so it shouldn’t have surprised me that there were relatives in Texas.

(This is week 24 of the 52 Ancestors Challenge. The theme for the week is “Handed Down.”)

Z is for Zarah


I explored a number of first and last names on my family tree looking for a Z to write about today. I’d written about baby Zora already in the story Vining Family Deaths. Zorobabel was already profiled back in April 2019 in Z is for Zorobable. Other Z names didn’t pan out. Some were merely shirttail relatives while others died young with few details of their short lives.

I was afraid that I’d have zilch to write about today. Sigh.

The NYA at Zarah, Kansas

Then I remembered that my great-aunt, Bertha McGhee, spent some time at the town of Zarah in Kansas when she worked for the NYA. She had saved a full-page newspaper spread about the camp. It was one of FDR’s New Deal programs to help get people back to work during the Great Depression.

First Lady visits NYA camp at Zarah KS 11-16-1936 KS City Star photo

In November 1936, Eleanor Roosevelt visited the NYA camp.

Bertha wrote some short memory pieces about her time there:

My next Depression years job was teaching at an NYA (National Youth Administration) camp on the grounds of a former country club near Zarah, Kansas.

We opened in the winter with around 20 girls housed in the clubhouse. The staff were housed there also. These were girls who had dropped out of school in their teens
because their parents couldn’t afford for them to attend. The camp featured a work project and an educational program. The girls worked half a day and attended class half a day. Divided into 2 groups, one worked in the morning and went to class in the afternoon while the other group reversed the schedule.

Their work project was making tennis nets, which were then sent to recreation projects. Classes were tailored to the level the girls had attained. At least one girl finished her 8th-grade level and received a diploma so she was eligible for high school. Others finished high school credits and became eligible for college.

NYA Camp at Zarah KS 1937

In the summer the number of girls attending was expanded by adding movable buildings on the grounds since heat was no longer needed. Even a permanent building some distance from the lodge was put to use.

It was a sizable building with screened-in porch on two sides, large enough to accommodate ten beds. This proved to be a place the girls vied to be assigned to. I was assigned as counselor there. It gave us some interesting experiences.

There was a small stream we hopped across between us and the lodge. Also the largest bur oak tree I’ve ever seen. Its base had a hole large enough for the girls to crawl into it. Its great limbs arched up and out and down creating an outdoor ‘room’ very near our cabin.

nya camp and Bertha

Bertha McGhee is the short woman in the back row. This is the NYA camp at Zarah, Kansas. I’m guessing that these are the instructors.

Janet Duncan provide this information about her parents who were instructors at the camp. “My father, Alden Krider, is on the right end of the back row and my mother, Peggy Bacon Krider, is in front of him, the right end of the first row. He was the arts & crafts director and she taught arts & crafts which I know included making tennis nets, book binding, pottery and marionettes.

They also worked at Camp Bide-a-Wee near Wichita, and I haven’t found anything about it yet. I know they taught marionette-making there and that the girls made puppets and wrote a play to perform about Joe Lewis, the new heavyweight boxing champ. My father also did an oil painting for Miss Laughlin (the KS NYA Director) about the work of the NYA which is now in the National Archives.”

More About the Big Tree

One very special 4th of July came while we were there.  Some time after we moved into it we began to see granddaddy longlegs on the window ledges and even on our beds.  We tried to think how to be rid of them.  Fly spray didn’t seem to bother them.  Then one of the girls found where they were coming from: the hollow of the big oak tree.  They tried taking water from the stream and dashing it on them.  It didn’t seem to phase them.  It was the 4th of July so we had no work or classes that day.  Then one girl said “We could burn them out.  Put paper into the hollow and set it on fire.”

One girl ran to ask permission, while the others began gathering papers.  The girl came back with the report that “They guessed it would be all right,” so the papers were stuffed in and lighted.  It was an effective end to the daddy longlegs but it wasn’t the end of our problems, for soon we saw smoke coming out of the limbs high up in the oak tree.  We were dismayed!  Then I thought of the club grounds caretaker who lived next to us to the south.  We went to him, told him what we had done and asked his advice.  How happy we were when he said that if we followed his instructions we would have done the tree a service rather than destruction.          

He said we would simply prepare mud and spread it both inside the hollow and up the tree wherever we saw smoke coming out. The mud patches on the outside would stop the circulation of air so the fire and the mud plaster within would help heal the rotting hole. We worked all day. The girls climbed into the tree until every smoking spot was closed with mud and at least for the remaining years we spent at the site the tree showed no ill effects of our project to keep granddaddy longlegs out of our cabin.         

So remember, if you need to mend a wound on a tree, you don’t have to have some expensive paste.  Common mud-dirt and water mixed to a paste consistency placed over wound worked really well!!

This is the last of the A to Z Blog Challenge for April 2020. If you missed any of the earlier posts, there’s a list at that link.

S is for SEWARD Earthquake


“Our policeman says he thinks he’s the only man in the world who was ever chased up the street by a boxcar,” said Miss Bertha McGhee in telling of the Alaskan, earthquake and tidal wave this year. “It wasn’t even on a track,” she added. “It was atop a wave.” The incident has a note of humor to it now, but Seward, Alaska at the time of the devastating earthquake was a city experiencing crisis.

This account was clipped from The Ottawa Herald – Ottawa, Kansas 17 Sep 1964. Bertha McGhee was my great-aunt. Her mother (my great-grandmother) had arrived ten days earlier for an extended visit. Other family involved in this earthquake were Mr. Sam Davidson (Bertha’s nephew), his wife Shirley, their children Cindy and Julia. Mr. and Mrs. Davidson were house parents for the older group of boys at the Jesse Lee Methodist Children’s Home and Bertha served as a substitute house mother.

Here’s the rest of the story:

“Miss McGhee has been around Seward area for 24 years now and is house mother and supply secretary at the Jesse Lee Home (Methodist). Children come to it from all over Alaska, but mostly from broken homes. They attend public school. “We just furnish their home for them,” Miss McGhee said, “care, clothing, and living. Just as children in any home, they get some training as you have to do that to live together.”

Bertha McGhee and her mother, Viola Matilda McGhee

Bertha McGhee (left) and her mother, Viola Matilda McGhee.

Mrs. Viola Matilda McGhee, 91, had arrived March 17 to visit with her daughter, 10 days before the quake. Miss McGhee and her mother were in the dining room of the Jesse Lee Home with the children when the earthquake occurred. ‘”We have minor tremors frequently,” she said. “When it started, we thought, ‘Well, just another little earthquake,'” It proved, however, to be the longest five minutes and thirty-eight seconds they had ever experienced.

Miss McGhee’s nephew, Sam Davidson, is a house parent and fire marshal at the Home and conducts the fire drill. Because his wife and children were in another building (the youngsters were ill with the flu), he started to leave to go to them. Some of the children wanted to follow, so Davidson told them to file out as in a fire drill, it was quietly snowing at the time. A high school boy slid Mrs. Viola McGhee’s chair over to the door, and Davidson picked her up and carried her outdoors, again seating her in the chair. “It shook longer than it took us to get out,” Mrs. McGhee recalled. “Them that could stand good couldn’t hardly stand up.”

card from jesse lee home fb page

The Jesse Lee Home has a Facebook page with this graphic.

As soon as it was quiet, some of the group went back into the building to obtain quilts and coats for warmth. They stayed in cars and on a bus for the remainder of the night, parking around the outer rim of the circle driveway of the home. Other persons seeking higher ground joined them until the driveway was a ring of cars. After the night spent in cars and buses watching the holocaust and experiencing the harder-than-usual aftershocks which lasted a matter of second, those from the Jesse Lee Home went to the schoolhouse for breakfast. “During the night,” Miss McGhee explained, “our superintendent had gone with other people who were out with Civil Defense to set up a place for us to have breakfast the next morning at the schoolhouse.”

Friends invited Miss McGhee and her mother to stay in their home until they could return to the Jesse Lee Home. Through the day on Saturday the children stayed at the bus and at the superintendent’s house. That night they went to the Air Force recreation building to be housed. However, they were awakened in the middle of the night for a tidal wave alert as a wave from outside was coming into the bay. They were taken to the high school overnight and for breakfast the next morning. Then they returned to the Air Force recreation center to stay until returning to the Jesse Lee Home.

In the dining hall of the Jesse Lee Home, the earthquake had not even caused a glass of milk to tip over. But in the kitchen of the home, dishes had fallen from the cupboard and were broken. Heavy stoves with double ovens and a refrigerator had been moved. A large cement chimney in the kitchen that came up from the furnace was now slanted at a 30-degree angle. It did not fall but apparently acted as a battering ram. It had to be taken down, and steel stacks were put up in its place. After two weeks the Jesse Lee Home was again in use.”

Bertha and her mother rented a small home nearby as the girls’ dorm at the Home was damaged in the earthquake. Just seven months later, another disaster hit them when 91-year-old Viola Matilda fell in the kitchen suffering a broken hip. She was hospitalized but died the day after Christmas 1964.

I wonder about the possibility of osteoporosis which sometimes results in the hip breaking thus causing a fall. No matter what the sequence, the broken hip was too much for her and resulted in her death. She was buried in Robbins Cemetery near Tyro, Kansas.


  • The Ottawa Herald – Ottawa, Kansas, 06 Apr 1964, Mon • Page 8
  • The Ottawa Herald – Ottawa, Kansas 17 Sep 1964, Thu  •  Page 8.
  • The Ottawa Herald – Ottawa, Kansas, 17 Nov 1964, Tue • Page 10
  • The Ottawa Herald – Ottawa, Kansas, 29 Dec 1964, Tue • Page 8


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

Women’s History Month – Diane Fischer


Many of the women in our family write and I’m glad we have this family blog to share our stories. Writing seems to be a way that we can deal with the hard times in life. My second cousin, Sondra Caposio, sent me a family story written by her mother about sixty years ago. It features Sondra’s older sister, Diane. At the very end is a poem that Sondra wrote about Diane.

barbara mcghee Fischer with Sondra and Diane

Barbara McGhee Fischer with Sondra on her lap, and Diane.

A Heartbreaking Reminiscence

By Barbara McGhee Fischer

Exactly one year ago today—October 10, 1960—I saw in Doctor Berman’s private office with our oldest daughter Diane, three and a half years of age.  I was waiting the last few minutes after a long and seemingly endless weekend for the Doctor to tell me just what was wrong with Diane—she had been quite ill for several weeks, running a high fever periodically and in a great deal of pain in the leg joints and groin.

The Doctor had called Friday evening after getting the results of some blood work.  He said there was definitely something wrong with her blood count, but he wanted further tests made by the leading Hematologist in Sacramento.  Unfortunately, he was out of town for the weekend. Dr. Berman had already arranged for a bone marrow test on Monday and I was to take Diane in for that on Monday morning.  I really didn’t have any apprehensions about the test because I didn’t know how it was done. I soon learned it was a very painful procedure and the nurse who assisted the hematologist with the test came out of the room crying.  She said it was because it hurt to see Diane, a little deaf child, in such pain. Bob had not gone with me because we both felt they would not be able to have the results back the same day. The hematologist told me to go back to the Doctor’s office right away.

diane fischer, daughter of barbara mcghee fischer

Diane was sitting on my lap very contented—her fever was gone and the joint pain had not bothered her for two or three days.  Dr. Berman came into the room, his face drawn and he was finding it difficult to speak. It was quite apparent he would rather I’d phoned.  “Mama,” he said, “our little girl is very sick.” I knew that! Only two weeks before, she had been in the hospital, under the care of our family Doctor, with a possible case of meningitis, or polio—those tests had proved negative—and those blood tests indicated she was extremely anemic.  The Doctor had prescribed an iron supplement and antibiotics to lick the fever—but the fever and pain persisted—I had changed Doctors. What was the illness I asked—“Mama, our little girl has leukemia!”

“OH GOD”—my first thought crossed my mind—“I had wished this on her.”  In those panicking moments, it seemed that the past three and one-half years with our little Diane flashed before me.  We had learned in January 1959 that Diane was profoundly deaf—she had a 90-decibel loss in both ears. On some occasions, I had been very depressed when she didn’t progress as rapidly as I thought she should as I worked daily with her teaching her to lip-read and speak.  On occasion, during those depressing times, I must admit the thought that Diane would be better off dead rather than deaf had crossed my mind. What a terrible thing to think—of course, I never really meant it. Now she will die because leukemia is as yet incurable—it is cancer of the blood.

The moments that followed, I cannot recall except to say the Doctor sat in his chair feeling helpless, but trying desperately to say the right things and try to comfort me.  The next thing I knew was that Diana and I were driving downtown to the department store where Bob worked. I knew he must be told, but just what and how to say it hurt terribly.  I somehow found myself in the office of his boss, and I sank into the chair, holding Diane in my arms so tightly as if I were afraid she would slip away from me and be gone forever….

Bob was summoned and I somehow found the words to tell him our tragic news.  I cannot remember Bob’s reaction or his words, but I do know he was deeply shaken.

There was a bond between Diane and her Daddy that was very great.  Bob had wanted a boy, but when she was born he was very happy. She was the image of her father and her eyes had turned to the dark brown like his—her eyelashes were long and dark and her complexion was a beautiful bronze.  Her beauty was angelic. Diane was nearly two years old before we discovered her hearing loss. She was a very intelligent child—“She doesn’t have to speak,” we always said, “she can get her point across with gestures.”

diane fischer, daughter of barbara mcghee fisher 2

Bob has always adored Diane, but the fact that she was deaf seemed to strengthen this bond.  Sometimes I had felt he worshipped her too much.

Bob and I went back to Dr. Berman’s office on Tuesday to learn more about Diane’s condition.  We were over the initial shock now and could reason more rationally. Dr. Berman explained that leukemia is cancer of the blood, and at the present, incurable—at least the type she has—acute leukemia.  He said that with medication, Diane could live from six to twelve months—without medication; it would be just half that time.

As I sit here beside her bed, in the hospital, as she sleeps in restful peace (she is under sedation continually now to keep her from suffering) I have been thinking of the events and changes in our lives these past twelve months, for there have been many and they have been big changes.    In the first week after her illness had been diagnosed, Bob and I discussed its meaning to great lengths. We had always felt that her deafness was caused for some reason, not as a punishment, but for a greater reason, something we were not yet able to comprehend. Now, we felt we had a better understanding—Diane has been a gift from Heaven, she had been placed on this earth in our home for a specific purpose, among this purpose, to make us and all that know and love her understand that deafness is not a stigma, but a severe handicap that is difficult to overcome due to the lack of understanding form the so-called “normal” hearing people.

We felt this was part of her purpose, but there must be more—this was not enough.  We decided that same week to donate Diane’s inner ear to the University of California in San Francisco, with the hope that a possible answer to nerve deafness might be found.  The arrangements were made with Dr. Francis A. Sooy of San Francisco, that at the time of Diane’s death he would come to Sacramento and perform the necessary operation.

We read the book, “Angel Unaware,” by Dale Evans Rogers, and it was that book that gave us the strength to carry on during this heartbreaking period in our lives.  I truly felt that Diane too, is an “Angel Unaware” and in only four and a half years, she has performed a mission for God that few people can accomplish in many years of living on earth.

We have prayed for guidance and strength and we have been blessed with more than most people are given.  Although we have not attended church regularly since we were married seven and a half years ago, we have grown to believe in God and placed our complete trust in Him more than perhaps others that attend church regularly.

At one time during this past year, I was told by an elderly Catholic woman that because we did not attend church, we should not pray, because God would not listen.  She said she would pray for us and we would be blessed because of her prayer. I had only met this woman on one occasion and she knew about only from her daughter-in-law.  We meant nothing to her mother-in-law, and I am sure her promise was soon forgotten, but we continued to pray and the strength Bob and I received has been unbelievable. So many people say they cannot understand how we can accept this.  What else can we do?  We would have been miserable if we had mourned this past year—instead, we have lived each day to its fullest, and our happiest memories will be during the period from October 1960 to April 1961.  This was the period the leukemia was controlled and Diane was in relatively little pain. She led a perfectly normal life—she was scolded when she did something wrong and she was loved always. Most of the time was spent in happy childhood play for Diane, but Bob and I lived in a beautiful dream of happiness that she was with us.  We were thankful for each day she was with us, for she could have been taken immediately.

Beginning the end of April, Diane became progressively weak and needed transfusions more often and once her arm was broken two days before I realized it.  At that time, she had been able to get around in a tiny wheelchair which we pushed in whatever direction she pointed us to—in the house, neighborhood and of course the hospital corridors.  The Doctor said he could not set the arm as her bones had become too brittle, so we just put two tongue depressors on both sides of her tiny arm and wrapped with gauze. It worked beautifully.

Now Diane is very weak and it is now a matter of days—possibly hours before her brief life on earth is ended.  She has seen so much in this short time—because of her hearing loss, her sense of sight has been phenomenal. Everything was beautiful to her—she took nothing for granted—everything was exciting for—she was so easy to please.  Now Diane is very weak, bedridden for two days now, she has been in the hospital for two weeks. This is the eighth time this year. Always before when she had been in a couple of days, she would ask to go “home.” She has not mentioned it this time—she is just too weak to think of home.  Of course, she does not understand death—she has never heard a spoken word. She can only relate objects to what she “sees” on my lips and those that “talk” with her. She has learned to read lips and she does associate the lip movement with the object referred to because we have shown her.  She cannot associate lip movements with something she has never seen—this is the blessing for she is not frightened—she cannot understand what death means to us. But we know she will be happy and free from pain, for in Heaven she will be whole again. She will hear and speak—God has helped us to understand this.

I feel that because of Diane, I have been given a purpose in life.  I have become very interested in helping the deaf and hard of hearing, and in my small way, I have and will continue to devote my life to helping other parents of hearing handicapped children.  God will help me to accomplish this.

NOTE:  Diane passed away six days after I wrote the above reminiscence—Monday, October 16, 1961.  Bob and I were together at her bedside in her final moments. She took a deep breath and she was gone.

Bob and I continued working for the hearing handicapped for sixteen years.  We are proud to have played a significant role in bringing a hearing diagnostic center to Sacramento and to establish newborn testing for hearing impairments at all local hospitals.

poem about diane Fischer by her sister sondra

I Remember When…

I was 1, she was 3

We would always play together

I remember when the two of us

Painted each others’ face with mud

We were a sight to see.

I was 2, she was 4

I was just learning a strong vocabulary

She was deaf, so I helped her to speak

I remember how, when I was small,

She would constantly carry me in her arms,

But then she couldn’t carry me anymore

She was sick and weak,

I was too young to understand,

But how I wanted to laugh and play with her again.

I was 3, she would be 5

Now she was gone forever

I could never play with her again.

Oh, but how I remember…

by Sondra Fischer

Women’s History Month – Ruth McGhee


My mother wrote this story about her mother winning a writing contest in 1924.

Mother Was a Writer

by Gail Lee Martin

“I was born, 13 September 1924, in Greenwood County Kansas. My folks lived on Star Route, out in the beautiful Flint Hills, near Teterville. Daddy was an oil-field pumper for the Phillips 66 Petroleum Company.

vintage typewriter

A typewriter like Ruth McGhee might have used.

Six months before I was born my Mother, twenty-six-year-old Ruth McGhee, won second place in a writing contest for The Palmer Photoplay Corporation of Hollywood, California.

The contest was put on by the Wichita Beacon in connection with the Palace Theater in Wichita. Mother received fifteen dollars, her returned, typewritten manuscript with the promised critiques and a glowing letter of acceptance.

My sisters and I found out about this after our folks were gone, and it is still a mystery why Mother didn’t write more and in her isolated circumstances where did she find a typewriter?

Her hand-written drafts even show good grammar and are written on ledger style paper. We also found a novel and a short, short story. I don’t recall her ever talking about writing or the contest. When my younger sister was writing short stories for children, I remember Mother was her best supporter.

I was always writing stories in study hall at school, but I never shared my writings with Mother. I never thought anyone would want to read them. I threw them all away, now I wish I hadn’t. Do you Suppose, if I had shared with Mother, we could have been a writing team? It is hard to think of my gentle Mother, who wiped away my childish tears with the corner of her apron, as a writer of “When Dreams Come True.”

Ruth McGhee

Out in those hills Mother cared for a big garden and preserved a lot of the produce for winter meals. She always had lovely flower beds, in spite of the shortage of water. A few years ago I returned to the site of our home on the prairie, where we lived while she was writing for the contest. Just barren plains with abandoned oil wells scattered all around..

Mother had told us about their life there, in an unpainted, ‘shot-gun’, oil field house with no neighbors in sight. My oldest sister was three years old then so when did Mother find time to write? But I certainly can understand her title and hope I helped make her dreams come true with my writing.

teter lease house 1927 mcghee family

In the May 1992 issue of the Kanhistique magazine, my story, “My Mother Was a Writer in 1924” was published and I received fifteen dollars for my Mother’s Day story. Do my genes from my mother make me want to write? It doesn’t matter, I just love to write.”


2008-08-17 gail and ks photos 164

Women’s History Month – The Witch on Our Family Tree


Ancestor of the Week:  Rebecca Towne Nurse
Prompt of the Week: 52 Ancestors week 11– Luck

A family history researcher feels like they’ve hit the jackpot when they link to a well-known person. It’s a shock, after sleuthing for any crumb of information, to suddenly find an ancestor so well-documented. It’s not often that I am that lucky.

My lucky find of a historic ancestor was a Salem witch named Rebecca Nurse. I’m related to her through both my grandmother and my grandfather, but you have to go back 300 years to see where the two lines meet in Colonial Salem.

The Witch on Our Family Tree

rebecca nurse by howard pyle from wikipedia

Rebecca Nurse, an illustration by Howard Pyle (photo courtesy of Wikipedia)

Rebecca Nurse has been exhaustively researched as she’s one of the unfortunates in Salem who was hanged in the witchcraft hysteria in 1692. It turns out that I’m related to her through two different lines on my family tree. She left behind 11 children and 26 grandchildren so there are many descendants of Rebecca. I found a number of them when I joined a Facebook group for Descendants of Salem Witches.

This chart shows one way that I’m related to Rebecca Nurse and it is pretty round-about. But continue on and you will see that I’m also related to her more directly through my Vining line.

Chart of Descent from Geni

Geni Rebecca Nurse Towne 1621 1692 Town of Salem

You can read a good summary of her life on Wikipedia.

Here’s the more direct line to Rebecca (Town) Nurse through my McGhee/Vining/Babcock/Bixby line where she is my 8th great-grandmother. I have 37 DNA matches for her great-granddaughter, Thomasine Nurse, so the connection is pretty definite.

Rebecca Towne 1622-1692
8th great-grandmother
Benjamin Nurse (Nourse) 1666-1748
Son of Rebecca Towne
Benjamin Nurse 1694-1778
Son of Benjamin Nurse (Nourse)
Thomasine Nurse 1716-1765
5th great-grandmother
Ebenezer BIXBY (see Bisbee) 1744-1813
Son of Thomasine Nurse
Mary “Polly” Bysebe/Byxbe/Bixby 1799-1851
Daughter of Ebenezer BIXBY (see Bisbee)
Ezra B Babcock 1821-1886
Son of Mary “Polly” Bysebe/Byxbe/Bixby
Nancy Jane Babcock 1851-1924
Daughter of Ezra B Babcock
Ruth Vining 1897-1960
Daughter of Nancy Jane Babcock
Gail Lee MCGHEE 1924-2013
Daughter of Ruth Vining
While talking to members of our local genealogy club in Florida, I mentioned my discovery. Oddly enough, one fellow said he was descended from one of the judges who presided over the Salem trials. Another told me that he was descended from one of the first accusers in Salem. What a small world.
Rebecca Nurse is a central character in Arthur Miller’s play The Crucible and it has been made into a movie also. There are quite a few books about the Salem witchcraft trials, so I’ll just feature a few of them here for those who want to explore this further.

Learn More

The Salem Witch Hunt: A Captivating Guide to the Hunt and Trials of People Accused of Witchcraft in Colonial MassachusettsThe Salem Witch Hunt: A Captivating Guide to the Hunt and Trials of People Accused of Witchcraft in Colonial MassachusettsThe Salem Witch Hunt: A Captivating Guide to the Hunt and Trials of People Accused of Witchcraft in Colonial MassachusettsThe Salem Witch Trials: A Day-by-Day Chronicle of a Community Under SiegeThe Salem Witch Trials: A Day-by-Day Chronicle of a Community Under SiegeThe Salem Witch Trials: A Day-by-Day Chronicle of a Community Under SiegeSix Women of Salem: The Untold Story of the Accused and Their Accusers in the Salem Witch TrialsSix Women of Salem: The Untold Story of the Accused and Their Accusers in the Salem Witch TrialsSix Women of Salem: The Untold Story of the Accused and Their Accusers in the Salem Witch TrialsRecords of the Salem Witch-HuntRecords of the Salem Witch-HuntRecords of the Salem Witch-HuntThe Devil in Massachusetts: A Modern Enquiry into the Salem Witch TrialsThe Devil in Massachusetts: A Modern Enquiry into the Salem Witch TrialsThe Devil in Massachusetts: A Modern Enquiry into the Salem Witch TrialsThe CrucibleThe CrucibleThe Crucible


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 11 of the 2020 challenge.

A Long Line of Harlans


Ancestor of the Week: The Harlans
Prompt of the Week: 52 Ancestors Week 3 – Long Line

Through the creative use of photoshop editing, my cousin had a four-generation picture expanded to six generations. What a great idea!

6 generations - Melville, Lee, Norman holding Tim, Mike holding Caden

L to R – Melville, Lee, Norman (holding son, Timothy). Center – Mike and baby

My mother’s sister, Melba McGhee married Norman Harlan in 1941 and their first child was Timothy (the toddler in the black and white photo). That dates the older photo to 1943 or so. Norman’s father, Lee Harlan, would have been 52 years old in this photo. Norman’s grandfather, Melville (wearing suspenders) was 87. He lived until 1952.

As you can see from their clothing, they were a farming family as were most of my family lines. The most recent additions to the picture are Tim’s son (Mike) and Mike’s son (Caden). I couldn’t just leave it at that. My curiosity took me to Ancestry to find Melville’s parents and then I couldn’t stop until I reached 1740 with 4 more generations. Even then, I only stopped because my weekly blog post was overdue.

There were Quakers along the line and that helped with marriages and births and locations. There’s a book about the Harlan family line that can be read online. The Madison News of 1880 to 1900 yielded a wealth of clippings with intriguing bits of information.

Melville’s father, Alpheus, came to Lyon County, Kansas in 1875, then in 1881 moved to Greenwood County, ending up in 1896 near Madison. He had a mill and a brickyard in that town. Two of Alpheus’ sons went to Arizona to mine for gold. One son, Tilman Lincoln Harlan, died tragically after just a few years of marriage. As I ranged further back, I found more millers in the family.

3rd street of Madison, Kansas in 1908. Which of these brick buildings was constructed of Harlan bricks? Photo from the collection of WSU.

There’s a lot of history to be found, but I must stop. Hopefully, someone in the Harlan family is already researching family history or the next generation will collect and preserve it.


Harlan brick in Patterson-Cunkle BuildingHarlan brick in Patterson-Cunkle Building Fri, Dec 12, 1884 – 4 · The Madison News (Madison, Kansas) ·

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 3 of the 2020 challenge.

Bertha McGhee and Her Fellow College Students


At age 37, Bertha McGhee was attending college and living in Fisk Hall with other women students. This was in Kansas City, Missouri. On the census in 1940, it says Fisk Hall – Home & School For Deaconesses and Missionaries. The official name of the school that started in 1909 was Kansas City National Training School for Deaconesses and Missionaries.

KC - NTS 1940 Bertha McGhee (2)

Bertha McGhee is the one with her hand on the shoulder of the lady in the flowered dress. (cropped from the larger photo below)

KC - NTS 1940 Bertha McGhee

1940 – National Training School for Christian Workers in Kansas City.

Besides students, the Dean of Women, the registrar, some teachers, a secretary, a deaconess, a dietitian and an assistant dietitian, a housekeeper, an office assistant, and a librarian shared the housing. Bertha was the oldest student and Esther Beaman was the youngest at 20 in Fisk Hall.

Household Members at Fisk Hall:

Name Age
Cloyd V Gustafson 43
Dagny B Gustafson 44
Ruth E Decker 41
B Eureath White 29
Dale Clarissa Kuler 42
Mary F Smith 57
Martha M Hanson 50
Grace Hutchinson 63
Aletta M Garreston 66
Louise E Dutcher 31
Ellen E Smith 43
Elizabeth Hartman 51
Grace A Vause 39
Minnie Pike 61
Pearle W Tibbetts 52
Mary Blasckko 51
Bertha Cowles 56
Hazel May Gilmore 39
Anna C Altmanna 59
Anna R Barman 47
Nettie M Judd 67
Marion C Cannady 32
Eletha M Rogers 29
Laura E Byers 24
Ruth Gish 32
Esther Beaman 20
Eunice Stockton 32
Bertha McGhee 37
Reva I McNabb 31

NTS graduation bertha 1940NTS graduation program bertha

Bertha’s Earlier College Experience

Bertha McGhee

The back of the photo says “arriving in Baldwin, 1st time” She worked for her room at Miss Bennet’s place.

This photo was prior to her college experience in Kansas City. It would be from when she first started at Baker University in the 1920s. I’m guessing that Bertha is the young woman with the pole behind her. She graduated in 1929 with a BS degree.

After getting her degree, she went to work in Farmington, New Mexico at the Methodist school for Indian children. She left there for health reasons.

After completing her missionary training at NTS in Kansas City, Bertha went to Seward, Alaska to work at the Jesse Lee Home.

This post was inspired by this Sepia Saturday photo. You can see what other bloggers created in response to this image at Sepia Saturday.

Sepia Saturday Prompt Image 502 : 11 January 2020