Nancy Melvina Tower Vining

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As part of the 52 Ancestors Blogging Challenge, I’m featuring my great-aunt Vina. The photo shows her (in a white dress) with Lealon McGhee and an unidentified young woman holding a doll.

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Lealon McGhee and Melvina Tower with an unknown girl holding a doll.

She was born the 8th of August in 1899 in Jet, Missouri and named Nancy Melvina Tower. Her father, William Warren Tower, was 28 and her mother, Margaret Ann Peller (or Pillar), was 25. She had three sisters, Myrtle, Bessie Pearl and Edith and a brother, Charles.

 

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Nancy Melvina Tower and her younger sister, Bessie Pearl. Probably ages, 5 and 1.

In 1920, Vina Tower was 20 years old and lived in North Seminole, Oklahoma with her father, mother, and 2 sisters. Her older siblings, Charles and Myrtle, were no longer living with the family.

The highest grade Vina completed in school was 8th grade. High school was not always available in small towns or for country folk.

I presume her mother Margaret died, as her father married a second time to Emma Hill Roberds. Emma was widowed and had two sons (James and Almeda) from her previous marriage. William Warren Tower and Emma had a baby, William Lee Tower February 9, 1925.  He was usually called Billy.

 

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Looks like Bertha McGhee (rear, left). Gail Martin indicated on the back of the photo that it included Edith and Pearl Tower. Could one of these be Vina Tower or Ruth Vining?

In 1925, Melvina Vining was 25 years old and lived in Tyro, Kansas with her husband, Albert. They were newly married. He had served in France during WWI. You can read more about that at this site: Albert Vining in World War I. Albert’s first wife, Edith Flossie Hawkins died in 1923.

 

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Albert Vining and his first wife, Edith Hawkins.

 

Five years later, the census shows Melvina Vining was 30 years old and lived in Jefferson, Oklahoma with her husband, Albert, age 36.

Vina Tower Vining and nephew Donald Vining 1944

Vina Vining and nephew, Donald Vining

The next census on April 1, 1940, we find Melvina Vining at age 40 and living in Jefferson, Oklahoma with her husband, Albert.

Also with them was their 18-year-old nephew, Donald Vining. Family lore does not record why he was living with them instead of with his father, Luther Vining. Albert worked for the Canary Oil Company as a pumper and Vina was a homemaker. They never had children of their own.

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Albert and Vina Vining

She was a widow for 33 years after Albert died in Tyro on September 10, 1960.

This is my mother visiting her aunt Vina Vining. We were related both through the Vining and the Tower family. This might be Vina’s birthday. I see a balloon in the picture.

 

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Gail Martin visiting her aunt, Vina Vining in the nursing home.

 

Nancy Melvina (Tower) Vining died on December 17, 1993, in Coffeyville, Kansas, at the age of 94, and was buried there. The Tower family were very long-lived.

Her Tower family line is Nancy Melvina Tower -> William Warren Tower -> Abraham Bates Tower

The photo below shows her grandfather, father, brother and nephew. Abraham Bates Tower with a beard, his son William Warren Tower, holding the child, Billy Tower in overalls and the child is Troy Tower.

 

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Four generation photo – Tower family

 

Some of Our English Roots

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Some months back, I took the Ancestry DNA test. As expected, it showed much of my heritage links back to the British Isles. That part matches what I’m finding as I work on my family tree. Below the chart, I list some of the family lines and where they came from in England.

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Our English Ancestors:

  • Bates family came from Aston Clinton, Buckinghamshire
  • Bixby ancestor came from Thorpe Morieux, Suffolk
  • Browning family came from Maldon, Essex
  • Collier family came from Southwark, Surrey
  • Goodale ancestor came from Ipswich, Suffolk
  • King, West, and Pease ancestors came from Great Baddow, Essex
  • Long ancestors came from West Riding, Yorkshire
  • Putnam ancestors came from Tring, Hertfordshire
  • Tower family came from Hingham
  • Vining ancestors came from Wincanton

I found one suggestion that our Joy family changed their name from Joyce in the 1500s when they moved from Ireland to England. I’ll have to search further on that.

Karen has found indications that the Martin family may trace back to France. There will be more work on that line. We know the Rosebaugh line is from Germany. Various invasions of England over the centuries might account for the Scandinavian part of the DNA. Vikings, you know.

Elmer McGhee

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When Elmer Lee MCGHEE was born on February 6, 1910, in Tyro, Kansas, his father, Samuel Newton McGhee, was 34 and his mother, Viola Matilda Tower, was 37. He had seven brothers and two sisters. He died as a child on April 5, 1921, in his hometown.

Here’s the bare bones information from the U.S. Federal Census:
►1910 -Elmer McGhee was less than a year old and lived in Caney, Kansas with his father, mother, 5 brothers, and sister. His siblings are Clarence, Jesse, Roy, Bertha, Lealon, and Loren.
►1920 – Elmer Mcghee was 9 years old and lived in Caney, Kansas with his father, mother, 4 brothers, 2 sisters, and 82-year-old grandfather, Abraham Tower.  Added siblings for Elmer are Austin and Ethel. There was an 18-year-old boarder living with them who worked on the public road.

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The occasion above seems to be a visit from the Texas branch of the Tower family (Alice and daughters, Helen and Willie Bell) to Tyro. Elmer and Austin McGhee are in the front.

Samuel Newton McGhee and son Elmer in Tyro KS

Samuel McGhee holding his son Elmer. Their home in Tyro, Kansas, with the smaller Vining family home in the background.

The background story on Elmer is he and his brother Austin had polio at a very young age. You see Elmer and his father, Samuel Newton McGhee here in front of their home in Tyro.

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Austin McGhee, still in baby dress and his older brother Elmer. Note the step made from a packing box.

The family got a pony so Elmer could go to school. The other children walked to school, but Elmer was too disabled by the polio.

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Elmer and Austin McGhee, Tyro, Kansas.

Here’s the Tyro School picture with Elmer and Austin.

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Elmer and Austin McGhee, Tyro School, guessing it is around 1919 

Elmer and Austin McGhee are in the 2nd row from the blackboard…the 1st two boys in dark shirts.

Elmer McGhee was buried in Robbins Cemetery near Tyro, Kansas. You will find a number of Tower, McGhee, and Vining graves there.

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Bertha writes about the photo of her father Samuel holding Elmer.

Old Tower Family Photos – an Analysis

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What a pair of cuties. These babies below from a bygone era belong to the Tower branch of our family tree. Fortunately for me, my mother put them in an album and wrote next to the picture.

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Reuben Tower’s son William Ray Tower on the right. Lorene Underwood, daughter of Ida (McElvaney) and Ras Underwood on the left.

There are several pages of these old studio portraits and a note saying she got them from Bill Tower who had them from W.W. Tower. That was enough to get me oriented. William Warren Tower lived in Tyro KS and was the brother of my great-grandmother, Viola Matilda Tower McGhee.

Hmm, then Bill Tower is my grandfather’s cousin, which would make him a second cousin to my mother, third cousin to me. OK, so now we’ve worked out the source of the photos.

If we had no label, that provenance would be some help in dating and naming the subjects. Don’t assume the ownership of the photos means the people in the photograph are part of that immediate family.

In this case, the two children lived in Oklahoma and the photo was sent to W.W. Tower by his brother, Reuben Tower better known as Shorty. The baby (right side of the photo) is Reuben Tower’s son William Ray Tower, usually called Ray. Don’t be fooled by the dress, as it was standard wear for baby boys of that era. It probably made it much easier to change diapers.

The other infant is a cousin to Ray. The baby girl is Lorene Underwood, daughter of Ida (McElvaney) and Ras Underwood. Ida was Pearl McElvaney’s sister (Shorty’s wife).

We’re lucky to have all that background information about the photo. Now, what can we tell from the photo itself? The wicker chair that the children are sitting on probably is from the 1890s or more recent. The fanciness of the children’s clothing shows the family is in comfortable circumstances and the fact that they can afford a studio portrait indicates that as well. The Tower family in Tyro did not have many photos like that, but I’m finding the Towers in Prague, Oklahoma had quite a few taken.

In the case of these two babies, I have their names and the parent’s names. A quick check on ancestry.com gives Ray’s birthdate as 29 Mar 1910 and Lorene’s as 11 Jun 1910. Ray seems to be sitting up on his own, but someone at the left edge of the picture is holding Lorene in place. I’d guess the photo is towards the end of 1910.

What happened to the children? In October 1911, baby Lorene died. Her parents had 5 children after her and her mother lived to be 94. Little Ray lived to be 82 years of age.

Sometimes vintage photos have the name of a photographer and a town, this one did not. If they are in an album held in place by photo corners, you can check for writing on the back.

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The baby boy at the top of the page is now the older boy in this photo. I’d guess about 8 or 9 years old.

The “VV” refers to Vina Vining (originally Melvina Tower, daughter of William Warren Tower). The baby on the chair is Glenn Bates Tower. He was 8 years younger than his brother William Ray Tower. Audrey Mitchell lived with the Tower family.

Audrey Mitchell lived with the Tower family. The 1920 census shows her in the household when she was 12 years old, so she is 3 years older than Ray. I found a possible family for her in the 1910 census where there is a 4-year-old Andra Mitchell with parents Eva and Zack Mitchell.

The boys are Melvina’s cousins, the children of Reuben (Shorty) Tower.

Shorty (Reuben) and Pearl Tower, the parents of the two boys. (Thanks to Pat Ruble for these photos)

Shorty (Reuben) and Pearl Tower, the parents of the two boys. (Thanks to Pat Ruble for these photos)

Homer Tower’s Wife

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You might think that genealogy is easy these days. Just go online and find all your ancestors and add them to your family tree. It sounds a lot easier than it actually is.

Admittedly it is easier and faster than in the days when my mom and grandmother visited courthouses and cemeteries to track down relatives. My subscription to ancestry.com is worth every penny in the time it saves me and the names and dates that I’d never find otherwise.

Despite that, finding your roots is a laborious, consuming project. Here’s an example:

I’m tracking the descendants of my great-great-grandfather, Abraham Bates Tower who was born in 1837. Don’t confuse him with the other Abraham Bates Tower who happens to be his uncle and who lived in the same county in Indiana.

One of Abraham’s grandsons is Theodore Homer Tower, son of Erastus Laban Tower. To complicate the search, both Theodore and Erastus went by their middle names. I noted that Homer’s wife was Ilena or maybe Ina Ilena but had no idea on her maiden name.

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The older couple (center) are identified on Ancestry as most likely Clarvina Viola (Cox) and Erastus Laban Tower. The others are probably children and grandchildren but are not identified.

She is the wife of my 1st cousin 2x removed.

As I added more details for Homer from various census and the marriage record, I found more variations of Ilena’s name. Ilenna, Ilean, Ilene and Ina I. I’ve assembled the evidence here.

►1900 census – Ilenna Parr, age 6, was listed as the granddaughter of Sarah and Ruffus Parr. Also in the household are the couple’s daughters, Ruth Parr age 21 and Lisia Ann Parr. age 12. I’d guess that Ruth Parr was Ilenna’s mother, but she could be the daughter of a brother or sister of Ruth’s. If Ruth is the mother, was she unmarried?

►1910 census – Ilean Riddle, age 16 is living with grandparents, Sarah and Rufus Parr. Also in the household are Ruth Riddle and Luke Riddle, ages 39 and 43. There’s a younger child, Chester Riddle, age 4. My deduction from this is that Ruth is Ilean’s mother and she has married Luke, probably in 1905 or 1906. Chester is Ilean’s half-brother. Maybe/maybe not. Ruth and Luke may have adopted Ilean or just gave his last name for the child to the census taker.

►1914 Marriage Certificate – Ilean Parr and spouse, Homer Tower. Very curious, what happened to the Riddle last name? Ilean’s birthdate is given as 25 January 1893. She is 21.

►1920 census – Ilene Tower, age 25 is listed with husband Theodore H. Tower and daughter Hilda. The neighbor on one side is Erastus Laban Tower, wife and also son, Dorris. This is Homer’s parents and younger brother. Next to them is a family of Riddles.
On the other side in the census is Ruth and Abraham Riddle with Abraham’s mother-in-law, the widowed Sarah Parr. It took some further sleuthing to discover that Luke was the middle name for Abraham, so not a separate person or new spouse for Ruth.

►1930 census – Ina I Tower, age 35 lives with Theodore H Tower and their 15-year-old daughter Hilda Marie. Homer’s widowed mother-in-law, Ruth P. Riddle, age 59 now lives with them. This verifies that Ruth is Ilean’s mother.

►1940 census – Ilean and husband Homer Tower, ages 46 and 47, now live alone. It would take further research to find out what happened to Ruth (probably died) and Hilda (probably married).

I can’t even begin to tell you how much time I spent verifyng Ilean’s name. Unfortunately, I’m still not sure but have listed her on the tree as Ina Ilean Parr Riddle.

Our Almost-Pilgrim Ancestors

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People want to trace their family tree back to the Mayflower so they can claim Pilgrim ancestors. I joke that our ancestors missed the boat and came over a few years later.

In 1620, the Mayflower reached America, and most of us are familiar with the story of the Indians bringing food to the Pilgrims. Some the passengers were Separatists, escaping religious persecution in England.

Our ancestor came 17 years later in 1637. Here’s the start of the story from the Tower Genealogical Society, ” John Tower(1), and his friend Samuel Lincoln emigrated from Old Hingham, England to Boston, Massachusetts, by ship, a voyage that took eleven and one-half weeks. After disembarking in Boston, John and Samuel traveled together by horseback to Hingham, Massachusetts, where they both settled.”

Hingham Invitation
Hingham Invitation by GoingPlaces

Why did they leave Hingham, England for America? The history page for Hingham says, “Puritan residents of Hingham, led by the former vicar of Hingham, Robert Peck and his associate Peter Hobart, emigrated to the then colony of Massachusetts. Those who left were so prominent in the community that the town was forced to petition Parliament for help, claiming that it had been devastated by the loss.”

The Church of England sought to enforce its practices and those who did not want to follow the government sanctioned religion opted to emigrate. It was not only religion that inspired their travel across the ocean. Samuel Lincoln writes in his early history that a spirit of “adventure and enterprise” motivated the settlers.

John Tower married Margaret Ibrook. They had ten children together. She lived to be 83, and he lived to be almost 93.

You can read more about them and their descendants in this book, available from Amazon in hardback and also as a 99 cent Kindle book.

Remembering Viola Matilda (Tower) McGhee

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Sadly, I have few memories of my great grandmother, Viola Matilda McGhee. Although I was in my early teens when she died, I saw her once in a while at family gatherings and was too busy being a kid to interact with her. My memories are vague ones. She was a little old lady dressed in old-fashioned dark dresses. We had to be quiet and not boisterous around this elderly woman who we saw infrequently.

Here is Viola Matilda McGhee with some of her great grandchildren in 1953.

Here is Viola Matilda McGhee with some of her great grandchildren in 1953. Susan and Owen Martin (standing), Virginia, Karen and Cindy Martin (seated) and our second cousin Leslie DeWayne Paugh Jr.

She was born on the 3rd of February 1873 in Carrolton, Missouri. Her father, Abraham Bates Tower, survived the Civil War and the horrors of being a prisoner of war at Andersonville Prison. Her mother, Nancy Angeline (Long) Tower, must have been a strong woman to care for her children during the war years and more children plus an invalid husband after that. 

The Tower family and six month old baby Viola Matilda traveled by wagon to Hilltop, Arkansas  Seven of the family members lived in the wagon for most of the rest of the winter while Abraham herded cattle there. The baby lived with the bosses’ wife during the winter. The family called the baby Tildy to differentiate between the infant and her caretaker who was also a Matilda.

I believe the government gave land to veterans there, but haven’t been able to verify that.

The family moved back to Missouri for the next 10 years but must have returned now and then their home place in Arkansas. The two places were about 300 miles apart.

At 21, Viola Matilda married Samuel Newton McGhee in Boone, Arkansas.

Sam and Viola Matilda McGhee with Clarence and Jesse

Sam and Viola Matilda McGhee with Clarence and Jesse, about 1898.

They had 6 children while living in Arkansas and then 3 more after they moved to Tyro, Kansas. Her parents lived there and her sisters needed her help nursing her mother, Nancy Angeline, who had a stroke. They remained in Tyro and the Coffeyville area even after her mother’s death in 1909.

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

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

Her husband, Sam McGhee worked at the Tyro Glass Plant as did his oldest son, my grandfather, Clarence McGhee. In 1913, the family followed the glass plant which moved to Sand Springs, Oklahoma, but the next year, moved back to Kansas.

The two youngest boys, Elmer and Austin, contracted polio in 1913 and both were crippled by it. Read more of that story collected by my mother from Tildy’s daughter Bertha. The family got a Shetland pony for Elmer to ride the mile to school.

Elmer and Austin McGhee, Tyro, Kansas

Elmer and Austin McGhee, Tyro, Kansas

The family had some sad years. The oldest son married and went into the army in 1918, ending up in trenches in France. In 1919, Samuel McGhee disappeared for 3 months. He’d been attacked and beaten, lost his memory but finally recovered to return to his family.

Sadly, their child Elmer died at age 11. The next year, 1922, Samuel died in an oil field accident. It was difficult for the family without their bread earner in that time before social security.

Samuel McGhee

Samuel McGhee

Viola Matilda’s children grew up, married and had families of their own. In her old age, she took turns staying with her children and grandchildren. She didn’t have a place of her own.

When she died at 91, she was visiting her daughter Bertha, who lived in Alaska. Bertha worked at a home for orphaned native children. Viola Matilda fell, breaking her hip which led to her death. She is buried near Coffeyville, Kansas in Deering Cemetery next to her father and mother.

Viola Matilda (Tower) McGhee with 5 of her grown children.

Viola Matilda (Tower) McGhee with 6 of her grown children.