Nancy Melvina Tower Vining


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.


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.



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.



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.


albert and edith flossie hawkins vining

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.

Albert and Vina Vining 001

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.


2013-01-24 gail martin celebration of life 029

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.



Four generation photo – Tower family



Some of Our English Roots


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.

ancestry dna map.png
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


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.


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.


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.


Elmer and Austin McGhee, Tyro, Kansas.

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

elmer and austin mcghee school tyro (1280x768)

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.


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

George H. and Pearl L. Vining


George Vining and Pearl Byers wedding photo 1916

George Howard ViningPearl Leona Byers Vining




George graduated from Pittsburg Teachers College with a B. S. in Mathematics and Social Science.

George married Pearl Byers Sept. 28, 1910, both were teachers, and George was also the superintendent of the public high school in Edna, KS.  George and Pearl never had children.

George is the grand uncle of Nancy Henning, and was James M. Vining’s 5th oldest son. He always seemed to be quite prosperous. When Nancy, her mother, Lorene Vining Brown and her sister Shari, would visit them in Chanute, KS, they would stay in their beautiful two-story home. Pearl was such a refined appearing lady.

George was the superintendent of Edna High School when Lorene Vining went there. In his later years after teaching, he sold insurance. At times George and Pearl would rent out portions of their home, as well as, complete living quarters upstairs with a full kitchen.  In the 1940’s George also was part owner of a farm that he shared with his brothers’ Harry and Lawrence.

George taught highschool and was the superintendent

(the photos above are in the collection of Nancy Henning)

George Howard Vining

BIRTH – 17 FEB 1883 Kansas City, Wyandotte, Kansas, United States

DEATH – 5 DECEMBER 1964 Chanute, Neosho, Kansas, United States

Pearl Leona Byers

BIRTH – 17 NOVEMBER 1890 Kansas

DEATH – 7 OCTOBER 1972 – Chanute, Neosho County, Kansas, USA



Lester Vining’s Photo – A Comparison


lester_vining_son_of_francisLester Vining headshot 1900

Just for fun here is a side by side of the unknown picture of a Lester Vining, left,

and a picture of James Vining Jr. and Jane’s 1900 picture of their son Lester, right

Same style of clothing for both.

Heytoto asked to see the rest of the group photo. Here’s the whole family (Nancy Henning’s photo) around 1900.

Fred, Lester. Aaron, George, Harry, cousin Ralph and son Earl (top row) Elnora and Irene (center) Lawrence, James Jr., Sara Jane McFall Lindsley (Jane's mother) and Jane (affectionately known as grandma Jennie)

Fred, Lester. Aaron, George, Harry, cousin Ralph and son Earl (top row) Elnora and Irene (center) Lawrence, James Jr., Sara Jane McFall Lindsley (Jane’s mother) and Jane (affectionately known as grandma Jennie)

The Puzzling Photo of Lester Vining


The family has a vintage photo of Lester Vining. There he is, dressed in his best outfit, looking solemn for the camera. The only problem is we’re having trouble figuring out which Lester Vining to attach the picture to.

Is this Lester Vining, the son of Francis Vining?

Is this Lester Vining, the son of James and Jane Vining? We think it is.

There are 3 who share that name on our family tree. Here are the candidates:

►Lester Vining was the next to the youngest child of the ill-fated Francis and Nora (Leonora) Hawkins Vining. The couple was killed in a car-train accident on March 28, 1934, leaving 10 children. Francis was one of my grandmother, Ruth Vining McGhee’s older brothers. Lester Lloyd Vining was born on 19 Mar 1930 probably in Jefferson, Oklahoma and died on the 12 September 2005 in Amado, Santa Cruz, Arizona, U.S.
The children were divided among relatives with Ray Dean and Melvin Dale staying with my grandparents. The 1940 census shows three of the children (Roy, Lester and Flossie) living with their older sister Sylvia and her husband, Dale Lewis.

►Another Lester Vining was the oldest son of Charles Augustus “Fiddlin Jake” Vining and Laura Elizabeth Keeling. Lester R. Vining was born in 1912 or 1914 in Garbor, Missouri and died the 26 Jan 1998 in Branson, Taney, Missouri, United States. If you’ve ever been to Branson and saw the Shepherd of the Hills pageant, Lester’s father was the Fiddlin’ Jake of that story.

The final Lester Vining was the second son of James and Jane Vining. James came from Connecticut when his father James and mother Almira settled in the eastern part of Kansas Territory. Earnest Lester Vining was born in 1879 in Wilson County, Kansas.

Our Vining genealogy group on Facebook discussed the three possibilities. The first Lester born in 1930 is too recent to match the photo. The clothing is from an earlier era.

My sister pointed out that the man in the photo is in his 20s or 30s, so it is unlikely to be the son of Fiddlin’ Jake.

One Lester is my grandmother’s first cousin and the other is a second cousin. It’s possible that she would have a photo of either Lester. We finally settled on the Lester Vining born in 1879. I sure would like to find further documentation on it.

Aaron Lee Vining – 2nd oldest son of James M. Vining Jr.


Aaron Lee Vining, b. 1877 with his wife Carrie Carson Vining b. 1885

posing for their wedding photo ca. 1904

Aaron Lee Vining & Carrie Carson Vining's wedding photo - 1904 - oldest son of James Jr.

Aaron and Carrie with their children, Mary Ruth and Jennie

Aaron, Carrie, Mary Ruth and Jennie Vining - ca. 1912

Aaron, Carrie, Mary Ruth and Jennie Vining – ca. 1912

Little Jennie with her life size dolls

Later when she grew up she married Albert Schoonover

Jennie Vining

Jennie Vining Schoonover     Albert Schoonover

Jennie                Albert

Mary Ruth with husband John Sherman who both became teachers

Mary Ruth Schoonover and husband Johnnie, daughter of Aaron Vining

Aaron and Carrie owned a laundry business, where various family members worked

Aaron & Carrie owned and ran a laundry business in Neodesha, KS - photo taken abt 1912

Aaron & Carrie owned and ran a laundry business in Neodesha, KS – photo taken abt 1912

Later in life Aaron bought a farm with his brothers Harry, George and Lawrence

Harry, Aaron, George and Laurence Vining

Aaron and Carrie celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary

Aaron and Carrie's 50th wedding celebration