What Happened to Sarah Vining?


Her name was Sarah Vining but her family called her Sadie. She was born in Missouri on November 17, 1876. Her father, Henry, was 39, and her mother, Nancy, was 25. She was the second-born of their 13 children. She had a half-sister and two half-brothers as well, who were older than her.

The family moved to Wilson County, Kansas when she was only 2 years old. Her 9-year-old half-brother, James Ashlock, died that year. When she was 3, a new brother arrived, but baby William H. Vining died after three months.

I’m not sure if the family moved several times or if her mother just went to different places for the birth of the children. The towns or townships were Cedar, Thayer, Wilson, Newark, and Neodesha. The census taker listed them at various times for Newark with Henry’s occupation recorded as farmer.

The children attended Pea Ridge School and the students were photographed in 1893 with their teacher, J.F. Haas.  Sarah is the girl in the back row with the X above her head.

karens pc stitch version of pea ridge school vinings

Pea Ridge School, Wilson County, Kansas, 1893. Top to Bottom, then L to R: Jacob Vining, Sarah (Sadie) Vining, Lucy Vining, Francis Henry (Frank) Vining, Lilian Belle (Belle) Vining, Laura Mae (Mae) Vining, Bessie

Sarah’s life changed abruptly when she fell ill of typhoid fever. It apparently affected her greatly. The newspaper in November 1894 said she had been ailing for three years.

Sarah Vining committed to insane asylumSarah Vining committed to insane asylum Fri, Nov 30, 1894 – 3 · Neodesha Register (Neodesha, Kansas) · Newspapers.com

“Untreated typhoid can cause permanent psychiatric problems such as delirium, hallucinations, and paranoia over the long term. Delirium is a sudden state of confusion due to physical or mental illness. Hallucinations are false and distorted perceptions of events. Paranoia is a symptom of a psychotic disorder in which patients become suspicious of others and feel that the world is out to get them. (MayoClinic.com)”

Main causes of death in KS in 1890s include typhoid, consumption, pneumonia.Main causes of death in KS in 1890s include typhoid, consumption, pneumonia. Fri, Jan 27, 1893 – 2 · Wilson County Citizen (Fredonia, Kansas) · Newspapers.com

Although Sarah Vining survived the typhoid fever, several news reports show what happened next. The news tidbit from November 1894 reported that “until about a year ago she was remarkably bright.” The probate court presided over by Judge McPherson, and with a jury of six men agreed that Sarah was insane.
Sarah Vining - More details of her becoming insane.Sarah Vining – More details of her becoming insane. Fri, Nov 30, 1894 – 3 · Wilson County Sun (Neodesha, Kansas) · Newspapers.com

She was placed in her father’s keeping until she could be admitted to the state asylum at Osawatomie, Kansas. This clipping attributed her insanity to “female trouble” and spoke of “her aberration.”

Sarah Vining - cause of her insanitySarah Vining – cause of her insanity Fri, Dec 7, 1894 – 3 · Wilson County Citizen (Fredonia, Kansas) · Newspapers.com

The sheriff transported the “unfortunate young lady” to the asylum. Her mother accompanied her on the journey of 85 miles. Sarah was one of 434 people committed to Osawatomie in 1894.  Most of the patients were older. She and 19 other young women under the age of 20 were admitted that year.

Sarah Vining lived in Osawatomie from age 18 to age 77 when she died in 1953. I checked on Find-A-Grave but discovered there were about 350 headstones in the Osawatomie State Hospital Cemetery but only one bears a name. The rest have only numbers. It is possible that she is buried elsewhere.

You can read the two-year state report on the institution online. Below is part of a page from it that lists the causes for patients admitted during that time.

sarah vining 1894 Osawatomie reasons for insanity

A partial list of the reasons for insanity in the patients at Osawatomie Asylum in 1894. Note that there were 7 men and 5 women with typhoid fever listed as the cause.

I wish we knew the rest of the story, but doubt that individual patient records can be accessed. Were they able to treat Sarah’s condition at all? Did she live in reasonable comfort during those many long years in the institution? There are scary stories from institutions in the early 1900s about the treatment of the mentally ill entrusted to their care.

Did the family ever visit her? My grandmother Ruth Vining was Sarah’s sister, born 3 years after Sarah went to Osawatomie. Also in 1897, their father (Henry Vining) died, putting the family in crisis. They moved to a homestead in Oklahoma for a short time, then to Tyro KS. I doubt that there was time or money to visit poor Sarah.

vining house woodward oklahoma

The sod house with a frame house attached.

Vining Family Deaths in March 1870


In a recent post, we sorted out the people in a photo (John/Jack Vining, his daughter, and four grandchildren). If you missed it, here’s the story. Also in the photo was Jack’s second wife, Ellen Babcock. He married her after his first wife, Josephine died.

I heard from a descendant of one of the grandchildren after I posted the photo on Ancestry. She is the great-granddaughter of Edwin, the older boy. He’s the one in the picture wearing suspenders. She was thrilled to see her great-grandfather, great-great-grandmother, and great-great-great-grandfather all in one picture. As you see, Edwin is my 2nd cousin 1x removed.

Edwin R Frost pic and dates

I was curious about Josephine, the first wife. I didn’t have a maiden name for her but did have that she was born in 1942 in Connecticut and that’s the state the Vinings were from also. I haven’t been able to find their place and date of marriage. Was it in CT, Missouri, or Iowa? The Vinings moved a lot. Josephine and John Vining’s first son was born in Illinois in 1859, so the couple could even have been married in that state.

I did find the 1870 Mortality Record for Belmont, Woodson County, Kansas that listed Josephine Vining. She died in March of that year from “dropsy of the chest.” Today, that would be called pulmonary edema, where fluids accumulate in the chest. I found another description that said it could be caused by “inflammation of the membrane covering the lungs” and it mentioned pleurisy.

The very curious part of the Mortality Record was that two other Vinings were listed as dying in March 1870 in Woodson County. There was William Vining, age 4, who was born in Kansas. He died from typhoid fever. There was also a baby girl named Zora Vining, just a month old who was also born in Kansas. She died from inflammation of the brain. Are these Josephine and John’s children? The record was quite hard to read.

Ancestry com U S Federal Census Mortality Schedules 1870 Zora, William, Josephine Vining

Next, I looked at the 1870 census for John and the remaining children. The census was conducted June 7, 1870, so three months after the death of the three Vinings. It shows four families named Vining, all living adjacent to each other.  That complicates the sleuthing, as the William and Zora might be from those instead of from Josephine and John Vining.

Let’s sort out the possibilities:

Here are the family groupings with name, age, and place of birth.

  • James Vining, age 58 CT
  • James Vining, age 21 CT
  • Franklin Vining, age 15 CT
  • Jennie Vining, age 14 CT

James is my 2nd great-grandfather. His wife Almira died in 1864.

His second wife (Rhoda Harrison) was 53 when they married in 1864 so these are unlikely to be children born to her. Since they divorced in 1867 the infant girl, Zora, who died in March 1870 is definitely not theirs.

It is possible but unlikely that the baby was Jennie’s. She is just 14.

The three households below are three sons of James and Almira Vining. Most likely, they have each taken up homesteading claims adjacent to their father.

  • John Vining, age 37 CT
  • John Vining, age 12 IL
  • Ida Vining, age 4 IL

John Vining lost his wife Josephine in March 1870. Their daughter, Clara (age 3, Missouri) is missing but shows up in the 1880 census as back with the family. Possibly she lived with another family for a short while after her mother’s death.

It seems unlikely that William would be John and Josephine Vining’s son, as he is the same age as Ida. They could be twins, but William was born in Kansas and Ida in Illinois.

  • Henry Vining, age 32 CT
  • Charles Vining, age 25 CT

Henry and Charles Vining are brothers and are listed as “farmer” and “farm laborer” in the census. Four years later, Henry Francis Vining married Nancy Jane (Babcock) Ashlock. These two bachelors are unlikely to have lost 2 young children in March 1870. I’m going to rule them out.

  • Erastus Vining, age 27 CT
  • Elizabeth Vining, age 21 KS
  • Dora Vining, age 8 months KS

Erastus Vining married Elizabeth Richardson in 1865. It is quite possible that they lost a 4-year-old son named William in March of 1870. It is fairly impossible for them to have had a daughter Zora though just 3 months before Dora.

What have we deduced from all this?

The boy, William Vining, could be Erastus’ child. The one-month-old Zora Vining who died in March 1870 is most likely John and Josephine’s.

That’s as far as I can go without taking a trip to Woodson County, Kansas and checking first-hand some courthouse records.




John Vining’s Daughter and Grandchildren


On the back of the photo in faint pencil, it says “Aunt Ellen Vining, Uncle Jack Vining, Cousin Ida, Cousin Lulu, etc.”

My first guess was that Ellen and Jack (seated in front) were the parents of two grown daughters, named Ida and Lulu (unknown married names). I also hypothesized that the unnamed 3 children were Ida and Lulu’s. I was wrong. 
Ellen & Jack Vining and Ida and Lulu

I couldn’t find anything about the photography studio. On the border of the photo, it says, “Munson – Neosho, MO.”

When I consulted my family tree, there was no Jack Vining and no Ellen Vining. I did have an Ida Vining and that helped solve who was in the picture.

Ida, was born in 1866 to John and Josephine Vining.  John’s dates are 1833-1900 and Josephine was 1836-1870. After Josephine died, John Vining married Elleanor (Ellen) Babcock.

Ida married Abraham Frost. In 1886 they had a daughter Lula. Other children of Ida are Edwin 1888, Ethel 1891, Fred 1893.  This photo with only 4 names on the back looks like a good match for the Vinings and the Frost family.

Ida Vining daughter of John Vining - tree

John and Josephine Vining’s daughter Ida Mary Vining and her children.

From the size of the smallest boy, who looks about five or so, I first guessed this photo might be 1898. The clothing seems appropriate for the Victorian era, turn-of-the-century with Fred wearing a Little Lord Fauntleroy collar and tie. Women’s clothing was slimming down without the hoop skirts of the 1860s or the huge puffed sleeves of the 1880s.

If the photo were from 1898, Lula would have been 12. She looks a little more mature than 12 so the picture might be 1900. At that point, Lula would have been 14, Edwin 12, Ethel 9, and Fred 7.

The children’s grandparents would have been 67 and 54 in 1900.  John Vining died later that year. Ellen lived until 1924 and died at the age of 77.

Ellen and her sister, Nancy Jane Babcock, married two brothers, John and Henry Francis Vining. The above photos show Ellen Babcock Vining by herself, then Ellen, Nancy Jane, Ezra, and Elias Babcock. Nancy Jane is my great-grandmother, so Ellen is my great-aunt.

Four Generations of Mothers


Originally posted on my mother’s blog.

Discovering Mom

Researching family history becomes more meaningful when you can see the faces that go with the names and dates. For Mother’s Day, I pulled together my mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, and great-great-grandmother. Beyond that, I have just the names and information, but no photos.

I like seeing them all lined up like this. Looks like that high forehead and the nose came down through the generations. I must have gotten my nose and blonde hair from the Martin side, but I do have the forehead.

Here are their names and dates (left to right):

    • Gail Lee McGhee Martin 1924-2013
    • Ruth Vining McGhee 1897-1960
    • Nancy Jane Babcock Vining 1851–1924
    • Ellenor Nancy Jane Wright Babcock 1820–1882

These four women had 36 children and that doesn’t count the miscarriages or ones that died at birth. Nancy Jane remarried not long after her first husband died. In 1873 Kansas, a woman with children didn’t have the…

View original post 88 more words

Learning about Woodward County, Oklahoma and the Vining Family


A Book from Gail Lee Martin’s bookshelf (reviewed by her daughter, Virginia Allain): Oklahoma Geological Survey Guide Book XV – Alabaster Cavern and Woodward County.

The University of Oklahoma published this in 1969 with a second printing in 1972. A slim 38 pages, but filled with useful information if you want to know about the geology or history of this area. The pictures are in black and white, but you get some maps, various charts and graphs explaining the geology and photos of the interior of the caves.

In the history section, starting at page 25, it covers the early times with the Indian tribes, then the military presence with the Custer massacre at Washita of over 100 Indians including women and children and the establishment of Fort Supply.

That was followed by ranching and then homesteaders in the land rush of 1893. Sod houses were constructed and hardy families eked out a living and built schools and eventually churches and towns.

In the oversized booklet, it describes a typical sod house as 12 feet by 16 feet with walls made from blocks of sod cut into brick-like shapes. The roof was slightly rounded and made of poles and tar paper and then covered with dirt to hold the tar paper in place.

The settlers would collect dried buffalo chips or cow patties to burn as fuel since wood was scarce. I found it fascinating reading about the early ranchers, then the land rush and homesteaders.

How This Relates to the Family History:

From Gail Martin’s notes: The Vining family came to Woodward County from the Pea Ridge School area which is probably “where the Vinings lived in Wilson County, KS, before moving to Woodward, OK, area when Mother (Ruth Vining McGhee) was 5 years old.” That would have been 1902.

Henry Vining was the son of James and Almira Vining. He was born 17 September 1837 and died 28 July 1897. He married Nancy Jane (Babcock) Ashlock on 30 March 1866. She had 3 children from her first marriage. Mom’s story about Henry’s mother is told in My Pioneering Great Grandmother. That story takes place in the eastern part of Kansas.

More about Woodward County, Oklahoma

There were 2,241 residents in 1894 (right after the land rush). For the next four years, the population kept dropping due to drought, harsh winters, and conflicts with the cattlemen.

The homesteader had to pay for the land in installments plus a filing fee of $15. Then he had to live on that quarter section of land for 5 years, grow crops and make certain improvements to gain title to the land.

The Vining family bought their land from one of the homesteaders who gave up and left.

The photo of the frame house shows Ruth (youngest child on the left) and her family in front of a small home on the Oklahoma prairie. Extending to the right is a dugout or sod house which was probably the original house. Her father, Henry Vining, died six weeks after his youngest daughter was born.

My aunt recently told me this tidbit of family lore: “Mother often slept with covers over her head; she said it was from her childhood years living in a dugout home, and insects scuttled across the ceiling”

My mother wrote a story from Ruth’s childhood that she heard many times. It’s called The Day the Mad Dog Came. This event happened at this location.

Ruth Vining’s older sister Belle Vining lived in Woodward County through the 1930s while married to Orville Espie Brock.


Here are more pages with Woodward County history.


In June of 1955, Albert Vining, his wife Vina, and two of his sisters (Ruth and I think, Bessie) made a trip to visit “the old home place.” My older sister, Susan went with them. At this point, there are only these two photos to remember the road trip. I don’t know if any remnants of the old sod and frame house remained or if they were able to visit any relatives still in the Woodward area.

The first photo is labeled “standing by the well at the old birthplace.” In the second photo, there’s a monument labeled “Rogers” so I’m guessing that they stopped in Claremore, Oklahoma to see the Will Rogers memorial. The link shows a video of what is there now, probably expanded quite a bit over the years.


Here are a few things I found online about the area. The map is from 1905 and as you can see the Kansas line forms the upper border of Woodward County. The street scenes are from 1910 and 1920.


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.