Independence Day 1861


My mother, Gail Lee Martin, wrote this story in 2006 for the Our Echo website. We are so lucky that she instilled in us an appreciation of our family’s heritage and that she worked so diligently to research and preserve it. I’ve added some vintage graphics and a newspaper clipping to her written account.

1861 – Our Family’s Patriotic Heritage

Have you ever wondered how the early settlers celebrated the 4th of July in Kansas for the first time after becoming a state? I traced my Mother’s family from Connecticut to Iowa, through Missouri to the Kansas territory in 1859. I always wondered how my great-grandparents, James and Almira Vining, celebrated that special occasion.

The Vining family settled on a small homestead near the Verdigris river three miles east of the tiny community of Madison Centre in April 1857. At that time the family consisted of James and his wife, Almira; their children: Henry, my grandfather, 21; Erastus, 19; Isreal, 15; Charles, 13; James Jr. 11; Franklin, 6 and their only daughter, three-year-old Jane. When Kansas became a state the four older boys had already enlisted to serve in the United States Calvary and were away fighting in the Civil War. With four sons in the service of their country, I’m sure the Vining family attended the patriotic ceremony that was held in their neighborhood that July.

In July 1861 Madison Centre was in Madison County twenty miles south of Emporia. The Emporia News, the only newspaper in that area at that time, reported the following:

Madison Centre, Madison County
Mr. Editor: Early in the day, a number of citizens of this township assembled for the purpose of raising a Union flag, which was accomplished to the satisfaction of all present. The Declaration was then read by John J. Greenhalgh, in a loud, clear distinct tone. He did justice and honor to the memories of the great and good men who made it.” Then the news report went on to tell about the bountiful dinner everyone enjoyed. “The meal was furnished by the ladies of the community including roast mutton, roast and boiled chickens, chicken pies, cakes, tarts and other ’knicknacks’ too numerous to mention.”

How proud I am that my ancestors were there to observe the raising of the first Union flag in Madison Centre, Kansas.

Our family still celebrates July 4th with lots of good home cooked food and a few fireworks, mostly sparklers. For many years we had family picnics at Peter Pan Park in Emporia on the 4th of July. We still remember the lovely rose garden and who could forget the funny antics of the monkeys on Monkey Island?
1948 reunion clipping

In 1948, the Martin family reunion was delayed until July 18th.

My husband’s grandmother, Marie Joy, always made a big heavy crock full of “thick fruit salad” because invariably the weather was hot and we didn’t have ice available on almost every corner as we do now. Grandma Joy would use twice the amount of Jell-O that the recipe called for then added lots of fruit with bananas and marshmallows until it was almost solid. But we loved it! Since we raised our own chickens, we always had big containers of fried chicken with all the pieces including the neck, liver, heart, gizzard, and the coveted wishbone. As a special treat, we sometimes had store-bought “pork & beans.”

High flying flags always arouse my patriotism and I see them flying in so many different places. For instance, postage stamps through the years have been one way of showing patriotism for our country. I delight in sending my mail with stamps showing flags or eagles. Every year the postal department issues new designs. I recall one I especially liked. It had the flag flying briskly over the words, “I pledge allegiance …” I guess I thought flags could only fly briskly in Kansas.

Vintage Road Trip


Many of the family branches were more homebodies, but there were some rare road trips and although we have the photos, many of the details are lost to memory. Maybe by posting about them here, we’ll hear from cousins with some remnants of family stories.

McGhee – Road Trip

Jesse McGhee making tire repairs on the way home from Hole in the Rock.

Thank you, Mom, for labeling this one. Jesse McGhee with a bevy of females and a vintage car. Would this be 1920 (shorter dresses) or earlier with the girls being young enough to show their legs? It’s hard to see enough of the car to put a year on that. There’s another fellow in the background but I can’t guess who it is.


This postcard from 1912 shows that the Hole in the Rock near Baldwin, Kansas was an attraction back then. I found an article that gives the early history of the site from Santa Fe Trail days when pioneers would stop there and up to current times when it was threatened by highway development.

Vining – Road Trip

My grandmother, Ruth Vining McGhee, and some of her siblings took a road trip in the 1950s from Kansas back to their old home place. I’d seen the photos over the years but now as I work on the family history, I know where the home place was in Woodward County, Oklahoma.

I believe that they are standing by a hand-dug well and then later they stopped to see Will Roger’s memorial. They took along Ruth’s granddaughter, Susan Martin. The other people in the photos are Ruth’s brother, Albert Vining and his wife Vina (Melvina Tower). Maybe someone will give me the name of Ruth’s sister to go with these photos. Is it Lucy with them?

Here’s the old home place, but I doubt that any of the structure remained to be seen.

vining house woodward oklahoma

The sod house with a frame house attached.

I’m rummaging around for one more picture that goes with these. It shows Albert and Ruth standing by a car.

In the meantime, here’s Ruth McGhee with her sister, Lucy, for purposes of comparison with the photo above. This photo is not from the road trip but must have been another visit by Ruth to see her sister, Lucy Vining Bolte, who lived in Winfield, Kansas.

carol - my mother Ruth, with Aunt Lucy at Lucy's house.

Y is for YIKES!


Sometimes the news that I find about an ancestor makes me say, “yikes!” Accidents happen and I wish I could find follow-up stories to reassure me that the victim recovered. Here are some accidents that injured my Babcock, Vining, and Martin ancestors between 1880 and 1910 in Kansas.

This toddler, the child of Robert Babcock, received scalding burns from tipping over a teacup of hot tallow onto its face. It sounds so painful. At first, the doctor thought the child might die. I have a lot of Babcocks on my family tree and some of them lived in Thayer. Scanning down the list, I looked for someone born around 1885. So far, I haven’t been able to identify the child.

Robert Babcock (which one??) 2-yr old child scalded, Erie KSRobert Babcock (which one??) 2-yr old child scalded, Erie KS Fri, Dec 2, 1887 – 1 · The Head-light (Thayer, Kansas) ·

The year before a son of William Henry Babcock was injured in a fall. That child I was able to identify as Samuel O. Babcock.
Samuel O. Babcock injures elbowSamuel O. Babcock injures elbow Fri, Feb 26, 1886 – 8 · The Head-light (Thayer, Kansas) ·

Here’s a photo of Samuel Oolery Babcock as a grown-up. My thanks to LDStater for sharing this picture on Ancestry.


I’ve found a number of runaway horses and buggy accidents. In this one, the mother and child were dragged more than a hundred yards after the buggy turned over. The name given is Mrs. Frank Shetler which would be Elnore (Nora) Vining. She’s the daughter of James M Vining Jr. and Jane/Jennie Lindsley.  Given the date here, I’m guessing the baby was Georgia Pearl Shetler who was born in 1909. Nora survived the accident and lived to age 88.

Elnore Shetler and child in buggy accidentElnore Shetler and child in buggy accident Thu, Aug 11, 1910 – 1 · Altoona Tribune (Altoona, Kansas) ·

Another buggy accident involved my first cousin, 3x removed. Henry Roach Martin “was quite badly hurt” when his team spooked, running away in the dark as he headed home from a religious meeting. Apparently, two young men were racing and that frightened his team. The accident was not fatal as H.R. Martin died about 40 years later at age 81.

H.R. Martin injured in buggy accidentH.R. Martin injured in buggy accident Thu, Oct 24, 1895 – 5 · The Emporia Weekly Gazette (Emporia, Kansas) ·

I’ve written earlier about the death of my great-grandfather, Sam McGhee, in an oilfield accident. My other great-grandfather, Alfred Joy, was fortunate to survive several serious accidents while farming.

V is for Vining Graves


A very kind person contacted the Vining family group on Facebook. For some years, she and her husband had cleaned up and decorated the graves of an unknown couple of Vinings. Before that, her parents had cared for the graves. She shared some photos that she took.

I answered, “Thank you so much for taking the photos of Nancy and Henry Vining’s graves. It means a lot to the McGhee/Vining/Martin family to know about our ancestor’s graves. We only have a few photos of Nancy, but none of Henry. We didn’t even know where their graves were.”

Henry Vining’s Civil War file (left) and Nancy Babcock Vining (right)

She told us that there were a lot of Babcocks in Harrison Cemetery. She commented, “I think the Civil War flag holder on Henry’s grave is very special. Not sure I have seen another one like it.”

Then she brought up a concern

Diana Osburn McPhail – Those two stones are very small and, quite frankly, that little country cemetery is not maintained well. Jack and I take tools there every year and reclaim the two stones and a few others from weeds, Bermuda grass, and even a large vine that in spite of brush killer will not die. If it were not for us, the stones would have disappeared years ago. We are in our early 70’s so someday we will be on the other side of the grass ourselves. Your family might want to consider pooling money and putting an upright headstone, maybe even with dates on it, to mark the graves. Just a suggestion.

I am pretty sure that within a couple of years the stones will disappear under grass when we are no longer around. Actually, when we arrived at the cemetery last week there was a large dead cedar tree limb laying over the stones. I had taken loppers with me so I cut off enough small branches so I could get to the stones, clean them, and add the flowers so I could take nice photos for all of you.

Virginia Allain – Whew, hadn’t thought about that issue. I’ll discuss it with my sisters and cousins. Thanks! 

Also in the Harrison Cemetery is Diana’s great-grandparents. She showed me photos of their grave. Yep, her great-grandmother was Sarah Elizabeth Babcock, so guess we are very, very distant cousins.

Now, we have to figure out how and who can fix the graves. My sisters, Karen and Cindy, and I are willing to chip in some money but I’m 1,500 miles away. Another person shared that they placed some large paving stones under their gravestone to raise it up above the grass.

Location of the Harrison Cemetery:

From Highway 169 in Thayer, Kansas go West on Watermelon Road (north end of town). Travel 5 miles to Wichita Road. The Cemetery and Chapel are on the Northeast Corner of the intersection. It is located in rural Wilson County, Kansas, not quite halfway between Thayer (Neosho County) and Altoona (Wilson County).   The directions are from Find-A-Grave.

Before and After the Clean-Up in 2017

The photos below show how badly the grass and dirt get over the graves. Then the after-clean-up photos are next to the before photos.



U is for Uniforms


I wish I had a photo of my great-great-grandfather in his Civil War uniform, but I’ve never found one. A distant cousin thought that he had one, but upon investigation, we realized that it wasn’t Abraham Bates Tower. Sigh. You can read more about that in So Sad – The Photo Was Not My Ancestor. 

I do have photos of my grandfather Clarence McGhee and a great-uncle Albert Vining in their World War One uniforms. My mother even had Albert’s helmet from that war.

I also found a photo of my 3x great-uncle, Elias Babcock. Here’s his photo from the Civil War. It was shared on Ancestry by “Jatpainter” who must be a distant cousin of ours.

elias babcock civil war soldier from jatpainter1

Elias Babcock, Civil War soldier from jatpainter1 on Ancestry.

I researched Elias Babcock and wrote about him on my blog, Finding My Civil War Ancestor. Take a look there for more details about him.

This one isn’t an ancestor, it’s my brother, Owen Lee Martin. He trained at Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri and then was stationed in Germany. This was during the time of the Vietnam War.


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

I’m hoping over time that more of our family photos of ancestors in uniform will get shared. Their experiences must have been life-altering and we need to remember their participation in what now is history.

Q Is For Quilt


In researching the ancestral photos accumulated by our family over the generations, I keep returning to this one. Since baby Truman was born in 1913, that gives us probably 1914 as the year for this vintage family portrait. The older child is Ralph H. Vining born in 1910.


The Walter James Vining family pose with a quilt for the background.

The father is James Walter Vining, son of Erastus Charles Vining 1841–1906 and Elizabeth Richardson 1848–1880. James is a first cousin, 2 times removed, related to me through my maternal grandmother. At this time, the family was living in Taney County, Missouri where James was farming.

The mother of little Ralph and baby Truman is Minnie Essie Boraker, daughter of John Wesley Boraker 1846–1922 and Nancy Susan Faris 1846– death date unknown. Later, four daughters would be added to the family (Effie Ester Vining in 1915, Ruby Vining in 1919, Lula Virginia Vining in 1920, and Daisy Pearl Vining in 1924).

The people are interesting but the quilt adds extra intrigue to the scene. I’m guessing they are outside their home and the quilt was tacked to the exterior of the house to dress up the scene.

Did Minnie make this quilt and want to feature it in the picture? Perhaps it was a gift to them when they married. It’s even possible that the traveling photographer carried along a quilt to use in the pictures.

I hunted around on old quilt sites trying to find the name of this pattern. No luck. Maybe a quilt collector will see this picture and enlighten us on the name of the quilt design.


I shared this post in a quilter’s group on Facebook which had over 100,000 members. Nancy Fuka quickly found the pattern in a book she had. So, if you want to make a quilt like this, here you go. I’m betting the one in the vintage photo above had red for the pieced part.

vining quilt pattern


P Is For Picnic at Hayrick Mound


Vining and McGhee families climb Hayrick Mound_Roxio

As told to Gail Martin by her Aunt Bertha McGhee

“On the 4th of July 1916, the McGhee and Vining families of the Tyro, Kansas area had a picnic up on Hayrick Mound, south of Tyro just over the state line in Oklahoma. Our family was all there. Ethel was just a year and a half old and I was thirteen. Besides Grandma Vining with Ruth and Albert, Francis Vining’s family and the Boltes, and Lucy’s family were there. Our family and the Vining family had become close friends in the 6 years we’d lived near each other.


Hayrick Mound is a bare hill, flat on top, not too high or steep. We were playing (tag) or ‘poison’ as it was called back in those days. Running and chasing each other. I ran over the side at a place steeper than I thought it was and fell face forward, then my body flipped on over leaving my head turned under. I couldn’t get up.

Albert was the first to reach me but he was afraid to lift me up. He thought I had broken my neck. My brother Jesse reached me next and persuaded Albert to help him get me up. They helped me up and with one of them on each side I was able to walk down to the picnic area although I was half-blinded by the pain. They carried me back down to the car and Papa drove me home and found Dr. Wadell to come check me over.   He decided my neck wasn’t broken so told them to keep me quiet till I could recover then he gave them something to give me for the pain.   I was kept in bed for about a week before I could lift my head without too much pain.

Vining picnic

McGhee and Vining picnic 1916

I don’t remember much about the rest of that summer but when I went back to school that fall I began to have severe headaches that would start before noon and be so
bad I couldn’t even go home alone. The teacher would have someone take me home.
After the 3rd day of that Dr. Waddell came up to the school and noted that the seat I had been assigned was a low desk in front of a high seat. He told the teacher that he would have to get me a seat that matched the desk. The doctor told the teacher that because of the injury I’d have to be very careful of sitting correctly.

After that I had no more head and neck pain and thought no more of that old injury till 1932 in Topeka I became ill, aching all over, especially my head, neck, and back. My doctor there treated me for the ’flu’ but I didn’t respond so he sent me to an orthopedic clinic. The x-rays revealed the old injury and they diagnosed arthritis of the spine which plagued me the rest of my life.”

Notes Clarifying Parts of the Story

    • From Wikipedia, here’s more about poison, a game they were playing:
      Jessie H. Bancroft’s 1909 book Games for the Playground… describes it as follows:
      Children form a ring clasping their hands around a much smaller “poison” circle drawn on the floor or ground. The players are trying to push or pull each other to step into the “poison”. As soon as some players touch the “poison” circle, the other shouts “Poisoned!” and run for safety. The safety consists of finding a piece of dead wood, step on it. Safe children would shout “I am standing on the wood! You can’t get me!” A part of the fun is to try and run from one safe place to another. Players tagged while caught off the wood become poisoned themselves and join the catchers. The game ends when as many as possible become poisoned.
    • Hayrick Mound is in Craig County, Oklahoma. It is 958 feet high at the peak.
    • People/families in the story – Grandma Vining was Nancy Jane Babcock Vining, mother of Ruth, Albert, Francis Henry, Lucy, and Bessie. Nancy, Ruth, and Albert lived across the street from the McGhee family. “Lucy’s” refers to Lucy Vining and husband Charles Edwin Bolte and their 4 children. “Boltes” could be any number of cousins, second cousins and in-laws of the Vinings.  Bertha’s brother, Roy, later married Viola May Bolte (daughter of Edward Bolte and Bessie Vining).


Tyro, Kansas – School Photo

In her story, Bertha talks about the school she attended in Tyro. This photo shows her younger brothers in their classroom. Bertha would have been in another classroom for older children.

elmer and austin mcghee school tyro (1280x768)

Elmer and Austin McGhee, Tyro, Kansas