Another McGhee Reunion


It wasn’t easy for the McGhee siblings to get together with some on the west coast, some in Kansas, and Bertha living in Alaska. Here’s one occasion preserved in a snapshot. I’m labeling it here for the benefit of future generations. I believe the photo was taken in front of Austin’s church in Oregon.

1971 mcghee reunion from bob harlan

The 1971 McGhee reunion (photo from the collection of Bob Harlan)


The six McGhee brothers and sisters are marked in bold in the list below. The rest are their spouses and children and grandchildren. The extended family is much larger, of course, as many could not travel to the reunion.

  1. Ronda Ayers (Cheryl’s son)
  2. Randy Ayers (Cheryl’s son)
  3. Jeffry Hauser (Melba’s son)
  4. Melba Hauser (Austin’s daughter)
  5. Allen Hauser (Melba’s son)
  6. Tammy Hauser (accidentally labeled as 5)
  7. David Robbs (Neita’s husband)
  8. Neita Robbs (Ethel’s daughter)
  9. Janice Hauser (Melba’s daughter)
  10. Bertha McGhee
  11. Edna
  12. Dan Robbs (Neita’s son)
  13. Dana (Austin’s daughter)
  14. Kerry (Austin’s daughter)
  15. Neita McGhee (Austin’s wife)
  16. Ethel Davidson
  17. Edna McGhee (Clarence’s wife)
  18. Austin McGhee
  19. Nell (Lealon’s wife)
  20. Lealon McGhee
  21. Roy McGhee
  22. Loren McGhee
  23. Cheryl Ayers (Austin’s daughter)
  24. baby? doll? blanket?
  25. Rodney Ayers (Cheryl’s husband)
  26. Frank
  27. Kenneth Robbs (Neita’s son)
  28. Clarence McGhee


Tyro Family And Friends


Playing Croquet – Vintage Photo

This mystery photo was with a batch of family photos from Tyro, Kansas. My mother said these weren’t relatives, so must be friends in Tyro who came to have a game of croquet with our relatives.

Tyro friends playing croquet

The photo is labeled “Tyro friends playing croquet”

I’m guessing the photo is from 1910 to 1917, so before The Great War. They are dressed formally so maybe this was an after-church activity. The young men are wearing newsboy style caps, vests, long-sleeved white shirts, and ties (bow ties and a narrow tie). The McGhee family belonged to the Methodist Church.

In the background of the croquet game is a garden, I think. I’m guessing this might be at the Samuel and Viola Matilda (Tower) McGhee family home. They had a large garden according to their daughter Bertha’s account. She said, “The garden included a strawberry bed, huckleberries, blackberries, raspberries, dewberries, and the orchard had three kinds of peaches, apples, plums, pears as well as the grapes.”

The other option might be at the home of the Vinings, also my ancestors, but I doubt that their yard was this large. Another neighboring family was “the Galliger family with one daughter, Margaret, a little older than me and 3 younger brothers. The three families were soon doing many things together.”

I checked the 1915 Kansas census for Tyro and the 1920 U.S. census for Tyro and don’t see the Galligers listed. It would have been wonderful to look the family up on Ancestry and see if there were any photos of the three younger brothers. No such luck.

Methodist Episcopal Church in Tyro Kansas

Methodist Church in Tyro, Kansas (photo provided by Jack Irwin)

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) ·

“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. (”

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) ·

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) ·

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) ·

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.

The Death of Roy Martin, Son of John and Cordelia Martin


The Hamilton Grit, Hamilton, KS

Thur. May 11. 1911

(transcribed from


A very sad accident occurred last Thursday afternoon, when Roy Martin, aged 14 years, 9 months and 11 days, son of Mr. and Mrs. John Martin, living about 10 miles northwest of Hamilton, was killed while at work in the field, the boy left the house at noon and went out to plow. About half hour after he had been seen talking to some boys, Dudley Dillingham and brothers, who were working nearby noticed him to be lying on the ground near the horses. On arriving where he was the boys found him dead.

One horse was standing on his lower limb which was broken, his foot entangled in the tug and his hand still grasping the lines. It is thought that the horse stepped over the tug and the boy attempted to raise its foot to put back without unfastening the tug and the horse had fallen or thrown itself on him, the dirt on it, showing it had been down but was standing quietly when found. Three of the child’s ribs were broken on one side, two on the other and his body otherwise mashed.

Funeral services were held at Prairie Bell church, 1:30 p.m. Saturday and were conducted by Rev. Wilson, of Virgil. Interment was made in the No. 8 cemetery.

Roy was a much liked little boy and had a host of friends who will miss him from their presence. He was the youngest of five children, three brothers and one sister surviving him. Relatives and friends have the heartfelt sympathy of all.

Citation for the clipping: 

11 May 1911, 1 – Hamilton Grit at

11 May 1911, 1 – Hamilton Grit at (2018). Retrieved 5 June 2018, from

How We Are Related:

Roy Martin was the brother of my grandfather, Charles Lorenzo Martin. Thus, he was my great-uncle. The other siblings were Archie, Robert, and Anna Faye. Roy Martin’s parents were John Thomas and Cordelia Jane (Stone) Martin.

Clarifications: I had to puzzle a minute over one sentence, “One horse was standing on his lower limb which was broken, his foot entangled in the tug and his hand still grasping the lines.” My question was whether it was the horse or the boy that was entangled in the tug. The horse was standing on the boy’s leg and it must have been Roy’s foot entangled in the tug (or the article would have said “hoof” instead of “foot”).

I also had to look up the parts of the harness to clarify what the tug was.  The picture below is from Wikipedia and it shows the tug running from the horse collar back to whatever it is pulling.

This graphic shows the tug. (Public Domain photo from Wikipedia)

You can see Roy Martin’s gravestone at the FindAGrave site. It shows that he was born July 23, 1896 and died May 4, 1911.

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…

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