At the Courthouse – Ashlock/Babcock Marriage


I’m carrying on my mother and grandmother’s work on our family history. In their time, working on genealogy meant trips to courthouses and cemeteries. If those were too far away, Mom sent a letter. It must have been an excruciating wait for that bit of information that might move the family line forward.

Here’s an example:

It seems that she already has the dates, location, and names, so I’m not sure what further information she felt might show up in the marriage application. Of course, it would be pretty nifty to see your ancestor’s signature.

Sadly, the requested document was not to arrive.

The record keeper in Gentry County, Missouri responded with a short two sentence reply that was thriftily typed at the bottom of Mom’s handwritten letter. “We are unable to help you on the above request. The Courthouse in Gentry County, Missouri, burned in the year of 1885, destroying all records prior to 1885.”

How disappointing. I checked on Ancestry to see if somehow a copy of the marriage papers might miraculously have been saved and now online. Nope, the ashes are long blown away in the Missouri winds and no record remains.

Now, Gentry County has an online site with the email address of the Recorder which saves the cost of a stamp and gets your query there much faster. To search their records online, you’ll need a credit card. Ten dollars buys a fifteen-minute search pass so have your questions well-thought out and ready to make the most of that time.

Here’s the new, since 1885, courthouse in Gentry County, Missouri.

Gentry County, Missouri courthouse (By Americasroof – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

So, how did the marriage of Burr Ashlock and Nancy Jane Babcock turn out? The couple had three children:

Sarilda Jane Ashlock 1867–1951
James F. Ashlock 1869–1879
Isaac Alonzo “Ike” Ashlock 1872–1945

Less than a year after the birth of the youngest son, Burr Ashlock died on the 22 of September in 1973 in Johnson, Missouri. I couldn’t find any old newspapers to explain why he died at the age of 30.

Nancy Jane (Babcock) Ashlock remarried six months later in Wilson County, Kansas at the home of her parents, Ezra B Babcock (1821–1886) and Ellenor Nancy Jane Wright (1820–1882). The groom was Henry Francis Vining who had come to Kansas from East Windsor, Connecticut in the 1850s. It was not unusual to marry fairly quickly in those days with young children needing support.

(This post is part of the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks blog challenge. Check back for future posts.)

Ezra Babcock’s Letter


The Vinings and Babcocks were plentiful in the Thayer area of Kansas around 1910 – 1920s. In searching old newspapers, I frequently find mentions of their socializing, marriages, mishaps, and deaths.

ezrah hall babcock from jatpainter1

Photo posted to Ancestry by JatPainter1 – Ezra Hall Babcock

One item caught my eye, a letter from Ezra Babcock from South Dakota that was published in The Thayer News (Thayer, Kansas) 21 Oct 1910, Fri • Page 1. Since he mentions his two sons by name, I could tell it was Ezra Hall Babcock, my first cousin, 3x removed. Ezra was a name recycled among the Babcocks quite frequently.


A couple of weeks ago, the News sent out a number of cards to former Thayer people, asking for a letter from them for publication. Following is the first one received. Others are arriving and we hope to publish, one or two such each week for a while.

Sturgis, S. Dak. Oct 12, 1910.

To the Thayer News, 

I received your card and will endeavor to give you a brief sketch of South Dakota life and my experience since coming to this state. 

My two sons, Elias and Harvey and myself, filed on our homesteads in the fall of 1908, about twelve miles east of Sturgis and have been living on those claims since that time. Elias and I proved up on our claims the 21st of September 1910 by commuting and paying  $1.25 per acre for the land. We had to live on our claims constantly for fourteen months before proving up. Harvey will homestead his claim and will have to live on it for five years, but will get his land free.

All claims of any value are taken here. Anyone desiring claims would have to go out about 90 miles northeast of Sturgis. There is considerable good land but it is quite a distance from town. This has been a very dry year here and crops have been nearly a failure. Hay is very high, from $15 to $20 per ton, corn is $1.50 per hundred, oats are $1.85 per hundred, potatoes are $2.25 per hundred, eggs are 35 cents per dozen, butter is 35 to 40 cents per pound.

This is a great country for stock, and it does fine here. Horses are very plentiful and bring top prices. I have not seen a sick horse since I came here. Cattle are good prices and find ready sale. My son Harvey sold about two thousand dollars worth of cattle last fall and yesterday sold forty-two steers at thirty-seven dollars a head. There was thirty steers two years old and 12 three years old and fattened on grass. That makes a total of over $3500 for his cattle in the past year. He has around fifty head left to winter.

This climate is very healthy and a prosperous country, only the water is very poor in most places. 

Harvey has a fine spring on his ranch and good water.

I have been working part of this summer for the government at Fort Meade and some in Sturgis. Have also been appointed as supervisor of my district and have been working the roads quite a good deal. I have received three to five dollars a day for eight hours work but have made a flying trip to Deadwood, Lead City, and Rapid City. I find Deadwood to be a very lively mining town of about five thousand inhabitants. Lead City has a population of about ten thousand and the great Homestake mine is located there.

I expect to return to Kansas about the middle of Nov. and will be at my old home and can give all my friends a hearty handshake and tell them all about the country. Better than with my pen. 

I will bid you adieu, till we meet again, with best wishes to all enquiring friends. 

Sincerely yours,

Ezra Babcock


Ezra Babcock letter from S. Dakota

Letter of a South Dakota homesteader 1910

Ezra Babcock letter from S. Dakota Fri, Oct 21, 1910 – 1 · The Thayer News (Thayer, Kansas, United States of America) ·

Just the Facts – Ezra Hall Babcock

Ezra Hall Babcock was born August 31, 1853, in Monticello, Illinois. His father Elias Babcock was 35 and his mother, Laura Keziah Hall, was 28. Ezra married Olive Ellen Dixon on November 14, 1884, in Wilson, Kansas. They had four children in 15 years. He died on August 18, 1931, in Neodesha, Kansas, at the age of 77, and was buried in Wilson, Kansas.

  • Ezra Hall Babcock lived in Chetopa, Kansas, in 1870
  • His wife, Olive Ellen Dixon, had a sister Rachel Dixon who was married to his brother, Samuel Ouberry Babcock
  • Son J Harvey was born on January 6, 1877, in Thayer, Kansas
  • Daughter Rachel was born on August 28, 1885, in Wilson, Kansas
  • Son Elias was born on July 4, 1888, in Wilson, Kansas
  • Daughter Cynthia was born on November 5, 1892, in Chetopa, Kansas
  • In 1900, Ezra was living in Louisburg, Kansas
  • His wife, Olive Ellen died in 1906
  • In 1910, Ezra and 2 sons were homesteading near Sturgis, South Dakota
  • In 1920, Ezra was living in Chetopa, Kansas
  • In 1930, he was living in Thayer, Kansas
  • He died at age 77 on August 18, 1931, in Neodesha, Kansas
  • He is buried at Harrison Cemetery in Wilson County, Kansas

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 Importance of Labeling Photos – Vining Family


Here’s an old discussion from the MyFamily (Martin/McGhee) site. I think we solved this one.

Karen Kolavalli – Dec 11, 2011
Ginger, I had posted this on Facebook, but only had Ruth identified. You were asking about who the others were. Ruth Vining McGhee in white on the right. Also Mrs. Nancy J. Vining (Ruth’s mother). Not sure who the other woman is. Nancy Vining would have been in her late 60’s when this photo was taken–so she must be the seated woman. Ruth was the youngest of 12 children. Nancy also had 2 older children with her first husband.

Virginia Allain – Dec 11, 2011
I was guessing that the woman on the left was Ruth’s mother and the seated lady could be a grandmother. She looks like she could be 80 or so, but maybe it is Nancy Vining as in those days the late 60s would be fairly old.

Karen Kolavalli – Dec 11, 2011
Mom should be able to clear it up.

Karen Kolavalli – Dec 11, 2011
OK, I’ll speculate one more time and then quit! Ginger, I think you’re right that Ruth is standing next to her mother, Nancy J. Babcock Ashlock Vining. And I believe the seated lady is Ruth’s grandmother, Nancy Jane Wright Babcock.  (UPDATE: Nancy Jane Wright Babcock died in 1880 and this photo is circa 1918.)

Gail Martin – Dec 12, 2011
The other woman standing looks like Mother’s older sister Lucy that married Charles Bolte

Virginia Allain – Dec 12, 2011
OK – then the final line-up would be Lucy Bolte (Ruth’s older sister) on left, Ruth Vining McGhee on right, and their mother, Nancy J. Vining seated.

Lucy Vining Bolte, Mrs. Nancy J. Vining, and Ruth Vining  (photo from WWI sent to Nancy's son Albert Vining in France)

Lucy Vining Bolte, Mrs. Nancy J. Vining, and Ruth Vining (photo from WWI sent to Nancy’s son Albert Vining in France)

Here’s further discussion on this picture in September 2014:

Virginia Allain: Let’s go back one generation. This is CJ’s grandmother, Nancy Jane Babcock Vining in the front. Photo taken in Tyro, KS. She would be my great grandmother.

Cj Garriott: That’s my mother, of course, on the right, in the white dress.

Karen Kolavalli: On the left is Ruth’s sister Lucy Vining Bolte.

Karen Kolavalli: Did your Grandmother Nancy pass away before you were born, Cj Garriott?

Cj Garriott: I think so; Mother was 37 when I came along in 1934, and was youngest of all her siblings

Virginia Allain: Nancy had a hard time, I imagine raising all those children after her husband’s death. In one census, she is working as a laundress which probably means taking in laundry to wash at her home. Very hard work in those days without electricity and with water being carried in from a well in the yard.

Cj Garriott: Thinking about Nancy’s 13th being born June 10, 1897, and her husband died July 28, 1897. No doubt began the laundress work to raise her family!

UPDATE: After reading about the Vining cousins who had a laundry business in Neodesha, Kansas, I’m now wondering if Nancy worked there, rather than taking in washing at her home.

Finding Carl and Ida Babcock


My mother had a photo labeled Elias, Carl and Ida Babcock. They appeared to be an older couple with a young boy, all dressed in the garb of the late 1800s. Who were they? Were they the grandparents of the boy? I was curious about how they fit into my family.

Elias, Carl and Ida Babcock (photo from the collection of Gail Lee Martin)

Elias, Carl and Ida Babcock
(photo from the collection of Gail Lee Martin)

I found Elias on my family tree, actually I found two of them. The Elias Babcock born in 1817 married a Laura, so I went to work on the one born in 1855.

Thanks to, within a short time, I found the 1910 census with an Elias, Carl and Ida Babcock. They were living in Gentry, Arkansas. That rang a bell, as I have Vining ancestors from there also. This was the Elias born in 1855.

Further investigation showed that Elias Jahue Babcock was a younger brother of my great-grandmother, Nancy Jane Babcock (later Ashlock and then Vining). Carl was his son, not his grandson.

Ida, Elias’ wife, was Ida May Brown who lived from 1856 to 1928.

The Vinings and Babcocks are closely related. Ellenor Babcock married John Vining, Nancy Babcock married Henry Francis Vining and Joseph Babcock married Julia Vining.


Confusing Marriages of the Ashlocks and Vinings


It was interesting trying to chart my grandmother’s half-brother Isaac Ashlock on the family tree. Here’s the final results and some notes to help you follow it.

Isaac Ashlock and his sister Sarilda. (photo from the collection of Gail Lee Martin)

Isaac Ashlock and his sister Sarilda. (photo from the collection of Gail Lee Martin)

When Isaac Alonzo “Ike” Ashlock was born on December 22, 1872, in Johnson, Missouri, his father, Burr Ashlock, was 29 and his mother, Nancy Jane Babcock, was 21. He married Jenettie E. Cox and they had three children together between 1912 and 1916 (Nancy Jane, Bessie and Isobell). He then married Ora May Keeling, his stepdaughter, after Jenettie died. Ora and Isaac Ashlock had one daughter (Iris Mae) together in 1940. Isaac died on June 11, 1945, in Athabasca, Canada, at the age of 72.

Chartin the Ashlock - Vining - Keeling marriages

Chartin the Ashlock – Vining – Keeling marriages

Fortunately my grandmother (Ruth Vining McGhee) passed some information to my mother, Gail McGhee Martin so that’s the basis for this. Click on the graphic to see it larger.

Here’s Gail Martin’s note about the marriages: “Uncle Luther Vining (Isaac’s half-brother) went to stay with Uncle Ike in Canada and then Isaac died, June 11 1945, Some time in the last half of 1945 Luther married Ike’s widow, Ora and brought her to Kansas. After their divorce Ora married Earl Nellis in Caney, Ks. Now that all took a lot of research. I corresponded with Ora in the 1980s from Hanover, Ks.”

Further note from Gail Martin: “If that isn’t confusing enough, Jenette’s older daughter, Laura Keeling married my mother’s cousin, Charles Augustus Vining (Fiddlin Jake) in Haskew, OK on Aug. 8 1911.”

Isaac Ashlock in Canada

Isaac Ashlock in Canada

I wish I knew the names of the grandchildren shown with Isaac here and which daughters are their mothers.



Well, my first foray into posting on this particular WordPress blog ended in failure!  It ended up as a very nice post on my OTHER WordPress blog, so you may just have to visit it to read the post:

I don’t see how to add photos to a post on this blog, although I see that you have used photos in your posts, Ginger.