1930 Farmington, NM Outing


I don’t have photos of any film stars in my family collection, but I do have ladies with cars. So for this Sepia Saturday challenge, I’ll share my great-aunt Bertha McGhee’s pictures. It also serves for the 52 Ancestor’s Challenge: Adventure.

Sepia Saturday Header 494 (2 Nov 2019) Filmstar With Car

These are from her time in New Mexico when she was working at the Navajo Indian School. Apparently, the staff at the school had some time off and went on excursions together.  That’s Bertha standing by the car.

Bertha by car in NM

I’ve made contact with two people who also had great-aunts working at this school. They’ve been able to identify their relatives in a few photos that I have. Sure would be great to hear from others who might recognize some of these teachers and school employees. The year might be 1929 or 1930.

I don’t know whose car this was or who owned the dog. Some possible names of the people are ones I’ve collected from the 1930 census for the staff names at the Navajo Indian Mission of Farmington, NM. The people below could be Mabel Huffman, Bessie Ullery, Clara Lenz, Emily Guigon, Nellie Hawthorn, Mary A. Leckliter or Eli Forman. There were two sisters in their twenties living at the school (Lois and Edith Hadley).

Bertha & dog on car in sandTop-4

These photos seem like they are from the same adventurous excursion. They are exploring on unpaved roads, quite sandy in places, in areas with scrubby growth. They take some photos on a rocky hillside and in an arroyo. I’m glad they didn’t get stranded out there in the sand.


Top-3_edited-1young woman in New Mexico 1930Bertha on right?bertha and teachers on hillside (2)

The woman in the dark hat is identified by her great-nephew as Bessie Ullery. At first, I thought the other woman with the scarf might be Mabel Hoffman, but her great-nephew says it isn’t her.

The man may not necessarily be an employee at the school. Possibly the young women hired a local driver for the outing or he might be a friend. I keep hoping that someone will recognize the rock formations as a destination near Farmington, New Mexico.


Read more about the Navajo Mission School and the people. To see what other bloggers are writing about for Sepia Saturday, just click that link.

R Is For Religious Ancestors


Many of my immigrant ancestors made the arduous journey by sea to the colonies in search of religious freedom. The mandated, government religion in England did not suit them so in the 1600s, the Tower family set off for what became Hingham in the Massachusetts Colony. Knowing that family history, not just for the Tower family but also other early arrivals in the colonies (Vining, Joy, and likely other lines), shaped my thinking about religion.

Tower family historyTower family history Sun, May 23, 1909 – 26 · The Boston Globe (Boston, Massachusetts) · Newspapers.com

I’m a strong advocate of separation of church and state. Fortunately, the founding fathers as they worked on crafting the U.S. Constitution put that in. Jefferson, Franklin, and other great minds of the 1700s wanted to preserve the U.S. government from control by religious groups. In America, you are free to practice the religion of your choice and not have the government telling you which you can choose and not having those religions dictating laws for the government.

Therefore, I’m happy to find on my family tree umpteen variations of Christianity from Quakers to even a couple of Mormons and I’m sure, some atheists too. There are probably other religions that I haven’t spotted yet on the family tree from Jewish to Islamic to Hindu. Many people today identify themselves as spiritual but not part of any organized religion.

Here’s more from Wikipedia about the Great Migration which the early Tower family were part of:

Many Puritans refused to conform to the wishes of the King (Charles I) and his loyal Archbishop so they fled to the Plymouth Bay or Massachusetts Bay colonies, in what has been labeled the “Great Migration.” In 1633, migration from England to the Americas began with a number of participants on a ship named the Bonaventure. Robert Peck, the Rector of St Andrew’s Church, emigrated to the new colony of Massachusetts with half of his congregation, most likely all of the 133 people on HMS Diligent, which departed in June 1638 from Ipswich, England. Peck had been censured by religious authorities for his Puritan practices, and his daughter had married the son of another well-known Puritan minister named John Rogers.

The passengers on the Diligent, working-class people such as shoemakers and millers, a number of ministers, and gentry, were mostly Puritans. Once there, the passengers founded “New” Hingham, to remind them of “Old” Hingham in England. Once most of the passengers settled there, the population of the town had doubled. More specifically they were called East Anglicans, possibly named after the former Kingdom of East Angles in which Hingham resided, and maybe after the Anglican Church.

In more recent generations, my tree contains deacons and ministers in various denominations. My great-aunt Bertha McGhee studied at Baker University in Kansas. Later, while working at the Methodist orphanage in Seward, Alaska, she used her free time to start a church in the rural community of Hope. This photo shows Bertha inside that log church in the 1940s.

Bertha’s Story of Going to Alaska

In 1939 on the advice of a Deaconess friend, I enrolled for a year of post-graduate training at National College for Deaconesses and Missionaries. As the time for graduation neared and field representatives came to interview graduates for appointments. I wondered if I would consider a task in Alaska if it was offered.

While in Baker I had taken a course in the “Spread of Christianity around the World” and Dr. Ebright had assigned me the area of Alaska to study. Besides that a friend in our student volunteers for Christ had shared letters from a nurse friend of hers, who had gone with a group of children by boat from Nome via Unalaska to Seward when the Jesse Lee Home had been moved there in 1925. Nurse, Beth Stewart Dalit was to become a very dear friend of mine in the years that followed.

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

N Is For Navajo Baby


This month’s A to Z Blog Challenge gives me a chance to feature vintage photos from our family albums. The photo today comes from my great-aunt Bertha McGhee’s album from her time teaching at the Navajo School in Farmington, New Mexico in 1929 – 1931. The name entered on the 1930 census was Navajo Children Methodist Boarding School.

navajo baby

A Navajo baby in Farmington, N.M. 1929/1930. Photo from the album of Bertha McGhee.

Unfortunately, the name of this beautiful baby was not included in the album. Since children this young did not attend the school, it is possible that the youngster is part of a  family that worked at the school. There was an Eli Foreman who is listed with the school staff as a farmer. His wife, Jerdie, and four children lived there as well. They were full-blooded Shawnee from Oklahoma according to the census.

The children’s names were Leonard, Jimmie, Irene, and Henry. Could this be 2-year-old Henry Foreman in the photo? If the photo were from 1929, then Henry would have been just one.

It’s possible that the baby did not live at the mission and was photographed when the Navajo family came to visit their children at the boarding school. Bertha McGhee’s photo album contained the photo below showing a Navajo family with a horse and wagon. The women are wearing traditional dress and one holds a baby.

navajo family and wagon - Photo from Bertha McGee's album 1929-1930

I can’t tell if this is the same child as the first photo above.

I would love for someone who attended the school in that era to see these photos and recognize family members.

Read more about her experience and see more photos at my page: Navajo School – Farmington NM 1929-1931.