Love and Happy Couples


The topic for the 52 Ancestors Challenge this week was LOVE, so I started searching through the family photo album for examples of happy couples.

Raphael Tuck printed in Saxony

A vintage valentine from my collection. It’s a Raphael Tuck printed in Saxony, after 1866.

Of course, my first discoveries were my own parents and then the grandparents. There’s no wedding picture from my parents’ end-of-WWII marriage at the parsonage, but I do have both sets of grandparents in wedding pictures.

Now, I’m sure that each of these couples went through the rough patches that beset all relationships, but they persevered. Charles Lorenzo Martin and Cora Myrle Joy were married in February 1915 in Madison, Kansas and that marriage lasted 55 years until Ren’s death. They raised eight children through the 1920s, the Great Depression and past World War II when their last child, Charles went away to college at MIT in the 1950s.

My mother’s parents, Clarence Oliver McGhee and Ruth Vining married in July 1917 shortly before he left for the Great War. He survived the horrible warfare in France and returned to work many years for Phillips Petroleum. They raised three daughters. Their  43 years of marriage ended when Ruth died of a heart attack.

My parents, Clyde Owen Martin and Gail Lee McGhee, married in June 1945 and were together for 67 years. Along the way, they raised six children.  My dad had a favorite punchline when people asked what was the secret for a long marriage. He’d say, when we got married, we agreed that whoever asked for divorce had to take the kids.

Not All Succeeded

There were some unsuccessful marriages among my ancestors. My 3rd great-grandmother, Nancy Ann Daggs married Thomas I. Long in pioneer Indiana. Nine children and 38 years later they called it quits with a divorce. Quite unusual in the 1860s.

Here’s the transcription of the divorce papers:
State of Indiana
County of Crawford

Be it remembered that at the Febr’y Term of Crawford Circuit Court, the same being 13th day of February 1866, Before the Hon. William F Parrell, the then sole Judge of the Crawford Circuit Court of Indiana, the following proceedings were herd in the cause of Thomas Long vs. Nancy A Long for Divorce.
And now comes the plaintiff and the Defendant being Thrice solemly Called, Come not but herein make default and it appearing to the satisfaction of the Court that said defendant has been notified of the pendence Of this suit, more than ten days before the 1st day of the present term of this Court and the Court having heard the evidence and being advised in the premises finds that a divorce ought to be granted herein. It is therefore Considered by the Court that the Bonds of Matrimony heretofore existing between plaintiff and defendant …..

The official divorce is dated 1866, but I noticed that in 1860 Nancy Ann was living with her son-in-law and daughter (Abraham and Nancy Angeline Tower). In 1870, the census seems to show her in the household of Susannah Esrey (Perry County, Indiana), but I haven’t yet figured out how they connect.

It seems that 12 days after the divorce, Thomas Long marries Charlotte Anthony. The 1870 census shows Thomas and Charlotte Long and two children that might be from a previous marriage of Charlotte (Anthony Lydia Long and Waldo Long). Further research might clarify the origin of those two children.

Most Stayed Together

For the most part, I’d say the happy couples outnumber the unhappy ones on my family tree.

Clyde Martin and Gail McGhee

Just friends in high school, Gail and Clyde where happily married for 67 years.

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)

Minda or Armin or Arminta or Amanda?


My great-great-grandfather had a step-daughter that has me puzzled. The 1880 census lists her as the 18-year-old step-daughter of William Newton McGhee. The handwriting is hard to read, but it looks like Arminta or Arminda Micheal.

There don’t seem to be any hints on the ancestry site to help me out, so I’ve been poking around in other people’s trees looking for clues. I’ve tried variations on her name and stumbled across a possible husband for her (Lewis Davis). There are lots of Welsh surnames in that area of Arkansas (Davis, Mitchell, Evans, etc.)

Dresses on display at the Eureka, Kansas historical society.

Dresses on display at the Eureka, Kansas historical society.

Mitchell seems to be an earlier name for her mother, Elsie Jane, and possibly the census taker didn’t know how to spell that. Elsie Jane (also called Elsa in one family tree) appears to have a previous marriage as her name was Evans when she married William.

I found two Evans brothers to go with Arminda/Minta and even found Evans as a last name for Arminda on some trees. The brothers are Andrew and John W.

This raises the question of who was Minda’s father? Was it Thomas Evans who seems to be the father of Andrew and John, or was Arminda born out of wedlock before Thomas Evans married Elsie Jane?

As I mix and match the first and last names for her, I’ve found the listings for the husband and the brothers, but none of the trees include documentation like the census or a gravestone.

I wish I could solve the mystery of Arminta/Amanda/Armin/Minda with the last name of Evans/Micheal/Mitchell. She was born around 1862 in Arkansas.

Here’s what Velma Ann Roger’s had in her notes, with some additions of mine in (bold):

Samuel Newton McGhee was the second of three children born to William Newton McGhee and Elsa Jane Mitchell Evans.  Children of Wm. Newton McGhee and Elsa Jane were

1-John McGhee

2-Samuel Newton McGhee

3-Houston McGhee

William Newton McGhee had seven children by a previous marriage.  The first wife’s name is unknown. (I have Matilda E. Booker)

Their Children

1- Fate (Solomon Lafayette McGhee)

2-Lucinda (Lucinda Pearl McGhee)

3-Jane (Zilloh Jane McGhee)



6-Victoria (Victoria Isabell McGhee)

7-Matilda (Harriet Matilda McGhee)

8 – (Fidomia)
Elsa Jane, nee Mitchell, Evans had three children by her first marriage. 1- Andrew Evans, 2-Minda Evans (see the story above), 3-John Evans. According to scant information her husband’s name was Thomas Evans.

*An interesting footnote; Andrew Evans married Lucinda McGhee, and John Evans married Matilda McGhee. Brothers married stepsisters.  When Andrew died and Matilda died, John then took Lucinda as his 2nd wife.

What’s Next? I need to do more work on the whole batch of McGhees, Evans and Mitchells in Perry County, Arkansas. There’s a McGhee family cemetery on Find-a-Grave, so I’ll chart out a bunch from there and see if any fill the gaps in our tree.

mcghee martin family tree

mcghee martin family tree

This is still not solved, but my cousin, Allen Hauser, worked on it too in 2018. “I just went through the records for marriages in Arkansas. Perhaps not all of them are recorded, but there is no marriage listed for anyone with the last name of Mitchell that even remotely resembles any of the names we have for her. Perhaps she never married. No telling when she died. Without any census surviving from 1890 and no state census records from Arkansas that I have seen, it could be hard to find what became of her.”

He did find some evidence that Evans was the maiden name for Elsie Jane. That makes the Mitchell surname likely to be Elsie Jane’s first marriage before she married William Newton McGhee.

Elmer McGhee


When Elmer Lee MCGHEE was born on February 6, 1910, in Tyro, Kansas, his father, Samuel Newton McGhee, was 34 and his mother, Viola Matilda Tower, was 37. He had seven brothers and two sisters. He died as a child on April 5, 1921, in his hometown.

Here’s the bare bones information from the U.S. Federal Census:
►1910 -Elmer McGhee was less than a year old and lived in Caney, Kansas with his father, mother, 5 brothers, and sister. His siblings are Clarence, Jesse, Roy, Bertha, Lealon, and Loren.
►1920 – Elmer Mcghee was 9 years old and lived in Caney, Kansas with his father, mother, 4 brothers, 2 sisters, and 82-year-old grandfather, Abraham Tower.  Added siblings for Elmer are Austin and Ethel. There was an 18-year-old boarder living with them who worked on the public road.


The occasion above seems to be a visit from the Texas branch of the Tower family (Alice and daughters, Helen and Willie Bell) to Tyro. Elmer and Austin McGhee are in the front.

Samuel Newton McGhee and son Elmer in Tyro KS

Samuel McGhee holding his son Elmer. Their home in Tyro, Kansas, with the smaller Vining family home in the background.

The background story on Elmer is he and his brother Austin had polio at a very young age. You see Elmer and his father, Samuel Newton McGhee here in front of their home in Tyro.


Austin McGhee, still in baby dress and his older brother Elmer. Note the step made from a packing box.

The family got a pony so Elmer could go to school. The other children walked to school, but Elmer was too disabled by the polio.


Elmer and Austin McGhee, Tyro, Kansas.

Here’s the Tyro School picture with Elmer and Austin.

elmer and austin mcghee school tyro (1280x768)

Elmer and Austin McGhee, Tyro School, guessing it is around 1919 

Elmer and Austin McGhee are in the 2nd row from the blackboard…the 1st two boys in dark shirts.

Elmer McGhee was buried in Robbins Cemetery near Tyro, Kansas. You will find a number of Tower, McGhee, and Vining graves there.


Bertha writes about the photo of her father Samuel holding Elmer.

William McGhee’s Estate Sale


According to the book, Washington County Tennessee, Settlement of Estates 1796-1841, William McGhee’s estate was totaled up after a public sale in 1828. He would be my 5 X great-grandfather.

Here’s the line: Samuel Newton McGhee > William Newton McGhee (3) > Solomon McGhee  > William McGhee (2) > William McGhee (1). Quite a few trees on have this line but I’m not seeing documentation linking the William > William.

It seems the McGhee name shows up in censuses and other documents with many variations in spelling. McGee, McGeehee, Ghee, Magee.

It’s interesting as many of the names that were buyers at the sale seem to be family members. It’s also interesting to see the value of items almost 200 years ago and what things he owned.


Wm McGhee (2) bought from the sale after the death of William Ghee (possibly his father):

one hoe .25, rifle 10.00, Cow & calf 9.00, Mans Saddle 10.00, Silver Watch 5.00, 2 Books .50, quantity of clothing 3.00, saddle blanket 1.00, Great Coat 5.00, 1 Scythe & Cradle 2.00, Sow & six pigs 3.00, ten bus corn at .25 per bushel 2.50, ten bus corn at .31 per bushel 3.10, a quantity of Corn at .31 per Bushel 18.60.

one pair upper leathers .27, one Bear skin 1.00, one fine hat 5.00, one fur hat, one wool hat 1.50, fifteen Bushels wheat 5.00, 150 bushels corn .33 1/3 per bushel 50.00

William McGhee signed with an X, his mark.

John McGhee (possibly William’s brother) bought 5 pounds iron at .03 per pound .15, one horse collar .75, five hundred Bundles fodder 5.51, Eighteen Bushels rye 6.12,Two pair Bridle Bits .50

Another person who bought at the sale was William Broyles. (The younger William McGhee’s wife is Leah Ann Broyles). There is a William Simon Broyles living in Tennessee, who was a cousin of Leah Ann. It seems likely that it is him.


Photo by Virginia Allain

A few others bought items from the estate sale. They were Matthew Clark, Willam Felken (or Fulker), William Forgeson, John Harman, and John McNeal. William McGhee’s horse sold for $75.

Although it doesn’t state in the record that William (2) is the son of William (1), it places the two of them in Washington County, Tennessee in 1828, along with the Broyles.

Some additional things we might interpret from this. It’s likely that William Ghee or McGhee was a widower since the things he owned were being sold after his death. It seems he grew crops of corn and rye and hay (the bundles of fodder). There was one horse and a saddle and a horse collar so the horse served both as a saddle horse and a plow horse. No wagon was mentioned.

His most valuable personal possessions were a rifle, a silver watch, a greatcoat and a fine hat. There were 2 books so either he or his deceased wife could read, but his son signed the sale paper with an X.

I’m glad to see no mention of slaves, though it is likely that he could not afford any.

Source for the information: “Pedigree Resource File,” database,  FamilySearch ( : accessed 2015-03-18), entry for William /McGhee/.

More Memories of Viola Matilda McGhee


Guest post by Kerry Reitman: I just read your history of my grandmother. Thought you might be Kerry Reitmaninterested in my memories of her:

“Because we moved to Oregon when I was only two, I always thought I missed out on knowing the relatives from Kansas as well as my older brothers and sisters. But I was blessed to know my Grandma McGhee rather well for only a short time. . .better, perhaps than I realized and partially because I was anxious to drink in all I could of a “Grandma”, because she was also the only one I was to ever know personally. My mother’s mother and my father’s father were both gone before I was born.

I think my first knowledge of Grandma was probably through the beautiful “round Robin” letter that Daddy’s family circulated. Each family member placed a letter in a communal envelope as they received it from another brother or sister, or Grandma, removing their own from the last trip around. (Wish they had all saved those!) Through these letters, I came to know my aunts and uncles and also Grandma. I came to know them as people I adored. . . With commonalities that made them such a wonderful family!

Each letter always was full of humor, faith in their God, and stories of the land and growing things. Every letter from each of them told of what they were growing and how it was doing and what they had learned in growing it. From Uncle Loren who was hybridizing lilies, to Uncle Lealon who grew tomatoes on his patio in southern California, to Uncle Clarence who was building a pond and planting trees, to the garden I shared with my dad.

Everyone always had a story of growing things amongst the stories of raising the families they loved. A heritage that is probably why my life has found its way to raising wheat in Eastern Oregon with my farmer husband.

One of the earliest photos that we have of Viola Matilda McGhee

One of the earliest photos that we have of Viola Matilda McGhee

The second way that I grew to know Grandma was through my father’s love for her and my mother’s fond stories of her mother-in-law. My dad wrote to his mother regularly, spoke of her often, and missed her when she was far away. My mother told stories of Grandma McGhee living with them in early marriage and the strength and life lessons and household skills she learned from her as a very young bride. She told me of Grandma’s continued longing and loss of her husband; of the stories Grandma had told her of losing him to an oilfield accident; of the polio epidemic that struck both my father and his brother, Elmer.

The message from all of these stories was that of a strong woman of faith and character who met life with resilience and courage. Someone much admired by my own mother, who had learned and grown under the kind wisdom and tutelage of an older woman she had trusted and grown to love. My dad told the story of a mother who packed up her own belongings, rented her home and moved with him to college to clean and cook for him and several other boys. The images they placed in my head and heart made me love a lady I really had never met. . .

Until she came to live with us for six months when I was about nine or ten. We lived in Cave Junction,

Neita and Austin McGhee with daughters, Dana and Kerry at the Martin farm in Kansas in 1967.

Neita and Austin McGhee with daughters, Dana and Kerry at the Martin farm in Kansas in 1967.

Oregon at the time. I remember a sweet, tiny, little woman with a calm reassuring voice with a (new to me) mid-western accent. Her hair had thinned, so that the bun she had worn for a lifetime on the top of her head had diminished to become one tiny pin curl on the top of her head. Her face was warm and kind and so familiar as she evoked every shape and expression, so much a part of my life that I already knew in my beloved father’s face. Her hands, smaller and more slender also looked like that of her son’s and were always busy, as she had taught his to be, with creative work that provided for and made a home a healthy, good place to be.

I have images in my head of her canning tomatoes with Aunt Ethel, who also visited briefly at the time. I still don’t know really HOW you peel a tomato, as they did for canning or to slice fresh for the table!

She finished my quilt and Dana’s while she was in our home. . . She made one for every grandchild and when you have nine children the number of grandchildren is immense!! Mine was probably the last. . .as I am the youngest of the youngest son. She worked on other quilts, taught my sister, Dana, to crochet. . . My sister Cheryl to knit. She collected old fabric and made braided rugs and made other quilts while in our home. I remember her worrying that her eyes were troubling her and she wasn’t quilting fast enough. . . My dad said “Mom, what’s the hurry? You know when you finish that one, you will just start another!” She was a warm, comfortable presence in our home. She left a hole when she left.

Bertha McGhee and her mother, Viola Matilda McGhee

Bertha McGhee and her mother, Viola Matilda McGhee.

When she left, it was to go to Alaska to stay with my Aunt Bertha. We continued to have wonderful stories of what were to be the last year of her life through letters, and extended phone calls with my dad. She traveled the Inside Passage by ferry to Alaska; saw beauty that astounded her and the wonders of a spouting whale and glacial ice. My Aunt Bertha worked in The Jesse Lee Home, a Methodist orphanage. I am sure my grandma enjoyed the children there as she had embraced us. She experienced the 1964 earthquake that destroyed the orphanage in Seward and forced them to move to Fairbanks.

She fell and broke her hip in the fall sometime telling my father, who always walked with a cane from his polio: ” I did just what I’ve always told you not to. . .I stepped back without looking and tripped on one of my own braided rugs!” She never recovered completely and died near Christmas. She was sent home to Kansas for burial. . . I watched with aching heart my father’s tears when as a struggling minister’s family we had insufficient funds to go and attend her service.

My father’s office was in our home at the time. All of us knew never to bother him when he was writing his sermon. Often you knew you could peek in when you heard him whistling which meant he was done and the sermon complete to his satisfaction. He also usually wrote to his mother at this time. It is a picture I will never forget. . . The day a few months later when he stood in his office door in tears, my mother holding him, because he had started his letter; forgetting that she was no longer here.

I learned from my Grandma that the value and love of who you are is a powerful thing. It can be shared through those you have touched; and given and passed on to those who you have never or only briefly known; in ways that make them also able to share some of those values and gifts of the Holy Spirit that enriched your life. God’s ever encircling blessing.”

Kerry Rietmann

Remembering Viola Matilda (Tower) McGhee


Sadly, I have few memories of my great grandmother, Viola Matilda McGhee. Although I was in my early teens when she died, I saw her once in a while at family gatherings and was too busy being a kid to interact with her. My memories are vague ones. She was a little old lady dressed in old-fashioned dark dresses. We had to be quiet and not boisterous around this elderly woman who we saw infrequently.

Here is Viola Matilda McGhee with some of her great grandchildren in 1953.

Here is Viola Matilda McGhee with some of her great grandchildren in 1953. Susan and Owen Martin (standing), Virginia, Karen and Cindy Martin (seated) and our second cousin Leslie DeWayne Paugh Jr.

She was born on the 3rd of February 1873 in Carrolton, Missouri. Her father, Abraham Bates Tower, survived the Civil War and the horrors of being a prisoner of war at Andersonville Prison. Her mother, Nancy Angeline (Long) Tower, must have been a strong woman to care for her children during the war years and more children plus an invalid husband after that. 

The Tower family and six month old baby Viola Matilda traveled by wagon to Hilltop, Arkansas  Seven of the family members lived in the wagon for most of the rest of the winter while Abraham herded cattle there. The baby lived with the bosses’ wife during the winter. The family called the baby Tildy to differentiate between the infant and her caretaker who was also a Matilda.

I believe the government gave land to veterans there, but haven’t been able to verify that.

The family moved back to Missouri for the next 10 years but must have returned now and then their home place in Arkansas. The two places were about 300 miles apart.

At 21, Viola Matilda married Samuel Newton McGhee in Boone, Arkansas.

Sam and Viola Matilda McGhee with Clarence and Jesse

Sam and Viola Matilda McGhee with Clarence and Jesse, about 1898.

They had 6 children while living in Arkansas and then 3 more after they moved to Tyro, Kansas. Her parents lived there and her sisters needed her help nursing her mother, Nancy Angeline, who had a stroke. They remained in Tyro and the Coffeyville area even after her mother’s death in 1909.

Sam & Matilda 1903, with their children Clarence 7; Jesse 5;  Roy 2;  Bertha baby.

Sam & Matilda 1903, with their children Clarence 7; Jesse 5; Roy 2; Bertha baby.

Her husband, Sam McGhee worked at the Tyro Glass Plant as did his oldest son, my grandfather, Clarence McGhee. In 1913, the family followed the glass plant which moved to Sand Springs, Oklahoma, but the next year, moved back to Kansas.

The two youngest boys, Elmer and Austin, contracted polio in 1913 and both were crippled by it. Read more of that story collected by my mother from Tildy’s daughter Bertha. The family got a Shetland pony for Elmer to ride the mile to school.

Elmer and Austin McGhee, Tyro, Kansas

Elmer and Austin McGhee, Tyro, Kansas

The family had some sad years. The oldest son married and went into the army in 1918, ending up in trenches in France. In 1919, Samuel McGhee disappeared for 3 months. He’d been attacked and beaten, lost his memory but finally recovered to return to his family.

Sadly, their child Elmer died at age 11. The next year, 1922, Samuel died in an oil field accident. It was difficult for the family without their bread earner in that time before social security.

Samuel McGhee

Samuel McGhee

Viola Matilda’s children grew up, married and had families of their own. In her old age, she took turns staying with her children and grandchildren. She didn’t have a place of her own.

When she died at 91, she was visiting her daughter Bertha, who lived in Alaska. Bertha worked at a home for orphaned native children. Viola Matilda fell, breaking her hip which led to her death. She is buried near Coffeyville, Kansas in Deering Cemetery next to her father and mother.

Viola Matilda (Tower) McGhee with 5 of her grown children.

Viola Matilda (Tower) McGhee with 6 of her grown children.