Reunion – 71 Years Ago


Seventy-one years ago in July, the McGhee family gathered for a reunion. Thank goodness, someone labeled the photos or I never would have figured out the people in this photo.

1948 mcghee reunion ruth dora

July 1948 – McGhee family reunion

Even with the names, I’m hard put to match them up. I’ll have to put our Facebook cousins group to work figuring out this one.

The casual pose captures the relaxed camaraderie of siblings and their offspring gathered together.  Boards resting on barrels serve as tables with a checked table cloth to dress them up. The glass pitcher is probably filled with freshly-squeezed lemonade. The plate on the grass appears to have sandwiches on it. I’m sure there was fried chicken, potato salad, and baked beans too.

1948 mcghee reunion1948 mcghee reunion 2

The women are wearing dresses and the men have slacks and long-sleeved shirts. This is probably Kansas and therefore quite hot in July. It was a more formal time and the attire is what was appropriate in that era for a special picnic with the extended family.

Chairs were brought out from the house and impromptu seating concocted as well. Blankets were spread on the ground under the shade of a big tree.

1946 Reunion

Two years earlier, this 1946 reunion photo captures some of the McGhees. Neatly lined up, the names are more readily attachable to individuals. Left to right: Treva Mae Davidson, Viola McGhee (back), Frances McGhee, Nita Cleo Davidson, Melba McGhee (back), Viola Matilda Tower McGhee, Roy McGhee (back), Bertha McGhee.

Treva Mae, Viola, Frances, Nita Cleo, Melba, Viola Matilda, Roy, Bertha; 1946.

1946 McGhee Reunion

Although not as candid, it does give us a better view of people’s faces.

Let this be a reminder to us as we gather with family this summer. Take lots of photos and label them with names and dates. Future generations will appreciate your effort.

2000-03-01 gail martin celebration of life 001

1946 McGhee Reunion

Jesse’s Car Business


The hint this week for Sepia Saturday showed some vintage cars parked outside a courthouse. I’ll show you the photo that it brought to mind first and at the end, the inspiration picture.

As you can see in my photo, the auto is parked outside an early service center called the Liberty Garage.


Early auto in Morgan, Texas at the Liberty Garage

What we know about this photo:

  • The Liberty Garage was in Morgan, Texas.  Nowadays, you’d cruise down I-35W from Fort Worth, then across to Morgan in Bosque County. It’s 40 miles west of Waco.
  • Only 490 people live there now, and it was only slightly larger back in the 1920s. It peaked around 1900 at a population of 850 and started its downward slide after that.
  • From our family letters, we can place the photo as being around 1919 to 1922.
  • The garage seems to have taken over an existing storefront and the canopy partly obscures the previous name. I’m wondering if that old name might have been “Orient?” The word under that is too long to be cafe or store, but none of my searches turned up a list of stores in long-ago Morgan.

How it relates to our family:

  • Our great-aunt Bertha McGhee wrote, “There were six children still at home when Papa was killed.   Elmer had died the year before and Clarence was married and Jesse was in Tex. with Aunt Alice’s family–working as a mechanic.   Clarence and family lived on the oil lease where papa was killed and Roy was working with Papa at the time.”   “Papa” (Samuel Newton McGhee) was killed October 28, 1922.
  • Another tidbit from Bertha, “Jesse went to Texas soon after he took the automotive course in K.C.   In 1919, I think.   I know he was there the summer of ’19 when Papa was gone those months having suffered amnesia after being beaten and robbed.   I was 16 and Roy was the oldest one at home.   Clarence had got home from Overseas and was working for Phillips in Okla. south of Caney–his first job with Phillips–if my memory is correct.”
  • Our second cousin 1x removed, Helen Ruth Johnson wrote that her mother, Helen Newton Morris, and our Jesse McGhee had a couple of businesses together when he lived in Morgan, Texas; the first business was the Liberty Garage.   Helen sent a Liberty Garage paper signed by Jesse, as well as a photo of the garage to my sister.

Here’s the Sepia Saturday inspiration photo:

Seized Vehicles (1942) Vancouver Public Library : Sepia Saturday 477

Further Photos of Jesse McGhee During This Time


Jesse McGhee with cousin Helen Newton and a friend


Jesse McGhee and a friend


Helen Newton Morris with Jesse McGhee (early 1920s)

Jesse McGhee

Jesse McGhee – not sure of the date on this or the lady. If this is later, it could be back in Kansas and this might be his first wife.

I turned to the 1920 census to see what kinds of businesses and workers there were in the town of Morgan. I previously had not found Jesse in 1920, but there he was in the household of S.L. and Minnie Leigon. He was noted as being a cousin and they misspelled his last name as McGheehee.

His age was 21 and his work was mechanic at Country Engine. So, it must have been after the January 1920 census that he and his cousin opened the Liberty Garage. He was not the only one working on cars. Three other men were listed as working at various garages.

List of Businesses and Workers in Morgan, Texas in 1920

  • Grain buyer
  • Real estate
  • Keeper – boarding house
  • Proprietor – hotel
  • Lineman – telephone
  • Farmers (lots of farmers)
  • Superintendent – public school
  • Dentist
  • Cashier – bank
  • Accountant – bank
  • 2 Physicians
  • Plumber
  • Shoemaker
  • Telegraph operator – railroad
  • Druggist
  • 4 Baptist ministers
  • 3 Merchants – grocery store
  • Merchant – dry goods
  • Meat market
  • Lumber
  • Editor – town paper
  • Postmaster
  • Mail deliverer
  • Cook – restaurant
  • Well driller
  • Electrician – light company
  • Tailor shop
  • Carpenter – house
  • Proprietor – garage
  • Dressmaker – at home
  • Salesman – grocery
  • Traveling salesman – grocery
  • Washerwoman (there were a number of these. One was the wife of a Baptist minister)
  • Clerk – oil company
  • Cook – private family
  • Salesman – dry goods
  • Proprietor – jewelry store
  • Oil company bookkeeper
  • Laborer – public roads
  • Retail merchant – drugs
  • Proprietor – furniture
  • Cook – hotel
  • Laborer – waterworks
  • 3 Blacksmiths
  • Laborers – cotton gin
  • Barber

There were a few teachers for the public school (Adell Majors, Minnie and Bertha Starr) and three high school teachers (Gertrude Crow, Mattie Hall, Ana Harrell).  Quite a few people worked for two railroads (the MK&T and the GC&SF). They included clerks, section hands,



Fishing Photo – Sepia Saturday


The challenge this Saturday is to choose a vintage photo from our family album that relates in some way to the photo below. I’ll have to think about this. Which element sparks a memory of a photo we have. Boat, fish, boy sitting on rocks, a young man with a fishing pole?

Fishing, Old Weir, Killarney : National Library of Ireland (Sepia Saturday 476)

There’s not a lot of water out on the Kansas prairies where generations of my ancestors lived. My family album did include this picture of my grandparents, their daughter Carol Jean, and a high school friend of hers. They are boating on the Cottonwood River.


Mother Daddy on cottonwood River boat

I’m thinking this must be the early 1950s. The white shirts and rolled up jeans were probably the teen attire of that time. Her father, Clarence McGhee, has the oars and her mother, Ruth McGhee has the seat at the back.

The river looks high with the trees or bushes on the opposite bank in the water. May have had some recent heavy rains.

My mother wrote about the family’s camping excursions along the Cottonwood. They would catch lots of fish and pick wild berries. You can read more about it here ‘Gone Fishing’ on the Cottonwood River.

Taking a Break (Sepia Saturday)


I’m trying out a challenge to get myself to post more family pictures. Sepia Saturday posts a vintage photo each week and asks bloggers to find one in their own family albums that relates to the theme.

Their photo triggered me to look for boys taking a break, boys wearing hats, etc.

Bleach Room Boys (Sepia Saturday 475)

I found one that relates to the theme and it includes my grandfather, Clarence McGhee. It’s not the same kind of hats as the boys by the mill building are wearing but close enough.

In my photo, these small-town Kansas boys are wearing broad-brimmed hats suitable for the hot sun of a prairie summer. Even so, they are squinting into the sun as the photo is taken. Clarence is the shortest boy in the back.

Clarence McGhee_boy in back_Tyro brick_edited-1

Although he worked at the glass plant in Tyro, I think he looks too young here for that. I don’t think this is a work break. Some of the boys are even younger and barefooted. Probably this is one of their backyards and that’s a garden shed or even an outhouse.

They could have been pulling weeds in the garden or performing other chores expected of boys in 1910 – 1915. Did you see the baby bunnies that the one boy has? I’m not sure if the other boy has rabbits or maybe chicks.

You can take a look at what other bloggers posted for this theme. Lots of fun old photos.

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.

W Is For WWI And Clarence McGhee


I’ve written quite a bit about my grandfather’s WWI experience and placed it on a web site (Clarence McGhee in WWI) Thinking I’d exhausted that topic, it was with surprise and anticipation that I read this week an email sent to me from France.

clarence mcghee WWI postcard tanks in France

Two years ago, they started an association called The Americans of Gondrecourt Area 1917/1919. Their goal was to preserve the memory of the American presence in the villages of the old canton of GONDRECOURT LE CHÂTEAU and neighboring communes from the time of World War I.

Our grandfather had been in the area of ​​Gondrecourt and Ribeaucourt where there was a training center for the US Army and Gondrecourt had a hospital where 130 US soldiers died as a result of their injuries. At the time there were also two US airfields, in the nearby communes.

I responded that I’d be delighted to have our ancestor’s photos and information included in their preservation effort. I’m very interested in finding out more, if possible, about Clarence McGhee’s role at this location. Was he training soldiers, taking training, working at the hospital, treated at the hospital, or serving in some other role?

Slideshow of Clarence Oliver McGhee – WWI

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

In a follow-up email, they provided this information:

The small town of RIBEAUCOURT served as cantonment to the troops who came to rest. After the armistice of November 11, 1918, the US troops remained in the villages until 1919. We did some research in this commune and found in the old houses inscriptions of soldiers and letters left on the spot. All of them are 100 years old. On our sector, we find a lot of graffiti left by the soldiers. As soon as we can have the name of a soldier, we are looking to contact the family. But it is very hard to find these because between the address left by the soldier in 1918 and that of today, often people have changed. That’s why we created our site and our association, which allows us to reach people in the United States.

The association, Les Américains de la Gondrecourt Aréa, has a web page and a Facebook page. “Every day we put a different picture. Our project is to create a museum dedicated to the American soldiers, which will collect the objects, uniforms, letters of soldiers coming on the sector and preserve the patrimony of the sector. All that we can find, buy or recover, we will put it in the museum, which will be in the town of HOUDELAINCOURT, 10 km from GONDRECOURT and 10 km from RIBEAUCOURT.”

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) ·

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.