Photo – Sam McGhee

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My great-grandfather, Samuel Newton McGhee, was born on the 29th of November in 1875 in Perry, Arkansas. He married Viola Matilda Tower in 1895 and they started a family. In 1907, they came to Montgomery County, Kansas to help with Tildy’s mother who had had a stroke.

Over the years, Sam worked for a sawmill marking trees for the logging crew to cut (in Arkansas), then in Kansas he found work with his team of horses, ” helping farmers, grading roads and in the new industry in Kansas–the oil fields. Along with the oil, a new fuel had been discovered, natural gas. Gas lights and gas burners for heating and cooking were a great improvement over wood or kerosene we had been using.” (from daughter, Bertha McGhee’s memories)

They moved to Tyro where Sam took a job as night watchman at a glass factory which made chimneys for lamps and lanterns. He prepared the sand and chemicals for the following day’s run. When the factory moved to Oklahoma, Sam took an extra job hauling ice from an ice plant in Caney to the ice house of a local grocery store and also made home deliveries on a country route offered by the store.

He found work with the Montgomery County road maintenance crew. He also rented some farmland and grew sorghum cane and made molasses in the fall. In 1914, Sam became foreman of Montgomery County road maintenance and did extra hauling with his team for both the grocery store and in the oil fields.

By age 46, he was working in the oil industry in Montgomery County, Kansas. The photo below shows him with two of his sons, Roy and Clarence. the dog’s name is unknown.

Sam McGhee and Sons at Oil Well

Samuel McGhee

Sam McGhee died in an accident at work in October 1922. It was only recently that I uncovered some details of that accident after searching in Newspapers.com.

Sam McGhee crushed oil well accident

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The Coffeyville paper, The Morning News, gave some more information, “Sam McGhee was injured Saturday morning when he was cleaning out a mill on the Harding place, about two miles east of Tyro.”

The Wichita Daily Eagle described the accident this way, “an engine being used in connection with an oil rig near Coffeyville exploded.”

The Independence Daily Reporter clarified the incident, “Mr. McGhee was injured when a machine used for cleaning out oil wells broke on the Harding lease, east of Tyro, last Saturday. He was so seriously injured that no hopes were entertained for his recovery at any time.”

More details emerged in The Morning News which noted, he “died at the Southeast Kansas hospital here Sunday night from injuries received Saturday when a well-drilling rig on which he was working broke, crushing his head and puncturing a lung.”

About two months later, a settlement was suggested (The Coffeyville Daily Journal, 12 Dec 1922, Tue, Page 5).

“Chas. D. Ise of this city, acting as referee in the matter of the compensation of Viola Matilda Mc-Ghee, administratrix of the estate of S. N. McGhee, against the Kansas-Oklahoma Consolidated Oil company, has recommended a payment of $3,200.40. McGhee died recently of injuries sustained in an accident on a lease near Tyro.”

I was curious about whether that was a good offer or not. Here’s a chart showing wages at that time. I also found that average earnings in 1924 were $1,303. So the offer was only equal to a few year’s wages.

“Wages And Hours Of Labor In The Petroleum Industry, 1922. “. Hathitrust.

Sam was survived by his wife Viola Matilda Tower, five sons and two daughters. The sons, Clarence, Roy, Lealon, Austin, and Loren, lived at home, while son Jesse resided at Morgan, Texas. The daughters, Bertha and Ethel, lived at home. Ethel was only 7 years old and Austin just 10. The other children were in their teens or grown. The McGhees had lost a young son, Elmer, just the year before.

Years later, Sam’s daughter Bertha shared her memories with her niece, Gail Lee Martin.

“Papa worked for hire with his team of horses helping farmers, grading roads for Montgomery County and hauling pipe in the new industry in Kansas — the oil fields. My earliest memories are of running to meet him as he came home from work. He would swing me up on the wagon seat to ride the few feet home with him making me feel so special.

At home, Papa loved to play the pump organ and when I would learn a new song at school or Sunday School or Campfire Girls, I would be eager to sing it to papa. Papa had a good tenor voice and sang in the choir at our local Methodist Church. He had learned music in Arkansas when a tuning fork was used to get the pitch and the melody was learned by singing do, re, me’s. So papa could take a piece of music and sing the notes until he had the melody in his head, then he’d set down and play it on the organ by ear – just adding chords for the left hand. 

Often on Sunday afternoon neighbors and friends would come visiting and stand around the organ to sing while papa played. On the back porch, Mama and the boys would make a freezer of ice-cream to be shared after the singing was finished.” 

For more of Bertha McGhee’s memories, visit the Our Echo site to read Sam McGhee, Memories of Hayrick Mound, and From Melbourn, Arkansas to Tyro, Kansas.

Tyro Family And Friends

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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)

Elmer McGhee

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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.

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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.

elmer-austin-mcghee_edited

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

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_samuel_mcghee_holding_elmer

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

The Importance of Labeling Photos – Vining Family

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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.