Independence Day 1861


My mother, Gail Lee Martin, wrote this story in 2006 for the Our Echo website. We are so lucky that she instilled in us an appreciation of our family’s heritage and that she worked so diligently to research and preserve it. I’ve added some vintage graphics and a newspaper clipping to her written account.

1861 – Our Family’s Patriotic Heritage

Have you ever wondered how the early settlers celebrated the 4th of July in Kansas for the first time after becoming a state? I traced my Mother’s family from Connecticut to Iowa, through Missouri to the Kansas territory in 1859. I always wondered how my great-grandparents, James and Almira Vining, celebrated that special occasion.

The Vining family settled on a small homestead near the Verdigris river three miles east of the tiny community of Madison Centre in April 1857. At that time the family consisted of James and his wife, Almira; their children: Henry, my grandfather, 21; Erastus, 19; Isreal, 15; Charles, 13; James Jr. 11; Franklin, 6 and their only daughter, three-year-old Jane. When Kansas became a state the four older boys had already enlisted to serve in the United States Calvary and were away fighting in the Civil War. With four sons in the service of their country, I’m sure the Vining family attended the patriotic ceremony that was held in their neighborhood that July.

In July 1861 Madison Centre was in Madison County twenty miles south of Emporia. The Emporia News, the only newspaper in that area at that time, reported the following:

Madison Centre, Madison County
Mr. Editor: Early in the day, a number of citizens of this township assembled for the purpose of raising a Union flag, which was accomplished to the satisfaction of all present. The Declaration was then read by John J. Greenhalgh, in a loud, clear distinct tone. He did justice and honor to the memories of the great and good men who made it.” Then the news report went on to tell about the bountiful dinner everyone enjoyed. “The meal was furnished by the ladies of the community including roast mutton, roast and boiled chickens, chicken pies, cakes, tarts and other ’knicknacks’ too numerous to mention.”

How proud I am that my ancestors were there to observe the raising of the first Union flag in Madison Centre, Kansas.

Our family still celebrates July 4th with lots of good home cooked food and a few fireworks, mostly sparklers. For many years we had family picnics at Peter Pan Park in Emporia on the 4th of July. We still remember the lovely rose garden and who could forget the funny antics of the monkeys on Monkey Island?
1948 reunion clipping

In 1948, the Martin family reunion was delayed until July 18th.

My husband’s grandmother, Marie Joy, always made a big heavy crock full of “thick fruit salad” because invariably the weather was hot and we didn’t have ice available on almost every corner as we do now. Grandma Joy would use twice the amount of Jell-O that the recipe called for then added lots of fruit with bananas and marshmallows until it was almost solid. But we loved it! Since we raised our own chickens, we always had big containers of fried chicken with all the pieces including the neck, liver, heart, gizzard, and the coveted wishbone. As a special treat, we sometimes had store-bought “pork & beans.”

High flying flags always arouse my patriotism and I see them flying in so many different places. For instance, postage stamps through the years have been one way of showing patriotism for our country. I delight in sending my mail with stamps showing flags or eagles. Every year the postal department issues new designs. I recall one I especially liked. It had the flag flying briskly over the words, “I pledge allegiance …” I guess I thought flags could only fly briskly in Kansas.

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.

Q Is For Quilt


In researching the ancestral photos accumulated by our family over the generations, I keep returning to this one. Since baby Truman was born in 1913, that gives us probably 1914 as the year for this vintage family portrait. The older child is Ralph H. Vining born in 1910.


The Walter James Vining family pose with a quilt for the background.

The father is James Walter Vining, son of Erastus Charles Vining 1841–1906 and Elizabeth Richardson 1848–1880. James is a first cousin, 2 times removed, related to me through my maternal grandmother. At this time, the family was living in Taney County, Missouri where James was farming.

The mother of little Ralph and baby Truman is Minnie Essie Boraker, daughter of John Wesley Boraker 1846–1922 and Nancy Susan Faris 1846– death date unknown. Later, four daughters would be added to the family (Effie Ester Vining in 1915, Ruby Vining in 1919, Lula Virginia Vining in 1920, and Daisy Pearl Vining in 1924).

The people are interesting but the quilt adds extra intrigue to the scene. I’m guessing they are outside their home and the quilt was tacked to the exterior of the house to dress up the scene.

Did Minnie make this quilt and want to feature it in the picture? Perhaps it was a gift to them when they married. It’s even possible that the traveling photographer carried along a quilt to use in the pictures.

I hunted around on old quilt sites trying to find the name of this pattern. No luck. Maybe a quilt collector will see this picture and enlighten us on the name of the quilt design.


I shared this post in a quilter’s group on Facebook which had over 100,000 members. Nancy Fuka quickly found the pattern in a book she had. So, if you want to make a quilt like this, here you go. I’m betting the one in the vintage photo above had red for the pieced part.

vining quilt pattern


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

L Is For Les Vining Memories


This letter was written by Lester Lloyd Vining to his cousin, Gail Lee Martin (my mother). He wrote this at age 70, five years before his death. She must have asked him for memories of his growing-up years.

Les was just four-years-old when his parents were killed in a car/train accident in Nowata County, Oklahoma. His older sister, Sylvia, was only 18 but took on the raising of her younger siblings (Les and Flossie Ann who was also called Susie). Sylvia eventually had 8 children of her own.

I Remember When

Written Dec. 28, 2000 – By Les Or Pop-o Vining

Dear Gail, when I first lived in Colorado at Ackman, about all there was a grocery store that Auggie Wyman owned. We lived about a 1/4 mile from there. We played along the canyon rolling tires or pushing iron rims down the paths with a tee board down by the baseball field. When I caught my hand in the Maytag wringer and it kept spinning on the knuckles of my right hand till Sylvia got it stopped, and turning summer sets on the bed till I hit the back of my head, it bled some. Sylvia said it was where our horse in Oklahoma Old Black Joe bit me on the head. I still have a bad scar there. When they had baseball games and Leon Wyman my age and me would go all around the field yelling “I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream” and then Auggie would give us an ice cream cone.

When the cow went dry and we had no milk, Sylvia mixed condensed milk with water. I was standing on the bench behind the table when she gave it to me I took A BIG SWALLOW and then squirted milk all over the table. When Sylvia ask what was the matter, I said, “it’s blinky.”

When we had moved to the Garwood house, we pulled radishes in an old garden and would eat them right there. And a dirt clod fight Ray, Dale and me had, Dale got hit in the eye and was screaming “I can’t see.” All he had was a little dirt in his eye, but we got in trouble for it.

When Sylvia had a tub of water setting on the floor for scrubbing the floor and the guys came in for lunch, after lunch the boys kept hanging around the house and Sylvia wanted them to go back to work so she could get the floor cleaned, so finally Shorty and one other got Sylvia by each arm and set her down in the tub of water, called her an old wet setting hen then ran off to the field to work again.

Sylvia Vining husband Dale Lewis

Dale Lewis and wife, Sylvia Belle Vining and their children.

We lived there when I started to school seemed like a long walk probably two or three miles one way uphill both ways. Uncle Eften Hawkins (Efton Felix Hawkins) had a farm across from the school.

Oscar and Alfred had worked for Bert Hainny even before we moved from Okla. He had a son called Buddy and going on chicken steal was popular at that time and Buddy was one of the worst so they got together against him and set it up with a farmer to come out at a signal and shoot his shotgun. So they got the chickens to squawking and when he shot the 12 gauge they threw slit beans at Buddy. He thought he was shot for sure. Of course, they all thought it was quite funny.

When we lived at Ackman behind Auggie Wyman’s Store the draw had become a canyon with a cliff on that side we wanted to go see over the cliff so we started Flossie Ann and me. We ran ahead of Sylvia and flopped down at the edge of the cliff to look over like two kids and it scared Sylvia so we really caught it then.

Flossie Ann was nicknamed Susie because when I was young I wasn’t able to say her name right, so her nickname become Susie.

When Sylvia and Dale married I lived with Oscar for a time then went to Sylvia’s and lived with them. Dale had built a one-room log cabin and there was four of us. Flossie had been with them before me. We had a trundle bed that we slid under a 3 quarter bed at night. During the day Sylvia would sprinkle water on the floor to keep down the dust because it was a dirt floor. After a few weeks, we got an outside toilet built over a hole, before that it was go behind the bushes with catalog paper. Dale bought a black Jersey cow so we could have milk. The cow cost $20.00 and he worked for his uncle to pay for it. During the time we had that cow, she gave us seven heifer calves and one bull. We sold her for $80. Also, that cow could go thru any fence in the county.

For water, we had a spring about 300 yards from and carried water from it as long as it was running when it was dry we hauled water about three miles with 55-gallon drums with a tarp over the top so it didn’t spill out. They were on a wooden sled that we pulled with two horses. I walked several miles to school there.

One time we were snowed in and had to walk 6 miles to buy groceries because we had got down to just gravy. When we could walk on the crusted snow we did when we couldn’t, Dale would break trail in the snow taking turns with Sylvia and each of us had a load to carry back home. Lenora was born while we live there. Also, we received a new snow sled for Christmas, our first one.

Dale cleared land and built barb wire fence. We planted corn for the cow and horses and a large garden. We burned wood for cooking and heat. One day while Dale was building fence he killed seven Diamond Back rattlesnakes. Our dog got a lot of porcupine quills while we lived there. When the land we were on opened for homestead filing we filed and another man filed that had the same lawyer and paid him to hold our filing papers and his name was Tom Pender. So we had to move and Tom paid us $50.00 for all the improvements that we had made. It really made us mad. But nothing we could do about it.

The hill that we hauled water out of the canyon was steep and one time later we were in a model truck going up that hill and we were low on gas that was when the gas tank was in front of the windshield and the truck died so we turned the truck around and backed up the hill. There was no fuel pumps on those old trucks so the gas was gravity fed. We moved to a farm we rented four miles southwest of Dove Creek Co. That is where #2 Minnie was born. The house was a two-story and the bottom was made with logs vertical side by side the top story was of boards.

When Minnie was born, Sylvia had a doctor and Minnie didn’t breathe so while the doctor worked on Sylvia, Dale’s mother took Minnie in another room and prayed, worked her arms and legs, and she started breathing. The Doctor couldn’t hardly believe that. Minnie had trouble with milk so we had to buy a goat so she could have the small curds of milk in her stomach. There was a lot of snakes there also.

We were still farming with horses. We purchased a crippled mule there to help with the farming. There was a well there it was deep and a narrow bucket with a check valve in the bottom of it. One day when I was drawing water with the windless I slipped and the crank came back around and hit me in the left eyebrow. I had a lot of scrapes and bruises while we lived there.

I caught a chipmunk while we lived there. It bit me on the knuckle an I had a hard time slinging it off of my hand. It was Flossie’s first year of school and sometimes she didn’t want to carry her lunch bucket and set it down in the snow “I had to go back and get it. It was four miles to school there.


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.)

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)