V is for Vining Graves


A very kind person contacted the Vining family group on Facebook. For some years, she and her husband had cleaned up and decorated the graves of an unknown couple of Vinings. Before that, her parents had cared for the graves. She shared some photos that she took.

I answered, “Thank you so much for taking the photos of Nancy and Henry Vining’s graves. It means a lot to the McGhee/Vining/Martin family to know about our ancestor’s graves. We only have a few photos of Nancy, but none of Henry. We didn’t even know where their graves were.”

Henry Vining’s Civil War file (left) and Nancy Babcock Vining (right)

She told us that there were a lot of Babcocks in Harrison Cemetery. She commented, “I think the Civil War flag holder on Henry’s grave is very special. Not sure I have seen another one like it.”

Then she brought up a concern

Diana Osburn McPhail – Those two stones are very small and, quite frankly, that little country cemetery is not maintained well. Jack and I take tools there every year and reclaim the two stones and a few others from weeds, Bermuda grass, and even a large vine that in spite of brush killer will not die. If it were not for us, the stones would have disappeared years ago. We are in our early 70’s so someday we will be on the other side of the grass ourselves. Your family might want to consider pooling money and putting an upright headstone, maybe even with dates on it, to mark the graves. Just a suggestion.

I am pretty sure that within a couple of years the stones will disappear under grass when we are no longer around. Actually, when we arrived at the cemetery last week there was a large dead cedar tree limb laying over the stones. I had taken loppers with me so I cut off enough small branches so I could get to the stones, clean them, and add the flowers so I could take nice photos for all of you.

Virginia Allain – Whew, hadn’t thought about that issue. I’ll discuss it with my sisters and cousins. Thanks! 

Also in the Harrison Cemetery is Diana’s great-grandparents. She showed me photos of their grave. Yep, her great-grandmother was Sarah Elizabeth Babcock, so guess we are very, very distant cousins.

Now, we have to figure out how and who can fix the graves. My sisters, Karen and Cindy, and I are willing to chip in some money but I’m 1,500 miles away. Another person shared that they placed some large paving stones under their gravestone to raise it up above the grass.

Location of the Harrison Cemetery:

From Highway 169 in Thayer, Kansas go West on Watermelon Road (north end of town). Travel 5 miles to Wichita Road. The Cemetery and Chapel are on the Northeast Corner of the intersection. It is located in rural Wilson County, Kansas, not quite halfway between Thayer (Neosho County) and Altoona (Wilson County).   The directions are from Find-A-Grave.

Before and After the Clean-Up in 2017

The photos below show how badly the grass and dirt get over the graves. Then the after-clean-up photos are next to the before photos.



What Happened to Sarah Vining?


Her name was Sarah Vining but her family called her Sadie. She was born in Missouri on November 17, 1876. Her father, Henry, was 39, and her mother, Nancy, was 25. She was the second-born of their 13 children. She had a half-sister and two half-brothers as well, who were older than her.

The family moved to Wilson County, Kansas when she was only 2 years old. Her 9-year-old half-brother, James Ashlock, died that year. When she was 3, a new brother arrived, but baby William H. Vining died after three months.

I’m not sure if the family moved several times or if her mother just went to different places for the birth of the children. The towns or townships were Cedar, Thayer, Wilson, Newark, and Neodesha. The census taker listed them at various times for Newark with Henry’s occupation recorded as farmer.

The children attended Pea Ridge School and the students were photographed in 1893 with their teacher, J.F. Haas.  Sarah is the girl in the back row with the X above her head.

karens pc stitch version of pea ridge school vinings

Pea Ridge School, Wilson County, Kansas, 1893. Top to Bottom, then L to R: Jacob Vining, Sarah (Sadie) Vining, Lucy Vining, Francis Henry (Frank) Vining, Lilian Belle (Belle) Vining, Laura Mae (Mae) Vining, Bessie

Sarah’s life changed abruptly when she fell ill of typhoid fever. It apparently affected her greatly. The newspaper in November 1894 said she had been ailing for three years.

Sarah Vining committed to insane asylumSarah Vining committed to insane asylum Fri, Nov 30, 1894 – 3 · Neodesha Register (Neodesha, Kansas) · Newspapers.com

“Untreated typhoid can cause permanent psychiatric problems such as delirium, hallucinations, and paranoia over the long term. Delirium is a sudden state of confusion due to physical or mental illness. Hallucinations are false and distorted perceptions of events. Paranoia is a symptom of a psychotic disorder in which patients become suspicious of others and feel that the world is out to get them. (MayoClinic.com)”

Main causes of death in KS in 1890s include typhoid, consumption, pneumonia.Main causes of death in KS in 1890s include typhoid, consumption, pneumonia. Fri, Jan 27, 1893 – 2 · Wilson County Citizen (Fredonia, Kansas) · Newspapers.com

Although Sarah Vining survived the typhoid fever, several news reports show what happened next. The news tidbit from November 1894 reported that “until about a year ago she was remarkably bright.” The probate court presided over by Judge McPherson, and with a jury of six men agreed that Sarah was insane.
Sarah Vining - More details of her becoming insane.Sarah Vining – More details of her becoming insane. Fri, Nov 30, 1894 – 3 · Wilson County Sun (Neodesha, Kansas) · Newspapers.com

She was placed in her father’s keeping until she could be admitted to the state asylum at Osawatomie, Kansas. This clipping attributed her insanity to “female trouble” and spoke of “her aberration.”

Sarah Vining - cause of her insanitySarah Vining – cause of her insanity Fri, Dec 7, 1894 – 3 · Wilson County Citizen (Fredonia, Kansas) · Newspapers.com

The sheriff transported the “unfortunate young lady” to the asylum. Her mother accompanied her on the journey of 85 miles. Sarah was one of 434 people committed to Osawatomie in 1894.  Most of the patients were older. She and 19 other young women under the age of 20 were admitted that year.

Sarah Vining lived in Osawatomie from age 18 to age 77 when she died in 1953. I checked on Find-A-Grave but discovered there were about 350 headstones in the Osawatomie State Hospital Cemetery but only one bears a name. The rest have only numbers. It is possible that she is buried elsewhere.

You can read the two-year state report on the institution online. Below is part of a page from it that lists the causes for patients admitted during that time.

sarah vining 1894 Osawatomie reasons for insanity

A partial list of the reasons for insanity in the patients at Osawatomie Asylum in 1894. Note that there were 7 men and 5 women with typhoid fever listed as the cause.

I wish we knew the rest of the story, but doubt that individual patient records can be accessed. Were they able to treat Sarah’s condition at all? Did she live in reasonable comfort during those many long years in the institution? There are scary stories from institutions in the early 1900s about the treatment of the mentally ill entrusted to their care.

Did the family ever visit her? My grandmother Ruth Vining was Sarah’s sister, born 3 years after Sarah went to Osawatomie. Also in 1897, their father (Henry Vining) died, putting the family in crisis. They moved to a homestead in Oklahoma for a short time, then to Tyro KS. I doubt that there was time or money to visit poor Sarah.

vining house woodward oklahoma

The sod house with a frame house attached.

Nancy Melvina Tower Vining


As part of the 52 Ancestors Blogging Challenge, I’m featuring my great-aunt Vina. The photo shows her (in a white dress) with Lealon McGhee and an unidentified young woman holding a doll.


Lealon McGhee and Melvina Tower with an unknown girl holding a doll.

She was born the 8th of August in 1899 in Jet, Missouri and named Nancy Melvina Tower. Her father, William Warren Tower, was 28 and her mother, Margaret Ann Peller (or Pillar), was 25. She had three sisters, Myrtle, Bessie Pearl and Edith and a brother, Charles.



Nancy Melvina Tower and her younger sister, Bessie Pearl. Probably ages, 5 and 1.

In 1920, Vina Tower was 20 years old and lived in North Seminole, Oklahoma with her father, mother, and 2 sisters. Her older siblings, Charles and Myrtle, were no longer living with the family.

The highest grade Vina completed in school was 8th grade. High school was not always available in small towns or for country folk.

I presume her mother Margaret died, as her father married a second time to Emma Hill Roberds. Emma was widowed and had two sons (James and Almeda) from her previous marriage. William Warren Tower and Emma had a baby, William Lee Tower February 9, 1925.  He was usually called Billy.



Looks like Bertha McGhee (rear, left). Gail Martin indicated on the back of the photo that it included Edith and Pearl Tower. Could one of these be Vina Tower or Ruth Vining?

In 1925, Melvina Vining was 25 years old and lived in Tyro, Kansas with her husband, Albert. They were newly married. He had served in France during WWI. You can read more about that at this site: Albert Vining in World War I. Albert’s first wife, Edith Flossie Hawkins died in 1923.


albert and edith flossie hawkins vining

Albert Vining and his first wife, Edith Hawkins.


Five years later, the census shows Melvina Vining was 30 years old and lived in Jefferson, Oklahoma with her husband, Albert, age 36.

Vina Tower Vining and nephew Donald Vining 1944

Vina Vining and nephew, Donald Vining

The next census on April 1, 1940, we find Melvina Vining at age 40 and living in Jefferson, Oklahoma with her husband, Albert.

Also with them was their 18-year-old nephew, Donald Vining. Family lore does not record why he was living with them instead of with his father, Luther Vining. Albert worked for the Canary Oil Company as a pumper and Vina was a homemaker. They never had children of their own.

Albert and Vina Vining 001

Albert and Vina Vining

She was a widow for 33 years after Albert died in Tyro on September 10, 1960.

This is my mother visiting her aunt Vina Vining. We were related both through the Vining and the Tower family. This might be Vina’s birthday. I see a balloon in the picture.


2013-01-24 gail martin celebration of life 029

Gail Martin visiting her aunt, Vina Vining in the nursing home.


Nancy Melvina (Tower) Vining died on December 17, 1993, in Coffeyville, Kansas, at the age of 94, and was buried there. The Tower family were very long-lived.

Her Tower family line is Nancy Melvina Tower -> William Warren Tower -> Abraham Bates Tower

The photo below shows her grandfather, father, brother and nephew. Abraham Bates Tower with a beard, his son William Warren Tower, holding the child, Billy Tower in overalls and the child is Troy Tower.



Four generation photo – Tower family


Erastus Clarkston Vining and Wife Elizabeth


An old family photo has many stories to tell. This one was posted by Goldie Vining to Rootsweb.

She identified them as:

Back row, from left: Minnie Essie Boraker Vining; Walter James Vining; Charles Augustus (Fiddlin’ Jake of The Shepherd Of The Hills) Vining; George Boraker; Lena Boraker (Baby); and Cora May Vining Boraker.
Front row, from left: Ica Boraker; Erastus Clarkston Vining (brother of Henry Vining, uncle of Ruth Vining McGhee); Elizabeth Ritzon Vining; and Annie Boraker.

Boraker and Vining Families

Let’s take those names and find more about the family. Here is Erastus C. Vining and his wife Elizabeth and daughter Dora in the 1870 U.S. census for Belmont, Woodson County, Kansas. Since Cora May was born in 1869, it is likely that the census taker recorded her name incorrectly with a D instead of a C.

The U.S. census shows a number of Vining families living close together in Woodson County, Kansas.

The U.S. census shows a number of Vining families living close together in Woodson County, Kansas. CLICK ON THE PHOTO TO SEE IT LARGER

Notice in the 1870 census that the first Vining family on the list is Erastus’ father, James Vining, age 58. Under his name are his sons, James, age 21, and Franklin, age 15; and daughter Jennie, age 14.

Next on the list is John Vining, age 37 (no wife); son John, age 12; and daughter Ida, age 4. John would be the son of James Vining and the brother of Erastus. He had a son John Jr. and a daughter Ida with his first wife, Josephine. I’m guessing that she died between 1867 and 1870. Their third daughter is absent here. Possibly the 3-year-old was being taken care of by another family. John married Ellenor J Babcock (called Ellen) in 1871.

The third Vining family in this census is Henry Vining, age 32, and Charles Vining, age 25. These match up with the ages of James Vining’s sons Henry Francis Vining and Charles A. Vining (Erastus’ older and younger brothers).

Clarification of Vining and Boraker Family Relationships

I’d estimate this photo as 1906 based upon the baby in the picture.

Luther Vining


My great-uncle, Luther Vining was born on November 5, 1889, in Neodesha in Wilson County, Kansas. His father, Henry Vining, was 52 and his mother, Nancy Jane Babcock Vining, was 38. Luther was only 8 years old when his father died, leaving Nancy to raise 10 children by taking in laundry.

In 1900, Luther was 10 years old and they all lived with his 27 year old half-brother, Isaac Ashlock, in Independence, Kansas. By the 1910 census, 20 year old Luther had left home.

Luther Vining in 1912 with horses. (photo belongs to Bob Harlan)

Luther Vining in 1912 with horses. (photo belongs to Bob Harlan)

The photo above shows him in Taney County, Missouri and is dated 1912. The companion photo shows him with an axe making ties such as are used for railroad tracks. It looks like very hard work.

Luther Vining logging in the Ozarks.

Luther Vining logging in the Ozarks.

We next find him in the 1915 South Dakota census. It says he married in 1911 but is now divorced. On 26 October 1915, he married Josephine B Patton and they had four sons and two daughters together between 1917 and 1927.

Luther Vining and his wife, Josephine (Patton)

Luther Vining and his wife, Josephine (Patton)

Later in 1917 or 1918, he registered for the World War I draft at Esmond, Kingsbury, South Dakota. His work is listed as carpenter. The form asks if he has any disability and he wrote in “rupture,” which may have kept him from being called up. His younger brother, Albert, served in the army.

In 1920, Luther Vining was 30 years old and lived in the Patton house in Esmond, South Dakota with his wife, Josephene, 1 son, and Josephine’s 79-year-old father. They ran a pool hall, cafe, cream station. A cream station is where the farmers bring their cream.

The 1930 census shows Luther Vining was 48 years old and lived in Yamhill, Oregon with his wife, Josephine, 3 sons, and 2 daughters. The next year, his wife died, so Luther took the family back to Kansas. The middle son Donald lived for his teen years with Luther’s brother Albert Vining in Tyro, Kansas.

Lucille and Milford (Luther Vining's children)

Lucille and Milford (Luther Vining’s children)

Luther went to Canada to visit his half-brother, Isaac Ashlock. When Isaac died, Luther married his widow, Ora May Keeling in 1945 and they returned to Kansas. Later they divorced. Ora married a third time (Earl Nellis) and lived to the age of 93.

Luther died on August 10, 1948, in Arkansas City, Kansas, at the age of 58.

(photos from the McGhee family archives, shared with me by my cousin Bob)

Here’s Luther’s daughter, Lucile, in 1935. Thanks, Karen, for reminding me of this picture.

Twyla Yeager, Melba and Gail McGhee, Lucile Vining in 1935 in Woodward, Oklahoma.

Twyla Yeager, Melba and Gail McGhee, Lucile Vining in 1935 in Woodward, Oklahoma.

The Importance of Labeling Photos – Vining Family


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.

Finding Carl and Ida Babcock


My mother had a photo labeled Elias, Carl and Ida Babcock. They appeared to be an older couple with a young boy, all dressed in the garb of the late 1800s. Who were they? Were they the grandparents of the boy? I was curious about how they fit into my family.

Elias, Carl and Ida Babcock (photo from the collection of Gail Lee Martin)

Elias, Carl and Ida Babcock
(photo from the collection of Gail Lee Martin)

I found Elias on my family tree, actually I found two of them. The Elias Babcock born in 1817 married a Laura, so I went to work on the one born in 1855.

Thanks to Ancestry.com, within a short time, I found the 1910 census with an Elias, Carl and Ida Babcock. They were living in Gentry, Arkansas. That rang a bell, as I have Vining ancestors from there also. This was the Elias born in 1855.

Further investigation showed that Elias Jahue Babcock was a younger brother of my great-grandmother, Nancy Jane Babcock (later Ashlock and then Vining). Carl was his son, not his grandson.

Ida, Elias’ wife, was Ida May Brown who lived from 1856 to 1928.

The Vinings and Babcocks are closely related. Ellenor Babcock married John Vining, Nancy Babcock married Henry Francis Vining and Joseph Babcock married Julia Vining.