Documenting my family's past for future generations. My family tree includes the Smith/Mansell families of Alabama and Oklahoma, the Castle/Day families of Kentucky and Oklahoma, the Wheat/Ming families of Texas and Oklahoma, and the Bell/Roberts families of Mississippi, Tennessee, and Oklahoma.

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Cousin Communication

Well, summer is officially over. One thing you can say about summer is that people seem to slow down a bit. Maybe they have time to check their Ancestry account, or to answer an old email, or to read a blog. In any case, over the last couple of months I have heard from more cousins--from all branches of my family--than I have in the whole rest of the year. Here are some of the things I learned:

From the Pharris/Farris family: 
I'm still trying to figure out how I am related to the Pharrises. My 2nd great-grandmother, Elzina Huff, was born on the Dry Fork of Martin's Creek in Jackson County, Tennessee, in 1826. I have never been able to document the names of her parents, although a lot of trees say they were William Huff and Susannah Toney. The Pharrises were close neighbors, so I have long suspected that Elzina (or her husband, Stephen Roberts, also of undocumented parentage) were somehow connected to this family of Pharrises. Since I also have lots of Embry DNA cousins, I had considered that Elzina might be the daughter of James Pharris, whose mother was an Embry.

To make things even more complicated, I may also have a Farris ancestor. I say "may," because this is another relationship I can't document. However, much research into the puzzle of my great-grandfather, J. A. (Joseph) Wheat, has convinced me that he was the son of Henry Clay Wheat and Caroline Farris. Caroline was the granddaughter of Champion Farris, an early resident of Russell County, Virginia, and Tennessee. Since I had never been able to discover if these Farrises were related to the Jackson County Pharrises, I had decided it was much more likely that my ancestry went back somehow to the Pharrises that were neighbors to my Elzina.

Then I got a message on Ancestry this summer from a DNA match who is a Pharris descendant. We had corresponded years ago when we were both new to DNA. She wondered if I had considered the possibility that my DNA connection to her was through Champion Farris. She had found a reference to Champion Farris that indicated he was in Smith County, Tennessee, the parent county of Jackson County, in 1800-1805; she had some y-DNA results for a Pharris descendant that indicated he also matched some Farrises; and she drew my attention to one of my Ancestry Thru-Lines that indicated that the mother of William Huff was a Pharris. 

This cousin communication definitely gave me several lines of inquiry to consider.

From the Simmons family:
I regularly hear from my Simmons cousin, Sam Casey. This time he shared a newspaper article from the Troy (AL) Messenger, dated July 6, 1921, that he had found on Ancestry. It  read, in part, "T.B. Floyd, 67, youngest son of George Floyd, was in Troy...[and] gave the following sketch. His grandfathers, Luke Simmonds and William Floyd, came to Pike in the Pioneer days, when Indians were still in this section. They had been neighbors in the Carolinas, the state line coming between their residences. Simmons lived in North Carolina and Floyd in South Carolina. Their residences were almost on the line. When they moved to Pike [Co.] some of the children intermarried."

T.B. Floyd article in Troy Messenger
Originally shared to Ancestry by W. Tucker

Sam added, "For this to be accurate, one of Luke Simmons' daughters would have to have married a son of William Floyd. I don't have the Floyds in my data and don't know which daughter this would have been."

So, again, I did a little research. I found Thomas B. Floyd, born 1855, with his father George and mother Patience on the 1860 census in Pike County. I concluded that Patience must have been a child of Luke Simmons (and therefore a sister of my 2nd great-grandmother, Elizabeth Simmons) that I didn't have in my tree. The 1860 census stated that she was 35 so must have been born in 1825, although with her first daughter born in 1838, that didn't seem reasonable. In my list of Luke's children I had a big gap between Jemima, born 1816, and Eliza, born 1827, so there was plenty of room in there for Patience, even if her birth date was earlier than 1825. It turns out I had room for several children in that gap!

Floyd family on 1860 census, Pike Co. AL

When I emailed Sam with the info, he sent back the transcription of the family page from Luke Simmons' Bible with children: Elizabeth, born 1812; Jemima, born 1815; Susannah, born 1817; Patience and Nancy (twins), born 1821; Leonard M., born 1823; Rebekah, born 1825, and Elizur, born 1827. Apparently, when Sam had shared the Bible entries (years ago!), I had never entered the names in my tree. [Maybe because I wasn't sure of the dates? The copyright on the Bible is 1827, so all these birth dates, except maybe for Eliza's, were entered after the fact.]

Because of Sam's email, I was able to add four siblings of my 2nd great-grandmother to my tree.

From the Wheat family:
Actually, this information did not come from a cousin. I got an email from Lee F. who wanted to share information he had received as a result of a purchase of Confederate documents. I am not even certain how he got my email address, but the information he shared helped me add a previously unknown spouse  and children to a 3rd great-uncle on my family tree.

His email read, in part, "A few years ago I bought off ebay some Confederate notes from an old gentleman named John Wheat. He told me the notes came from Robert Wheat and his 2nd wife of Wheatland, Titus County, TX...He said Samuel Wheat was Robert's father and Samuel Wheat founded Wheatland, TX. Samuel was ex-military before coming to TX. Robert was in charge of the home guard during the war. Robert's wife had died. His new wife was the widow of the officer in charge of the regular military in Titus County. Anyway after the war the family moved to Sherman, TX..."

I set about trying to corroborate the information that came from this unexpected source. First, I do have a 3rd great-uncle named Robert Wheat (1819-1901) that served with the Confederacy in the Civil War. I have been to his grave in Grayson County, TX. As a matter of fact, he is the brother of the above-mentioned Henry Clay Wheat. Their father was not Samuel Wheat, but Samuel's brother William.

Next, I tried to find out what I could about Wheatland, TX. I remembered that years ago I read about a community in Texas that had been named for my Wheat family, but I didn't remember where I had read that information. Google to the rescue--although I didn't have much luck at first. There were two communities named Wheatland--one in Dallas County and one in Tarrant County. So I tried Titus County--but neither the Wikipedia entry nor the Handbook of Texas Online mentioned a town named Wheatland in the county. Then I tried "Wheat family Titus County TX," and I found this article about Wheatville, a community founded by William Wheat, that previously existed in the area now occupied by Naples, TX. (The creation of Morris County in 1875 meant that by the time Wheatville ceased to exist in the late 1870's, it was in Morris, not Titus, County.)

The article, prepared by Glenda Brown Scarborough, corroborated many of the statements made by John Wheat. Others, such as the name of the community and its founder, were almost right but not completely accurate. From that article: "Wheatville was indeed the true beginning of present-day Naples, Texas. It received its name from the William Wheat family sometime before 1852." On September 12, 1860, R.S. (Robert) Wheat was living in Mount Pleasant, the county seat of Titus County, with his first wife, Elizabeth (Finn), and their children. Elizabeth must have died not long after. Robert fought as a Confederate in the Civil War with the 33rd Cavalry, Duff's Partisan Rangers.

Sometime after the war Robert married Mary E. (Corprew) Sheppard, the widow of W.B. Sheppard. According to the Wheatville article, "W.B. Sheppard was Captain of the Titus Rangers, a unit organized in Wheatville during the Civil War...W.B. Sheppard died or was perhaps killed in the war and his widow later married R.S. Wheat. R.S. Wheat was a widower and a member of the family from which the town received its name. The couple and their families later moved to Grayson County, Texas." The 1870 and 1880 censuses show Robert and Mary and various children living in Grayson County. The 1870 census included a daughter named Mary Sheppard and the first of Robert and Mary's children, James, who was 3. Two more of their children were listed on the 1880 census, ages 8 and 6.

Robert S. Wheat family on 1870 census, Grayson Co. TX
with step-daughter Mary Sheppard

Before receiving this summer's surprising email from Lee F., I was not aware that Robert S. Wheat had a second wife and a second set of children. Using the information I learned in the Wheatville article, I found the marriage of Mary E. Corprew to Williamson B. Sheppard on January 15, 1885, in Chambers County, Alabama. I had always wondered who Mary Sheppard was and how she was connected to Robert Wheat's family.

Robert's end was rather sad. The 1900 census shows Robert, age 81, living at the North Texas Hospital for the Insane in Kaufman, Texas. His "insanity" may have been no more than senile dementia, but I can't help wondering how he was treated at the hospital. He died in 1901 and is buried in the Hall Cemetery in Howe, Grayson County, Texas, along with his wife Mary, who had died in 1897, and many other Wheats.

Robert S. Wheat grave in Hall Cemetery, Howe, TX
Originally shared on Ancestry by Jan Elaine Biard Thomas

From the Walker family:
Not exactly my family, although my last name was Walker for over 30 years. No, this is my son's ancestry. Several years ago I bought him a DNA test, and this summer he got an email from a Walker cousin, Jimmy. He has a very ambitious goal--to document all the branches of Walkers that descend from Thomas Walker and Marian Sara Jeffries of Fairfield County, South Carolina, and he wanted to know on what branch my son fit.

I had taken my son's Walker ancestry back several generations, and I was able to add a couple more. With the information Jimmy had already collected, he was able to take my son's ancestry back to Thomas and Marian.

In the process of searching for Jimmy's tree on Ancestry, I also discovered that he and I share a little DNA, as well! We think the connection might be with our Reynolds ancestors. On my side my Reynolds ancestor was Priscilla, who was married to Zachariah Wheat. They were the parents of William and Samuel, mentioned above.

This summer I also got emails or Ancestry messages from:
A professional genealogist helping a descendant of my 4th great-grandfather, Benjamin Bell and his wife, Elizabeth Ledbetter. I referred her to my blog post, "Laying Out the Facts." She promised to share anything they discover.

A cousin from my Day/Reed/Patrick side, asking about the Scots heritage of our Patrick ancestors. She still lives in the Chandler/Davenport area, where my grandmother grew up. Contact with her may lead to meeting some of our other remaining cousins who live there.

A first cousin of my dad's on the Smith side, who offered to share some old photos. He shared a story that I also researched. My grandfather grew up in Oologah, Oklahoma, the birthplace of Will Rogers. When I was a kid, I remember being told that the older Smith boys ran around with him. As I grew older and did more genealogy and read more history, I tended to doubt the story. Will Rogers grew up on a big ranch, attended school in Missouri and then a military academy, and quit school in 10th grade. I just wondered where he would have met any of the Smith boys. 

However, my cousin had a variation on that story that I'm sure is true and maybe the origin of the Will Rogers story that my family told. He shared that "Johnny Yokim, a cousin to Will Rogers, was a buddy of Dad's [his father was Albert Smith, my grandfather's brother] and both attended a one-room Indian school. There is a good story here about riding horses to school and they both had six-shooters in their holsters."

Albert was born in 1889, so I tried looking for a John Yokim born about the same time. There are so many ways to spell that name that I didn't have much luck narrowing it down. So I thought of a different way to go about it. I searched Ancestry for Will Rogers' family tree, then searched for John Yokim. Sure enough, Will Rogers' sister May (Mary), was married to Matthew John Yocum, and they had a son named John, born 1893.

So we do have a connection to Will Rogers' family, if not the man himself! And the Smith boys were in Wild West shows too.

Albert and one of the other Smith boys (?)
in Wild West show
Shared by John Smith

The moral of this story: It pays to put your name out there in the genealogy community. Sometimes you reap some unexpected rewards. Check your Ancestry account, answer an email, check out a blog you've been meaning to read (or catch up on.)

Just a couple more summer things before I wind this post up.

I've always been interested in diseases and their prevention since my dad introduced me to a book called Microbe Hunters by Paul DeKruif when I was a teenager. So this summer I have been listening to a podcast called "This Podcast Will Kill You." In each episode the two female podcasters describe a disease, its history, how it operates, and how it's treated. It's been fascinating. In the episode on hookworms, poison dew was mentioned, and I remembered that my grandmother would never let me walk barefoot in dew because I might get some unspecified disease. I still feel guilty when I walk on wet grass barefoot.

Well, guess what? The unspecified disease is hookworm infection, because hookworms are right there on the ground/in the grass (but only where infected animals or people have pooped) and they can burrow through any bare feet that get close enough. Hookworms were especially prevalent in the South for many reasons and while not fatal, the anemia that resulted from hookworm infection was debilitating. John D. Rockefeller started an education and sanitation campaign in the early 1900's to reduce the incidence of the disease, and it must have made quite an impression on my grandmother. Now that I know why, it's made a big impression on me. I'm going to wear my shoes outside from now on.

The other thing that happened this summer is that this blog passed 100,000 page views. Thanks for reading!

Friday, April 12, 2019

For Maryo

I met a new cousin this week. Well, that's not exactly true. I think we were introduced about 12 years ago at a funeral, but neither of us actually remembers being introduced. We met again when she replied to my message on Ancestry asking who she was. With our 308 cM's of shared DNA, Ancestry had estimated us to be 2nd cousins, but I didn't recognize her name, and she didn't have a tree yet. I told her I thought we must be related on my Smith side because of our Shared Matches.

Her reply affirmed that we are Smith cousins and 2nd cousins, sure enough. Her mother was Billie Virginia Smith Byars, and her grandparents were Owen and Fern (Walker) Smith. Her grandfather, Owen, and my grandfather, Weaver, were the oldest and youngest sons of Stephen Albert Smith and his wife Frances (Fannie). 

To me, our connection is more than just biological, more than just the fact that our grandfathers were brothers. In fact, if it weren't for her grandparents, I wouldn't be here today. In our correspondence with each other Maryo told me that she only knew "bits and pieces," that her sister--who passed away earlier this year--was the one that knew the family history. She wanted to know more about her grandfather Owen and her grandmother Fern. I had a great story to tell her, but I wanted to see if I could find out more before we talked.

Here is the story I already knew. Fannie Castle, my grandmother, got her first teaching job in a one-room school between Owasso and Collinsville, Oklahoma, during World War I. Since her family lived 30 miles away in Red Fork, she boarded with Mrs. Elizabeth Walker in Collinsville during the school week. Mrs. Walker's daughter, Fern, was married to Owen Smith, who ran a soda shop called the Candy Kitchen with his brother, Weaver. My grandmother, the teacher, was introduced to my grandfather, the soda jerk, and they were married in 1918. If my grandmother had gotten a job closer to home, if Fern hadn't married Owen, if my grandparents had never been introduced, I truly wouldn't be here. 

Fern Walker Smith

Fern passed away when her daughter Billie was still very young, and my grandmother and grandfather often spent time with her. Through the years my grandmother kept up with Billie and her son, Roy "Bud" Byars, and many years later I became friends with Bud's wife, Metzie, who was an avid genealogist until her death in 2012. It was at her brother Bud's funeral that I think Maryo and I were introduced.   

We had agreed to talk on Sunday. With a two-hour time difference I was going to call mid-day, which would be mid-morning for her. I stayed up late Saturday night, using marriage and census records on Ancestry to find out more about Owen and Fern and Mr. and Mrs. Walker. If you go all the way back to my very first post on Becky's Bridge to the Past, you will find that this family story was the inspiration for the blog, but that I didn't know much more than the facts I have already given here. I knew that Mrs. Walker's maiden name was Whitmore. I knew that Fern had a brother named Pearcy. I knew that there was someone named Amanda, but I couldn't remember if she was their sister or Pearcy's wife.

So last Saturday night I did a little researching. I found some new facts and was reminded of some I had forgotten. I documented the marriage of Fern and Owen on 16 January 1912 in Collinsville, and of Elizabeth Whitmore and James N. Walker on 31 December 1879 in Benton, Arkansas. By 1900 James and "Lizzie" were living in Valley Center, Sedgwick County, Kansas, with four children: Alonzo, Daisy, Fern, and Pearcy; next door was Oscar Walker, age 32, with wife and daughter. In 1910 J.N. and Lizzie were in Rogers County, Oklahoma. Only Fern and Pearcy were still living at home. Next door was O.U. Walker, about the same age as James; a brother named Oscar?

I got stuck following Elizabeth back to her parents, because I couldn't find her on the 1870 census. James was hard, too, with such a common name, so I tried following his brother Oscar. By using census and Findagrave entries for Oscar, I thought it likely that their parents were William and Virginia Walker of Elm Springs, Arkansas.

I couldn't find the right Alonzo Walker after 1900. I thought Mr. Walker died about 1910, because he never showed up in the census again with Mrs. Walker. However, he remained a rather hazy figure for me; if he died before 1915, my grandmother never knew him, and yet I thought I remembered her speaking of him in a not very complimentary way. I remembered that Metzie had found something out about Daisy, but I couldn't remember what it was. Pearcy died at age 22 in 1916, and I still wasn't sure if Amanda was his sister or his wife. Fern died the same year, leaving Billie who was not quite 4 years old. Billie appeared with Mrs. Walker on the 1920 census, and then Mrs. Walker died in 1926. I couldn't find Billie on the 1930 census.  

I was as ready as I was going to be for my conversation with Maryo. 

Maryo had some questions, and I had a few answers. Some of the answers led to more questions. She had a piece of information that proved to be crucial to further research. 

We talked about her grandparents, Owen and Fern. She was unaware that Owen had been married several times. She only knew about Fern and Rhoda, Owen's last wife, whom we both remembered. I know my grandmother told me he had been married 5 or 6 times (!), but it must have been between censuses, because I couldn't find any other wives' names. However, on the 1910 census (before he married Fern), he was living at the Smith boarding house in Collinsville and was designated as Divorced. As he was 29 at his marriage to Fern, he had had plenty of time to get married and divorced. I told her that the Walkers blamed Owen for Fern's death, and that he had very little contact with Billie as she grew up. Maryo wondered about the date of their marriage and Billie's birth--both in 1912. Was Owen bitter because he had been forced to marry Fern? I could answer that one. Apparently not, as they were married in January and Billie was born in November.

I told her about a photo that Metzie had, showing Owen participating in a wild west show, a popular entertainment of the early 1900's. I have a photocopy that Metzie made for me, and I promised to send it to her.

Owen in Wild West Show (unfortunately, I don't know
which one is Owen)

She wondered who Fannie was. That was a name she had heard and also seen--on the back of a locket that Billie wore. I told her that it could be my grandmother, but it could also be referring to Owen's mother. As his mother died in 1905, she felt sure the Fannie she had heard about was my grandmother. I told her that my grandparents spent a lot of time with Billie when she was young. She wondered how they got together after my grandparents moved to Red Fork. I couldn't answer that question, but my grandmother did. (See below) 

Billie Smith and Fannie Castle

She wondered what I knew about Tom and Ella Arnold, who raised Billie after the death of Mrs. Walker. I didn't know anything. I think that Metzie must have mentioned them to me, but it was one of those things that didn't stick. So, after our conversation it was back to Ancestry to follow up on some leads and tie up some loose ends.

The name Ella Arnold eventually led me to the 1930 census of Stroud, Oklahoma, where Ella was designated "sister" to the head of household, Andrew J. Whitmore. The other members of the household were Andrew's wife Edith and (guess who?) Billie, age 18, designated as "roomer." So apparently Andrew was Mrs. Walker's brother, Ella was Mrs. Walker's sister, and Tom, Ella's husband, had died. With the names Andrew, Elizabeth, and Ella Whitmore, I was able to find them on the 1870 census in Lincoln, Andrew County, Missouri, with parents William and Ann Eliza Whitmore, and a slew of other siblings. (No wonder I had so much trouble finding them as their last name was spelled "Whittemore.") I wasn't positive I had found the right family until I found Ann Eliza on the 1895 Kansas State Census in Wichita, Sedgwick County, living with T.E. (Tom) and Ella Arnold. This seemed to confirm Maryo's recollection of the Arnolds' home in Wichita, which relatives had described as a "mansion." 

I tried to find the final resting place of James N. Walker. There is a James N., born in the same year as our Mr. Walker, buried in Tontitown, Arkansas. Google Maps says that is 2 minutes away from Elm Springs, where he grew up. But this James N. died in 1922. If he is Mrs. Walker's husband, where was he on the 1910 and 1920 censuses? Did he abandon the family, which was the hazy recollection I had from decades-old conversations with my grandmother? 

If I haven't said this before, and I'm sure I have, my grandmother was amazing. I guess because she didn't make family trees and keep meticulous records, I didn't think of her as a genealogist, but she was, and I'm sure she's the reason that I have always been so interested in genealogy myself. In her 80's and 90's when she was home by herself most of the day, she made scrapbooks for her nieces and nephews and wrote about her life in Kentucky around 1900 and her life in Oklahoma in the 1910's and 20's. That is why I shouldn't have been surprised when I found a document answering many of Maryo's questions.

It was in my Smith file, along with a photocopy of Uncle Owen in his Wild West show. I'm the one who put it in the file, but at the time I guess I didn't need all the information it provided. How did my grandmother know that in 2019 I would need to know all about Mr. and Mrs. Walker and their families? Here is the transcription of the 5-page document that she wrote in her beautiful Spencerian script.

Mom's memories of the Walkers
in her handwriting

"In loving memory of a dear fine lady, Lizzie Whitmore Walker. She had 2 brothers, 1 sister: Andrew Whitmore, Frank Whitmore, Ella Whitmore Arnold.
She was married to Jimmie Walker in the 1890's [actually 1879]. They had 2 sons and 2 daughters: Daisy Walker ____?, 'Red' Walker, Fern Walker Smith, Pearcy Walker.
Fern married Owen Smith about 1914 or 15 [actually 1912]. They had 1 daughter, Billie Smith Byars. 
In the autumn of 1915 I went to Owasso Okla. to teach in a one room school. The Walkers lived about a mile east of the school. I boarded with the Pearcy Walker family (wife Mandy & small son 'Pete'). They were making preparation to move north of Collinsville. They told me their in-laws might keep me, so after an interview and looking me over they took me in and made me feel 'at home.' I spent 3 happy years with them. 
During that time I came to know Fern and her baby girl Billie. She told me of her wonderful brother-in-law Weaver Smith-- He proved to be a "super guy"; after a long courtship we were married June 29, 1918. We spent 52 years together before he died. He proved to be all and more than Fern recommended.
While I was living at the Walkers', Fern died of typhoid fever. Billie came to live with Grandma Walker. She was a dear little girl with brown curly hair. I grew to be very fond of her. She spent many Sunday afternoons riding in a buggy with her Uncle Weaver Smith and his girlfriend, 'Miss Castle.'
Weaver Smith and Fannie Castle were married and established a home in Red Fork, then a suburb of Tulsa. Billie spent many vacation trips with us. Mrs. Walker would come down on the Santa Fe R.R. to Tulsa and I would meet them and we would eat at Bishop's on South Main (It was then Tulsa's Best) and see all the movies at the Ritz, Majestic & Rialto. We had many happy times together. In 1916-1917 we saw all the 'old movies' that came to Collinsville. We had a horse & buggy at our disposal and Saturday saw us in Collinsville for lunch and ready for the 'Perils of Pauline' at the 1 o'clock show.
Mrs. Walker was an excellent cook. She taught me how to make Lemon Meringue Pie that is unexcelled. I shall never forget her flaky hot biscuits and homemade strawberry jam and homemade butter.
Lizzie Whitmore Walker and Granddaughter Billie hold a big place in my memory. 
The Jimmie Walker family lived around Cave Springs Ark. Jimmie Walker was Billie Smith Byars' grandfather. He had 2 brothers and 1 sister -- Oscar and Alex Walker were her uncles. The Walkers were the Drug Store owners at Cave Springs for many generations. Jimmie Walker is buried in this area. He died December 4, 1918." [She might have the date confused with Pearcy's death date, which was December 4, 1916.]
Facts my grandmother corroborated or got almost right:

  • Mrs. Walker had a brother named Andrew and a sister named Ella.
  • She was married to James (Jimmie) Walker and had four children: Daisy, "Red" (who must be Alonzo), Fern, and Pearcy.
  • She boarded with Pearcy and his wife, Mandy. (Years later, I was discouraged from naming my unborn child--who turned out to be a boy--Amanda. My grandmother said all she could think of was Amanda Walker, who was a big-boned, country girl, and she didn't want that for her granddaughter's name.) Pearcy and Mandy's marriage license shows her maiden name to be Birdsell, and I found the Birdsells living next door to the Walkers in Rogers County, OK, in 1910. I don't know what happened to Mandy and Pete after Pearcy's death.
  • She got marriage dates wrong. The Walkers married in 1879, not the 1890's. Owen and Fern married in 1912, not 1914 or 15.
  • The Walkers lived in Elm Springs, not Cave Springs. However, Mr. and Mrs. Walker did marry in Benton County, Arkansas, the same county where Cave Springs is located. There was a brother named Oscar. 
  • If I were a betting woman, I would say that the James N. Walker buried in Tontitown with a death date of 1922 is our guy. I think it's significant that he isn't buried with Mrs. Walker, Fern, and Pearcy, who are buried in Collinsville. My grandmother also mentioned the fact that he was buried somewhere else; she just got the place and date wrong.
My grandmother used to tease me about my need to follow the rules; in this case, making sure all the dates and places are correct and documented. She was more in the school of "close enough is good enough." You also have to remember that she was writing down these "facts" at least 60 years after they happened, and she didn't have, where all the names, dates, and places are at your fingertips. But isn't it great to imagine all of them driving down the brick streets of Collinsville in a horse and buggy to go to the "picture show"?

To genealogists reading this post: While you're filling out your family tree and keeping meticulous records, remember to add some "fun facts" about yourself and the ancestors you remember. To family members--maybe yet to come--those stories will mean more than all the names and dates in the world.

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Lost Restaurants and Fond Memories

My family--my grandparents, my dad, my brother, and me--ate out a lot when I was a kid. As I've mentioned before, my grandmother took on two babies to raise when my mother died in 1957. My dad tried to help as much as he could, and one of the ways he helped was to take us out to dinner. If it had been just a decade earlier, there might not have been many places to eat in Tulsa, but in the 1950's and 60's, there were lots of good restaurants to choose from. Later, after my marriage, the birth of my son, and my divorce, I moved home, and Jason joined our eating excursions in the 1970's and 80's until my dad died in 1985. 

It was nothing for our family to pile into the car on Sunday afternoons and drive to Skiatook or Henryetta, to the Hammett House at Claremore, or even to Nickerson Farms in Joplin, Missouri, for Sunday dinner. Thus began my love affair with long drives and eating out. Through the week, though, we mostly ate at several favorite restaurants in Tulsa. (That's not to say that my grandmother didn't cook; we had some good meals at home, too!)

Apparently, a lot of Tulsans have nostalgic memories of restaurants they enjoyed while growing up here. The evidence was at a recent book-signing for Lost Restaurants of Tulsa by Rhys Martin at the Tulsa Historical Society. A roomful of nostalgic Tulsans listened to Martin describe his research, show photographs that didn't make it into the book, and answer questions about restaurants he didn't include. (I'm hoping for a sequel--More Lost Restaurants.)  As a highlight of the evening, Martin's wife, Samantha, provided samples of some popular Tulsa restaurant foods: Hot Toddy Bread from Middle Path, Baked Fudge from 1880/The Garden, Black Bottom Pie from Pennington's, and an almond cookie from The Pagoda. On Rhys Martin's website at, you can see me lined up to get my snacks at the book signing.   

Clockwise from top: Baked Fudge with Whipped Dream, Hot Toddy Bread,
Almond Cookie, Black Bottom Pie

Martin abided (mostly) by a couple of rules while choosing the restaurants for his book. The restaurant has to be closed at the present time (in other words, "lost") and should not be part of a chain, unless the Tulsa location was a "really big deal." For example, King's was one of my favorite restaurants downtown; when my friends and I went shopping in downtown Tulsa in the 60's, that was the place we most likely would eat. I loved their Cheese Frenchees--a breaded and deep-fried grilled cheese sandwich--yum! Martin mentioned it at the book signing, but it doesn't appear in the book because it was a chain of restaurants across the U.S.

Martin said that sometimes he just wasn't able to find the right person that could give him the details of the restaurant's history that he needed. For that reason, another couple of our family's favorite restaurants were mentioned in the Introduction to the book but not in the book itself: Martin's Barbecue and Borden's Cafeteria. Martin's was one of my dad's favorite restaurants. He loved barbecue, and we would drive from Red Fork to north Tulsa so Daddy could have barbecue at Martin's. My brother and I loved the little jukebox selectors at the tables--my favorite selection was "Ghost Riders in the Sky." I think Rhys Martin could write an entire book just about the "lost" barbecue restaurants in Tulsa! In the Q&A at the end of the presentation, he mentioned Elliot's on Peoria, another of our favorite barbecue places. At the end of the meal, they would bring out little bowls of warm water with lemon floating in them, so you could clean the barbecue sauce off your fingers.

Borden's was so much a part of our restaurant repertoire that I don't even remember any specific occasions that we ate there. We ate at most of the Borden's locations, but the one I remember the best was at Sheridan and Admiral. While in line to get our books signed, I reminisced with a woman about my age about Borden's. We both remembered the prize we could choose from a big treasure chest if we finished our plate.

Here are some more of my memories of restaurants featured in the Lost Restaurants of Tulsa.

  • Bishop's: I think I only ate there one time, when Uncle George and Aunt Georgia took my brother and me to church at First Christian Church in downtown Tulsa, and we went to Bishop's afterwards. I don't remember anything about it, except that I had heard of Bishop's and thought it was cool that I finally got to eat there.
  • The Louisiane: I lucked into a wonderful part-time job while I was in college at the University of Tulsa. My pastor's daughter was the receptionist at Mid-States Pipe and Supply in the Philtower Building, and she recommended me for an assistant bookkeeper's position. I knew nothing about bookkeeping, but that was what the bookkeeper wanted: someone she could train to her standards. Her name was Helen Squires, and she was quite an influence in my life for the 5 or 6 years I worked at Mid-States. Every few months the owners of the business, Mr. Horwitz and Mr. Hogan, would take all of us out to lunch at the Louisiane. I always got this particular salad with Russian dressing, and I had my first drink at the Louisiane: a Tom Collins.
Helen and I at Mid-States Pipe & Supply
  • Steve's Sundry: I discovered Steve's Sundry comparatively late in life, and I mostly went there to find books I couldn't find anywhere else. I ate once at the lunch counter in the back as a nostalgic nod to the drugstore lunch counters I remembered from my childhood.
  • Goldie's: I learned from Lost Restaurants that the original Goldie's Patio Grill was a spinoff from a golf course clubhouse restaurant operated by the owner of Villa Venice. I can't tell you how many times I have eaten at Goldie's, probably in every location they have ever had, although nowadays it's mostly the one across from Utica Square and the one in Owasso. The seasoning on a Goldie's hamburger is so good that you really don't need anything else except pickles from the pickle bar! 
  • Kay's: Kay's on 31st St. just west of Yale was one of our family's favorite restaurants. I don't even remember what I ordered as an entree because all I remember were how wonderful the hot rolls were!
  • Pennington's: I bet I ate at Pennington's a hundred times, when you combine the family outings, dates, and the lunches with friends. I loved everything about Pennington's: the hamburgers, shrimp, rolls, salad dressing, and of course, black bottom pie. However, Pennington's onion rings are the onion rings by which all onion rings are measured!
  • St. Michael's Alley: I ate there one time after a double date with my best friend and two of our guy friends from high school. We had just been to see "Oliver!" at the movies. We thought we were so cool.
  • The Pagoda: I never ate at the Pagoda until I was long grown. I realized at the book signing why I didn't know anything about the great Chinese restaurants in Tulsa, or the great chicken restaurants, for that matter. My dad didn't do Chinese OR chicken.
  • Diamond Jack's: But, oh, my dad loved Diamond Jack's! We followed it from location to location, admiring the decor, the waitresses' outfits, and the food, of course. Daddy would get pastrami or drip beef, but my favorite was the Diamond Lil--a double decker ham and egg salad with black olives. 
  • Shotgun Sam's: Shotgun Sam's on Sheridan just north of 21st opened in 1967 and became a favorite of our high school crowd. I remember at least one particularly fun cast party we had there.
  • The 1800/The Garden: I remember eating here when it was still The 1800. I think it might have been December of 1964. Aunt Jessie took me out on a Christmas shopping expedition to Utica Square, just the two of us. She bought me a pink skirt and sweater, probably at Vandever's, and I remember buying Christmas gifts for my family and eating at The 1800. Later, when it was The Garden, I attended a bridesmaid luncheon there. It was definitely the place to be for the "ladies who lunch." The Baked Fudge was to die for!
  • Casa Bonita: Rhys Martin broke his rule about chain restaurants so he could include Casa Bonita in his book. It was definitely the place to go in Tulsa for families and dates for several years. It was our favorite place to go when I was dating my ex-husband. Everything was new to us--choices of dining room, like a Mexican village or a cave; raising a flag when you wanted more of something on your all-you-can-eat platter or were ready for sopapillas.
  • Nine of Cups: My ex-husband and I ate at the Nine of Cups once in about 1975-76. Again, we thought we were pretty cool.
  • The Fountains: We had an anniversary dinner at The Fountains. We were only married from 1973-1978, so it was September of one of those years. I remember that the food was delicious, and we felt quite fancy.
  • Middle Path: I ate there once with a friend of mine who was a vegetarian. Of course, since I love bread of all kinds, I liked the Hot Toddy Bread.
  • The Bakery on Cherry Street: I ate there once on a Saturday morning with a friend of mine before we headed out for a day of shopping.
  • Impressions: My brother suggested we meet there once for lunch. I don't remember anything about it except the really cool building.
  • Molly Murphy's: Mannford Middle School had their Christmas party at Molly Murphy's one year. I vividly remember the salad bar set up in the open car body--because I managed to roll several croutons off the car and onto the floor. 
  • Charlie Mitchell's: My friends and I used to eat at the Charlie Mitchell's on 21st a lot. My favorite item to order was the Monte Cristo.
  • Metro Diner: I only ate there a couple of times. The one time I remember was with a group of students from the OU Master of Liberal Studies program. We had just completed our summer seminar in Tulsa. I mostly remember that a couple of my fellow students thought they were pretty darn smart.
Another restaurant that was mentioned in the Q&A after the book signing was the Sky Chef at the airport. Back in the days when anybody could go into the airport restaurants, our family would go to the Sky Chef for dinner and watch the planes fly in and out. Some of our other favorite restaurants that weren't mentioned in the book were:

  • the Western Chicken House on Hwy. 66 towards Sapulpa. They must have had steak, too, or Daddy wouldn't have taken us there. I remember eating spoonsful of honey from the squirt bottle on the table while waiting for our food. When they removed the house we lived in at 2717 W. 42nd St., they moved it to a location on the other side of the turnpike from the restaurant. We could see it through the front window while we ate our dinner.
  • El Chico, mostly the one on 21st St. El Chico's is still going strong in Tulsa at several locations. It was our family's favorite place to eat Mexican food.
  • Ike's Chili was my grandmother's favorite. We would sometimes drive to the north side of town to get Ike's Chili (or three-way) to bring home, and my grandmother would buy frozen blocks of it in the grocery store to thaw and warm up at home.
  • Der Wienerschnitzel was a hot dog drive-in that opened up on Peoria in the 60's. I loved the one with sauerkraut. My grandmother could never remember the name of it and called it "Sour Pickle Green Shield."
  • My dad loved Sizzler and Sizzlin' Sirloin, of course. We ate at both chains a lot.

Which brings me full circle to the opening of this post. What strikes me most about these memories is my dad. I often think that my grandmother held the family together, but we lost these family eating excursions when we lost my dad in 1985. He really was so good to take us where we wanted to go--as long as there was something beef for him to eat, and the line wasn't too long. I miss our Sunday drives and philosophical discussions and eating experiences. I still miss him every day.

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

For My Brother

My brother hardly ever requests a specific birthday or Christmas present, but he called me a couple of months ago to say that he would really like a hardbound copy of all my blog posts for his birthday in November. I found out a couple of years ago that it is very easy to turn your blog posts into a book--with the help of some online publishing services like Blog2Print. All you do is pick out a cover background/image and make some decisions about appearance and which posts you want to include, and Blog2Print does the rest. Even though he is tech-savvy and no stranger to e-books, my brother, it seems, would rather have a book of my blog posts that he can hold in his hands. So he is going to get his wish, and this is the dedication he will see in his completed book.

Recently, my friends and I have remarked that there are so few people left in our lives that actually remember our parents and specific occasions from our childhoods. I'm sure that most siblings share special memories, but I think mine and Tim's are all the more poignant because it's just the two of us. We remember the ordinary and the special--trips to the grocery store and Sunday drives, celebrations and funny jokes, family visits and sad times--and we're grateful for having the same memories.

Now for a small photo montage featuring my brother and me--

My grandmother has written on the back of this studio portrait:
"Rebecca Sue and Timothy Stephen
Daughter and Son of Jack and Ida Smith
Ages 4 and 7"

Tim and I with our grandmother at Aunt Georgia's

I've always loved these pictures of us
at the house on 42nd St.

Theme: Pets and outdoors
Love the expression on Tim's face in the bottom left pic
I've seen that expression lately!
Theme: Celebrations
I think I've recently seen that expression
in the top photo too!

Theme: Hats
Theme: General awkwardness

Even though we are three years apart in age and four years apart in school years (I was one of the youngest in my class and Tim was one of the oldest in his) we have always been pretty close--except for a brief period of time in which my most common response was to whack him in the back when he annoyed me. We played outside a lot together when we were kids, we took disco lessons together when we were young adults, and now we travel together. We've been to Arkansas, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia, Washington D.C., North Carolina, South Carolina, and Alabama. (We just can't talk about politics.)

I think this photo (and what's on the back of it) says it all. 

My grandmother wrote on the back:
"Becky gave Tim this T-shirt for Christmas to tease him.
They go a lot of places together."

Love you, little brother!

Monday, October 29, 2018

Retirement Reverie

I just finished the first nine weeks of my last year of teaching. Last week I turned 65, and I plan to retire at the end of this school year. I'm sure I feel like everyone who ever retired. I am looking forward to it, and yet my job has been such a big part of my identity that I can't imagine how I will feel without it.

I think it might make it a little harder that I work in a school. School has been the setting for almost my entire life. I made a little chart this morning and realized that I have begun school, in one way or another, every fall since 1958. 

I was 4 years old when I started school. No preschool then, but the cutoff date for kindergarten was November 1, so my October birthday meant that I could start school at 4 and that I would always be one of the youngest in my class. Kindergarten is actually one of the clearest memories I have of elementary school. I attended kindergarten at Pleasant Porter Elementary School with Mrs. Mary Gold as my teacher. I remember a large room with big, sunny windows, easels for our artwork, and centers where we could busily play kitchen or build with blocks. Much, much later, when I began work in the Sand Springs Schools, I met Jill, Mrs. Gold's granddaughter, who was to become one of my best friends.

My first school picture

In the summer before my 5th grade year we moved to my great-grandmother's house on 38th St. just behind Park Elementary School. I attended 5th and 6th grade at Park--two of my favorite years with two of my favorite teachers, Mrs. Richardson and Miss Stewart. Funny what you remember from school; in the case of Mrs. Richardson I remember studying the explorers and admiring a beautiful hydrangea she had placed on her bookshelf. In the case of Miss Stewart it was mythology, The Secret Garden, and a Christmas tree made out of styrofoam balls and toothpicks. A lot of my memories involve the Park playground, too--riding bikes down the "big hill," climbing the jungle gyms, flying kites on the big field.

Off to school

Tim and I with neighbors at Park playground

Seventh, eighth, and ninth grade I spent at Clinton Junior High School, built on the site of the Clinton farmhouse, where my Castle family lived after moving to Red Fork in the 1910's. Having spent most of my teaching career in middle school, I have come to know that age group well. I recently observed to my colleagues that I remember hardly anything about what I learned in junior high--other than outlining, taught by Mrs. Kunsman, and some favorite pieces of literature, such as "Evangeline" and Ivanhoe, taught by Mrs. Cox in 9th grade--but I vividly remember what my friends and I wore and watched on TV and listened to on the radio. I know that we got a good academic background at Clinton, as our middle school students do now, but I also know that teenagers have other things on their minds besides school. I did start on a path in junior high school that would affect my later life; I became a library aide, and thought, even then, that being a librarian might be my future career.


School pic from junior high

Mrs. Roberts and library aides at Clinton

I continued to start school every fall through my senior year at Daniel Webster High School in 1971, and then immediately began college at Oklahoma State University in the fall of 1971. Homesickness and a wayward boyfriend brought me back home to Tulsa to begin the spring semester of 1972 at the University of Tulsa, where I finally completed my bachelor's degree in 1977. In between I got married; took classes at Cameron University in Lawton and at the University of Maryland, Far East Division, in Uijongbu, South Korea; and had a baby.

Senior picture

Webster graduation 1971

Every year from 1958 to 1976 I attended school as a student; every fall since, for 42 years, I have started school as a teacher.

In the fall of 1977 I began my first year as an English and speech teacher at Mannford Middle School. When an opportunity arose to become the MMS librarian, I started library school at Northeastern State University in Tahlequah, became certified as a librarian, and became a middle school librarian in the fall of 1982. Eventually, I received a Master in Liberal Studies from the University of Oklahoma. After 21 years at Mannford, I made a change of school district and age group, serving as a librarian at Pratt Elementary in Sand Springs for four years. Another opportunity arose, and I made the change back to junior high/middle school at Clyde Boyd in Sand Springs, where I have been for the last 17 years.

Various teacher school pics

Even more school pics

My grandmother's school life was both the same and different from mine. She began school in Kentucky in a one-room schoolhouse. One of her memories was that the school building had two back doors. If a boy went out to the privy, he put a book in one of the doors to signal to the other boys that the privy was occupied; a girl put hers in the other door. I know that she learned from a McGuffey's reader. Later I bought her a set of them when they were reprinted. The Castles moved to a farm between Davenport and Chandler, Oklahoma, in 1907, and my grandmother finished school there, graduating from Chandler High School.

Class picture from Kentucky, about 1902

Two back doors to the schoolhouse

My grandmother with her re-issued McGuffey Reader

In those days it only took a high school diploma to teach school, so my grandmother began her teaching career in a one-room school between Collinsville and Owasso, Oklahoma, in 1915. Her first years of teaching coincided with World War I, and I remember her saying that she spent much of her time breaking up fights between her German-American and Native American students. (I live in Owasso, not far from the corner of 116th E. Ave. and Garnett, which is still called German Corner. I often wonder how far I live from the site of my grandmother's first school.) Taking this job at Owasso was fateful. My grandmother boarded with Mrs. Walker at her boarding house in Collinsville, and this is how she met my grandfather, who lived there and co-owned the Candy Kitchen with his brother.

After three years at Owasso, my grandmother and grandfather married in June 1918, and my grandmother taught in the school year of 1918-1919 at Lynn Lane, a community east of Tulsa. (Lynn Lane is a road and community between Tulsa and Broken Arrow. I read online that a Tulsa Public Schools district school was built there in 1928 and closed in 1975. I wonder if it was on the same site as my grandmother's older school?)

My grandmother's family was firmly established at Red Fork by this time. My grandmother had taken the Civil Service exam, had been appointed postmaster of the Red Fork Post Office in 1917, and had turned over the running of the post office to her mother. So it was only natural that she would apply to teach at Red Fork School, which she did in the summer of 1919. She did this by walking out in a field to talk to the superintendent of the Red Fork Schools, O.C. Brooks. Mr. Brooks was impressed by her initiative--he said that not many applicants would walk out in a field to get a job--and my grandmother started teaching at Red Fork in the school year 1919-1920. 

After teaching through the 1926-27 school year at Red Fork, and after having been married for ten years, my grandmother was pregnant with twins. The twins weren't born until January 1928, but she didn't begin the 1927-28 school year, 'cause you didn't teach in those days if you were "showing." After taking two years off with her boys, she came back to teaching in the 1929-30 school year at McBirney Elementary, where she taught for two years.

Another thing my grandmother and I have in common is that we both went back to school after we began teaching. At some time during the 20's or 30's--I'm not exactly sure when--my grandmother finally received her teaching degree after attending classes at both Northeastern in Tahlequah and the University of Tulsa. I have her Teacher's Certificate, presented in 1932, that granted her the ability to teach "in any grade from the first to the 8th, inclusive, in the public Schools of Oklahoma for the term of Life." 

Life Teaching Certificate

In the fall of 1931 my grandmother changed schools to Pleasant Porter Elementary, where she spent the rest of her teaching career, retiring in 1960 after 30 years at Porter--43 years in all. I can tell you exactly what inspired me to follow in her footsteps; any time we shopped in Red Fork we were sure to run into one of her former students who told me that she was the best teacher they ever had. I wanted someone to say that about me!

Article in TPS magazine about my grandmother's
Land Run "special day"

In November of 1956 my brother Tim was born, and in March of 1957 my mother died from complications of lupus. My dad moved us home to his parents' house, and from 1957 to 1960 they managed, with help from my retired Grandpa Smith and my maternal Granny Altstatt--to raise a toddler and a baby. I don't know what the rule for teacher's retirement or Social Security was in 1960, but I know it had something to do with my grandmother's birthday on March 1, because that was when she retired at age 63. 

My grandmother on her last day at school

And home teaching us

She told me later that she wasn't really ready to retire because she loved teaching. The letter accepting her resignation from Superintendent of Schools, Charles Mason, says "I hope that this relief from school duties will give more time for your family and relieve you from the strain of several jobs." I have to say that this is one place where she and I differ--I am beginning to really look forward to retirement. The funny thing is, retirement for me may still involve school. While I won't be working in a school, I would love to take some non-credit courses at one of the local universities.

Retirement acknowledgement
from Dr. Charles Mason,
TPS Superintendent of Schools

When I started thinking about retiring, I really thought about whether I wanted to meet or exceed my grandmother's years of teaching--or let her beat me. I think I've come up with the perfect compromise. Including 120 days of unused sick leave, I will leave teaching with 43 years credit. My grandmother had 43 real years--so we tied, but really, she beat me.

What I can't say is that I ever taught for the Tulsa Public Schools, but my brother can! I think my grandmother would be very proud of us.

My last school picture