John William Wheat married Cora Lee Bell on 28 January 1917 in Carson, Hughes County, Oklahoma. She was 20 and he had just turned 37. Together they had four children: Leona, born 1918; William Powell, born 1920; Iona Marie, born 1922; and the youngest, my mother, Ida Belle, born 1925. Less than 10 years later on 9 November 1927, John William died in Seminole, Oklahoma, where he was working at an oil field. My mother was only 2 years old when he died.
|Wheat kids at Seminole oil camp, about 1926|
Powell, Ida, Marie, Leona
I started out knowing very little about the Wheat side of my family. The only facts I had came from my baby book, where my mother had filled out a family tree with the names of her parents and grandparents—my grands and greats. She wrote that her father was John William Wheat, and his parents were John William Wheat and Cynthia Ming. The Ming name was very helpful, of course, because it was so unusual. The elder “John William Wheat” led me on a wild goose chase for years.
The Wheats in Oklahoma is a story that starts out in Texas. The first piece of information I found was the 1880 Collin County, Texas, census, enumerated on the 30th day of June. J. and Synthe Wheat, both 21, are listed as family #478 with two children: A.B., son, age 2; and J.W., son, age 5 months, born in January. All four of them were born in Texas. Family #479 was W.F. and Susanna Ming and their 7 children, ages 18 to 3 months. For years I thought that the Wheats were living next door to Cynthia’s parents and siblings, until I looked closely at the original census and realized that, although they were enumerated as separate families, they were all living together in the same residence—a total of 4 adults and 9 children.
The next obvious place to look was the 1900 census, since the 1890 was practically non-existent. No John Wheat, no Cynthia Wheat, no A.B. Wheat, no J.W. Wheat. No W.F. or Susanna Ming, although I did find them on the 1910 census. W.F. was living with the daughter of his first marriage in Greer County, Oklahoma, claiming to be a widower. Susanna, alive and well, was living with her daughter Martha and her family in Garvin County, Oklahoma. And in 1910, John W. Wheat, age 30, is living with a heretofore unknown brother, Thomas J., age 26, and his family in Cottle County, Texas.
In 1903 Thomas had married Lou Hattie Loper in Ada, Pontotoc County, Indian Territory. In 1906 John had enlisted in the Army at Guthrie, Logan County, Oklahoma Territory. Apparently the brothers moved from Texas to Oklahoma and back again, possibly following job opportunities or other relatives. By 1918 (when they both filled out draft registrations for World War I) the brothers had apparently permanently settled in Oklahoma—John was in Oklahoma City and Thomas in Garvin County—because all remaining documents I have found show them living in Oklahoma somewhere.
On the 1920 census Thomas was living in Whitebead, Garvin County, with his wife Lou and children, Beulah, Cynthia, John, and Thomas. John was in Dustin, Hughes County, with wife Cora and daughter Leona. By 1930 John had died; Thomas was living in Pocasset, Grady County with his daughter Beulah. In 1940 Thomas was living in Dustin with the family of Benton Bell, who was the son of his mother’s sister Martha and also related by marriage to John Wheat. While the 1910 Texas census has Thomas’s occupation as farmer, working on his “own account,” on all the Oklahoma censuses he was working as a farm laborer for others. Thomas died in 1962 and is buried in Chickasha, Grady County, near his daughter Beulah.
Thomas, who was not even born on the 1880 census, has turned out to be the key in helping me to unlock the identity of “J.” Wheat, the father listed on the 1880 census as the husband of Cynthia and father of John William.