Susan Spess Shay

Still playing make believe.


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Hap-Hap-Happy Mother’s Day!

It’s Mother’s Day. CELEBRATE! (LOL)

My boys have always been wonderful MD observers. But one of them didn’t always celebrate MY motherhood, as I mentioned in this Mother’s Day Post.  😉

When I was born, my folks lived in an old two story house in the Basin near Old ‘Ford. They always called it, “Aunt Sarah’s House.” For a long time, I didn’t know I had an Aunt Sarah.

Aunt-Sarah

This is Aunt Sarah, who really wasn’t an aunt at all. She was my g-g-granddad’s 2nd wife. She had 357 kids with g-g-granddad Okay, not that many. Actually, it was twelve, but with his three kids from his first marriage, I’m sure it seemed like 357 on some days!

Aunt Sarah was 17 years younger than Grandpa Joe. I’m not sure when Sarah and Joe married, but Mary died in 1881 and Sarah and Joe had their first child in 1883.

They had their last child together in 1901, and Grandpa Joe died in 1903. Sarah then remarried and had another child in 1908. If all her children and step-children had lived (they didn’t) imagine the Mother’s Days Sarah would have had! She should have cleaned up!

EXCEPT: Mother’s Day didn’t start until 1908. Poor woman raised sixteen children with no Mother’s Days to compensate her.

Aunt Sarah’s house had three bedrooms upstairs and one down. I’m not sure where they put everyone. How many kids can sleep in one bed?

No. Running. Water. And yes, the bathroom was outside. Imagine that many people waiting to go! LOL.

 

great-great-grandparentsIn case you’re wondering about her, this Great-Great-Grandma Mary, who died at age 30 before Grandpa Joe came to OkieLand.

When you compare 12 or 15, counting step-children, to only 6, my mama didn’t have that many kiddos. And since I only had three, I’m a real piker! 🙂

I’ve had people ask how a woman could divide her love enough for so many kids.

The answer is, it doesn’t divide. It multiplies. (I learned that at my Mama’s knee!)

How are you celebrating Mother’s Day? Flowers? Lavish gifts? A good book? (I have a suggestion if you need one. *wink*) Inquiring minds!

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Saw Mills and Cotton Gins

Allene, this one’s for you!

great-great-granddad-JosephMeet Joe.

That’s really a copy-machine copy of a picture, so it’s not very good, but it’s the best I’ve got. And really, I’m lucky to have it.

Joe was my Grandmother Ruby’s Granddad, which makes him my great-great-granddad. (Is that cool or what?) His name was Josephus (really!) C. Mitchell, and he was born in North Carolina.

He lived in Illinois in 1875 and had moved to West Plains, Missouri by 1881.

I don’t believe Joe came to Oklahoma for the opening of the Cherokee Strip, at least he didn’t get land in the rush. But not long afterward, he owned a saw mill and cotton gin in the Basin–in the spot where the house was that my parents lived in when I was born.

They always called it Aunt Sarah’s house. Now I know why. (Being his step-mother, Granddad Mitchell called her “Aunt” instead of mother.)

lumber-mill-and-cotton-ginThis picture has stacks of lumber and bales of cotton as well as several people standing around. (The man in the black hat is standing on a bale of cotton.)

Two of those people are my great-granddad and my great-great-granddad. GGG also had a post office and general store in that area, too.

great-great-grandparents

This is another picture of great and great great. The baby is my g-granddad.

The woman is Josephus’s first wife (and my g-g-grandmother) Mary. (Looks irritated, doesn’t she? I might have had that look a time or two in my life.)

Mary died at the age of 30 in West Plains, after having three children. The oldest was six, the youngest two, so old Joe remarried.

2nd-great-granddad-Joe's-1s

This is Mary’s headstone. The note that came with the picture says that Mary’s son, G-Granddad N. S., quarried the stone himself. Since Granddad was only about six when she died, he must have done it some years later.

Aunt-Sarah

Aunt Sarah

This is Sarah, Joe’s second wife. He married her eight months after Mary died, while they were still in Missouri. She was 17 years younger than him. She and Joe would go on to have twelve children together. (They named one Okla Homer. Don’t you love it?)

Some of the children died at birth or soon after, and at least two died by the time they were three. Hurts your heart to think about, doesn’t it?

After 21 years of marriage to Sarah, Joe died. Sarah married a man named Johnson and had yet another child. (She was one busy woman!)

Being Terminally Curious, I really wish I knew the story behind their lives. How did they happen to come to the Mannford area? How and why did Joe die? How did Sarah feel when Joe died, leaving her with all those children to raise?

Did Joe make his wives happy? Or were they too busy keeping all those kids fed to notice?

Sarah’s two youngest were five and two when their daddy died. The two-year-old, Jimmie, would die the next year. Doesn’t that just break your heart?

The first time I heard of Joe, I read about him in a book called Cherokee Strip Fever  by Zola Sample. She only mentions him in passing as the store owner in the Basin, but it was a thrill to see my family mentioned in that book.

I think I’ll have to read it again one of these days. 🙂


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Family Tree and History

Ever hear the saying, “What goes around comes around?” Usually when I hear it, someone is threatening someone else. (The threatenee is often me.) “It’ll come back and bite you on the hinny.”

But not always. Sometimes, it’s family history.

I think I’ve mentioned I’m climbing the Family Tree. Wow. Want to get confused, just start that little project! But it’s interesting. I’ve “met” a bunch of shirttail relatives through it. And most of them know way more about my family than I do! 🙂

SPESS FAMILY MINUS CAROLMeet Ray and Ruby Spess, my dad’s parents. They’re standing in front of their first home with their two oldest children, Frank and Paul.

What I love best about this picture is probably what Grandmother hated. See? On the left hand side of the photo? Her laundry is hanging on the line. 🙂

Seeing Uncle Frank look like a shy little boy is pretty cool, too. 😉

Their house was built on land in the Basin, which Granddad’s father got in the land run of 1893, the opening of the Cherokee Strip.

family-spessThe mustached man with the hat is my great-granddad, who made the run. On his right (with one hand on her hip) is his wife, Louisa. One of the two little girls in front of him is my granddad (the one on the left) and the other is his twin sister.

Message to my kiddos–I love family pictures for a reason! It’s genetic!!!

Anyway, the picture is almost the entire family of ten kids–only one person missing.

I believe the reason one person is missing from this pic is that Granddad had a brother named Theodore who died the year Granddad was born (at least that’s what I found on another tree) so it’s likely Theo that’s missing.

The house was probably built out of lumber milled at Grandmother’s grandfather’s lumber mill, there in the Basin.

One more picture–dad and sparkyThat’s Dad riding Sparky. Now look behind him. See that barn? Even after my grandparents moved into Old ‘Ford, they farmed in the Basin. They had a sow and her piglets living in that barn. This particular year, they raised a bumper crop of corn and stored that corn in the loft of the barn.

As I said, the corn was a bumper crop. And one morning they got to the farm and found  . . . you’re ahead of me, aren’t you?

Yep. You guessed it. That barn loft cratered under the weight of the corn and buried the sow and her babies.

Did it kill the pigs?

Nope.

Did they let the sow eat her way out?

Nope, again.

They rescued the pigs, and stored the corn someplace else.

Now back to going and coming around.

Fast forward to 2014–just about 110 years after that family picture was taken. My dad (the kid on the horse) lives very near where that family picture was taken, and not far from where Grandmother and Granddad had their first house, where the sow was buried in the corn.

Today, Dad raises a huge garden that gets bigger every year. He has chickens, raises his own beef (Brother Jeffrey’s bailiwick) and now he’s planning to get a sow and start raising his own pork.

Sounds a whole lot like what his grandfather must have done to get his family raised, even though Dad never knew that grandfather.

I love it that he’s repeating history that way.

Have you studied your family tree? Any surprises pop up for you?


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Pioneer Day

I didn’t make it to Pioneer Day this year. But it was discussed on Facebook and I followed the thread.

Interesting the way people perceive anything that goes on in their Small Town World, isn’t it? And you know what? All of them just want C-Town to shine! (I think it already does!!!)

Back in the Day

Real Pioneer Days

In order to take advantage of the folks coming to town, Homecoming and Pioneer Day have been combined. Makes sense, doesn’t it? I mean, peeps are coming home, so lets use it!

Originally, Pioneer Day was established to celebrate the day the Cherokee Strip was opened. The most land ever in a Land Run. (I think.)

Free!

September 16, 1893

If I remember right, Pioneer Day changed to Jolly Roger’s Day back in the late ’60’s. (I don’t remember the exact year, but I’m thinking about 1967 or so. (Wasn’t Viva Lee Rayborn Miss Keystone Lake about that year?)

But Port DX closed, and JRD reverted back to Pioneer Day.

One thought thread on FB was like Oliver Twist’s request. “MORE.”

536380_426671170692114_2054861313_n

Invite surrounding towns. Mix up the culture a bit. Invite Indian dancers from nearby towns. Request the girls in local dance/tumbling classes to entertain. Have more than one kind of singers

And floats in the parade!

Not bad ideas. Not the only ideas, but not bad ones.

If it were up to me, I’d get The Mayberry Foundation involved. That group is full of energy and fantastic ideas! (And they follow up!)

They’re what I want to be that when I grow up! 🙂

So, those of you who have ideas for PIONEER DAY . . . what do you suggest? Even if you aren’t from The Capitol of Keystone Lake (aka C-Town) what are some things in your town to bring in people and fun?

Suggestions?