Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Lincoln County Oklahoma History

In my last blog post, I wrote about a recent photo discovery made of an old photo gallery built and owned by my great grandfather, John Arthur Kephart. It was so great to get that from the kind researcher at the Lincoln County Historical Society in Chandler, Oklahoma. So I asked her what book she found the photo in, and she told me it was from the Society's history book of the county, called Lincoln County Oklahoma History. That book is no longer in print, but I found a copy on Ebay--all 1,572 pages of it. I have so many ancestors from Lincoln County, I knew I had to have, so I'm glad I won that auction!

Lincoln County Oklahoma History Book

Believe me when I say that I've not yet read this beast of a book. I'm skimming and scanning my way through slowly. But I did check the index straight away to check for ancestor names, and they were there! In particular, I have found a couple of great photos and articles, both written by my great aunt, Ruby Christina (Kephart) Stephens, who is my namesake. Much of the content of the book about various local families was written by living family members, who I'm sure also provided many photos. I so love the photos! Yay!

The photo below is of my great, great grandmother, Susan Eleanor (Templeton) Kephart. Next to her is her granddaughter, my great aunt Ruby, when she was a young girl.

Susan Eleanor (Templeton) Kephart and Granddaughter Ruby Kephart

Nellie (as Susan was often called) was a prize-winning gardener and canner, among many other things. So I love that this photo in the book shows her with some of her canned goods. 

This next photo from the book is of my maternal great grandparents, Della Mae (Swinford) Kephart, and John Arthur Kephart. 

John Arthur and Della Mae (Swinford) Kephart 1945

Until I saw this photograph in the book, I had forgotten that I had seen a real one many times before--in my grandparents' home. As soon as I saw it I could picture it hanging on Nana's wall. I love that photo of them! I only wish I had a real copy of the photo myself.  But this one is better than nothing, and it sure was nice to find it in the book.

And since my great grandfather was a photographer back in the day, and one of the only ones in Lincoln County for quite awhile, he is credited for taking some of the photos in the history book as well. As I go through the book I am bookmarking pages and making notes, and I hope to share more information from it here on the blog in the future. I have some other Swinford ancestors in the book as well. So who knows what else I may find.

I wish every county had books like this. It really is a wonderful way to travel back in time and visit the places so many of my ancestors lived. What a treasure for a genealogist like me! 
Tuesday, February 21, 2017

John Arthur Kephart - Photo Gallery

My latest addition to my Tuesday Treasures is something that arrived in the mail today and I was thrilled to receive it. It is a photocopy of a photo that appeared in a book of some sort (still waiting to confirm which publication and its date). The photo is of Kephart's Photo Gallery from Wellston, Oklahoma, which belonged to my great grandfather, John Arthur Kephart. His business existed at the very least (based on my research) between 1908 and 1916. 

John Arthur Kephart Photo Gallery - Tuesday Treasure

A little background is necessary here. I need to point out that I never even knew that my great grandfather was a photographer until one day a couple of years ago. I was searching through old newspapers online from Wellston, Oklahoma, and I found a wedding announcement from 1908 for John Arthur Kephart and my great grandmother, Della Mae Swinford. That announcement noted that my great grandpa had a photography business. This was just exciting to me. 

John A Kephart Weds Della M Swinford Wellston Oklahoma

After finding that, I did some more searching and found various ads like the one below, in the Wellston News for his photography business.

John Arthur Kephart Photography Ad Wellston Oklahoma

Grandpa Kephart must have been a pretty good photographer, because at least one of his photos was featured in the newspaper. And the Audubon Society was also interested in one of his photos. I don't think that photo was ever published though; I did a lot of research and some correspondence with the Audubon Society and was not able to locate any photo taken by him. It is nice to know they were interested though!

John Arthur Kephart Published Photo Wellston OK

John Arthur Kephart Photographer Audubon Society

A little more digging and I discovered (still, a couple of years ago) that Grandpa Kephart had one photo studio, and then tore it down in 1916 and built another one in its place. Apparently the first one was his residence as well at that time.

 

The part that is awesome to me, well at least one thing anyway, is that my mom did genealogy too, and she never mentioned that Grandpa Kephart had been a photographer. So to find all of this information in the past couple of years, and now the photo of his business is bittersweet--because she is no longer here for me to share it with her. She would have loved all of this, because she loved her grandparents so very much!

I must add that the photo was found for me thanks to a wonderful worker, named Carol, at the Lincoln County Historical Society in Chandler, Oklahoma. She was looking for something else for me and just happened to find that photo. I'm so very glad she did! I am always digging for more information on my great grandparents, and with any luck I'll find more in the future.

For now, I'll just end this with a photo of John Arthur Kephart. So you can see what my great grandpa looked like.

John Arthur Kephart - Maternal Great Grandfather


Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Grandpa Testorff Treasured Photo

Recently, my father and stepmom sent me some old family Bibles, photos, and other family items. I treasure all of these things so much, but one photograph in the bunch is particularly special. It is an old photograph of my grandfather, Leonard Freemont Testorff, and one of his sisters, Nina Geraldine Testorff. It is perfect for this week's Tuesday Treasures spot.

The photo is a large oval and not in the greatest shape. I considered hanging it as it is but it is so fragile I worry about doing that. So I decided to take a photograph of the original photo and do some digital restoration of it. This is the result.

Leonard and Nina Testorff Restored Photo Tuesday Treasure

I'm not a professional photo restorer by any means. I do a lot of digital art and editing though so I did my best to restore this photo into something I could print and hang up. That way I can keep the original, fragile photo safe and sound. I don't think this turned out too bad. :)

Leonard Testorff and Nina Testorff Tuesday Treasure

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Surname Saturday - Bigham

Surname Saturday Ancestry Chick Logo

This week's Surname Saturday post is going to feature the Bigham name in my family tree. The Bighams are in my paternal line, which has its most recent beginnings in my tree with my grandmother, Mable Louise Bigham.

Mable was born on September 18, 1921 in Oswego, Labette County, Kansas. Her parents were Turence Stanley Bigham and Eva Loretta (Williams) Bigham. In the photo below, you can see my grandmother with her mother, Eva.

Mable Louise Bigham and Mother Eva Williams Bigham

This next photo is of my great grandparents, Turence and Eva Bigham.

Turence and Eva Bigham
Great Grandpa Turence was born on December 20, 1890 in Labette County, Kansas. He would live his whole life in Kansas, until May 16, 1968, when he passed away at the age of 77. Great Grandma Eva passed before him, at age 73, on October 15, 1965, in Oswego.

Turence was the son of Aaron Bigham and Mary Ellen (Crain) Bigham. Aaron was born December 21, 1855 in Washington County, Illinois. Mary Ellen was born October 24, 1867, also in Illinois. My great-great grandparents would have 7 children, 6 who survived. They also would live most of their married lives in Labette County, Kansas. They are pictured in the photo below.

Mary Ellen and Aaron Bigham - Surname Saturday

Aaron's father was John Bigham, born in Ohio on July 20, 1828. John's father was James William Bigham, born 1784 somewhere (as yet unknown) in Ireland. He and his wife, Elizabeth (McCreary) Bigham (who was born in Pennsylvania) would live many years in Guernsey County, Ohio, and then Washington County, Illinois.

James Bigham's father was William Bigham, born somewhere in Ireland in 1760. He and his wife, Sarah Barton (also born in Ireland) would have at least five children and and live for many years in Guernsey County, Ohio. They are both buried in Old Washington Cemetery there. That is as far back in my family tree as I have gotten for my Bigham ancestors.

All I really know of the Bigham surname is that it is a Scottish habitational name from a placed called Bigholm(e). The main parts of the name are the Old Norse "big" from "bygg," meaning "barley" or the Old Danish personal byname Bekki, large or stout; plus the Old Danish "holm," a small island or piece of land surrounded by streams. So it's seems likely that somewhere far back in the Bigham line, even though I have much Irish Bigham ancestry, there may be a Scottish Bigham ancestor somewhere that I haven't yet uncovered.

Hopefully one day I'll dig up those Scottish Bigham roots.
Friday, December 30, 2016

Forget Me Not Friday - Kephart Grandmothers

This week, for Forget Me Not Friday, I'm featuring two generations of my maternal ancestors: my great grandmother, Della Mae (Swinford) Kephart, and her mother, my great, great grandmother, Lavina Elizabeth (Winders) Swinford.

Lavina Winders Swinford and Della Swinford Kephart - Forget Me Not Friday

Lavina Winders was born in Illinois on May 21, 1852 to Andrew Jackson Winders. Her mother is unknown, and is one of the biggest brick walls in my family tree. Andrew was likely married and perhaps his first wife died. He would later marry Delila Nestleroad, who is quite often mistaken for Lavina's mother in many family trees. However, Andrew and Delila didn't marry until 1854, and Delila would only have been 14 at the time of Lavina's birth. Delila was also born in Ohio and living there when she married Andrew. So it doesn't quite add up for her to be Lavina's mother. The search for Lavina's mother's identity continues. 

Lavina would later marry Jonathan J Swinford in 1875 in Missouri. Together they would have eight children by the time they moved into the Oklahoma Territory in 1889 and become what is known as '89ers. One of those children was Della Mae, my great grandmother. You see both of these ladies in the photo. The other woman in the photo is likely one of Lavina's other daughters, either Ethel or Grace. I haven't yet figured out which one.

Jonathan and Lavina would have 2 more children, and the couple would live most of the rest of their lives in Wellston, Lincoln County, Oklahoma. Lavina died on June 6, 1915 in Wellston. Della would marry my great grandfather, John Arthur Kephart, and they too would live out their lives and die in Wellston. Della died on April 7, 1976. I still remember the day we got the news. My mom had been very close to her. It was so hard to watch her and my grandmother grieve this loss.

I love the photo of these two grandmothers of mine. And I love being able to help preserve their memory by keeping their history alive here on the blog, and in my heart.
Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Grandma Kephart's Teapot

For this week's Tuesday Treasure I want to share a picture of a sweet little teapot, which is really only big enough for about one cup of tea. This belonged to my great grandmother, Della Mae (Swinford) Kephart.

Grandma Kephart's Teapot - Tuesday Treasures

My mom brought this to me, along with several other special things that had belonged to Grandma Kephart, a few years before Mom passed away. And of course it's something I treasure. Mom said that Grandma did use this teapot to make herself tea. I love that blue flower on the brown background, and the scrolls and swirls of green leaves. And I love even more that I can imagine Grandma Kephart fixing herself a nice hot cup of tea with it.

I've often seen similar teapots to this at antique stores and such. Most of them time they are bigger than this one. I don't know if it's even valuable...but it's priceless to me, and I'd never sell it. There's a note tucked inside of it, stating who it's original owner was, so that my daughter will know after I'm gone. I've started doing that with a lot of family heirlooms and other special things around the house. If no one but me knows their story, then once I'm gone the stories will be gone too. So I'm hoping that by adding notes or labels to everything that's important, my daughter and grandkids will know where these things came from. 

After all, preserving the family legacy and history is the goal. 
Saturday, December 10, 2016

Surname Saturday - Sutton

Surname Saturday Ancestry Chick

Another very important surname in my family tree is Sutton, so I thought that I'd spotlight this name for this week's Surname Saturday post.

The name Sutton originates from the Anglo-Saxon words 'sudh,' meaning 'south,' and 'tun,' meaning 'town.' This equates to 'the family of southtown.' The name seems to have its roots in England and Ireland. 

For my family line, the most distant confirmed Sutton ancestor was John C Sutton, my 5th great grandfather. The earliest records for John C Sutton enumerate him on the 1820 Census in Randolph, Dearborn County, Indiana, along with a spouse, 6 sons, and 2 daughters. There is also a Joseph Sutton on that same Census, possibly a brother of John. It is believed that John was born in Pennsylvania, circa 1760-1770.

There is an oral family tradition that John C. Sutton's family left Pennsylvania using a flat boat and floated down river from (or through) Pittsburg. Although some people in the family questioned this as a physical possibility, research has confirmed that many families moved to Ohio and Indiana in this manner.

By the 1830 Census, John and his family are living in Switzerland County, Indiana. Switzerland, Ohio, Dearborn, and Ripley counties come together at just about the spot where John C. Sutton and his family lived. 

Per the "Switzerland Co., Indiana Marriages" (Scheur Publications, Warsaw, Indiana, 1994), at least 7 of John C Sutton's 8 children were married in Switzerland county between 1820-1836. This would include my 4th great grandfather, John D Sutton, who married Susannah "Susan" Dodge on 04 January 1827. 

It is unknown as of yet to whom John C Sutton married, the mother of his children. There is lots of speculation among Sutton family researchers, but her identity remains a mystery at this time. And we really don't know much about John C either for that matter. 

More is known about my 4th great grandparents, John D and Susannah (Dodge) Sutton, who would also have 8 children. You can see these ancestors in the photos below, circa 1860.

John D Sutton and Susannah (Dodge) Sutton - Surname Saturday

John D and Susannah's daughter, Jerusha Harmon Sutton, was my 3rd great grandmother. This family lived at various times in Switzerland and Ripley counties in Indiana, Rock Island County in Illinois, and Hardin county in Iowa. John D and Susannah would also later live in Vernon County, Missouri.

The big mystery of John D Sutton is when and where he died. Family researchers are still on the hunt for definitive proof of his death. His wife's death was also somewhat of a mystery, until I discovered two small obituaries for her a year or so ago; one in the Cape Girardeau Democrat and one in the Kansas City Star from September, 1893. These showed that Susannah died in Vernon County, MO. Hopefully one day we'll discover John D's obituary too.

And the hunt for my Sutton family ancestors continues.