Farmers in My Tree

As part of #AncestorChallenge2018 on Twitter, David Allen Lambert recently asked “Who was your last farming generation in your family?” Since I nor my parents grew up on a farm, I had to think about this question.

I did grow up with two family stories related to farming. My grandfather, Leon Crawford, always talked about how he helped ‘Uncle Jimmy’ farm his land. The story involved him running the tractor on land just south of the Arkansas River in Dodge City. At the time, I didn’t think to question granddad about ‘Uncle Jimmy’, but wished I had. ‘Unlce Jimmy’ was likely James H. Crawford. James H. Crawford was the brother to my 2nd great grandfather. Thus, he was my grandfather’s great uncle. James H. Crawford did own land on the south side of the river in Dodge City.

The second story involved my grandfather Briles. Family lore says he rented farm ground where the Emporia Country Club is located. Although I don’t have any documentation to support this story, I do have a picture of my grandfather, Edward Osmond Briles on his tractor.Briles-Edward-b1891-1955-Tractor

In terms of my great grandparents, two (both on my mom’s side) are identified as farmers on the 1900 census. Edward Grant Briles is listed on the 1900, 1910 and 1920 censuses as a farmer. However, the 1930 census indicates he was a carpenter at the age of 59 with the 1940 census again stating that Edward was a farmer. Charles Oliver Mentzer is also listed on multiple censuses as a farmer in Woodson County, Kansas.

On my dad’s side, one family story says that my dad’s grandfather, Judson Foster Crawford, participated as a cook’s helper on a cattle drive. Since Judson was born in 1866 in Indiana and didn’t arrive in the Dodge City area until around 1884, it is highly unlikely that he helped with any of the cattle drives from Texas to Kansas. Like his son, Leon Crawford, Judson likely helped his uncle, James H Crawford, farm his land. As an adult, Judson Crawford worked for the railroad.

My dad’s other grandfather, Hiram M. Currey, did try his hand at farming. In 1908, he moved from Leavenworth County to Rooks County, Kansas. In Rooks County, Hiram rented land and took up farming. Hiram’s farming adventure as short-lived as he returned to Eastern Kansas by 1913. currey-hiram-b1866-1908-the_leavenworth_times_fri__jul_17__1908_.jpg

“Delaware,” local news, The Leavenworth Times (Leavenworth, Kansas), 17 July 1908; digital image, ( : viewed online September 2016).

Although I am two or more generations away from farming, many of my ancestors back to 1850 claimed the occupation of farming on the various census records.


Same Name

For my genealogy research, ‘brick walls’ and ‘same name’ often go hand in hand. Hiram M. Currey and James Crawford are two examples where a ‘brick wall’ also involves working thru ‘same name’ issues. In the case of Hiram M. Currey, I have four generations that go by that name. To further complicate the issue, there is another Hiram M. Currey that is about the same age as my Hiram M. Currey of Peoria, Illinois. My James Crawford research is more complicated. I have identified three James Crawford families in the same area of early Kentucky. Histories of the region refer to a Rev. James Crawford who is likely the Rev. James Crawford — a fourth James Crawford.

Over the years, I have been able to figure out the relationships between the multiple Hiram M Curreys and to separate the multiple James Crawfords. I have found the following techniques useful:

  • Perform a reasonably exhaustive research of all people of the same name in the same area and time period
  • Research the descendants of all of the people of the same name for at least three generations
  • Use land records

It was thru land records that I was able to separate the various James Crawford families — including the two that lived adjacent to each other in Preble County, Ohio. When they sold land, their wife’s name was included in the deed along with her release of dower. For example, Preble County, Ohio Deed Book Volume 10, page 282 shows James Crawford and his wife, Martha, selling land in 1829.

Likewise, a deed in volume 5 page 86, shows James Crawford and his wife, Sally, selling land in 1821.

By looking at the wife’s name on the land records for the sale of land, I was able to separate the various James Crawford families. In addition, I was also able to track their migration.

Since I have done reasonably exhaustive research on each of these families, I have located a will for both of the James Crawfords who resided in Preble County, Ohio in 1820. I have also found marriage information for their children.  Recently, I have been able to use that knowledge to figure out which one is which in the 1820 Preble County, Ohio census.

Below is an image showing the transcription of the 1820 Preble County Ohio census for Crawford and related families.

Since I wasn’t sure whether the James Crawford shown on image 2 or the James Crawford junior shown on image 4 was my ancestor, I decided to compare the family group sheet for James and Martha to the census to see if I could figure out whether James and Martha were on image 2 or on image 4.

I used the same procedure for the family group sheet for James and Sally.

The family information I have for James and Martha seems to match the James Crawford census record on image 2. However, when I match up the family information for James and Sally to the James Crawford junr census record on page 4, it becomes obvious that there are additional people — particularly females — living in the household that are not on my family group sheet.

Thus, I have more family members — and more records — to find.

Scottish Naming

Is It a Clue?

One of my brick walls is James Crawford. Unfortunately, James is a common name and there seems to be multiple James Crawford families wherever my ancestor moves. Even though I’ve worked hard to separate the various families, I still haven’t been able to figure out how all of these James Crawfords might be related. Nor, have I been able to identify parents for my James Crawford.

Thus, I’m going back thru my research looking for clues that might help me make a breakthrough. One of those clues is the given name of Nelson.

To make sure I found all of the Nelsons, I ran a descendancy report for five generations and then searched for Nelson.

I also ran reports for James and Martha (Knight) Crawford, James and Rebecca (Anderson) Crawford and Alexander and Mary (McPheeters) Crawford. I did not find any Nelson Crawfords in those reports.

Thus, I’m wondering whether the name, Nelson, is a clue!

Using the Scottish naming convention, the given name might help me find the father of James.

  • The first son is named after the father’s father;
  • The second son is named after the mother’s father;
  • The third son is named after the father.
  • The first daughter is named after the mother’s mother;
  • The second daughter is named after the father’s mother
  • The third daughter is named after the mother.

If James Crawford followed the convention, then his father could be named Nelson.

So, is this a clue worth pursuing?





1974 Emporia Tornado


“At least six people were killed, more than 80 hospitalized and an unknown additional number injured by a tornado that ripped across the northwest corner of Emporia early Saturday evening. The twister virtually demolished the Lincoln Village Mobile Home Park and the Flint Hills Village Shopping Center.” (The Emporia Gazette – Extra – Sunday, the Ninth Day of June 1974 on

This is one of those ‘Where were you when’ moments.

On June 8th, my husband and I had been married for about 3 weeks. We had a 2nd floor apartment on 5th Avenue just East of Rural Street in Emporia. Mike’s brother was visiting Emporia to pre-enroll and was spending the night with us. I was just finishing preparations for supper when I heard a loud noise. A couple of minutes later, the tornado sirens went off. We proceeded toward our landlord’s basement. I don’t believe my husband ever made it to the basement. Instead he was on the front porch trying to figure out where the tornado was.

Unlike today’s reliance on cell phones and the Internet for news, our main source of information was KVOE, the local radio station. Thus, we had the radio tuned in to find out what was going on. That’s when we heard that the tornado had hit the shopping center. Thinking that the tornado likely continued to the northeast, I was concerned about my parents’ home on 21st street West of Prairie street. Since my parents were at Lake Reading for the weekend, I wasn’t exactly sure who would be home but figured my brother and his fiance may have been at the house.

My brother shared the following memory of that evening:

I lived on 21st street and my fiancee and I were the only ones home at the time. We did not hear any siren but when the electricity went off my fiancee (wife) looked out the window and said she thought it was a tornado. I can’t say I saw a funnel but it was the blackest cloud I had ever seen. We took the dog and cat to the basement. We could hear some glass breaking and when we decided it was OK to leave the basement I went down my driveway in bare feet and started visiting with a neighbor from across the street. I hadn’t looked to the east until he said something and I couldn’t believe what I saw – a few houses east and major damage. I went back inside and got some shoes on and started walking around the neighborhood. A sheriff’s deputy stopped me and asked if I had a crescent wrench, which I did. He instructed me to go around the neighborhood and shut off the gas lines.

At the time, I was working as a ward clerk (glorified secretarial aide) at St. Mary’s Hospital. Part of staff training was the expectation that staff would report during a disaster. Thus, my husband dropped me off at the hospital while he and his brother went to check on my parents’ house.

They weren’t able to drive into the area from 15th and Prairie. However, they were able to get close by going thru the park. They found the worst damage at the East end of 21st Avenue (a little over 1 block East of my parents). A house on the corner had imploded. Another house had been lifted off of its foundation with a car dropped into the basement. A house on the cul-de-sac at the bottom of the hill had a 2×4 going thru the corner of the bedroom.

While walking into the neighborhood, they found my brother and his fiance. The four of them continued walking the neighborhood looking for those that needed help. They helped put a tarp on the roff of an Emporia State University biology professor’s house. He lived close to the 21st and Prairie corner. My husband remembers putting his foot thru the ceiling of their bathroom as they struggled to get the tarp on the roof.

Sometime that evening, my parents were able to make it home. I remember my father saying that he helped the placement director move stuff out of her home that night. My husband remembers my father telling of his ‘overnight security’ detail where he turned the governor away from the neighborhood.

Meanwhile, I was at St. Mary’s Hospital along with many of their employees, expecting to be put to work. As stated in the disaster plan, one-half of Emporia’s physicians had also reported to St. Marys. Unfortunately, triage failed that evening. The ambulances did not divide their patients evenly between the two hospitals. The ambulances, walking wounded and those being helped by neighbors showed up outside of Newman Memorial Hospital. Since Newman’s was overwhelmed, the physicians went to Newmans to help. Most of the extra nursing staff went home since they weren’t needed.

Since I had been dropped off, I was stuck at the hospital — with no information on my family. Knowing that their telephone lines were underground, I didn’t think the tornado could have damaged them. Thus, I tried calling, but the call didn’t go thru.

Thus, I was waiting on first floor for my husband when the tornado sirens sounded around 9 pm. The director of nursing (a nun) ran out of her office and grabbed me saying, “We need to get the kids in peds (pediatrics on 4th floor) to the basement.” So, we ran up the stairs to 4th floor, grabbed a child and ran back down to the basement where we comforted those scared children. Relief workers at the shopping mall on the West side of town confirmed seeing a storm cell. Rumor said that there was a tornado dancing over the top of the hospital. Fortunately, no tornado struck the building and we were able to return the children to their beds on 4th floor.

What are your memories of that night?





Wedding Tales – True or False?

weddingMy parents, Eugene and Roberta Crawford were married on June 9, 1951 in Emporia, Kansas. When they would talk about their wedding, they would always tell stories of the ‘flood’. According to my dad, his parents, his best friends and many of the Dodge City guests had trouble getting into Emporia because of flooding.

My mother’s stories centered around her father, who ran the local movie theater. In the 50’s the movies came in large rolls which had to be returned as soon as the last showing was over. According to mom, her father had to take the reels out of Emporia by row boat and trade them for the reels for the new show.

For the longest time, I assumed that these flood stories associated with their June wedding were about the great flood of 1951.


It was likely 1993 when I realized that the flood of 1951 was in July and not June. The above image verifies the July 1951 flooding in Emporia. The article is from July 19, 1951 issue of The Emporia Weekly Gazette (Emporia, Kansas) found on

So, was there flooding at the time of my parents wedding — or did they attach stories from July to their wedding memories? Since Emporia was surrounded by flood waters in July, my grandfather would have had to take the movie reels out by boat. However, my dad’s parents and friends would not have had a reason to travel to Emporia from Dodge City in July by automobile.

So, was there flooding that made it difficult to travel from Dodge City to Emporia in early June of 1951? With the Neosho River on the North and East sides of town and the Cottonwood River on the South side of town, it is possible that roads were closed due to flooding.


Currently, the primary route from Dodge City to Emporia is Highway 50. (Blue line on the map)


A look at a map from 1950-1951 shows that there were only 2 highways into or out of Emporia: Kansas Highway 99 from the North to the South and U.S. Highway 50S from the West to the East. (Map available on KDOT: Historic State Maps)


Kansas Highway 99 crosses the Neosho River on the North side of town and the Cottonwood River on the South side of town. According to the 1950-1951 map, US 50S paralleled the Cottonwood River from Florence to Emporia. The highway crossed the river at Florence. If both rivers were flooding, then both highways likely would close and the town would have been cut off.

Two newspaper articles verify that the Cottonwood River was flooding the weekend of June 9, 1951. Both articles are from the June 11, 1951 issue of The Emporia Gazette. On page 2 of the paper is an article about sightseers going across the bridge at Soden’s Grove (where Highway 99 crosses the Cottonwood River).


The second article was on the first page of the paper and discussed flooding of the Cottonwood River along the highway at Elmdale.


Based on the newspaper accounts, the Cottonwood River was flooding the weekend of my parents wedding. This flooding may have impacted US highway 50S from Florence into Emporia. While we have the technology to warn us of road closures, my grandparents likely were unaware of the flooding issue until they reached a flooded roadway. A lot of backtracking would have been needed to get around the flooded Cottonwood River. June 10, 1951 issues of other newspapers report flooding on the Saline River, Kansas River and Blue River.

Thus, I believe the tales of family members and wedding guests having a difficult time getting to Emporia for the wedding to be true.


Decoration Day Memories

Peonies240As a child, Decoration Day started with mom going out to the back yard and picking flowers – particularly Peonies, Iris and Sweet William. My grandmother would do the same thing from her flowers. In addition, my grandmother would order Peonies from the grocery store. She would keep those Peonies in the refrigerator. Those Peonies would be set out the night before so they would open up.

Preparation for the day would have included digging out the vases — but more often coffee cans. The coffee cans were wrapped in foil. Then some sand and/or rocks would have been added to the bottom to add weight. The digging out also included finding the wire hooks to hold the vases. If these hooks could not be found, then new ‘hooks’ would be made from wire hangers.

Mom would take the Sweet William and a small white vase to prepare flowers for my brother’s grave. My brother, Duane Gail Crawford, was a day old when he died. His small grave was in the Crawford plot along with my great grandparents and other relatives.

Once the flowers were ready, we would all go to the cemetery. There we would help carry items to the plot and carry water for the vases. I’m sure my grandmother told us how we were related to the graves we were decorating. This was the beginning of my genealogy education!


A Railroad Family

In honor of National Train Day, I thought I’d share some info about our railroad heritage. One of first documents I have regarding railroad employment is a letter of recommendation for Judson Crawford. Based on the condition of the letter, I’m guessing that Judson carried it with him.


(Original in possession of author)

Atchison, Top[ek]a & Santa Fe Railro[a]d Company.
Dodge Cy, Kan. Station July 22 1889

The Bearer Mr.
J.F. Crawford has been employ-
ed by this Co. as Brakeman
and yardman for eleven months
He is a sober industrious young
man, and is now off on account
of force being reduced, and any
favors shown him in ways of
transportation or employment will
be appreciated by himself and
the undersigned conductors of the
Santa Fe. Respy C. M. Borkur
Jno McCabe Condr
William Ril[ey]
WE. Weaver [Zmsm] B.H.P.

In March of 1900, Judson was assigned as a conductor on a freight crew between Dodge City and Coolidge on car 81. (Globe Republican, 15 Mar 1900 on


The Globe-Republican reported that J. F. Crawford filled in as yard master in Aug 1907. (found on


The 1920 Dodge City directory indicates that J. F. Crawford was a switchman for the AT&SF railroad.


Judson’s sons Leon and Marion joined their father in working for the railroad after returning from their service in the U.S. Army during World War I. Marion Crawford lost his life in a railroad accident in June of that year when he fell under the wheels of an oncoming switch engine.


As a member of the Brotherhood of Railroad Trainmen, Judson would serve as a member of the AT&SF Joint General Committee ORC. (Copy of photo purchased from Boot Hill)


Judson retired from the Atchison Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad in 1936.


Judson’s son, Leon Crawford stepped down from a switch engine for the last time in 1960.