Posts Tagged ‘Stephens Family’

Since I recreated a six generation photo montage for male descendants in my dad’s family several weeks ago, he asked me to try to come up with something similar for the girls in the family. There weren’t as many photos of the women in his family, at least not in the same line of descent, but I am lucky enough to have six generations of women’s photos from my mom’s family, including my daughters and me. The oldest photo, of my 2nd great-grandmother Emma, turned out fairly well considering the condition it was in, but as I brought the photo to life with  digital colorization, I was taken with her uncanny resemblance to myself — almost as much resemblance as Dad had to his 2nd great-grandfather!

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My great-granddad Stephens had uncles Henry and Samuel who left Iowa and went to California during the gold rush days. Apparently they didn’t have much contact with those back home, but I’ve recently been in touch with a couple of their descendants via email after I posted some information about the family on Ancestry.com message boards.

From our correspondence, I learned that Samuel’s daughter Mary Sophia married John Quincy Will and they had a son named Glenn Efrom Will. Glenn was a cowboy and bronco buster who performed in the California state fair during the 1920s and maybe later. One of Samuel’s descendants, the wife of one of Glenn’s grandnephews, sent me the following story that I thought was interesting:

In August 1952, Glenn decided he wanted to visit Tombstone, Arizona and wrote the following addressed to the Tombstone Postmaster:

August 14-52

Postmaster, Tumbstone, Ars.

Dear Sir:

Just a line to ask a favor, and I hope you have time to grant. I am wondering if this is the Tumbstone town where the rich silver mines were and the water drowned them and before it did water was sold for a dollar a glass. I have heard some tails that roor a Tumbstone town that it hapened that way.

I wish you would rite and let know if this town of yourn is that town if it is I will pay you a visit in the spring of 1953 as I like to visit old mining Camps if this is the place I wihs you wood give me some data about it. Thanking you in return for any favors shone me I remain your friend. I am enclosing one of my Photoes ana wood thank you for one of yourn.

Glenn Efrom Will
1130 Curtis Street
Albany, Calif.

The Postmaster didn’t know what to do with the letter and eventually sent it to the Chamber of Commerce. They replied, sending Mr. Will a brochure with some information about the town. Pretty soon they received another letter, this one even stranger:

Just a line to let you no your nice letter was gladly received and I was more than glad to here from you and the infermation it contained. I wood say the Chamber of Commerce are doind a good job, working for the good of soiety in lotting the worald no of the wonderful sun shine and altude they have. I Bronco Bill and the Rodeo Kid think that Dr. Sun lies a wonderful healing power it works it cures through the skin as an grate tonic and helth builder. It increses the activity of the mind. It strengthens the power of the Will. It quiets the nervis system. It studies the muscular action of the body and its warm glowing rays southes and relieves paine.

How far is it to a producing oil field. The only Cowboy that could shoot a horse fly on the wing and the inventor of western moves was Bronco Bill. Thanking you for an early reply.

‘Bronco Bill’, Curtis St. Albany, Calif.

May the Chamber of Commerce life be long and happy and may they build a bigger and better Tumbstone before they say their through. And I sincerely wish the best of everything to you Bronco Bill Bids them all a do.

That was the last letter they received from Mr. Will, a.k.a Bronco Bill, and they forgot about him until March 19, 1953 when the Railway Express Agency called them to say they had a package waiting with $1.92 postage due.

Edna Landin, the Chamber of Commerce President, went to pick up the mystery package. It was an urn from the Oakland California Crematorium, with a permit attached reading “Removal Permit For The Cremated Remains of Glenn Will, A La ‘Bronco Bill’, for interment of said remains in Boothill Cemetery, Tombstone, Arizona.”

They eventually tracked down Will’s son (the Rodeo Kid mentioned in the second letter) and asked him why he had sent them his father’s ashes, to which he replied: “Well, he planned on going there long about this time so I just sent ‘im.” They then asked why he had sent him C.O.D. His answer was, “I didn’t have no money.” When they asked what he wanted them to do with the remains, he said, “He was a Donker and my mother was a hard shell Baptist. Do what you will with ‘im. He wanted to go to Tombstone so bury ‘im or put ‘im on a shelf. Won’t make no difference to ‘im now.“

Though the circumstances were quite unusual even for Tombstone, arrangements were made for interment at Boothill on March 27, 1953. The Hubbard Mortuary of Bisbee took charge of the services without charge. Tombstone’s Mayor was an honorary pallbearer. The Rose Tree Museum provided white roses from the largest rose tree in the world. A number of Tombstone’s senior citizens appeared for the services which were conducted by Reverend William Baker, Minister of Tombstone’s First Baptist Church.

Bronco Bill came back to Tombstone to spend eternity. His grave in Boot Hill is marked with a plaque that reads:

1871 Glenn Will 1953

After his burial the city council announced that burials at Boothill would henceforth be prohibited as Boothill had actually closed since 1883, when it was declared “full up.”

Glenn Will, alias “Bronco Bill” was the last person to be planted in Boothill.

NOTE: The year of his birth is incorrect on his grave, as he was born in Bangor, Butte, California on April 20, 1881, not 1871.

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My paternal grandmother (Nana) initiated my interest in genealogy when I was ten years old. I had many family stories from her in writing over the years, but didn’t have anything recorded except names and dates from my mother’s side — even though a few stories had been shared orally.

For my maternal grandma’s 74th birthday, I gave her an empty journal and asked her to fill it when she felt like writing. I’m sure she took several weeks to fill it, but from the initial date and how it flows, it appears she began writing on her birthday and never stopped until she ran out of room. Too much for one blog post, I plan to break it into parts and eventually include it in its entirety.

She begins:

March 9, 1986
Age 74 years

My life began in one of the worst snow storms ever recorded in Iowa. It was March 9th, 1912, and Mother was to have a doctor from Kellerton, Iowa. That night when I decided to join the family, the snow was piled so high on the roads that there was no way for the Kellerton doctor to get there, so Mother’s brother, Fred Richardson, and Dad’s brother, Albert Stephens, went to Hatfield, Missouri and Doctor Dunkenson came back with them in a bobsled. After I was born, they took him back to Hatfield. On the way down and on the way back, they went across the fields and the snow was so hard and piled so high that they could go right over the fences.

Mother, Dad and Lola, my sister, 19 months old, accepted me into their home, located one and one-forth miles north of the Missouri-Iowa line at Lee, Iowa. Today the road is called P-64. At Lee, Iowa there was a large general store, etc., and north of the store close to the Missouri line on the west side of the road was the Lee school. After my mother graduated from there and went on to graduate from Kellerton High School, and also after going to Normal School in Mount Ayr, High School, she returned to the Lee School as its teacher. It was at one of the neighborhood gatherings that my dad and mother became friends. They later married in a home wedding in my grandparents’ home located one-half mile north and less than a mile west on the north side of the road from Lee School.

Dad and his brother Albert Stephens both graduated from Caledonia, Iowa school and also Auctioneer School in Davenport, Iowa. They followed this occupation along with farming and raising registered cattle and hogs. In their youth they followed the harvest in many states working north to the Dakotas. Their brother Roy was a school teacher and went on horseback several miles to his school, in all kinds of weather. He got tuberculosis of the lungs and back in those days, about the only thing to do for it was to go to a dry climate, so Dad and Albert took Roy in a covered wagon to Colorado for his health. He only got worse, so they came home where he died. Almost a year later, his younger brother died of the same thing. Roy was in his 20s and Earl was around 16 years old.

When I was one year old, my parents bought the place east of Caledonia and lived there the rest of their married life. Dad died January 13, 1970, and Mother died April 28, 1975. Her funeral was April 30, 1975. This would have been Mother’s 86th birthday. Dad lived to be 87 years old.

When I was four years old, the folks’ barn was built. There was almost a new house, cave, and chicken house on the farm when they moved there. They gave $100 an acre. We heated our house with wood that Dad and Albert cut from their farms. It was my job to bring in wood and pile it on the west side of the porch north of the kitchen after I got home from school.

Grandma and Lola

It was such a long trip to Mount Ayr over the dirt road that Mother didn’t go unless she had to get something. Lola and I didn’t get to go to Mount Ayr much until Lola went in town to stay at Mother’s aunt and uncle’s, the Dough Sullivan’s, when she went to High School. At 12 years old, Uncle Albert went to town every Saturday night when the roads were dry enough. By then he and Dad both had cars and they got a Tractor to farm with. Dad drove the tractor and Albert drove horses to farm. Albert asked us if we would like to go to town on Saturday night. This was in the summer before I was to go in town with Lola to go to High School. Lola was a senior and I was a freshman. We enjoyed the summer going with Albert. We went to the show and everyone walked around the square. All farmers and people in town went to town on Saturday night and the stores closed at one or one-thirty.

Lola graduated and I stayed in town at O.G. Spencer’s. Four of us girls lived upstairs there. High School years were good and I grew up a lot and learned a lot about boys. Some were nice and some not so nice. I had not had any playmates except in school when I was growing up, so I was quite shy, but in High School I learned how to get along with both girls and boys. There wasn’t much to do but go to the show and I didn’t have the money for that. The boys didn’t have money to spend on a girl, so all they could do was walk a girl home and carry her books after school. At night there was the library that was open until 9 PM. All the school kids would go there to get dates, but like I said before, there wasn’t anything to do but walk, for none of the High School kids could have a car then.

Grandma Main

These were the Depression years and times were hard. Our parents did pretty well to get our clothes, school things and feed us. When we stayed in town, we did our own cooking, most of the time from what we could bring from home. Many times, by the end of the week, we went to bed hungry because we didn’t have any money to go to town and get food when we ran out. We knew we could not go to Wilson’s Grocery Store and run up a big bill for Dad to pay, but we could go if it rained and we could not get home on the dirt roads. When we did charge food, we were to get bread, a little meat, potatoes, and things like that. No extras, but once in a while we slipped in some cookies or fruit. The milk was taken with us from home and soon soured, as there was no ice box. Few had electric refrigerators.

When Patty was born we had to keep her milk in the ice box. The ice man came and delivered ice from Jesse Anderson’s Feed Store.1 We could go there and buy ice for cold drinks and to make ice cream. Before Barbara was born, we got a used refrigerator with a round thing up on the top where some of the cooling parts were. Much later, we got a new one and a nice electric stove. Up until then, my stove was an oil stove. There were three burners and the oven was like a metal box that I put over the burners to bake cakes and oven dishes. I hated this green stove, for when I used it, the house smelled of the oil fumes. Most of the stoves were oil then. I also had a range stove in two houses. Before oil stoves, people cooked in coal and wood ranges. I remember Mother’s with the warming oven on top and a place to keep water hot on the side of it. The oven was between the fire box and water tank. We had a range stove to heat bath water.


1Jesse married my paternal great aunt, Edna Tennant.

Happy birthday, Grandma.

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