Remembering a Civil War Ancestor on Memorial Day

We don’t have a photo of Mom’s grandfather, Henry Francis Vining who served in the Civil War. He died within a year of Mom’s mother being born. It was a struggle for the Widow Vining to raise her young children in those days without a husband to support the family.

A too-brief summary of his life existed:

Henry Francis Vining – b 9/16/1836 East Windsor,Hartford,CT – d 7/28/1897 Chetopa Twp.,Wilson,KS – m 3/15/1874,Wilson,KS Nancy Jane Babcock (daughter of Ezra B. Babcock & Nancy Jane Wright) b 3/18/1851, Blackhawk,IA – d 1/6/1924 ElkCity, Elk,KS – Burial: Harrison Cem.,Wilson,KS – Enlisted 11/20/1861 with Company B, 9th Kansas Voluntary Calvary. Promoted to Corporal on 11/20/1862 and mustered out on 11/19/1864. (by Ms. Karolyn Rae Roberts)

That led me to search the details on Ancestry and in Here’s more about his life.

henry vining grave in Harrison cemetary, wilson co KS

Henry Francis Vining

My mother, Gail Lee Martin, researched and wrote an engaging story about Henry’s parents, Almira Buckland and James Vining. You can read it here, My Pioneering Great-Grandmother. It was published in the magazine Kanhistique and included in Mom’s book, My Flint Hills Childhood.

Henry Vining’s Military Experience

Here’s an excerpt from it which tells about Henry’s military service,

Almira’s courage was to be tested at its fullest in the next five years as the civil war loomed more and more on the horizon. In September of 1861, four of her sons, Henry, Erastus, Israel, and Charles rode their horses to Fort Leavenworth and enlisted in the Kansas Cavalry. They were assigned to the 9th Regiment, Company B.

Letters from Henry disclosed that he was being sent to the northwest territory to build Fort Halleck for protection from the Indians. He spent the war years fighting Indians and never came home until the war was over.

Erastus became a guide and took remount horses to Fort Halleck. On one trip he was caught in a blizzard and almost froze to death but managed to make it back home to recuperate from frostbite to his face, hands, and feet. Charles was like his father and had the wandering urge. After the war, he signed up for four more years of service and adventure.

Wikipedia gives some details about Fort Halleck, “Fort Halleck was a military outpost that existed in the 1860s along the Overland Trail and stage route in what was then the Territory of Idaho, now the U.S. state of Wyoming.”

The Vining Farm in 1880

I found some details about Henry Vining’s farm in the June 1880 in the U.S. Census Non-Population Schedule for Newark, Wilson County, Kansas.  The farm included 20 acres of tilled land, no acres of permanent pastures or woodlands, and 20 acres of other unimproved fields. The value of the farm was $300 including the buildings and there was $25 worth of farm machinery and $30 worth of livestock.  There were no horses, mules, working oxen, milch cows, sheep, or swine. It appears that the livestock was 30 chickens who produced 100 eggs in 1879.

He had 1/2 acre planted with apple trees but only one had reached bearing age. there were 75 peach trees that were bearing on another 1/2 acre. I’m not sure what they did with that many peaches. Not far away, his brother James had a larger farm which also had a large peach orchard.

James had 2 horses, so maybe he helped Henry with plowing. Henry had 1 acre of potatoes that yielded 70 bushels in 1879. There was also 7 acres of Indian corn that produced 200 bushels and 2 acres of wheat which made 20 bushels. Twenty gallons of molasses came from the 1/2 acre of sorghum. It’s likely that they had a vegetable garden for some additional food like pumpkins, squash, turnips, beets, and cabbage which could be stored into the winter months.

Indian corn could be ground into cornmeal for making cornbread. The wheat could be ground for flour to make biscuits or bread. They probably didn’t eat the chickens as the eggs would be needed for eating or bartering. Maybe they hunted for rabbits or other game to provide meat.

Henry Francis Vining died of typhoid fever on July 28, 1897.

henry vining death typhoid

The Alliance Herald Fredonia, Kansas 06 Aug 1897, Fri • Page 3

Graduations Over the Years

It’s the time of year when new graduates beam with pride for the camera as they clutch their hard-earned diplomas. They are glad the school year has ended, little realizing that ahead are many trials and tribulations as they learn about being an adult.

For the moment, don’t bring up jobs, bills, keeping the spouse happy, coping with car repairs and grumpy bosses, plus the challenge of raising children. Let them savor that triumphant and heady feeling of achieving the long-term goal of getting an education.

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Madison Remembers the Flood of ’51

Kansas is having some nasty flooding right now from all the rain. That prompted me to post my mother’s memories in the Facebook group that shares Madison, Kansas stories. It triggered many of the participants to tell about their own family experiences of that record-setting flood.

Mary Meyer, “I remember the flood of ’51 quite well. I believe it occurred in July. We lived about 1.5 miles north of Madison on the river. Dad was outside putting the cows in the barn, catching what chickens he could, and taking them upstairs along with the dogs and cats. I remember sitting on the cook stove while Mom grabbed what she could and sent the 3 older kids upstairs with it. To this day, I am deathly afraid of water!

We ate cold cereal up there for about 3 days until the water went down. Then the real work began. About everything we had, including the hogs, were swept down river. I’ll never forget that swirling dirty water in the house.

madison 51 flood

The Emporia Weekly Gazette Emporia, Kansas 19 Jul 1951, Thu • Page 2

Lora Esslinger Meirowsky, “Dad talks about George and Dorothy Fankhauser’s home flooding where it was originally located just south of the highway right before the road curves to the east. After the flood, they moved the house across the Verdigris River to the hill where I remember it. Then a few years ago, the home again made the journey across the river to its current location just north of where it originally began.

Mary Beth Davies, “Mom, Dad, and Larry lived with her mom’s brothers’ family in a house just south of Fanestil’s in 99. They had quite a story about evacuating in ‘51. They could hear the roar of the water in the distance and just got out in time.”

Michael A. Paske, “Being much younger, I don’t remember the ’51 flood. However, I was told I created quite a stir. We lived in farmhouse my great-grandfather built just south of US 54 bridge over Verdigris near Toronto. The house set on a little rise in the flood plain and had a 3-foot high concrete and stone foundation. Dad had moved everything to the 2nd floor that wasn’t too heavy except for kitchen table and chairs and put refrigerator up on blocks even though the electricity had gone out the day before and they were using the old “icebox” fridge.
Seems someone did not put my diaper on snuggly enough. I, having turned one year old just a week earlier and not being quite as smart as the dog, was not housebroken yet. My grandmother who was staying with us saw a puddle of water at the door and screamed the water was coming in. The folks looked out and sure enough, water was lapping over onto the porch but the house door lips were another 4 inches high. It seems I had sat watching the water out the screen door and what will happen when you watch and listen to flowing water had happened.
The flood did cover the porch with about 1-1½” of water but stopped just short of really entering our house.
Dad did have to dig 2-3 ft of mud and silt out of the cellar/basement and of course, pump our well dry (it was totally covered by flood water) and pour in a couple of jugs of bleach as it refilled. He had moved all the chickens and geese to the hayloft of the barn which was also set on a raised foundation for the milk cows and the two old draft horses, and sheep.” 

flood of 51

The Emporia Gazette Emporia, Kansas 19 Jul 1951, Thu • Page 12

Renell Schroeder, “I remember the 1951 flood like yesterday. I have pictures of water up almost to Main Street on 4th Street. I remember the Norman Harlans (mentioned in Gail Martin’s story) because Tim was a year ahead of me in school and Vickie married my husband’s cousin. So neat that someone would record what they went through during that time.”

Kristy Buckridge “My Aunt Sheila lives in the house close to the river and the floors in her house were ruined that year.”

flood madison 1951

The Emporia Gazette Emporia, Kansas 26 Jul 1951, Thu • Page 9

Learn more about the 1951 floods with this 114-page report from the Weather Bureau (issued July 1952).

Many thanks to the individuals who shared their family memories. It’s good to preserve these. The flood happened almost 70 years ago so it’s rather amazing that word of mouth has preserved some of these stories.

The Big Cottonwood Tree

Someone asked how big cottonwood trees get. He said, “when I was a young boy, I remember there being a little rest area on one of the highways in northeast KS and it had a very large cottonwood tree, with a sign saying it was one of the largest trees of that type in Kansas. I can’t remember where exactly it was though. Can someone tell me what I’m thinking of and if that cottonwood is still there?”

Suggestions included Ozawkie, Kansas by Perry Lake on Highway 92. They thought that one had been destroyed by high winds. Another person remembered that Council Grove, Kansas had a really large one also.

Of course, my mind went immediately to the huge tree near El Dorado. It was where the farmer’s market was for many years. Clyde and Gail Martin twice a week faithfully set up their canopy and table with Clyde’s homemade bread and Gail’s special jams and jellies. They also had vegetables of all kinds for sale.

Here’s a photo of the wonderful shade that tree provided for the twice a week market.

Farmers Market Cottonwood Tree_1999

El Dorado, Kansas farmer’s market

The tree in El Dorado is the 3rd largest in KS now. Gail’s sister, CJ Garriott, took the picture below of it and had it made into a postcard.

2012-04-13 gail martin celebration of life 024

There’s a website where you can look up the state champion trees. There’s a form there that you can fill out if you know of a special tree to nominate.

The champion tree of Kansas is the Cottonwood growing near Studley in Sheridan County.  It was measured in 2015 and found to have a circumference of 37’7″ and a height of 70′ with a crown spread of 148′.

Cj Garriott commented, “I recall when I lived in Texas and was visiting in El Dorado, I got to see Gail & Clyde in action under this magnificent Cottonwood Tree. As usual I had my camera & told my sister I was going to wander around to get a photograph of the tree. She responded that everyone complained that it was difficult if not impossible to get a good photo of it. I think I proved everyone wrong.”

Mother’s Day – 10 Years Ago

I dipped into Mom’s notebook for 2009 to see what kind of Mother’s Day she had a decade ago. She usually put in a few notes about her neighbors, the weather, or how she was feeling.

A few days before, she noted that Cindy and Karen came by for a long visit and brought plants for her patio pots.

Here’s Gail Lee Martin’s journal for Sunday, May 11, 2009:

“Great Mother’s Day – Susan brought Owen over and a big crockpot full of a roast lunch and strawberry shortcake. KK came by with a lovely carry bag for my camera plus a heating pad. Paul stopped by.”

The next day, she noted that she was “feeling sluggish” after staying up late watching baseball on TV.

mothers day

Karen’s Memories of the Round Oak Table

My big sis asked me about my memories of the Martin family oak table that’s been handed down in our family.  I know now that it came from Dad’s parents and I assume we got it at the time Cora and Ren downsized and moved to Emporia for their retirement years.  That would have been when I was a child and, really, I don’t remember a time that we didn’t have it.  I think we must have gotten our cherry slant-top desk from them at the same time.

This was back in the 1950s and our family was the typical one, where Dad was the breadwinner and Mom was the homemaker.  Meals–all of them–were eaten together as a family at the big, round table in the dining room.  Since we were a family of eight, at least one of the two expansion leaves was left in place during those years.  It was very rare for us to eat out at a restaurant, either sit-down or drive-through.  We did occasionally have picnics.  But other than that, we ate at home at that table!



I like knowing that this is the table my Dad grew up with.   His family was even bigger–eight children–but the table was big enough for them, too.   I think it’s likely that the table was purchased from the Sears catalog.  Sears started selling quarter-sawn oak extension tables of this type around the turn of the last century.

Advertisement from 1922 for an Oak Dining Table

1922 round oak table advertisement1922 round oak table advertisement Sat, Apr 22, 1922 – 6 · Lincoln Journal Star (Lincoln, Nebraska) ·

Now the oak table has been handed down to my family.  When I downsized in my turn at the time I retired, I handed the table down to my daughter.  That makes her the fourth generation of the family to have this 100-year-old table.

One more view of that table. This photo is from 1957. That’s our dad, Clyde, and his younger brother, Howard Martin. They grew up with the table and then it came to our family and we grew up with it, too. I see that they are playing cards which all of our family loved to do. Also on the table are some packs of cigarettes. I think Dad smoked Camels. I’m not sure what’s in that bowl, maybe snacks.

clyde and brother howard martin 1957 round oak table playing cards