Wednesday, June 05, 2013

100 Years Ago This Spring, June 5, 2013

History does not repeat itself;
at best it sometimes rhymes.
~Mark Twain

Hello family and friends, and greeting to all of you from Northern California on this warm day in late spring as the promise of summer is everywhere to be seen.

James Brooks and Caroline Spear Davis, my great grandparents, were a special couple who deserve to be remembered and celebrated. It was 100 years ago this spring that they migrated from Indiana to Oklahoma in a move that began a whole new chapter in the life of their family. Today the descendants of James and Callie number in the hundreds and are scattered throughout the Western U.S.

In early 1913 when James and Callie packed up and moved westward, they did so with all 7 of their children and Callie's mentally handicapped brother, Clayton Spear.

The second picture, taken in Indiana in 1908 -- 5 years before their move -- is a remarkable old family photo of James and Callie and their 7 children. The children are Winona (far left), Marjorie (in her father's lap), Myra and Bura (in the back), Esther (sitting down in front), Jesse (in the very middle) and Lawrence (on the right).

They were not the first in their larger family to move westward to Oklahoma. Before the turn of the 20th century, James' widowed grandmother Jane Buskirk Davis had made the move, as did James' parents Charles and Melinda Davis in the early 20th century. Eventually 5 of James' 6 siblings relocated to the Sooner state. The lone exception was brother Tom Davis who lived all his life in Owen County, Indiana, where some of his descendants still live today.

Marjorie Davis Millikan (1907-2008), the youngest of James and Callie's children, wrote the following about her family's move. 

In March, 1913 the Davis family of nine boarded a train at Spencer, Owen County, Indiana and arrived in Forgan, Beaver County, Oklahoma on March 8. The trip was 800 or 900 miles, and crossed the Mississippi River at St. Louis.

Callie’s brother, Emery Clayton Spear came with them and lived with Callie and Jim most of his life. After Jim’s death, no one in her family offered to care for him since he was unable to care for himself. Callie’s son Lawrence Davis being the eldest son made the decision to admit him to the mental hospital in Fort Supply, Oklahoma. Lawrence was always troubled by his decision, weighing heavily on his heart all his life. Clayton died in 1944 at the age of 74. 

Sometime back my second cousin Jerry Davis emailed me to say that his grandparents John and Vera Davis (James' brother) "moved to Beaver County in June 1912 in two wagons and it took two weeks. They moved in with (their parents) Charles and Malinda Davis in a two room house and lived there for a period of time, but were asked to move out since John's older brother Jim was coming with his family, which included seven children."

All 10 members of James and Callie's household moved into a 2 room house with his parents? Talk about cozy! If nothing else it shows how difficult it was for these migrant ancestors of ours. The effort it took to follow their bliss and move westward and "start from scratch" was tremendous, and deserving of our gratitude and admiration.

What motivated them to move? To be with family was certainly one thing. The possibility of land ownership in the Oklahoma panhandle must have been another. Basically James and Callie were driven by the promise of a better life for them and their loved ones. For these reasons and many others, 100 years later we remember with thanksgiving their sacrifice and strength of spirit. It was courageous people like them who make us who we are today.

James and Callie were both born in Spencer, Indiana in the years following the Civil War, but are laid to rest today beneath a beautiful headstone in Sophia Cemetery in Beaver County, Oklahoma.

Looking at the big family picture over the last 2 centuries, James' grandparents Alexander and Jane Davis had migrated 300 miles to Owen County, Indiana from South East Ohio in the mid 19th century, then James and Callie migrated 900 miles to Beaver County, Oklahoma in the early 20th century. The completion of the migration across the U.S. occurred when their oldest daughter Bura and husband William Shepard moved 1,200 miles to San Diego in 1940. 

That Was Then, This is Now.  Happy Birthday to Emma Wilk tomorrow on the occasion of her 8th birthday. She is one of the GGG grandchildren of James and Callie Davis. In her family line are Bura Davis Shepard, Pauline Shepard Russell, and Beverly Russell Wilk. Emma lives with her mom Shannon Wilk in Atchison, Kansas. Best wishes to both of them, but especially to Emma for a wonderful birthday!

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Steve Shepard

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