Sunday, October 31, 2004

Neil's grandmother joins the Oklahoma Land Rush

In the most recent draft of Neil Mabry's history and ancestry, is included a heart-wrenching tale of Barbara Weiser Holben's quest for a new life in Oklahoma as noted in a letter from Neil's sister, Loretta Mabry Barker.

After Edward Holben died in November 1892, his widow, Barbara, made a “run for the land” in Oklahoma on September 16, 1893. She had a number of relatives living there at the time, including her daughter Carrie (Holben) Alexander in Edmond, her sister Karlena (Caroline) Weiser Broker in Craigmont, and her nephew Otto Nicolas Weiser (son of her brother John).

Oklahoma Sooners

During the 1800s the federal government had forcibly relocated many Indian tribes from all over the country into an area called the Oklahoma Territory. In the middle of that territory there was a parcel of land that was not assigned to any tribe - this was called the Unassigned Lands. In 1889, President Benjamin Harrison signed legislation that opened up those lands to homesteaders.

At noon, on April 22nd 1889, a cannon sounded, and people rushed into the territory to stake a claim around the area that is now Oklahoma City. (People that snuck over the border early were called “Sooners”). The first (legal) settlers in Edmond arrived at 1:20 p.m. that day. It is possible that Barbara’s daughter Carrie Holben Alexander was among them.

“Last American Frontier”

In 1893 the “Cherokee Strip”, now the northern portion of Oklahoma , was opened to settlers. Organizers were hoping that the land rush would be more orderly than those from earlier years.

According to a contemporary report:
“On the day of the run, it was hot and dry. Dust, whipped by wind, and thousands of feet, made it unbearable. To add to the misery, soldiers were doing their best to keep order, and see that no one "jumped the gun." The run was to begin only when troopers shot their pistols at high noon. There were several reports of persons shooting a gun in the crowd.

Many homesteaders excitedly took off on hearing any gun shot. Such excitement could only lead to trouble for some. One fellow heard the wild shot at four minutes before noon, and took off. Troopers reportedly chased him for a quarter mile before shooting him dead. Finally, at noon September 16, 1893, a shot rang out and more than 100,000 determined settlers raced for 42,000 claims. By sunset, there would be tent cities, endless lines at federal land offices and more losers than winners. The Cherokee Strip Land Run was a tumultuous finale to what many have called the last American frontier.”

From “The Cherokee Strip”

Into this harsh environment, on September 16, Barbara took her two young daughters, Neil’s mother Gertie (age 12) and Ora (age 6). They lived in a tent on the undeveloped land, and Barbara caught pneumonia. She died on 23 September 1893 before she had occupied the land for 30 days, the time required for ownership. Her body was sent back to Edinburg, Illinois on the train. Her newly orphaned daughters sat on the box in the wagon on the way back. Both Barbara and her husband Edward are buried in Buckhart Cemetery in Edinburg.

After their return to Edinburg, Illinois, Gertie and Ora were raised in foster homes.

Gertie’s daughter, Loretta Barker, also remembers that Gertie wrote about a summer visit with her sister Carrie in Edmond a year after their mother died: She and her brother George (ages 13 and 19) rode a train and the conductor was to let them off in Edmond. “They took them to Oklahoma City and let them off there. Gertie and George walked the railroad tracks back to Edmond.” This was a distance of about 10 miles!

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Sunday, October 24, 2004

Robert Smith Mabry, Sr.: Last residence in Marion County, Illinois (1827-1842/5)

In about 1827, Robert Smith and Rebeccah (Adams) Mabry and their children headed west again, eventually settling in Marion County, Illinois . Their son (and our ancestor) Robert Smith Mabry, Jr. would have only been about 2 years old when the family moved.

The Mabry family had lived about 15 years along the Kentucky-Tennessee border, before moving. It is likely that the oldest Mabry daughters, Martha and Nancy, married while the family still lived in Kentucky.

Once again, they were not alone in their move. Rebekkah's brother, John Adams, also moved from Logan County, Kentucky to Marion County, Illinois. Many other families from Kentucky and Tennessee also made the move, settling in the "Tennessee Prairie" area of Raccoon Township, in the southern part of the county.
"Tennessee prairie, so called because settled by Tennesseeans, is in the northwest and extends to Little Prairie, to which it is connected by a narrow strip. Like all settlements of Illinois, the first settlers chose the timber land; first, because they found it more convenient to build and for fuel; second, because they were used to timber and loved its protection from the summer sun and blast of winter; third, the flies with which the prairie was infested, especially the green-heads, rendered it almost impossible for horses to work during the heat of the day."
Rebeccah did not live long in Illinois. She died on January 26, 1828, three days after giving birth to the youngest Mabry child, Susan. (note: it is possible that Rebeccah died shortly before the Mabry family moved to Illinois)

Robert Mabry not only worked his farm and raised his children, he also contributed to the community:
"The first school-house was erected in section 18 [of Raccoon Township], in 1832. It had a chimney and fire place and no floor, but mother earth. The first teacher in this primitive school-house was Robert Mayberry."
Robert purchased several tracts of land from the Federal Goverment in Section 16 of Raccoon township in 1837-1839, totalling 120 acres.

Also in 1839, Robert married for a second time, to Penelope Hinds, almost 30 years his junior. They had one son, George W. Mabry.

Robert died in 1842 or 1845, in his late 60s, and was buried in Burge Cemetery in Raccoon Township.

All quotes are from "Brinkerhoff’'s History of Marion County Illinois" published in 1909 by B. F. Bowen & Company, Indianapolis, Indiana. (pages 104-111 and 171-173). This is a very romantic view of life on the frontier.

Note that the the family name is often spelled "Mayberry" in early documents.

Illinois Public Domain Land Tract Sales Database
Illinois Land Plat Maps (1804-1891): For Marion County select "Southern Illinois"

Mini biography: Robert Smith Mabry, Sr.

Previous posts:
Robert S. Mabry: Live in Kentucky & Tennessee (1812-1827)
Robert S. Mabry: Life in Pittsylvania County, Virginia (1777-1812)

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Sunday, October 17, 2004

Robert Smith Mabry, Sr.: Life in Kentucky and Tennessee (1812-1827)

Robert Smith and Rebeccah (Adams) Mabry and their children headed west from Pittsylvania County, Virginia in about 1812, settling on the border between Logan County, Kentucky and Robertson County, Tennessee.

They did not travel alone. At least three of Rebeccah's siblings settled in the same area: Nathan and Sally (Murphy) Adams, William and Fanny (Meachum) Adams,and Dudley and Mary "Polly" (Adams) Farthing.

The 1820 Census lists the Mabry and Adams families in Springfield Township, in Robertson County, Tennessee, but most records indicate the children were born in Logan County, Kentucky. It seems likely that the Mabry's lived close to the border between the counties. (1826 Kentucky/Tennessee Map - look just west of center on the border between the states)

Robert and Rebeccah Mabry had seven children there: Dudley Henry, Richard Greenville, William Henry, Nathan A., Rebecca Littlejohn, Sarah Elizabeth,and Robert Smith Mabry (our ancestor).

After about 15 years, in about 1827, the Mabrys headed west again, settling in Marion County, Illinois, where they were listed in the 1830 Census.

Mini biography: Robert Smith Mabry, Sr.

Previous post: Robert S. Mabry: Life in Pittsylvania County, Virginia (1777-1812)

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