Texas Bluebonnets in a Hill County Cemetery

Tuesday, January 25, 2011



The Kirkpatrick family seemed never to have stayed in one place more than a year or two.  It was partly looking for greener pastures I suspect because everywhere they lived was a prairie landscape.  Compared to Kentucky and Indiana the Kansas landscape was bare of trees with no rivers where they were .  Clara was now the mother of four girls: Alice born in 1887; Anna in 1889; and with her marriage to Clifton after the death of John her first husband who was Clifton's brother, Clara had Bess in 1896 and Dora Ethel in 1898. Oklahoma Territory was their next destination about 1901 where Clara purchased a lot in El Reno, O.T. The land had belonged to the Kiowa and Comanche Tribes until 1889.  It was registered: Kirkpatrick, Clara - El Reno, Oklahoma Territory - 56 - 9 - $65.00.  It was unusual in that there is no information on Clifton ever purchasing property.

ANADARKO O.T. 1901 "A town of tents".                        "Sunday school, Indians and white[s]."

Saturday, November 20, 2010



Let me back up and tell you a bit about the beginning of my grandmother's entry into this world.  Mary Alice Kirkpatrick, daughter of John A. Kirkpatrick and Clara Daisy Utley came into a 'frontier world' like all the women before her. It was 20 years since the Civil War but the aftermath loomed large in the minds of many people. Alice's mother Clara and grandmother Dorcas [Harper] Utley lived comfortably in a town in Indiana before picking up and moving to south central Kansas.  Their first home was a sod dugout.  It also served as the pony express station and first post office.  Dorcas and her husband Simon were the postmasters. Suitable housing was something each family built with what they had. Timber had to be hauled in. Kaw, Pawnee, Ponca, and Pottawatomie Tribes with agency posts now had to live side by side with Anglo dugouts and lean-to structures.
Morris Co. KS 1885

Mary Alice Kirkpatrick
Alice was born November of 1887 in Kingman KS. Within months the family moved to Council Grove and thus began an unbroken pattern of movement, never staying in one place for very long. Her parents worked at the Harvey House, a public lodging facility with dining room where John and Clara took turns working shifts.
Anna was born in 1889 and in 1892 their father met with a violent death.  He was 44 years old.
In the article "Her First View Of Death", four year old Alice is quoted as have said: "Papa, dear, speak to me and say you will come to 'the beautiful gate' and meet your little Alice some day". (News papers from the Victorian era were noted for taking liberties with their reporting.)

Clara Daisy Utley Kirkpatrick, a widow at 26 with two small children, employed the most common strategy of her times; Clara married Clifton Kirkpatrick, brother to her deceased husband.  They had two daughters, Bessie born in 1896 and Ethel born in 1898.

The family of six moved briefly to El Reno, O.T. and upon contracting for a hotel they removed to Anadarko, O.T.
Alice and Anna enjoyed moving to a 'real' town where there was entertainment and opportunities for education and work. They spent many weekends with potential suitors who took them out for "Kodaking" the countryside. Alice began teaching school at the age of seventeen.School teachers signed contracts for however many months the parents could pay for their children to attend.  She began in 1904 and taught at Deep Dell, El Reno, Binger and, Black Jack school outside Ft. Cobb O.T.

Monday, November 8, 2010


The deeper I went into the trunk the more unsettling it became.  Her writing was changing though the magazine photos of of beautiful women continued, the pictures changed to a handsome man in a smoking jacket smiling at the woman in a lovely dress, her hair coiffed to perfection and face made up to reflect a glow from a flickering fire in the fireplace.  One after another following along the same theme of happy husband and attentive or coquettish woman smiling.  Only now she was writing her name at the hem of each woman's dress. Alice was moving away from comparing herself to the magazine women, to becoming them.  My best guess is that the clippings were from the early to mid 1930s. Mixed in with the ephemera of happy couples was a white paper sack filled with pamphlets and advertising directed solely to women.  Each one pointed out a less than perfect part of a woman and offered solutions, salves and secrets to having clear bright skin, soft hands, greater vitality and elixirs for nervousness, hysteria, and disagreeable temperaments.   Domesticity was to be taken in and embraced as the duty of the woman to provide a tranquil atmosphere. One thing I knew for sure was that if her household was anything like the one I lived in, it was anything but tranquil.

For Alice, her way to creating tranquility was to take her pharmacists suggestion and use Nervine.  She was, as I'm sure he explained to her, a nervous woman and Nervine would bring a sense of calm to her system that would make her family situation more serene.  Grandmother was one of heaven knows how many women across the country who dutifully took her spoonful of Nervine at least once a day.  The poor woman needed all the help  she could get.  The men in my family are genetically predisposed to knocking the crap out anyone who ticked them off.  Wives were prime targets for 'the rage' of a disgruntled man, ala 'she had it coming to her.  I remember years later when she came to stay with us for a while that the Nervine was still with her. In her 60s by then she was already feeble and her eyes were clouded over.  Nanau didn't track what was being said to her and she was just plain out of it.  My child desire to want to know what was wrong followed me well into adulthood.  I never forgot about the medicine and my grandmother's senility.

One day in an antique shop I found a collection of old  medicine bottles.  I learned Nervine had been outlawed decades ago.  I read the label of ingredients and got my answer to my grandmother's mental and physical deterioration: she was an addict.  The main ingredient in so many of the things given to women was phenobarbital, a barbiturate.

Dr. Miles' Nervine

Wednesday, September 1, 2010


I settled the trunk in the living area where I could spread everything out.  I hadn't even opened it yet and I already had a plan.  I opened the lid and was presented with my first 'taste' of musty air.  I sneezed my head off while I lifted the first section up and out.  In all there were three levels, each with their own surprises. There were thin boxes six deep in the first section.  I'd never seen anything like it.  They all had the same thing in them: cream colored knitted camisoles and ladies' boxers.  They were all folded in tissue paper and this was their first viewing in forty years.  They established the theme of the first section, year after year of Christmas lingerie never out of their boxes.  When I lifted up the first camisole I was astonished at how tiny it was.  I remember very little about my father's mother, Marie Alice Kirkpatrick, other than she was rail thin and her face and hands looked mummified.  She shared a room with me when I was about seven.  Dad had brought her from Houston where she lived with his brother.  Mother was determined to get some meat on her bones; and, Nanau, as she was called, was equally determined to refuse.  They both were forces to be reckoned with and equally adept at staying in a snit.

The second section was filled with paper and scrapbooks from the 1920s to the end of WWII. The scrapbook leaves were brittle as the dead of winter with newspaper clipping glued with old fashioned mucilage or straight pins. The first book was my father's and filled with high school memorabilia.  I learned more about my father that night as I poured over one crumbling page after another, than I knew in the eighteen years I lived in the house with his absentee head of the house status.  He was the penultimate traveling insurance salesman.  He'd come home Friday night after being 'on the road' since Monday morning.  On Saturday morning he'd head out to the office until about 3p.m. and start drinking.  Friends would come over for a cocktail and off they go to dinner.  Sunday was church followed by bridge and drinks.  On Monday he was gone by 8a.m.  I figured it all up and came up with 8 months.  I had seen my father about 8 months out of 18 years.  If mother was unhappy about that she never showed it.  Her mother had had the same marriage experience so I don't think anyone was much bothered.  I didn't know any better.

The second scrapbook was filled with pictures of the movie stars of that era, among other unusual items.  Grandmother had dissected them into body parts.  The woman's faces had comments written in pencil stub such as nice hairstyle or her lips are too big.  Hands were noted as creamy skin with too much finger nail polish.  If anything was red, be it hair, nails or dress it received a dismissing comment that could have come out of the Old Testament.  She never commented on the men but only the pretty ones were pasted in.  The second half of the scrapbook was dedicated to pictures of lingerie from the newspaper.  Some items were circled in pencil with a shaking hand and noted "I have one like this."  There were pages of morning gowns, bras, slips, dresses and gowns.  I can only imagine how many times she ran her hands over those pictures.

Marie Alice [Kirkpatrick] Dowlearn

Sunday, July 4, 2010


I became interested in genealogy a long time ago. My folks didn't have family bibles or photo albums of their ancestors. I didn't think about it much until my grandmother died. I was a late bloomer in matters of attending funerals. My first was when I was 15. I was dumb struck to see all the people my father told me were my relations. I didn't know I had any! The get together was a smörgåsbord of people. My aunties and great aunts were Indian women with beautiful black hair and strong like me. 

Many families were Mormon which frankly blew me away. How did that happen? Our family was Methodist. I'd never thought about it until then. Being southern meant Baptist mixed in with the Methodist and an occasional Presbyterian. I found out much later that on my dad's side were Catholics. It was condoned, he said, because before the Republic of Texas the Spanish, then Mexican governments insisted people become Catholic if they wanted to stay, which they did of course or they wouldn't have come all that way to turn around.

That was the extent of my family tutorial until years later when I asked to take my grandmother's trunk out of the garage where it sat for twenty years. No one knew what was in it and mother didn't want me to open it. I was a little squeamish myself because when I was little I used to stick grasshoppers in the hole where the lock had been. I couldn't imagine what it looked like in there. It was agreed they'd put it in the back of my truck and I'd drive it back with me to East Texas where I lived.... to be continued.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010


Many thanks to the friends who took the time to show me what blogs can do.  I'll do my best to keep it short.  As a storyteller that will require serious effort to say nothing of reining in my tendency to meander.  One of my favorite words is melange.  I love the sound of it and I pretty much live my life by its meaning.

Conscious intent to absorb sight, sound, touch, taste, smell and knowledge keep me coming back for more!