I love a good story. Sometimes I find myself chasing a story even after the trail leaves behind my own family, just because the story is interesting.  And truthfully,  I know I am not the only genealogist that does that.  Genealogist love stories, especially when there is a mystery involved.  The story I am about to share is complete with romance, action and of course some mystery, ending as many of my genealogy adventures seem to end, with more questions. This story actually begins with my half great aunt, Martha Olivia Ganus.

Martha Olivia or “Ollie” was the daughter of William Franklin Ganus, my great grandfather and his first wife Mary Matilda Roberts and I shared some of her story here.   Martha lost her mother, “Tilda,” about 1886 and later that same year,  she and her father, along with her Ganus grandparents,  aunts and uncles all boarded a train bound for Colorado.   The Ganus family settled in Manassa, Colorado initially and remained there for a few years.   Sometime before 1900 the Ganus family moved to Oklahoma where Ollie met and married Henry Edgar Howell on 16 March 1896.

Henry and Ollie settled down in what was then Creek Nation, Indian Territory and began a family. According to Henry’s obituary from October 1951, in about 1891, when Henry was approximately 16, his family moved from Illinois to Oklahoma.  Henry’s family was then comprised of his parents, Henry Harrison Howell and Amelia Louisa [Turner], and his siblings  Katherine, Elroy, twins Lily and Lillian, Lela and Pearl.  Later Willis and Minnie would join the family.

As I learned a little about Henry’s family, for some reason, it was his twin sisters that initially caught my attention.  Lillian and Lily Howell were born 13 June 1883.  Lily only lived to age 16, but Lillian lived to adulthood, married and reared a family in Oklahoma.  It was Lillian’s marriage that intrigued me.

Because my 2nd great grandmother was a McCleskey (Elizabeth McCleskey) and because I have yet to determine who her parents were, I am ever on the lookout for any connection to McCleskeys.  So you can imagine that while admittedly the connection was somewhat distant, I nonetheless sat up and paid attention when I realized that Martha Olivia’s sister-in-law, Lillian,  had married a McCleskey, a McCleskey with Georgia ties no less!

Lillian Howell married Benjamin Green McCleskey.  Benjamin was born 18 July 1871 in Parker County, Texas, the son of George Walter McCleskey and Eliza C. Bumgarner.  Ben’s father,  George was born in Hall County, Georgia 1838 to Benjamin G. McCleskey and Martha Mahuldah Boyd. George eventually joined with others in the move to Texas and settled in Parker County, Texas where he married Eliz Bumgarner and they settled down and began their family. And herein lies a story.

From Wikimedia Commons

The story takes place in Weatherford, Texas in 1873.  George W, and Eliza[Bumgarner] McCleskey had two children at the time, six year old May and one year old Benjamin. Because there had been a great deal conflict between settlers and the local natives of the area, many preferred to live in town where there was safety in numbers.  But the McCleskeys and the Bumgarners lived out by Holland Lake.  In July of that year,  John Bumgarner and his son-in-law George planned to go out on the range and bring back some of their cattle (some versions say horses).  The men decided that in order to get an early start the next morning, George would spend the night at his father-in-law’s cabin.  The following morning the men rose to drizzly rain, but opted to go anyway.  As they began saddling up their horses, some of local natives were waiting and opened up fire. A shoot out ensued and George was shot.  John drug his daughter’s husband, George inside the cabin, where George died a short time later.  The cabin remains standing and it is said that you can still see the bullet holes in the walls of the cabin.  You can read more about the incident at the following links:

Thirty three year old Eliza was left a widow with two young children to raise alone on the frontier. Heat, relentless winds, tornados, copperheads and rattlesnakes were just a few of the challenges settlers of the area faced and it could not have been easy for a woman alone.  Sometime before 1880, Eliza died, leaving Benjamin and May orphaned.  Family stories say that their Uncle Hubbard Bumgarner took the children in and the 1880 Parker County Census does show 12 year old May and 9 year old “Green” (Ben’s middle name) McCleskey living with their Uncle Hubbard.

As adults, both Ben and sister May ended up in Oklahoma.  On 28 December 1902 in Muskogee County, Oklahoma, Benjamin Green McCleskey and Lillian Howell married.  Four children would join that union, Floyd Elmer, Raymond C., Willard and Green Russell.   Ben and Lillian lived out their life in Okmulgee, Oklahoma and it is there in Okmulgee that both Ben and Lillian are buried.

Note location of Okmulgee
From Wikimedia Commons

So granted, it is a little removed, and yet I am intrigued by it all.  Is it just a fluke that several Ganus and McCleskey families ended up living and dying not just in Oklahoma, but a short distance from each other in Okmulgee, Oklahoma?  Is it just a simple coincidence that both the Ganus family and the McCleskey family had Hall County, Georgia roots?  Maybe…..but maybe not.  If I believe in the importance of the FAN club  as taught by Elizabeth Shown Mills, which emphasizes the importance of an individual’s family, associates and neighbors, then such connections, however seemingly innocent and removed, warrant my attention.  And questions such as why and how did the Ganus and McCleskey families of Georgia both end up in Okmulgee, Oklahoma need an answer.

Copyright © Michelle G. Taggart 2014

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