Friday, November 16, 2007

Happy 100th, Oklahoma!

Although I haven't really lived there for more than 20 years, Oklahoma is still home for me. Besides the fact that I was born and raised there and much of my family is still there, it's the one common denominator in my mongrel lineage. Oklahoma is where the daughter of a Czech immigrant and a French/Scotch-Irish horse trader met the son of English and Welsh coal miners, and it's where an orphaned English/German/Swiss/Scotch-Irish schoolteacher met a bookkeeper from the hills of Arkansas whose ancestors had been in America and inching west for 300 years.

So what parts of our family were in Oklahoma by November 16, 1907?

Clara Paxton was still an 8-year-old girl in Missouri and would not move to Oklahoma for another decade, but her grandfather Lee Overholser had lived there since the time of the Land Run, and her uncle Will and aunt Ella Overholser were living in Oklahoma City at the time. (Her brother Burton, incidentally, was born in Oklahoma City in 1896.)

Cal Jones was a 12-year-old boy whose family was probably living in Boynton, Indian Territory, on the day that it became Oklahoma. His parents Silas and Nannie had left Arkansas four years earlier.

Blanche Vermillion was seven months old, having been born in Wayne, Indian Territory, in April. She was living with her mother in Wayne, and the celebration of the new state must have been muted for them, as her father Walter Vermillion had died in September. Blanche was surrounded by cousins in the area, most of them grandchildren of George and Kate Jicha, who had settled across the river in Oklahoma Territory in the 1889 Land Run. Blanche's one living grandparent, John Washington Vermillion, also lived in the area, where he had settled as far back as '89 also.

Six generations of our family have lived in Oklahoma so far, and Clara's sons' families are on their seventh. It's probably not any kind of record, as a lot of Oklahomans reproduce more rapidly than we do. But considering our earlier family history of heading west every generation or two (always in search of farmland, something that's not so much an issue now), it's a pretty good run.

I wish I could be in Oklahoma today, but I'm there in spirit.

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