52 Ancestors #1 Eva Keithley

Amy Johnson Crow of the No Story Too Small blog has issued a challenge to write an ancestor’s story once a week for 52 weeks. Since that seemed to be a way to honor my word of the year – intentional – and my interest in family history, I decided to participate.

Although I knew almost all my aunts and uncles, I never knew any ancestors: my maternal grandfather died in 1915, my maternal grandmother in 1922, my paternal grandmother in 1938 and my paternal grandfather in 1942 (although he likely had met me, I have no recollection of him since I was not quite 2 when he died).

Fortunately, my daughter chose to become our family historian and to learn everything she could about her ancestors. Without Kay’s interest, I may never have even heard my grandparents’ names, let alone know anything about their lives.

My grandmother, Eva Keithley Lineberry Fox, died five days after her 39th birthday – 18 1/2 years before I was born. Because her younger children, ages 7 to 14, were dispersed from Oklahoma to Virginia to live with various paternal relatives and because my mother was the youngest child, I do not recall ever seeing anything belonging to Eva – even a photo of her.

Eva was the second child of Joseph Henry Keithley and Martha Ann Conn*, born January 7, 1883 in Fairview, Fulton County, Illinois. Her sister, Violet Belle, was born two years earlier in 1881 in Fairview, and her brother, Leo Henry, was born in Fairview in 1884. [One other sister, Mabel Amy, was born in 1889 in Missouri. Because Martha Keithley apparently died shortly after the birth of Mabel and because Joseph’s business as a grocer did not allow him to both work and care for his young children, the three older children were given to relatives to care for and Mabel was given to a local family to adopt; this family moved to Wisconsin and Mabel had no contact with her birth family until she was a teenager.] 1899 eva keithley_edited-1

Sometime between 1884 when Leo was born and 1889 when Mabel was born, Joseph and his family moved to Carterville, Missouri, which is in Jasper County. Kay received a photo of Eva taken about 1898 when she was about 15.

The 1900 census shows Eva living with her father, step-mother, brother and two half-siblings as well as a great uncle, and next door to her sister, Violet, newly married to Thomas Newton Todd:

1900 census

Jacob had also been living in Carterville at the time of the 1900 census; he was a boarder in a home about three blocks from Eva’s home.

1900 census Jacob

In 1992 we received copies of about 50 letters Jacob had written to his brother in Virginia from 1894 until his death in 1915. Those letters indicated Jacob had left Carterville in August 1901 to go to Oklahoma to see if he could get some of the land being offered in land runs. In January 1902, Eva married Jacob Wesley Lineberry in Mangum, Oklahoma, apparently at the Greer County courthouse.

When we found the marriage record for Jacob, we noted the date of January 11, 1902 was just five months before the birth of their first child, William Siebert Lineberry on May 12, 1902. On a research trip to Jasper County, a review of newspapers for Carterville mentioned the town held a huge three day party in August 1901 hosted by the mine companies in the area. Past and present miners had been invited to come stay at the small community lake’s recreation area and to camp on the grounds and Jacob had been affiliated with the mines. There was camping, picnicking, bands and dancing and games for three days. The combination of the community’s party atmosphere along with Jacob’s impending departure likely resulted in an unplanned pregnancy.

On the same trip to Jasper County, we found a newspaper notice of Eva’s impending marriage. The article indicated Eva worked as a night operator for the telephone company. With a 21st century mindset, it is difficult to imagine how an 18 year old in 1902 would have coped with a pregnancy when the soon-to-be father had moved away, particularly to the more uncivilized parts of our country that had yet to become a part of the United States. We have evidence that Jacob wrote letters, so perhaps he had written to Eva once he arrived at his next residence thus giving her a way to contact him by mail to let him know of the pregnancy. It’s also possible she knew enough of his location to be able to use her telephone access to get word to him.

However she managed to contact him, they agreed to marry and Eva set out alone and five months pregnant, presumably riding by train from Joplin through Indian Territory to Hobart, Oklahoma in the middle of the winter; the railroad and depot for Hobart had only been recently completed. At this time in our history, decent women found it difficult if not impossible to enter dining establishments without a man to accompany them. This would mean Eva likely had to take enough food with her to sustain her for the trip. In January a couple of years ago my brother, sister-in-law, daughter and I drove a route similar to the one the train she rode would have taken; the view out her windows would have been mostly a barren flat expanse of nothing. As I looked out my car window, I wondered if she were terrified or excited, filled with hope or near despair  or a combination of all those emotions.

After their marriage in Mangum, Jacob and Eva returned to the town of Hobart, a town that was non-existent until August 6, 1901 when the lots were drawn. Jacob had missed the deadline to file in El Reno for the lot drawing but arrived in Hobart shortly after the town was established and where his carpentry skills were in demand to build everything. Jacob purchased a lot and built and prepared a small house to bring Eva home to.

Willie, their first born, was one of the first babies born in the town of Hobart. Their first daughter, Bernita, arrived in May 1904. 1912 File0015They sold their property in Hobart about 1905 and moved to a town first known as Greeley, then Capitol Hill and then the Capitol Hill area of Oklahoma City. They had five more children in that community: Johnnie in 1906, Leonard in 1908, Joseph (Joe) in 1910, George in 1912, and my mother, Virginia, in 1914.

Sometime around 1913 Jacob bought a feed store with a partner in Cushing, Oklahoma and was living and working there a good bit of the time while Eva and the children remained at their home in Capitol Hill. His letters to his brother indicated he was unhappy with the way his partner did business and was hoping to sell the business there and return to his family. Late in 1914, Willie got typhoid fever and Jacob left Cushing and returned to their home to help Eva take care of Willie and the others. After Willie recovered, Jacob returned to Cushing still with the intent of selling the business. In 1915, Jacob developed typhoid fever and on October 31, 1915, he died leaving Eva a widow with seven children.

James Edward Fox was a man who had worked with Jacob. On December 5, 1916, Eva married Mr. Fox. Following their marriage in Washington County, Oklahoma, they established a home in Oilton, Oklahoma. Once again, Eva was pregnant and their daughter June Evelyn Fox was born in June 1917, followed by the birth of Arthur Ronald Fox in 1919.

In December 1921 when Eva was near term in her tenth pregnancy, she and James had a huge quarrel. My mother ran to hide in a closet but she heard their argument. She said her mother shouted at Mr. Fox and said, “I hate you, and I hope I die and I hope this baby dies.” Shortly after that Eva went into labor and during the delivery process, she had a stroke and went into a coma. Albert Edward Fox was born December 21, 1921. He soon developed pneumonia and died on January 1, 1922. Eva never awoke from the coma and died on January 12, 1922.

Joe & Leonard at Eva's Grave Albert and Eva were buried in the same plot at Highland Cemetery in Oilton, Oklahoma. The picture to the right is of two of her sons, Joe and Leonard, standing on either side of her tombstone.

*My daughter and I have written other blogs on our attempt to adequately identify Eva’s mother – including being confident of her last name.  Here are links to other blogs regarding Martha Ann Conn: a blogging challenge in which I wrote about Martha as our brick wall and three blogs written by Kay: Matrilineal Line for Saturday Night Fun ; What’s Martha’s Maiden Name; and The Conn Case.

3 Responses

  1. It such a sad story. It causes me to recall Grandma talking about hearing her mother singing to the radio and when I think of singing I think of happiness. Since Grandma was only 7 when her mother died she has few memories but she recalled that her mother had a beautiful voice and sang “Come with me Josephine in my flying machine”, “When Johnnie Comes Marchin Home”, “Bluebird of Happiness”, and “There’s a Long Long Trail Awinding”. Links to those songs as they may have sounded at that time are included in a post I wrote some time back called Eva and January: http://kbea831.wordpress.com/2010/01/12/eva/

    It’s interesting also that for such an overall sad story several of the photos that I have found of Eva she is smiling, which was not as commonly done in portraits as it is today.

    • Not only was it sad for Eva and for Jacob, but sad and disruptive/destructive for every child. But I agree that she seemed to often smile in photographs when that certainly wasn’t the norm.

  2. […] – “#1 Eva Keithley” by Donna Brown on DonnaB’s […]

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