COG 77th Edition Disasters – 1932 Lighting Creek

COG disaster My mother had no possessions (that I knew of ) that belonged to her mother or father; both parents had died before she was seven and she and all the younger siblings were transported from Oilton, Oklahoma to Galax, Virginia to live with relatives. When my daughter and I started looking into genealogy and asking questions about family possessions that might be existent, we were told that most of what existed had been in the possession of my aunt, Bernita Lineberry Curtess, who was already a young married woman with an infant when her mother died. Unfortunately, Bernita was killed in a car wreck in 1967, so we couldn’t ask her where they were.

I called my cousin, Bobbie Louise Curtess Saunders, to ask about them and she said most of what her mother had was destroyed in a flood a long time ago. Bernita and her husband, Edson, their two children and my mother and possibly her three brothers Johnnie, Joe and George, (Bernita went to Virginia in 1929 to bring her siblings back to Oklahoma – Leonard remained in Galax)  moved from Wewoka, Oklahoma sometime after 1929 and lived in a home near SW 23 and Robinson.

Lightning Creek in South Oklahoma City had a long history of flooding in the early years of  Oklahoma City. There was a major flood in October 1923 but Bernita was apparently living in Wewoka at that time. The next major flood took place June 4, 1932 and it was apparently much more devastating than the earlier flood. Although I can’t be sure this is the flood that ruined my grandmother’s possessions, it’s a pretty good guess since Bernita wasn’t in Oklahoma City until after 1929 and by sometime in the mid-1930s she had moved a little further south to SW 36th and Harvey.

N Canadian overflowsbanks

The above photo is from the front page of the June 5, 1932 Daily Oklahoman and shows some of the water all over the south and west parts of Oklahoma City. Although the Oklahoman archive’s copy of this day’s paper has a piece torn out of the top of the paper and the headline cannot be completely read, what is visible of the caption above the headline on page 1 says, “Relief for 3,200 Homeless …  as Property Damage is Estimated at $1,500,000. The larger type-faced headline says, “SEVEN MISSING IN FLOOD ARE SOUGHT” and continues with the column headline with, ‘FIVE KNOWN DEAD; 656 HOMES WITHIN AREA ARE WRECKED.”The article lead adds to the toll by telling that 21 were in the hospital and nine others had been treated at hospitals and released.

As the article continues onto page 2, the impact of that flood becomes more clear: “Oklahoma City’s 3,000 homeless flood refugees will be established in army tents Saturday to prevent an epidemic through crowding hundreds of them into downtown buildings . . .” The article continues, “In the Lightning Creek area, where the property damage was estimated at $250,000 by Capitol Hill civic officials, 31 medium priced homes were completely destroyed. A survey showed more than 125 additional homes had been badly damaged by water. . . Heavy rains preceding the overflow started here shortly after 11 p.m. Thursday and by 2 a.m. Friday Lightning Creek was a raging torrent and the Canadian was at flood stage. ”

Map of the area affected by the flood.

Map of the area affected by the flood.

The map above shows the proximity of SW 23 and Robinson to both the Canadian and Lighting Creek.

When you read of the deaths and injuries requiring hospitalization and homes completely destroyed or seriously damaged by flood waters, the fact that possessions of my grandmother were ruined by the water is of little consequence. Yes, we would love to have access to them – photographs, letters, postcards, the family Bible; those are all treasures. But really, for my mother and her brothers and sister whose father, then mother, infant step-brother and oldest brother had all died and who had been shipped off to live separately in whatever home was able to keep them, they obviously knew deep within their souls that what is important is never possessions, but is the relationships you have with people you love for as long as you have them with you.

The key take away principle is:  Cherish who you have, not what you have!

Tombstone Tuesday – Eva Fox

My grandmother, Eva Fox, and her son, Albert Edward, are buried in a single plot under a single tombstone in the Highland Cemetery at Oilton, Oklahoma.The entrance to the cemetery is surely a tribute to the importance of oil to the city of Oilton – it is two oil derricks with a connecting crosspiece. This cemetery is now owned by the City of Oilton. In spite of the fact the cemetery website states they have no records of people buried there before they took over ownership, the clerk at City Hall pulled out a record book and found Eva immediately. It is their record that confirms Eva and Albert are buried in the same plot. Eva is buried in section 9 of the old part of the cemetery.

Entrance to Highland Cemetery

Eva gave birth to her tenth chld, Albert, on December 21, 1921. Eva suffered a stroke during her labor; Albert developed pneumonia and died on January 1, 1922. Eva apparently did not regain consciousness and developed pneumonia. followed by a cerebral hemorrhage and death on January 12, 1922. Tombstone of Eva Fox and her son, Albert EdwardMy daughter has reposted some of the detail of Eva’s death in her post is now entitled “Eva and January.”

Because my mother was only 19 months old when her father died and not yet eight when her mother died I never had the opportunity to know my grandparents. In fact, I don’t even remember hearing about them other than the fact my mother was an orphan.

Probably due to her early traumatic losses, my mother avoided the experience of death throughout her life; consequently, we never visited cemeteries or burial sites of family members. My mother’s sister, Bernita, though obviously hurt by the loss of her parents, was ten years older than my mother and did not avoid death in the same way; in fact, Bernita was killed in an automobile accident on Memorial Day of 1967 as she returned from visiting her mother’s grave.

The first time I visited my grandmother’s grave site was after my daughter started doing genealogy when we made a research trip to Oilton.

Joe & Leonard at Eva's Grave My uncles, Joe and Leonard, visited their mother’s grave, by guess, around the mid-1930s. As you can see, the headstone was white and clean at that time. The photo above from two days ago shows the stone to be deteriorating and is now a rough texture with occasional orange or rust-colored bumpy places on the surface. Additionally, the cement square visible in the earlier photo for the plot behind Eva’s stone is not visible in yesterday’s photo, although a similar cement square is visible around the plot to the north of her.

Eva’s name, though not as clear as in the earlier photographs, can still be seen. The stone has no listing for Albert and there is no birth or death date listed  for Eva.

Custody of Eva’s children was given, not to their stepfather, but to a prominent citizen of Oilton, S.C. Harrah. While I was in City Hall, I asked about Mr. Harrah; the clerk looked him up and he, Sam, and his wife, Ruth, are buried in section 11 of the cemetery. Cemetery maps or directions around the cemetery are not available and, though I walked a good portion of the old part of the cemetery, I did not find their graves.