Query: McDowell

Jeannie Waggoner called on Jan 8, 2013, asking for information for a friend she had known about 8 years.  The friend’s name is Sandra Lee Mcdowell, a retired school teacher who doesn’t know when or where she was born.  Her sister, Vicki Lynn Mcdowell, was born in Finley, Ohio and never married.  “Sandy” thinks she may have been born in Michigan, but she doesn’t have a birth certificate.  Also, Sandy doesn’t do computers.  She apparently was married before, I don’t know if he died or they divorced, but she has 3 children, two daughters and one son.  Sandra’s current husband was Michael Taylor and they married in Midland-Odessa.  Jeannie never knew that Sandra had the son until Michael’s funeral in early December.  One daughter used to live in Longview.  The son’s name is David and lives on Oregon, Sandra went to college in Oregon.  Sandra’s father was John Mcdowell and her mother was Mariam Gertrude Bennett.  Someone was born Nov 4, 1941. With this information, I will attempt to find everything I can for Jeannie to help her friend.  I asked if it was possible since Sandra was a retired schoolteacher that there should have been some kind of documents when she got her teacher’s degree.  Jeannie (my friend) and I thought that not knowing any more about your early life is very unusual.  I asked could it have been possible that she had had a stroke.  I went to Ancestry and found an obituary on Michael from the Midland newspaper but my computer wouldn’t bring it up. I thought if nothing else it might have some names of survivors. We’ll see what we can find.     

            At the library and on Ancestry I found the obituary for Michael Taylor. The only survivors named were his wife, Sandra Taylor of Mineola, his mother Cleo Rae Taylor of Odessa, a son Ryan Taylor of Denver City, daughter, Myia Dale Scott of Odessa and 4 grandchildren.  He had died on Nov. 29 in Mineola and this obit was published in the Odessa American on December 1, 2012.

            Also on Ancestry I found Sandra Mcdowell in U.S. School Yearbooks along with a picture of her.  According to this report her estimated birth year was about 1939, and she was age 20 when this picture was made.  The school was Northern Pontiac High School in Pontiac, Michigan, and the year was 1959.  The title of the yearbook was “Avalanche”.  It’s possible that this picture is the Sandra Mcdowell we’re looking for and the approximate birth date is 1939.  With that information, assuming she was born in Michigan, we can write the Michigan state capital and (maybe) get a birth certificate. 

            I also found a 1930 U.S. Census placing John D. Mcdowell in Michigan.  He was single then, living with his father Thomas G. Mcdowell, who was born in Michigan, and his mother Katherine A. Mcdowell, who was born in Pennsylvania.  His siblings named were Thomas M., Lucile , John D. (Sandra’s father), Donald M. , Dorothy M., and 2 others who may have been boarders or relatives living with the family.  Their names were Helen J. Hamilton and Miles D. Hamilton.

            I called Jeannie on Jan. 16 and told her what I had found.  She said several people agreed that Sandra might have had a stroke but she didn’t want to do anything.  I suggested she have it checked because it might just be the first and doctors can use blood thinners and other drugs to prevent them.  I am sending Jeannie the information that I have found along with the picture and if this lady is the one in the picture she or one of us could contact the school or the state records department in Lansing, Michigan to get more information.  

            If this information is not correct, we can use any of these names to further our search.

Jeannie Waggoner’s email is jwaggon10@aol.com.

Submitted by Shirley Bates, Genealogy Research

WCGS to Host FREE Genealogy Help County-wide Workshops

The Wood County Texas Genealogical Society will be hosting free workshops at the libraries throughout Wood County this spring. The workshops will provide an opportunity to use available computers to aid in genealogical research. Researchers will be able to access Heritage Quest and Ancestry.com. Included in the workshop will be a short session on getting started with one’s research.

The first workshop will be on Thursday, February 21 at the Mineola Library from 10 a.m. until noon. The second workshop will be on Tuesday, March 5 at the Winnsboro Library from 2 until 4 p.m. The next workshop will be on March 26 at the Hawkins Library beginning at 2 p.m. and ending at 4 p.m. The fourth workshop will be on March 28 at the Alba Library from 10 a.m. until noon. The final session will be a night meeting at the Quitman Library on April 2. This workshop will be in the Shamburger Room beginning at 6 p.m. There is no pre-registration. Just show up and be ready to work.

If you have any pictures of old Wood County families, buildings, or events, the Society would love to be able to scan these into our collection.

 The society meets every third Monday in the Quitman Library and help is always available at 6 p.m. and the meeting begins at 7 p.m.

1919 Cyclone — Worst Tragedy to Hit Wood County

By Lou Mallory, Chairperson of the Wood County Historical Commission

When residents of Wood County, after a hard day’s work, retired to their beds on the night of Tuesday, April 8, 1919, little did they know that by early Wednesday morning April 9, 1919 many lives would be lost or changed forever.

The cyclone on that morning took the lives of many of them and many others were injured. It should be noted that many of the farmers and others had white and black tenants who lived in small “shotgun” houses and were not built to withstand high wind or a storm as deadly as this one.

This cyclone (tornado) was the greatest catastrophe to ever hit Wood County. In a small rural county whose population was slightly less then 2,300 in the 1920 census the loss of life and injuries plus the destruction of many houses, schoolhouses and outbuildings this storm” had a profound effect. The damages and loss was estimated at nearly a half million dollars but worst yet was the 23 county residents whose lives were lost, and the 56 others who were injured. The damages covered the 71 homes completely wrecked and the 55 others damaged along with two schoolhouses.

The lives lost in this catastrophe were more than the county lost in the First World War just ended.

As bad as the storm and the deaths, injuries and property damages that occurred If not for the residents who heard the wind and rain and went to their storm cellars from the reports gathered about 50 residents had escaped physical harm while their dwelling places were completely destroyed.

The storm entered Wood County about a mile and a half southeast of Mineola and was said to have cut a path a mile wide through the entire county.

Some of the areas documented to have sustained heavy damage were Mineola, the Lake Fork area, and the communities of Oak Grove, Stout, Vernon, Westbrook, Musgrove and Spring Hill. After the devastation caused in these small communities, they began to decline and are today gone and virtually forgotten.

Based on both oral and written reports, the storm is believed to have first hit Canton this morning and that is documented by a Dallas Morning News article dated April 10, 1919. Other Dallas Morning News reports of April 10 described the damage done in the Winnsboro area, and another tells of the storm that hit Bonham the same morning.

The storm in the Bonham area causes extensive damages, and it was reported that the storm first struck near Trenton and extended in spots to the Red River.

The citizens of Wood County weathered this catastrophe and through the years have worked hard to bring back the beauty and splendor or this beautiful area of East Texas.

1909 Twister Strikes Near Mineola

CYCLONE WRECKS FARM PROPERTY

Twister Strikes Near Mineola in East Texas.

Special to the Star and Telegram.

Mineola, Texas, Jan. 5 — A cyclone passed north of Mineola late yesterday. It formed three miles west of town, took a northeasterly course, plowed a path four miles, then disappeared. L. C. Johnson’s barn was destroyed. Mrs. H. E. Bryant’s house was blown away. J. E. Burkhead’s home was completely wrecked. His family took refuge in a n nearby ditch and was saved.  No fatalities occurred. The storm’s path was forty yards wide, and was visible to Mineola Citizens.  – Fort Worth (Tx) Star-Telegram, Page 1, Tuesday, January 5, 1909 

 

Wood County 1878

WOOD COUNTY.  This county is west of Upshur county and north of Smith county between the 18th and 19th degrees of longitude west from Washington its northern boundary being the 33d parallel of latitude. Its area is 418 square miles and population about 8,000. It is splendidly watered by numerous streams creeks and springs, and the soil products and climate are similar to those of Smith county. The Sabine river divides it from the last named county. The surface of the county is generally level and well timbered. The products consist of wheat and the smaller grains, cotton, vegetables, and fruits. The prices of unimproved lands range from $2 to $5 per acre while good farms are commanding as high as $12 and $15 per acre. Mineola is now an important town with a population of 1,200 and is the terminus of the northern branch of the International & Gt Northern Railway and the junction formed with the Texas & Pacific road. The last named road extends from east to west through the northern section of the county and its transportation facilities can hardly be excelled. Hawkins is a small town on the line of the Texas & Pacific Railway and has a trade of considerable importance. Fourteen miles north of Mineola is the county town of Quitman with a population of about 900. It has all of the industrious thrift of a busy town. Good schools and churches are scattered throughout Wood county and are well sustained. The people are good people and they are kind and generous one to another. It is a fine county for immigrants to settle in. The mean temperature is about 60 degrees, the rain fall plentiful, the climate genial and the general health good. Mr T. J. Worthy is the county clerk.

Source: James L. Rock and W.I. Smith, Southern and Western Texas Guide For 1878, A.H. Granger Publisher, St. Louis, Mo, 1878, page 133. (Digitized version accessed from Google Book Search May 7, 2012)

Wood County Late 19th Century

WOOD COUNTY TEXAS.  This is the most westerly of the counties along the line of the Texas & Pacific Railway having extensive forests of pine timber. All of the county is heavily wooded but the eastern half contains the great pineries from which the supplies for the large number of saw mills are drawn. In the western half the forests partake more of the characteristics of the timber of the black land counties, further west. The general surface is more level than in the other woodland counties, though there is little material variation as to soils, climate, temperature, rainfall, or yield of crops per acre. A larger part of the area, which comprises 702 square miles, can, however, be profitably cultivated. There are about 50,000 acres, in 1,400 farms, under cultivation, producing annually a value about $600,000. The harvest generally consists of 10,000 to 11,000 bales of cotton, 400,000 bushels of corn, 50,000 bushels of oats, 30,000 bushels of sweet potatoes, 35,000 to 40,000 gallons of molasses, 6,000 tons of cotton seed, and orchard and garden products to the value of $35,000 $40,000. As in all of the woodland counties, the raising of live stock is part ordinary farming operations. The live stock in the county, in 1897, was valued at $220,301 and consisted of 5,744 horses and mules, 9,607 head of cattle, 1,211 head of sheep and goats, and 12,465 head of hogs.

The county was organized in 1850 and has 14,000 inhabitants, 3,000 of whom are residents of Mineola, the junction the Texas & Pacific Railway, the International & Great Northern Railway and the Missouri Kansas & Texas Railway; 500 of Quitman, the county seat; 400 of Winnsboro, and 250 of Hawkins, smaller trading points in the county. The assessed values of taxable property, in 1897, amounted to $2,695,113, of which $1,619,538 was assessed against real estate, $499,465 against railways, which have 49 23/100 miles of tracks in the county. The school census reports 3,870 children of school age, for whose education 61 houses are maintained and teachers are employed.

The industrial pursuits run mainly in the manufacture of lumber, railroad ties, shingles, etc., there being about 17 sawmills at work . The other enterprises, principally located at Mineola, consist of 81 mercantile establishments, 1 bank, 1 flour mill, 2 fire brick and tile factories, 1 cannery, 1 furniture factory, and the repair shops of the railways.  Improved lands range in price from $5 to $25 per acre; unimproved $2 to $10 per acre.

Source: Along the line of the Texas & Pacific Ry.,  published by the Passenger Department of the Texas & Pacific Railway, Dallas Texas, corrected to and reissued November 1909, pages 35-36. (Digitized version accessed from Google Book Search May 7, 2012)

Portal to Texas History Contains Wood County Resources

Wood County references are available online at the Portal to Texas History at http://texashistory.unt.edu/. Billing itself as “a gateway to Texas history,” the portal is a project of the University of North Texas. A search at the portal main page (link above) for Wood County, Mineola, Quitman,and Winnsboro yields many digital pages of documents, publications, maps, etc. concerning people and places in the county ranging from the mid-1800s to the late 1900s.

Charles Edward Niswanger 1939-2011

It is with great regret we report the death of Charles Niswanger, husband of member Mary Ann Niswanger. Our prayers and memories are with Mary Ann and her family at this time.

Charles Edward Niswanger, age 72,died Saturday, December 3, 2011 in Mineola, Texas. He was born on Thursday, February 16, 1939 in McLennan County, Texas to the late Lee Franklin and Mattie Niswanger. He was a business owner and the Mayor

Charles Edward Niswanger, Mineola, Texas

Charles Niswanger

of Prosper, Texas in Collin County for seven years.
He is preceded in death by his parents; and two brothers Bill and Ted Niswanger.
He is survived by his wife, Mary Ann Niswanger of Mineola; a son, William Niswanger of Mineola; a daughter, Sherry Ragsdale and husband Hugh of Alba, Texas; an adopted son Chief Kirk McFarlin and wife Desiree; a brother Fred Niswanger of Teague, Texas; a brother in law, Jim Koerth; a sister, Betty Fletcher of Burleson, Texas; and six grandchildren, Ethen Ragsdale, Charles Ragsdale, Koerth Ragsdale, Natalyn Niswanger and friend Joseph, Jaylyn Niswanger and Greer Niswanger.
Visitation for Charles will be held on Tuesday, December 6, 2011 at Beaty Funeral Home in Mineola from 6 – 8 p.m.
Funeral services will be held at 2:00 p.m. on Wednesday, December 7, 2011 at Beaty Funeral Home Memorial Chapel with Bro. Larry Mitchell, the Rev. Arlon Ragsdale officiating.

Black Gold in Wood County

This is the oil essay Kristen Witt of Mineola, Texas, wrote that helped her win the T.C. Chadick $2,000 scholarship available to seniors in Wood and Franklin Counties. The essay had to be written on some historical event that occurred in Wood or Franklin Counties prior to 1945.

Black Gold
Suppose you are a farmer in Hawkins, Texas in 1940. Your land sits on rolling hills and valleys, forested in spots by piney woods atop sandy soil. You have no air conditioning or telephone, and your mode of transportation is a horse and wagon driven over dirt roads. There is no internet service or cell phone. Your only livelihood is the crops you slave over every day and night. But one day, all this changes with a simple knock on the door. Bobby Manziel stands on your doorstep with a proposal, “Let us drill for oil on your land.” With a charming smile, he convinces you to sign the required papers; and in an instant, your life is destined to change.

A few weeks later, you find time to relax in the evening by listening to “You are My Sunshine” on your battery-powered radio, the life-line for news, music and entertainment for your family. You have a hard day’s work ahead of you, slaving over the plow in the deadly sun. Times are hard, but you must provide for your family. You turn off the radio, walk a few yards from your house to the outhouse, and return home to turn off kerosene lamps and settle under your handmade quilts. You lie awake for a few moments listening to the “chirp-chirp” of crickets and the occasional “hoot” of an owl. Your curtains blow gracefully as the cool night air pours through open windows into your humble home.

Just as your eyes close and your breathing slows, you are jarred awake by a terrifying sound. The earth begins to shake tremendously; and, fearfully, you leap out of bed. Running outside, you have no idea what to expect. The sight you witness is one you will never forget. Spewing wildly from a 40-foot wooden oil derrick is black, rich oil. As the oil pours onto the ground and drillers rush to contain it, you suddenly realize a shocking fact. Overnight, you have become very rich.

This was a common scene experienced by many families in the 1940’s, in Hawkins, TX. Beginning in October, 1940, Wood County experienced its first oil boom. Bobby Manziel drilled the first oil well 3.5 miles north of town; and, overnight, Hawkins became the talk of East Texas. People poured in from miles away hoping to take part in the wealth pouring from the city. The sudden fame also brought in con-men, prostitutes, criminals, and many other troublesome people. Police officers and Texas Rangers struggled to keep up with the nonsense that occurred. The boom brought in drillers and oil producers placing bids on land in hopes of also striking oil. Within the same year, Steve Rotundi and F. R. Jackson struck oil. However, this time it was within the Hawkins city limits. Residents sold their land to multiple producers who eventually sold out to large corporations such as the Humble Oil and Refining Company.
Drilling oil was not an easy job. More often than not it was a gamble. Technology had not advanced enough to determine where to drill for oil nor was the machinery equipped to easily drill into the ground.

Drillers had to be strong and in good condition. Some put their lives on the line for the sake of oil production. The crew needed the strength, skill, and discipline of a football team and the precision of a woman threading a needle. These men would spend weeks, even months, drilling the same well. Long periods of time would pass before they knew whether or not oil was even present under their derrick. As each day passed, every crew member had the same question on his mind, “Will we strike oil?”

On the occasion that oil was found, quite a celebration was thrown. After months of hoping, wishing, and almost giving up, it all became worth it. Each time black gold poured from the ground, the residents of Hawkins, TX, men, women, and children, shouted for joy! The town was booming, business was thriving, the population was growing; and Hawkins had found its claim to fame.

The discovery of oil not only benefited Hawkins and Wood County but the entire country as well. The Humble Oil and Refining Company, now Exxon, provided oil for the Allies during World War II and helped contribute to the building of the pipeline that extended to Pennsylvania.

Over time, the oil pools did begin to dry up. Oil production is no longer as prosperous as it once was; however, it still plays a huge part in Hawkins’ economy. Every year, Hawkins holds an Oil Festival to honor those who so bravely risked their lives for the gamble of finding the precious black gold.

The discovery of oil changed Hawkins and the residents of Wood County forever. I am one of those residents. In the 1940’s, my great-grandfather, Orville Goolsby, lived in Wood County and worked as a driller for many oil companies. Because of his labor and investment in the oil industry of Wood County, my family continues to reside in this county and benefit from it. I am grateful for the oil boom because it positioned my great-grandfather to participate in mapping out my destiny and has provided the opportunity for me to be raised in a tranquil community rich in family history.

Sources:
Discovery of Oil in Hawkins – The first oil well in Wood Co., Tx
The Handbook of Texas online by Texas State Historical Association.

Vertical Files: Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin. Adele W. Vickery, “A Transcript of Centennial Edition, 1850-1950 Wood County Democrat” (Mineola, Texas, 1974)

“Wood County, 1850-1900” (Quitman, Texas: Wood County Historical Society, 1976).

Internet source: “All Things Historical” Dec. 19, 2005

Personal interviews with:
Larry Lewis (a family friend), son of Irvin C.”Shorty” Lewis, who worked for Roger Lacy Oil Company in the 1940’s in Hawkins, Tx.

Lucy Carr (my grandmother), daughter of Orville Otis Goolsby, who worked for various oil companies throughout Wood County during the 1940’s.

Database of Wood County Names

Member Mark Reid shared with us his response to an email from another member, Vi Shirey, asking if her John T. Potter was on the CD of 17,000 Wood County, Texas surnames.

No. John T. Potter does not exist on this database. I see a John L Potter b. 1843 from GA.
The CD has been given to both the Quitman and Mineola libraries. I have up-dated the database somewhat since the creation of those CDs but I have not updated the CDs. You are welcome to the database just by asking. You must use Personal Ancestry File (PAF) to read it. That program is free from the LDS web site.

Mark’s reference to the database of names being free for the asking is a repeat of an offer he made in October 2009 and which is still available.

Mark wrote this in a comment (in part) on the Wood County Genealogical Society Coffee Klatch at Genealogywise:

For several years, I have been compiling a database of Wood County people.
A couple of years (maybe more) ago I put a CD in the Quitman and Mineola libraries containing this database, at that time a bit over 17000 people.
The Society also offered the CD for sale, but with zero response.
I keep putting people in the database and I am now up to a bit over 18,700 people. I want other people to have access to this material although I must
retain the ability to keep plugging away at additions, etc.
One possible thing to do: I would be willing to email a compacted data file to any member/researcher. Just ask at woodco@suddenlink.net.

This is a valuable resource for any researcher of Wood County. If you are interested, please contact Mark at woodco@suddenlink.net.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 146 other followers