Last week I went down a rabbit hole and never ended up posting anything. I’m not sure what drove me down this particular hole, but for some reason I started looking into the Wood family…and got sucked in for a number of days. I have several Wood and Woods lines that branch off my ancestral tree at various points, and I am currently under the assumption that they are all quite distinct, un-related families. Wood being a name like Smith, they seem to pop up everywhere. The particular line I have been following this past week appears to be of German descent and I know nothing much about them beyond what I plan to report in this post. You might remember John Abraham McGuffin, my great-grandfather who carried the names of ancestors, John Briscoe & Abraham Seay (as reported in my previous posting)… well, John Abraham married a woman called Edna Wood. Edna’s family doesn’t appear to have been in America for more than a generation or two, but they sure packed a lot of activity into a short number of years.

My mom Sandi with her two sisters Nancy (left) & Sue with their grandmother Edna Wood, late 1940's

My mom Sandi (center) with her Grandmother Edna Wood McGuffin and her two sisters Nancy (left) and Sue (right)…a few years before Edna’s death in 1953

It was Edna’s grandfather, Benjamin Franklin Wood, who first captured my attention. Benjamin Franklin would be my 3x great-grandfather. His name (Benjamin Franklin) was the thing that drew me in…how could you not think about someone given that name…and the seemingly German immigrant parents who were responsible for naming him? Franklin Wood, the name it appears he went by, and his wife Ann appear in federal census records from 1850 through 1900, as well as a number of Iowa census records. In all of these he lists his birthplace as New York. But his gravestone lists his birthplace as Germany. That’s a mystery yet to be solved. Whether or not he was born there, he seemed to identify with his German roots in a strong way. (Note- the gentleman who maintains Franklin & Ann’s memorial on Find-A-Grave states on that site that cemetery records found in his local library also indicate that Franklin was born in Germany, but he also found an obituary that lists his birthplace as Augusta, New York.)

Franklin and Ann Wood buried in the Okoboji Cemetery in Iowa

Benjamin Franklin Wood & Ann Wood are buried in the Okoboji Cemetery in the Great Lakes region of Iowa- this photo was found on the Find-A-Grave memorial created/mainted by “Just Us Relatives”

Ann preceded Franklin in death by about 18 years, having reportedly fallen into a newly dug basement for a Methodist Church (being built near her home) while walking in the middle of the night. She died from the trauma of hitting her head. Ann died in 1901 and Franklin’s burial date is given as October 29, 1919. According to an obituary published in the Lake Park News on the 7th of November in 1918, Franklin actually died on October 30th (1918) in the town of Marion, and his remains were brought back to where his wife was buried. They are buried side-by-side in the Okoboji Cemetery in the Great Lakes region of Iowa.

After finding Ann’s obituary, I stumbled across the obituary of her son Stafford (accessed through the same Find-A-Grave memorial site), my great-great-grandfather, as published in the Spirit Lake Beacon, Jan 4, 1894.

“WOOD – In Tulsa, Indian Territory, Dec. 25, 1893, of congestive chills, Stafford L. Wood, aged 46 years and 6 months.

Deceased was born in Oneida county, New York, came west with his parents, Mr. B. F. Wood, in 1857, and in 1862, at the age of 16 enlisted in Co. “K”, 7th Wisconsin and served to the end of the rebellion and was honorably discharged. He leaves a wife and five children, two sons and three daughters to mourn his loss.”

It was about this time I started channeling my own inner Laura Ingalls Wilder… while her family spent time in their Little House in Kansas and Minnesota, eventually heading to South Dakota…mine was in Kansas, Iowa and Wisconsin, and eventually in Oklahoma. Surely they crossed paths once or twice. I wonder how far the Ingalls’ Independence, Kansas home was from the Woods’ Liberty, Kansas home?

“Indian Territory”…aka Oklahoma…caught my attention. Oklahoma was always known in my immediate family as the “place my dad went to college”… he was a proud Oklahoma State Cowboy.  But we never imagined having further family connections there. Several weeks ago when I was researching in Virginia, I came across some information about a relative named Abraham Jefferson Seay (who is also a descendent of Abraham Seay of Virginia–making us cousins of some sort). It turns out he was the second Territorial Governor of Oklahoma in 1892 & 1893. While Governor, he built a mansion, called Horizon Hill, in order to host dignitaries present for the opening of the Cheyenne & Arapaho Land Run.

(Information on Horizon Hill at http://www.okhistory.org/sites/seaymansion)

So it appears, while Governor Seay was entertaining dignitaries in his new mansion, Stafford Wood and his family (not yet connected to the Seay/McGuffin family by marriage) had arrived in Oklahoma looking for their own home. I have yet to locate records of the Wood family from this time period. It’s been quite frustrating–after having this family appear in so many census records up to this point–but Indian Territory does not seem to be a place of great record keeping (or present day digitization). I think a trip to Oklahoma might be in order for some deeper digging. For those of you unfamiliar with the Land Runs…the biggest one, with the opening of the Cherokee Strip, took place on September 16, 1893. This was what was depicted in the Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman epic “Far and Away.” A great “race” with a gun shot at the starting line and tens of thousands of people running out to claim their piece of a dream.

Was Stafford’s entire family with him in Oklahoma? And which land run did they take part in? These questions do not yet have definitive answers. Stafford had married 23 year old Lydia Marie Teachout in Darien, Wisconsin in 1867. According to a 1910 Kansas census, Lydia gave birth to seven children. One of those seven is a complete mystery and must have died at a very young age. Their oldest son, Franklin (presumably named for his grandfather), died at the age of 11 of diphtheria in 1880 while they were living in Iowa. A sort of respiratory illness, diphtheria became an epidemic in 1880 in the Midwest, wiping out entire families of children. A daughter Maud lived only a year (1890-1891) and is buried in Iowa. Information on their second son Freddie is spotty, the only thing we know about him is he’s no longer alive by 1910. So he may or may not have made the trip to Oklahoma. That would leave third son Arthur and their twin daughters Edith and Edna (who would be teenagers at the time.)

The fact that their youngest daughter Maud is buried in Iowa in 1891 and Stafford dies in Oklahoma in December of 1893, suggests that the Wood family most likely took part in the third land run on April 19, 1892. I haven’t yet found definitive proof…although I have found the name Wood on land patents, but as I mentioned previously, it is a popular name.

It has been reported that more than 25,000 hopefuls gathered on a misty April morning to take part in this particular land run. At high noon the settlers rushed in from all directions by foot, race horse, plow horse, wagon, and buggy to stake a claim to their 160 acres. By sunset over 400 lots in the county seat and been taken. By the end of that year, more than 100 homes had been built in the area.

While I have made some educated assumptions about when the Wood family arrived in Oklahoma, I have even less information to help me determine when the family left the territory. As we know, Stafford died unexpectedly in December of 1893. Until we are able to uncover more records, we have only one small bit of information to help with this…and that is the birth of a grandchild, a daughter named Vera Wood, who arrived about 1900.

Vera is a bit of a family mystery. And various members of the McGuffin family have differing opinions on who exactly Vera’s parents were. Some later generations claimed it was Edna who gave to birth to Vera before she married John Abraham McGuffin. My own mother believes that Vera’s mother was Edna’s twin sister Edith. Like I said, we have minimal information about the Wood family time in the Oklahoma Territories at this point, so anything is possible. But I will present the following…

Stafford’s wife Lydia is found living in Kansas at the time of the 1910 Federal census. She is listed as head of house and with her are her 34 year old son Arthur (working as a printer) and her 10 year old granddaughter Vera. This census seems to confirm Vera’s birth year of 1900. I don’t have any definitive information on where twin Edith was in 1900. But we do know where her sister Edna was…she was living in Colorado and was likely already married to John Abraham McGuffin. We have yet to determine when and where Edna met and married John Abraham McGuffin- but knowing that the McGuffin family was living in Sugar Creek, Kansas in the 1880’s…chances are it was somewhere in southeastern Kansas. We do know they went to Colorado where John was employed by the National Sugar Company. A quick Google search indicated that the first inhabitants arrived in Sugar City (the town that was built by the company) in 1900. Their first son was born about 1902 (or earlier) in nearby Rocky Ford, Colorado. I haven’t come across John and Edna’s wedding date, but presumably, if Edna is in Colorado, she is likely already married.

Edna Wood in Sugar City Colorado 1900

Edna Wood (now McGuffin?) photographed in Sugar City, Colorado in 1900

If you follow granddaughter Vera Wood through several Federal Census cycles you find an interesting progression of her parentage. In 1910 her mother is listed as being born in Iowa and her father as United States, in 1920 both of her parents are listed as being born in Iowa, but by 1920 her mother is listed as being born in Wisconsin and her father in Oklahoma. In these same census records, Vera herself is (always) reported as being born in Oklahoma.

My question is, if indeed Edna met her husband John and landed in Colorado by 1900, how could she have given birth to a daughter in Oklahoma at the same time? The fact that twin sister Edith seemingly disappears makes me wonder if she remained in the Oklahoma Territories when the rest of her family moved back to Kansas. Did she die in Oklahoma? Or in Kansas? And when exactly did she die?

What we DO know is that by 1912, Edna & John McGuffin and their children moved to Scottsbluff, Nebraska when the Great Western Sugar Company built a new factory there. Lydia and granddaughter Vera left Kansas and moved in with the McGuffin clan shortly after. We don’t know if Edna’s brother Arthur moved to Nebraska as well, but we do have a picture of him with a hand-written note stating “in Scottsbluff.” Arthur appears to remain a bachelor and he also disappears from records around 1912. It was one (or more) of Edna’s children who speculated as to whether Vera was actually their cousin or their sister, and this information they passed down to later generations. After her grandmother’s death in 1930, Vera left Scottsbluff and made a life for herself in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where she married and had children of her own.

Arthur Wood 1912 in Scottsbluff Nebraska

Arthur Wood photographed in 1912 in Scottsbluff, Nebraska. Arthur disappeared from records around this time. We have not yet identified the boy on the left.

Since starting my genealogical journey a number of McGuffin “cousins” have made themselves known to me. The first, Becky, actually tracked down my mother on Ancestry.com. My grandfather Clifford McGuffin was the brother of her grandmother Edith Mae (not to be confused with twin Edith!) We actually got to meet Becky in person when she came through town over the Christmas holidays. It is through Becky that I have received many of the photos of the McGuffin family…and always at the perfect moment, like sending me Edna’s photo in Sugar City as I pondered the mystery of Vera’s parentage. Becky has sent other cousins my way…and so far I have had messages from Tina, whose grandmother Bernice is another of Clifford’s sisters, and Marshia, who’s great-grandmother Nora McGuffin was the sister to my great-grandfather John Abraham McGuffin. She lives in Kansas and has offered to do some research…I think I may have to take her up on that! (Marshia…we need to figure out if John and Edna got married in Kansas…when and where?!)

Every bit of new information I uncover appears to come with at least three additional unanswered questions. I see now that I might be at this for a very long time… (sigh)…I am not sure what rabbit hole I am headed toward next.

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