Dedicated to the Children and Grandchildren of Ben and Francis Witcher
This is not a complete tree, but to trace it back to “American Genealogy First Families” proved too great a task for me. However, the ﬁrst Witcher to come over from the old country was Col. William Witcher of Washington's Army, a member of Virginia legislature for thirty years. Col. Witcher was married to Isabel McConnel. [Please refer to the Witchergeny.com website for a more accurate and update detail of the WItcher "First Families." W]
That this book may mean more to the grandchildren than names and dates I have written my story of the Witchers I loved and of my life when I lived with them.
May, 1953, Written and Published by Sacramento Lithograph Company, Sacramento, California.
The Clan, A Short Family History
Cleo Ella Dunham
The Witcher Branch
The ﬁrst Ben Witcher I know little of. I recall asking my father about his ancestors when I was a child. He replied, with a twinkle in his eye, “I have
been told my grandfather came over from Ireland. My mother’s people were ‘Holland Dutch’, and none of them came over on the Mayﬂower.” Since there were no aristocrats attached to the family, I quickly lost interest.
From incidents my dad told his family of his child-hood, I know his father and mother had a small plantation in Georgia, where they farmed cotton with the help of Negro slaves. This was before the Civil War, and my father, Benjamin III was born. After war was declared, Nobel, the oldest son, and my grandfather enlisted with the Confederacy. They were both wounded; and my grandfather never recovered. He died shortly after the war ended.
As a result of the war, the family lost all of the property, history relating how a like ruin hit the whole south. Frank, Ira, and Mona I never met, as they married and made their homes in Georgia. My father married and moved to Texas when he was a young man. They exchanged letters occasionally but after my grandmother’s death they never corresponded other than for births, deaths, and weddings.
Uncle Ike came to Oklahoma to visit us when I was a child. He had tuberculosis, and thought that the change in climate might effect a cure, but he never recovered, and one cold December day he was buried in the family plot at Rainy Cemetery.
I like to think of my Uncle Noble as an old Southern Gentleman, who remained a Confederate soldier up until his death in 1928. The last time I saw him he was near 80 years old, and straight as an arrow, still carrying the bullet that lodged in his neck at the time he was wounded.
My Aunt Kate married Uncle Tom (my mother's brother). They moved to Oklahoma from Georgia in 1900, I think. There was always a close relationship between our families. Aunt Kate was always my favorite aunt, perhaps because I knew her best. My ﬁrst memory of her is in her kitchen, surrounded by my cousins and myself. She was cooking dinner while we squabbled and played. In later years, when I was rearing my children, I sometimes prayed for the patience and understanding my Aunt Kate had, but I never quite achieved it. I think she was always in close contact with her Maker, for she sang his praises as she went about her household duties; such hymns as “Amazing Grace,” “How Firm A Foundation,” and “Nearer, My God, To Thee.” She had a ﬁrm conviction of right and wrong, and never “compromised with the devil.” She has honest hazel eyes, and a delightful sense of humor, inherited from her Irish ancestors.
One of the ﬁrst incidents to make an impression on my mind was a second of silence that fell around the table at dinner. If I close my eyes, as I did then, I can still hear Dad say “Oh Lord, give us thankful hearts for this food and all our blessings. Amen.” And then I’d try to control my appetite, eat with my spoon, and remember to chew my food. I must have been about four years old, for I can’t remember a high-chair. In my mind it seems to be a little, box I was standing on, beside my father at the head of the table, and in my childish mind, it seemed that he was king, and I was a princess.
Needless to say, it was a sad day for me when I lost my throne. One evening my mother moved me to a wooden bench at the side of the table. I was told that I was a big girl now, and could eat with my brothers, DeWitt and Henry. I rebelled with all my heart but my tears accomplished nothing. My baby sister Minnie was perched on the little box beside Daddy.
However, as a compensation, I was allowed to have my own plate, the gold-trimmed saucer from my father’s old “Mustache” coffee mug. The mug, a gift from someone, was a thing of beauty; all pink, green, and gold, but unfortunately had been broken. If I sat still when the family had ﬁnished the meal, I could slide of the bench and dip my biscuit crusts in the remains of my father’s coffee. It gave the bread a delicious ﬂavor. Once my mother caught me at it, and scolded me for it. I remember my father smiling indulgently, “It’s all right, it won’t hurt her.”
It was several years before I became reconciled to the new table arrangement.
It seemed to me those two brothers of mine could expand in no time. I often found myself crowded to the end of the bench, and likely to fall off with the next bite DeWitt swallowed. If I called my father’s attention to the situation he was quick to reprimand, “Young man, watch your manners, or you’ll leave the table.” But that did not always bring about the desired results. They would immediately draw in their elbows and leave enough room for me, but DeWitt was sure to get revenge before the day was over, and remind me not to be a “tattle-tale.”
How did my father acquire this home where I was born, and lived until the day I married? The abstract reads like this:
“THE SOUTHEAST QUARTER (SE1/4) OF SEC»
TION TWENTY NINE (29), TOWNSHIP EIGHT (8),
NORTH OF RANGE SEVENTEEN (17) WEST OF
THE INDIAN MERIDIAN IN WASHITA COUNTY.”
It is about four miles from the little town of Rocky, miles of it when my dad arrived with his family; my mother and the ﬁve oldest children. As I remember his description of it, there was nothing for miles but grass, waist high. No one had ever lived on his 160 acres except Indians, hunting buffalo. He immediately built a half-dugout, called a sodhouse, and staked out a “squatter’s claim,” as homesteading was called then. This part of our country was then (1896) called the Indian Territory. Maybe I should explain to you how this house was built. He dug up the sod to make the basement, 24 x 24, then he used the larger chunks of earth to build the walls. I don’t know what they did to make the earthern walls substantial, but they were; and resembled the adobe walls that Mexican people build in the southwest. The walls were white-washed, and the ﬂoor was hard clay that came to resemble tile when worn smooth.
This was the house Henry and I were born in. I think it was in 1904 the tall two-story house was erected, and where I spent so many happy days. My bedroom was on the second ﬂoor. I shared it with my sisters. First Irene, and later my younger sister Minnie. Sometimes in the early morning before the sun‘ came up I’d be awakened by a familiar whistle. I wish I could describe it. It wasn’t a tune, and I couldn’t compare it to the “Wo1f whistle” used by teen agers of today. It began on a high soprano note, and ended about an octave lower. It must have been a bird call Dad had learned as a boy. He used it to call his horses back to the corral at feeding time, and always from somewhere in the pasture you would hear a responsive neigh from one of the mares, and soon you’d see the other horses trailing her into the, corral and to the feeding bins.
He always talked to his horses as if they could answer, usually scolding because one happened to be in the wrong stall. They had appropriate names, like Nancy, Dill, Kit, Jude, Ruth, Dorcas, and Red. Sometimes we children were given the honor of selecting the name for a new colt, or calf. However, these didn’t work out well. There was always too much confusion and disagreement over the right name for an animal, and the little creature would be christened several times before my dad gave his approval.
Early in life Father taught me that there were responsibilities I must accept as I grew older. If he allowed me to go along with him and my brothers and sisters to ‘chop cotton, then I must be the “Water Boy” and every hour I must bring fresh water. To this I quickly agreed, for there was a pond between the house and the ﬁelds. I was never permitted to play there, but it was an ideal place to rest on my trips back and forth with the water. I loved to sit on the bank and throw rocks in the water and watch the rings it made grow bigger and bigger. Then there was a family of birds that had built their nest and raised their young ones in back of the pond around some locust trees. They usually protested my intrusions. When I came by they’d give a call something like this -— Kil-dee-e, Kill-dee-ee—e.
The difﬁcult part of my job was drawing up the water from a 35 foot well. My father dug it by hand, and built a curb house around it as high as I was tall. There was no danger of my falling in. There was a pulley on the rafters above it, and a big, heavy bucket was attached to it that held three gallons. I always tried to avoid ﬁlling the bucket when I lowered it, as I only needed one gallon to ﬁll the water pail. There was always some water left in the bucket, so I drank from it. I’ve never tasted water quite so cool and refreshing.
The following year he taught me to chop cotton. He sawed off the handle of a broken hoe to just the right length, and gave me the row beside him. I never minded the long, hot days so much, having his companionship. He would tell us stories of his boyhood, the hardships of the years following the Civil War; how he helped his mother build a container for ashes, soak them in water, and use the liquid to make soap. He also told humorous stories of coon hunts, with his hounds, and one in particular, of a dark night when some little colored friends accompanied him and my Uncle Ira.
According to my Father’s story there was some growth that would spring up from the old rotten stumps of trees, after the fall rains, it must have been some type of phosphorous that glows in the dark. It was a frightening ordeal to follow a path from the woods and suddenly be confronted with a group of such strange objects. His little friends ran for home when they saw this. He often repeated this story. Sometimes he would use it to point out to the children, “There is nothing to be afraid of if you take time to examine it more closely in the light of day.”
Sometimes when my father became absorbed in telling one of his storys I would loiter behind and daydream. On one such occasion, Henry had the same idea and he presented me with a gift, a little garter snake he had concealed in his pocket. I let out a blood curdling yell and ran for my daddy. Henry, of course, received the scolding he deserved, coupled with a threat, “Young man, you do that again and I’ll come back there and Whale the dickens out of you.” I always knew I would have my father’s sympathy on this point for he loathed the crawling things the same as I do;
My father never wore dress clothes, only on special occasions, and one occasion that stands out in my memory was my oldest sister Emmas’ wedding. As I remember it, he wore a blue serge suit, with white shirt and black bow tie. He looked very handsome to his family when he was dressed in his best. He had the unusual combination of blue eyes and black hair, but I think on this occasion he must have added a little color to his mustache, for it was not always so black. What impressed me most I believe was the expression on my father’s face during the ceremony. A look of pride mixed with sadness, at losing his first ‘born. She was a lovely bride, her dress a soft white material, was in contrast with her dark hair and eyes.
She married Guy Butler. I think it was a rainy Sunday, or maybe it was the droning of the minister’s voice as he performed the long drawn out ceremony that suggests this thought to my mind.
The next few years were pleasant years. When I was six my father accompanied me and my other brothers and sisters to the Little Hope School. There I was enrolled and received my education. The teachers gave him a list of books we children would need. My brother Henry failed in his grade the preceding year and was retained in the same grade as I. As a matter of convenience and economy we were allowed to occupy a double desk and share our books. It was not an ideal arrangement. However ‘you never questioned your elder’s decisions in those days as you do now.
Henry got so much joy out of living that he was never very much concerned if he prepared his lessons or not. In the beginning of our school days it was a source of embarrassment to me, but as he grew older, he was a little more serious about his school work. When we reached the ﬁfth or sixth grades we worked out an agreement whereby he would help me with my homework in arithmetic, and I would help him with his spelling and English. We had many interesting discussions on history and geography. We liked these two subjects. We shared many happy hours together in our last years of school.
My father was very much disturbed when my sister Ste1la’s boyfriend asked his permission to marry her as she was not very strong and my parents wanted her to wait a few years. However, he ﬁnally gave his consent and I can remember all the excitement the following weeks. The long discussions over the material and pattern for her dress, the decorations for the house, and the dinner to follow the wedding. I always seemed to be in somebody’s way and my mother would send me outside to play, but I could soon ﬁnd some excuse to come inside again. I thoroughly enjoyed all of it.
Then the big moment arrived when she came down the stairway, dressed in white, into the living room where the bridegroom and guests were waiting, and the minister began the ceremony. She was married to Will Bowman on September 9, 1909. She was so small she reminded me of a fairy in my picture book.
The next few years were a time of sorrow for my father. My brother Ike was stricken with pneumonia, which later developed into a case of T.B. He never recovered. My brother Ike was a cripple from childhood as a result of polio. There was no method of treating it in 1892; he was made helpless the remaining years of his life. It grieved my father deeply to have him so completely dependent on him and not be able to do something to save his life.
There were now six children living at home, Irene, DeWitt, Henry, Minnie, Bob and I. There never was a dull moment. We helped my father with the farm work. He tried to raise as much of the food on the farm as possible in addition to the cotton and wheat. We often had a space for peanuts and popcorn. When these were harvested, they were stored away for the winter months. My father paid us to pick the cotton. I think it was fifty cents for every one-hundred pounds we picked. Irene was the bookkeeper, but he gave each one of us a little notebook that we could use to keep the number of pounds we picked each day. Over a period of two or three months we would earn a nice little sum of money. My mother was our banker; we were not allowed to use the money for anything but clothing, or maybe a piece of jewelry as a reward for special effort. It was a red letter day
when the harvest was over and dad would take us all to Hobart on a shopping spree.
Irene taught Minnie and I how to milk. It was one of the chores I enjoyed doing during the summer months, but when winter came and the cold north wind was blowing I would gladly have relinquished my job to my brothers. But my father needed them to ‘help feed the pigs, horses, cows and chickens.
Through these years I was going through an awkward stage, when my legs were too long and my feet too large for the rest of my body. I was forever tripping and falling over something. On one occasion I was on my way to the house with my bucket of milk and stubbed my toe, spilling the milk all over me. My brother Bob was walking with me and he remarked “I declare Gibb, can’t you walk without falling down?” “Gibb” was an old clumsy mule belonging to Guy. That was a big joke with Henry and DeWitt and I was never able to live it down. To my brothers my name will always be Gibb.
Our little country school never had the room or the time to teach the students music. To ﬁll this need, we had an instructor who came during the winter months and held a school of music in the evenings. There was a tuition for each pupil or special rates for a family group. My father always took advantage of the special rates and he accompanied us to these schools. He never took an active part but enjoyed the songs and sometimes joined in the group singing. He had a nice tenor voice. I remember the pleasant times at home when the family would gather around the organ and sing. Sometimes Irene would play, on other occasions I would accompany. I shall never forget one favorite hymn we often sang, “Hold To God’s Unchanging Hand.”
The next few years were good years, in my memories. We had the same recreations most country boys and girls enjoyed, ice skating in the winter when the ponds were frozen, long walks in the snow to school, “literary socia1s” I imagine would be called “Little Theatre Groups” today. They were a wonderful source of entertainment for us. Movies didn’t make their appearance in our little town until a few years later.
Looking back now, it seems our farm house was always full and running over during the holidays. Aunts, uncles, cousins, children, and grandchildren. I remember once when I was in a selfish mood I asked my father why he and my mother had so many children. He quoted me the scripture, Genesis: 1-28: “And God blessed them, and God said unto them, be fruitful and multiply, and replenish the earth.”
My generation of the family has continued to multiply, but I couldn’t truthfully say we did it in obedience to God’s command.
In 1912 my mother became ill, and the doctor advised my father to travel, hoping the change of climate and environment would help her. My father leased the farm and sold his livestock, except for five horses. Four were to pull the two covered wagons which were to be our home during the next six months.
Prince was a saddle and buggy horse of I DeWitt’s. DeWitt was at this time about seventeen years old. He was so fond of his horse that he felt he couldn’t give him up, so my father consented to take the horse along.
At this time my sister Irene was very much in love with a young man in Kiowa County. My parents gave their consent, and on December 2nd, 1914, at a quiet ceremony in the Methodist Church, Rev. Hawkins ofﬁciating, she became the bride of Charley Freeman.
She was eight years older than I, and because of my mother’s illness, she carried a large share of the responsibilities of the household. We missed her very much when we started on our journey, leaving her behind.
Our covered wagons were something like the house trailers of today. They were built with a frame that extended out over the wheels. The bows were attached, then the heavy, waterproof canvas was drawn tight over the bows. The bed springs and the mattress rested on the bed of the frame, and the space underneath was used to store the trunks containing our clothing and necessities of camp life. We also had a small folding bed that was packed underneath during the day, when we traveled, and was made into a bed for Minnie and I at night. We occupied the same wagon as my mother and father. My three brothers, DeWitt, Henry, and Bob, accompanied by their two dogs, “Speed,” and “Frisky” and Prince the saddle-pony, had the ﬁrst wagon. My mother did not approve of taking the dogs, but I think Bob and Henry would have stayed behind with them if she hadn’t consented.
Looking back over the years, I think we must have looked like a band of gypsies (without the velvet gowns) for my oldest sister Emma, Guy, her husband, and their three children, Zell, Essie, and Marlin accompanied us as far as Austin, Texas, to visit relatives. They also had a wagon equipped for camp life. We had a wonderful time.
We had plenty of time, so we took the route we liked best, as there were no good highways. We sometimes took the nearest way through the country roads from one town to the next. If we failed to reach our destination by nightfall, my father would ﬁnd a place beside a creek or river and camp for the night. We could usually get fresh eggs and milk at some farm house nearby. We always carried a supply of staples with us.
I can remember so well, sitting, around the big camp ﬁres, the wood smoke, and the old “Dutch” oven my mother baked our bread in. Since my mother was not well, I often helped to prepare the meal and usually persuaded her to cook potatoes with the jackets on. It was easier for me. My father often prepared the meat. It was cooked in a big iron skillet.
When we reached Wichita Falls, Texas, we spent two or three days at the wagon yard. It was something like the trailer courts we see now. There was a big barn for the horses, and a large community kitchen where everyone prepared and ate their meals.
It was a delightful experience for me. I had never seen a streetcar before. Minnie, Zell, Essie, and I sat on the porch and watched the traffic. The milk was delivered in white wagons with White horses pulling them. The bread was delivered the same way. The coal and hay were delivered in huge wagons drawn by large black horses. We liked these best of all.
The most exciting experience, though, was seeing my ﬁrst movie. Guy consented to take the whole group if my father was willing. After discussing the matter with my mother, he reluctantly gave his permission, with this warning, “I don’t know if it’s a sin or not to go to the like, but I do think it’s foolish to spend money on such.”
But we thoroughly enjoyed our ﬁrst movie. I think it must have been Mary Pickford. I remember she had long curls and she was beautiful. She had a lover, and there was a villain who turned a lion loose from a cage to devour her, but the lover killed the lion and saved his lady, and she was in his arms when the picture faded away. I sat on the edge of my seat during the whole performance.
To compare it with the movies you see today, I imagine you would have a big laugh if you saw it. However, it was very real to me and I thought of it for several days afterwards, and wished I could become an actress when I grew up.
Our next stop was in Buffalo Springs, Texas, a small place then; I think it consisted of two general mercantile stores, blacksmith shop, Post Office, surrounded by a small farming community and cattle ranches.
My father moved to this community from Georgia in 1890. My mother and two oldest sisters came later when my father had secured a job and living quarters for them. He worked on a cattle ranch for a Mr. Johnson until 1896 when he moved to Oklahoma. My brothers Ike and DeWitt, and my sister Irene were born during their sojourn here. They had many friends among these good people and we had a nice time while visiting there.
The only unpleasant memory I have of our trip across Texas is the rainy season. As there were no hard surface highways and the main thoroughfare was not very good, our travel was slowed down to a snail’s pace. The mud would cling to the wagon wheels with the tenacity of chewing gum. My father would become so exasperated he would take his axe and cut the mud clear of the Wheels, and I could hear him use his only swear words, “Dadgum the dadburn stuff to the dickens. If I ever get out of this country I'll never come back.”
It was a blessed relief when we reached the little town near Austin where Guy’s relatives lived. They had a big ﬁre in the ﬁreplace, and the house was warm and dry. We also visited for a short time with the Pritchard family, friends of my father, before we continued on our journey. After leaving Austin behind we had nice weather for the remaining months away from home. Whenever the horses were tired, we made camp and spent a few days ﬁshing and hunting.
I shall never forget one ﬁshing expedition. I think it was on the Brazos River, Henry and I were sitting quietly holding our ﬁshing poles when Henry suddenly hooked a big one. He threw it out on the bank and yelled for me to help him. I took one look, screeched, and ran for camp. I thought it was a snake.
Henry’s help came from the other ﬁshermen, Bob and Minnie. They came to the, rescue, helped him dress his eel, along with their ﬁsh, and brought them back to camp for lunch. But I remember eating saltpork with my potatoes and gravy. Anything that looked so much like a snake and even wriggled and jumped in the frying pan, I wanted no part of.
Our most successful ﬁshing jaunts were near Corpus Christi on the Gulf of Mexico. There was a river, the Nueces, I believe. It was a lovely place in the summer time, large trees, some covered with grapevines and others with lovely gray moss that resembled a vine, but was soft and springy. Minnie and I sometimes gathered up armfuls and made beds for our play house. The grape vines were loaded with blue grapes. We also climbed the trees ﬁlling our bonnets with these. I remember my father saying “You children better not eat very many of them, some wild grapes have a lot of acid in them, and they will take the skin off your mouth.” But I was very fond of fruit and I ate all I wanted. When dinner time arrived, my mouth was in no condition to eat. I drank milk.
It was an ideal place to ﬁsh for catﬁsh and perch were abundant. I caught several, so did Minnie. Although we did annoy my father, by talking too
much, he permitted us to accompany him down the river to a favorite spot where the catch was good. We tired of ﬁshing and started to play, I walked out on a large tree that had fallen in the river and reached down to dip up a pail of water. My feet slipped and down I went in the river. I remember going under, and grabbing for something, when I came up. Lady Luck was with me, I grasped a broken limb of a tree. In response to Minnie’s cries, Dad came running and pulled me out. I must have been a pathetic looking creature with my long braids dripping water and my clothes glued to my skin, for on this occasion my brothers didn’t laugh at my misfortune.
My father drove us over to the beach one day, and we watched the little ﬁshing boats, and picked up shells, and waded about in the blue salt water. It was such a nice place to play we were sorry when it was time to go. He also showed us the orange and lemon trees, loaded with green fruit; the acres of cabbage, onions, and tomatoes growing in the valley as we traveled to Robstown, Texas. We were forced to spend some time here for my brother Henry became ill with malaria. My father secured a room for him in a home, under a doctor’s care, and my mother to nurse him. He soon recovered, and we started on our journey back to Oklahoma.
My memories of the next few years are slightly blurred. I think I must have tried to grow up too fast. I worked very hard to make up for the semester of school I had missed, and I graduated from grammar school with my class. I remember we had two bad years, not enough rain for the wheat and cotton, and the prices weren’t so good. Consequently my father didn’t feel that he was ﬁnancially able to send the three of his children who had ﬁnished school at Little Hope School to school in town. DeWitt wanted to attend business school in Oklahoma City, and I wanted to board with friends in Hobart and ﬁnish high school.
My parents decided that it would be best to send the boys to school, and I could remain at home on the farm with my mother to learn the domestic arts: cooking, sewing, canning, and the other tasks connected with keeping house on the farm. I was disappointed, and though I tried I could not be interested in housework. I preferred working in the ﬁelds with my father.
When my brother DeWitt was ﬁnished with his training in Business College, he went to Texas to work.
Henry came back home to help my father with the work on the farm. The following years, the war clouds were gathering, and the day came when my brother DeWitt was called home to report for induction into the army, during World War I. It was a shock to my parents, and we experienced a sad and empty feeling when the train loaded with troops pulled away from the station for the training center.
Our boys from Washita County received training at Camp Travis, near San Antonio, Texas, and in a short time they were shipped to France, and up to the battlefront.
There were many harrowing weeks and months when we didn’t know if my brother still lived. He was in Hq. Co., 357 Inf., 90th Division. By following newspaper reports we knew the area the 90th Division was ﬁghting in, but news traveled slow, and some of our neighbors had received messages from the War Dept. One, a message of condolence, and the other, “We regret to inform you that your son has been wounded in action.” These two boys were DeWitt’s buddies. We knew he was ﬁghting with them.
I can remember how my father hesitated to answer the door when someone knocked. My mother waited for Minnie or I to answer the telephone when it rang.
What a burden of worry and anxiety they carried I learned by experiencing the same during World War II.
It was a happy day for all when we learned on Nov.11, 1918, that an Armistice had been signed. Our telephone operator gave the general ring on our line. It consisted of ten or twelve rings in succession, meaning an announcement of importance to everyone, and everyone on the line was quick to answer and receive the news. Radio was in its infancy, and few people had one.
For a short time DeWitt was with the occupation troops in Germany, stationed ﬁrst in Helheim, and later in Coblenz. Then in June of 1919 he returned home. I remember now the happy days when the boys were coming home. We were sure there would be no more wars. Although it was harvest time, and everyone was very busy, on Saturday night our neighbors all gathered in our home, bringing freezers of
ice cream, cocoanut and chocolate cakes, to welcome my brother home. We played games. Snap, Miller Boy, Buffalo Girl, were a few. We really had a wonderful time.
DeWitt visited with the family, then went on to Texas, where he had a girlfriend. On December 24th, 1919, at the home of Rev. Sisks, the Methodist minister, at Turkey, Texas, he was married to Rebea (Ted) Boyles.
In the year 1920 my brother Henry, and then myself, were married and left my father’s homestead. On May 17, 1920, at Hobart, Oklahoma, Henry was married to Mattie Pendergraft, Judge Carpenter officiating.
I liked the simple ceremony without the guests and the domestic turmoil a home wedding creates, so with my parents’ consent, on October 26, 1920, I was married to Cleatus Dunham, my brother Bob and sister Minnie as our only attendants. There was no time for a honeymoon as We were married in October, a busy season for people living in a cotton country.
We left immediately for Quitaque, Texas, where my husband worked in a grocery store for his father. We lived in Quitaque until 1930. During this time, ﬁve of my seven children were born, but each year I spent my vacation in Oklahoma with my mother and father on the old farm. No faraway places ever held the enchantment for me that my father’s home held.
On February 18th, 1928, my sister Minnie was married to Glenn Stepp. Bob and Edith were the only attendants, Judge Carpenter performed the ceremony.
On September 11th of the same year my brother Bob was married to Edith Ward of Gotebo, Oklahoma. They moved to Texas where Bob was employed in a garage. My father was left to cultivate his 160 acres alone, which proved too much for him. In 1929 he leased the farm to Henry. They tore down the big two story house and built two separate cottages. The two familys continued to live on the farm until 1945. My father purchased a home in Rocky, then built the modern two bedroom home on the farm for Henry’s family.
My father died June 15th, 1951. His passing left a vacancy in his family’s hearts that can never be ﬁlled. He lived a long and useful life; he was our anchor when we were drifting and our harbor in time of storms. We laid him to rest in our family plot in the Rainy Cemetery. But I wish we could have buried him by the locust trees, on his land he loved and was so much a part of him that to think of one is to think of the other.
The Beauchamp Branch
From this branch of our family tree we have a mixture of French and Scotch on Will Washington Beauchamp’s side, (my grandfather) and Dutch on my grandmother’s side, (Sarah Jane Fleming). They had a lovely family of children. I never met my mother’s half brothers or sisters, they were several years my mother’s senior. I think John was a doctor, lived in Atlanta, Georgia, and reared his family there.
W. Henry was a lawyer and lived in Ft. Worth, Texas. His family consisted of two girls but my mother never corresponded with them after my uncle's death. Uncle Charles died at an early age, so did Martha Ann. Jeff lived at Houston, Texas. But the Beauchamps I knew and loved were my mother’s brothers and sisters.
Melissa Tabitha was Aunt Bitha to me. She married Leonard Witcher, a cousin on my father's side. I liked to visit her; she was always pleasant and agreeable, although I know we were sometimes trying on her nerves. When Henry and Minnie and I visited with them in 1918, I think I was 16 years old, Minnie was 14, Henry 18. J .T. and Leona, her children, were about the same age as we were. Leona had the house full of visitors at Christmas time. She entertained with parties and dinners until I am sure Aunt Bitha must have been glad to see us leave for home. She is living in Santa Cruz, California, at present (1953) with her son.
My Aunt Viola was married to Thomas Giles, her home was in Trion, Georgia. The last visit she made us was in August, 1938. She was a nice person, I enjoyed her visits. She had a delightful southern accent and I never tired of her conversations. She passed away in 1940. My Uncle Alex married and reared his family in a small town near Houston, Texas. He once owned and operated a machine shop there but has retired. He and Aunt Lula live at Huntington, Texas, near their children.
My Uncle Tom was my favorite. He was patient and kind. Although he never seemed to hurry he accomplished so much that his time was never wasted. He was a good Christian man and all who knew him loved and respected him. He was ill for ﬁfteen years before he left this life for a better one in 1945.
Sarah Francis was Fanny to her husband and friends, and Mamma to me and my brothers and sisters. It was her face that was ﬁrst photographed in my memory. A face with love in her eyes as she bathed my body and dressed me in clean clothes and braided my hair. I can still remember how she would braid my hair so tight on the sides that it would sometimes draw my eyes at the corners, giving me an “Oriental look.” If I complained she always reminded me, “I don’t want to see your hair hanging in your eyes, and your dress dirty when dinner time comes.” I knew she would not have the time to perform this task again before nightfall.
I remember the ﬁrst lesson she taught me in thrift. I had a big china doll, the body stuffed with sawdust, the head was china, the hair was painted black and she had a sweet expression on her face. I forgot to bring her inside at dinnertime and she spent the night outside. My brothers had a playful puppy named “Speed.” He discovered her and proceeded to tear her apart. There was nothing left of Carrie but her head, and sawdust was scattered all over the back yard. I cried my heart out over it, and was sure my mother would punish the dog. But she only said, “Have I not told you many times not to leave your doll outside, now, I can make a new body for her, but I don’t know how long it will be before I have time.” But I remember it must have been a month or more before my doll was mended.
My mother was always busy when I was a child. She was a good seamstress, she made all of our clothing, except the grown up’s coats. I remember I always had three or four dainty Dimnity and Cambray dresses, trimmed in ruffles and buttons. These were used for dress up occasions. My play clothes were made from plain heavy Cambray, and buttoned down the back. I never liked these for I always had to ask one of my sisters to button me up.
My mother always dressed us in long underwear and thick ribbed stockings, for we walked a mile to our school and when the north wind was blowing it was cold. But We girls detested this combination, for it was very hard to fold the long legs of the underwear underneath the stockings, and have our legs look neat. I remember once when Minnie and I were little girls, we sneaked the scissors, and when we were on our way to school we cut the legs of our underwear off, and threw them away. We got a good old fashioned spanking when we returned home in the afternoon, but I don’t think we were ever sorry we did it.
We each had chores to do when we were home from school in the afternoon. Henry and Bob’s task was to bring in corn cobs from the barn and scraps of wood to use for kindling the ﬁres in the morning, big buckets of coal to burn in the kitchen range and the coal burning heater in the living room. Minnie and I churned the butter, and ground the coffee in the old fashioned coffee mill.
Sometimes my mother sent us on errands, to the storm cellar, where the canned fruit and vegetables were stored and to the smoke house for meat or lard she needed to prepare the evening meal.
I liked doing the outside chores, but I never liked to churn. The churn was a ﬁve gallon stone jar, with a lid having a hole in the center. The dash was a long round stick, something like a broomstick, with a cross of sticks attached to the end. The churning process was to bring this stick up and down.
In the winter months when the cream was thick and heavy, it would take thirty or more minutes to make the butter. I used to make up rhymes as I churned, so the time would not seem so long, such as “one, two, buckle my shoe, three, four, open the door, ﬁve, six, pick up sticks,” and etc.
On Saturdays we sometimes helped my mother by cleaning the chicken house and the back yard. The boys helped my father clean up the barn yard. But most of the time We played in the playhouse Minnie and I had, a favorite spot where We liked to play, underneath the locust trees a short distance from the house.
It consisted of a house outlined with rocks. Minnie had the more elaborate one, with wooden crates, and odd broken bits of dishes and furniture my mother had discarded. But I remember in my house I had the bottom of an old pot-bellied heating stove. I put a flat piece of tin across the top and I pretended it wasa big kitchen range. Here I cooked mud pies, with green apples inside, or maybe plums or peaches I could pull from the trees when my mother was not watching us.
I think Blanch, J .B., Zell, Essie and Marlin will remember this playhouse where they played with us when the families were home for the holidays. I am sure the Good Lord was protecting them, for I can remember giving them nibbles of mudcakes, and a brew we called punch, made from cockleburrs steeped in cold water, and green fruit or anything that was handy. But we had a lot of fun, and I don't think anyone every suffered any ill effects from it.
Once we decided to build a real ﬁre in my stove. I sneaked some matches from my mother’s kitchen, gathered some sticks and “prairie wood.” It burns slowly, and I thought it would be safe. However, in lighting the ﬁre I also caught my dress in the blaze. I do not remember how we managed to put the ﬁreout but I know I was horriﬁed at what had happened to my dress, and what would happen to me when my mother discovered it.
Minnie came forth with the suggestion, “I'll go to the house, get the scissors, and trim all the burned part of your dress away, and you can tell mama you tore it on a barbed wire fence.” I followed her instructions but it didn’t work out. When Minnie ﬁnished cutting my dress, about half of the back of
my dress was cut away and my mother refused to believe the story. She put my head between her knees and with my rear projected in the air, it made a perfect target, and my mother never missed. For several years I thought of that spanking as “Corporeal Punishment” in its most vicious form.
My brothers found other sources of amusement. They had “Speed,” the Greyhound, whom they used to chase the jack rabbits, and there were always plenty of these on the farm. A gadget they called a “Nigger Shooter,” they used to shoot at ground squirrels and birds. Henry and Bob had steel traps they used to catch skunks, weasels and oppossums that invaded the chicken house at times. I remember one morning I wanted to go along when they visited the traps. They reluctantly consented. If my memory is right they had the traps set over on the Bacon place south of our house, in a dry creek bed. Before we reached the traps, I detected a faint odor something like onions in the state of decay. I didn’t go any farther.
Henry and Bob, taking “Speed,” the dog with them, proceeded to kill the skunk and bring him back to the barn to skin. I sat on the corral gate and
watched them take the fur off the animal and tack it up on the side of the barn. I don’t remember how they cured it, but I know they sold these skins when they were dry. When they were ﬁnished I decided to go in the house and play with Minnie. However, I was met at the door by my sister Irene. “You can stay outside and play, I have just ﬁnished cleaning house and I will not have it smelling like a skunk.” I protested, explaining that I didn’t go near him, but by this time the boys had joined me, and she refused to let us in. In the meantime my mother came to the rescue, she sent the boys to the storm cellar to wash up and change, and a reminder to hang their soiled cloths on the clothes line. My sister Irene made a solemn vow, “I will not wash those stinking clothes again.” My mother assured her she would boil them in lye soap suds and they would be all right.
Such incidents as this were nothing new in my mother’s life. Having a large family of strong willed children, she was often called on to straighten out our difficulties.
My mother had a large trunk in which she used to keep her souvenirs and other things that she did not wish disturbed by her children. When my mother went outside to work in her garden, Minnie and I would seize the opportunity to examine its contents. I can still remember some of the articles it contained.
There was my father’s old hunting horn he had made from a cow’s horn when he was a boy, his name carved on it, and a cord to hang around his neck. His ﬂute hehad played in his younger days, his Masonic Apron and Gloves and my grandfather’s Masonic Apron. My grandmother’s old hymnal, the pages yellow with age. Two woolen shawls, one had been worm by Grandmother Witcher, the other by Grandmother Beauchamp. A lovely handmade lace collar, which had been part of my mother’s wedding gown. Packages of old letters she had received from relatives who by that time had passed away. Old greeting cards and a handmade Valentine with a simple message “Be My Valentine,” from Ben to Fannie. This never failed to give Minnie and I a case of “giggles” for we could never visualize Dad in the role of a sweetheart. There was a lovely piece of china brought over from the old country by some of the ancestors and a salt and pepper set. But we enjoyed most of all the picture album with the gold clasp and all the tintype pictures that were fastened to it. How we laughed at the odd dresses, and the funny way they dressed their hair. Mama usually returned before we ﬁnished and scolded us for doing it, but it was fun to rummage in the old trunk.
On Sunday mornings we attended Union Sunday School at Little Hope School House. The Methodist, Baptist, and Christian all used the school house for a place to worship. One Sunday in each month when Sunday School was over, my mother would gather her family in a group where she watched over us while the minister delivered his sermon. I liked going to Sunday School and the “Golden Text” she had me memorize often came to my mind when I was confronted with problems. “John:14:27 Peace I leave with you, My peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you, let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” This one I like to remember, it has a calming effect when I am troubled about something.
I can’t say that I liked going to church when I was a child. The ministers usually preached long, dreary sermons, telling stories to bring out points in the sermons. Then yell and pound on their Bibles when they talked about hell. I remember thinking about it when I was older, and coming to this conclusion: “If you know what you are talking about you don't have to raise your voice to convince people about it.” I think those ministers were good people, but I amsure some of them must have missed their calling.
My parents were members of the Methodist Church there. We children grew up in the same faith. My father served as steward for many years, we girls all sang in the choir when we were grown up.
Sometimes I like to remember the good people who lived in our community and I am glad I grew up there. The old pioneers as I remember them were: Hammons, Parkers, Bowmans, Smiths, Hills, Adams, Cammons, Sanders, Bacons and Teirces. In the early part of 1900, these people were very self-reliant, they had to ride a long distance to a doctor and if he should happen to be out on a call, it might be a day or two before he came to your house. Consequently through the aid of doctor books (medical guides) they learned to deliver babies, treat pneumonia, measles, whooping cough and many common illnesses, without the aid of a doctor.
I can remember when there was illness in our family, the neighbors who sat by the bedside night and day, to help nurse us back to health. One of my mother's favorite remedies was castor oil, sometimes with a little turpentine in it. This she would give in generous doses. My! How I hated taking it. When an accident occurred, they would pool their knowledge and resources to meet the emergency. I have a vague recollection of one occasion when a horse kicked Dick Adams in the mouth. The last time I saw him the ugly scar reminded me of some good neighbor’s effort at surgery.
One of these neighbors was Cleo Hammons, the woman whose name I bear. I always loved and admired her, she is a wonderful woman. She and my mother have been close friends over a period of ﬁfty-four years. It has been a beautiful friendship that rarely exists so many years.
My mother was 88 years of age May 11, 1952. She lives with my sister Stella, spends most of her time watching television, in this way she knows “what goes on in our world today.” Her greatest concern is what the future holds for her loved ones. Peace or war?
She has a just cause for hating wars, her earliest memories are about her father, a defeated confederate soldier, and the discouraging years that followed. The worry over her son DeWitt in the ﬁrst world war, only to be repeated again in World War II with thirteen grandsons. And now in the Korean conﬂict she has ﬁve grandsons and one great grandson, Dwain Schmid.
But she has not forgotten how to laugh, and she has her moments of pride, in knowing she has done a big job and done it well. She is the “First Lady” in our family.
So now, my dear grandchildren, I will bring this to a close. Your ancestors may never bring you wealth or fame, but they contributed, each in a small way, in building these United States in which you live, and in making you what you are -- an American.
Benjamin Witcher and Candice Brooks were married in the year 1845.To this union were born:
Benjamin Madison Witcher
William Beauchamp, native of France, married and came to England in 1776. To this union was born a son, John Beauchamp, in 1800.
John Beauchamp was born in England. In 1823 he was married to Martha McSwain of Scotland. To this union was born a son on March 8, 1824, in the state of Georgia in the United States. This son was William Washington Beauchamp.
In the year 1849 William Washington Beauchamp was married to Sarah E. Davis.To this union were born:
Martha Ann Beauchamp, Jan. 8, 1850; John C. Beauchamp, Oct. 25, 1851; William H. Beauchamp, Jan. 1, 1854; Charles E. Beauchamp, May 8, 1857; Jefferson D. Beauchamp, June 2, 1860.
Sarah E. Beauchamp died August 10, 1862. Frances Marion Fleming was born in Holland in the year 1812.
Mary Francis Dismuke was born in Holland in the year 1813.
Francis and Mary were married in 1842 in the United States in the State of Georgia. To this union was born a daughter, Sarah Jane Fleming, on Nov. 5, 1843. She was married on the 21st day of June, 1853, to William Washington Beauchamp.To this union were born:
Thomas Marion Beauchamp, May. 11, 1864; Alexander Stephens Beauchamp, July 14, 1870; Leva Viola Beauchamp, Aug. 13, 1875; Melissa Tabitha Beauchamp, Aug. 13, 1878.
Benjamin Madison Witcher and Sarah Francis Beauchamp were married in 1886 in Harrison [Haralson]County, Georgia. To this union were born:
Emma Idella Witcher, Sept. 25, 1887; Sarah Estella Witcher, Mar. 1, 1889; Isaac Washington Witcher, May 11, 1892; Candice Irene Witcher, April 8, 1894; Benjamin DeWitt Witcher, April 7, 1896; twins, Henry Lee and Harold (died) Witcher, Aug. 18, 1900; Ella. Cleophas Witcher, Dec. 20, 1902; Minnie Francis Witcher, May 12, 1905; Charles Clifford (Bob) Witcher, Dec.1, 1907.
Emma Idella Witcher was married to Guy Butler on Oct. 14, 1906. To this union were born:
Eulahia Zell Butler, Sept. 5, 1907; Emma Estell Butler, July 1, 1909; Benjamin Marlin Butler, May 29, 1911; Nelile Francis Butler, July 9, 1915; Effie Lucille Butler,May 9, 1918; Helen Maurine Butler, July 24, 1920; Wilson Guy Butler, Jan. 20, 1923; Donald Gene Butler,Feb. 19, 1928.
Sarah Estella Witcher was married to William Bowman on Sept. 9, 1909. To this union was born:
John Benjamin Bowman, Oct. 10, 1910; Blanch Idella Bowman, J an. 9, 1913; Sarah Pauline Bowman,May 12, 1919; L. D. (Bill) Bowman, Sept. 23, 1924;Udee (Sallie) Bowman. Aug. 25, 1926; Curtis Wayne Bowman, Oct. 23, 1928.
Candice Irene Witcher was married to CharlesFreeman on Dec. 2, 1914. To this union were born:
Oral E. Freeman, Nov. 24, 1915; Orland W. Freeman,June 10, 1917; Cleta Laverne Freeman, May 20, 1919; Lois Irene Freeman, Nov. 2, 1921; Garland L. Freeman, Dec. 14, 1922; Robert Benjamin Freeman, Dec.15, 1924; Charles E. Freeman, Aug. 20, 1926; Patricia R. Freeman, June 6, 1928; Billy W. Freeman, Sept.
Benjamin DeWitt Witcher was married to Rebea Boyles on Dec. 24, 1919. To this union were born:
Geraldine Avis Witcher, Nov. 10, 1920; Marvin DeWitt' Witcher, June 23. 1925; Mary Joyce Witcher,May 25, 1930.
Henry Lee Witcher was married to Mattie Pendergast on May 17, 1920. To this union were born:
LaMeda Witcher, Dec. 2, 1921; Eleanora Witcher, Aug. 6, 1923; LeRoy Witcher, Mar. 5, 1925; Harold Henry Witcher, Jan. 14, 1929; Travis Wayne Witcher, Dec.. 9,1938.
Ella Cleophas Witcher was married to Cletus Dunham on Oct. 26, 1920. To this union were born:
(Jack) Cletus Harold Dunham, July 30, 1921; Verma Lee Dunham, Mar. 31, 1923; Earl Edward Dunham, June 30, 1925; Robert Wayne Dunham, Mar. 21, 1927;Benjamin DeWitt Dunham, Jan. 17, 1929; Peggy Zell Dunham, Oct. 10, 1932; James Lenord Dunham, Aug.31, 1937.
Minnie Francis Witcher was married to Glenn Stepp on Feb. 18, 1928.To this union was born a daughter: Donnis Louise Stepp, May 24, 1929.
(Bob) Charles Clifford Witcher was married to Edith Ward on Sept. 11, 1928. To this union were born: Ronald Witcher, Mar. 5, 1931; Keith Witcher, Dec. 30, 1932.
Serving with our Armed Forces
Benjamin M. Witcher
Noble Discan Witcher
William W. Beauchamp
World War II
L. D. (Bill) Bowman
Billy W. Freeman
I Garland Freeman
R. B. Freeman
Marvin D. Witcher
Korean \ Conﬂict
B. M. WITCHER
Date of Birth, December 18, 1861
Date of Death, June 15, 1951
Services: Methodist Church, Rocky, Oklahoma
June 17, 1951, 2:30 p.m.
Minister: J. G. Anderson
Final Resting Place, Rainey Cemetery
ISAAC W. WITCHER
Date of Birth, May 11, 1892
Date of Death, August 27, 1909
Services: Little Hope Methodist Church
August 28, 10 a.m.
Final Resting Place: Rainey Cemetery
BENJAMIN DEWITT WITCHER
Date of Birth, April 7, 1896
Date of Death, November 19, 1952
Services: Conducted by The American Legion,
November 21, 1951
Final Resting Place: Lovington Cemetery, Lovington, New Mexico
Date of Birth, March 15, 1925
Date of Death, December 18, 1944
Died in the Service of His Country
Final Resting Place: China Sea
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Here is a short story written by Cleo Ella Dunham, in 1953. It is a biography of her Witcher and Beauchamp family heritage, as they pioneered in the newly opened Western Oklahoma frontier.
I have transcribed this book and present it for your reading and research pleasure. What I ask in return is that you contact me about any pictures or information you may possess relating to this family. As a great grandson to Benjamin M Witcher and Sarah Francis Beauchamp Witcher, I am tasked with preserving their memory and gathering forgotten and possibly soon to be discarded copies of images and family heirlooms. Please contact me if you possess any of the tintype pictures which great Aunt Cleo mentions in this biography about her family. W.
These are pictures which are featured in The Clan
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LeRoy Witcher and his CO
A Witcher Family Genealogy
You may contact me at wwawitcher @ windstream. net
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