52 Ancestors: Tombstone

Originally for this post for 52 Ancestors, I was going to get all creative and not do a post about an actual tombstone, or collection of tombstones, or anything to do with burial markers at all. I was going to go down the Tombstone, Arizona route and find me a cowboy or two.

But it turns out that I don’t have readily identifiable cowboys in my tree, in Arizona or otherwise.

But I do have family politics and farmers.

Yippie kayak, other buckets!

We’ll kick things off with an actual tombstone:

The grave marker pictured above is for Robert Boone Payne and his wife, Emma Lucas (sometimes known as Emmeline Caroline), and is located in the I.O.O.F. (that’s Independent Order of Odd Fellows) Cemetery in Watonga, Blaine, Oklahoma. Only … Robert was’t married to Emma at the time of his death, and neither was he her widower as the inscription would have us think. Don’t believe everything you read, folks. Not certificates, not census returns, not even headstones.

Robert was born in the township of Steuben, Indiana on 7 April 1847. His father had been born Sanford Dehaven Tisdale, but Sanford and his sister Jennie were adopted by his mother’s sister, Sarah, and her husband Baylor Payne. A farming family, Sanford had been in Indiana since at least 1837. However, by 1860 the family had moved 100 miles west to Maroa, Illinois where Sanford continued farming, along with his sons. By 1870 the family had moved within Macon County to Friends Creek. The value of Sanford’s farm estate was valued at $2,000 and his personal wealth also at $2,000 – if we use the calculator at MeasuringWorth that gives us a labor value of around $447,000 for the farm and personal wealth of around $63,400. So not too shabby.

However, the next year Robert would lose his father, and the year after that he married Miss Emma/Emmeline Lucas. Originally from Pennsylvania, she was also the child of a farmer.

Emmeline Lucas, age c.18

The pair moved from Illinois to Kansas and Iowa before being swept up in the Oklahoma Land Run of 1892. There is a lot that I would like to say about this, about the snatching of land from the Native American tribes, about the hypocrisy and double-dealing of the American government but I don’t want to derail the focus of this post. Suffice to say plenty could be written about their tombstones.

Anyway. Robert, Emma and their 13 children became early members of the community of Watonga, Oklahoma, and farmed there for eight years before tragedy struck. On 27 February 1900, Emma died aged only 45. Of what, I don’t know, but it seems that Robert didn’t let the grass grow too long.

By July 1903 he crops up again in Potosi, Missouri, to marry “Jennie Fitzwater” (although it states he is a resident of Watonga, I don’t know why he would make the 500+ mile journey to Potosi to marry again).

Robert and Jenny’s marriage license

Listed in the 1910 census are a number of “Payne” children that can’t have possibly been Robert’s – mostly because he was several states away with his wife and other children at the time! Which, of course, made it obvious that “Jennie” had been married before.

Her first husband, William Fitzwater, seems to have died only in 1907 so the assumption is that they were divorced – or she married Robert bigamously. They had married on 11 January 1885 in Crawford, Missouri, with the bride listed as Jennie H. Clayton. They would go on to have a total of seven children. Looking further back, however, it seems that Jennie was actually born as Hannah Jane Clayton, and in 1880 she is recorded as having two children: Lemuel and Letha. (Lemuel would use the surname Baker throughout his life, and his death certificate gives his father as Elliot Baker and mother as Hannah Clayton.)

So Jennie Payne = Jennie Fitzwater = Jennie H. Clayton = Hannah Jane Clayton. Robert and Jennie wouldn’t have any children of their own, and nor do any of Robert’s children appear to be living with them at any point (in 1910, Roy, the youngest, is living with his brother Thomas and his wife and son back in Oklahoma). In 1910 they are living in or near Ashland, Oregon and in 1920 the small community at Cow Creek, Oregon. This community was mostly made up of stock farmers, general farmers, Pacific Highway workers and lumber workers/sawyers. The area is still home to a large timber industry today.

Postcard of Cow Creek Canyon, Oregon, c.1910

Of course, as we have seen, Robert is interred with his first wife back in Watonga. According to family stories, Robert decided to stop taking his blood pressure medicine and came back to Oklahoma. He died at his son Walt’s house in 1924, northwest of Watonga. When, four years later, Jennie died, she was also interred in the IOOF Cemetery. But not with Robert. Her marker is much more simple, annotated simply with her name, Hannah J. Payne, her year of birth and year of death.

Of course I don’t know if this was down to economics, or perhaps Robert and Emma had agreed on a joint inscription, or the family had already paid for a larger stone and a double plot … or perhaps they didn’t care for their stepmother. One of Robert’s grandsons was born in Oregon whilst they were living there, so there clearly was contact (you don’t move a heavily pregnant lady between Oklahoma and Oregon if you can help it …!). Or perhaps it was her wish.

Either way, my earlier statement stands: don’t believe everything you read, and don’t take tombstones at face value! Here’s to you, Hannah Jane Jennie Clayton Fitzwater Payne!

Photos of tombstones courtesy of FindAGrave.

Cover image: Farm boys outside Watonga City Hall c. 1940


  1. I’ve noticed that it was rather common for people to switch around their first and middle names, or even abandon one name and substitute another. It seems that in the case of a lot of women in my family, the combination of “Mary Elizabeth” and “Sarah Jane” invariably led to the ladies’ being called “Lizzie” and “Jennie.” And, oh, my, were there a lot of these names in my tree! I often wonder why they just went straight to the middle name. ~Paula

    Liked by 1 person

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