Mail Call! September 3, 1918

Pearl Brasher Stufflebean kept many photos and letters from her youth and early married years. Pearl was born on 9 February 1898 in Sulphur Springs, Hopkins County, Texas. Her parents divorced when she was a little girl and she moved several times after that, living for a while in Floydada, Floyd County, Texas and then Noble, Oklahoma, where she graduated from high school.

Sulphur Springs is east of the Dallas-Forth Worth area and you can see it on this map. Point A is Floydada and Point B is Noble, which is near Norman, Oklahoma. These town were hundreds of miles apart and I’m not sure how her mother determined exactly where they were going to live and how they ended up making such long moves.

However, as a young girl, Pearl was apparently good friends with Gladys Felton, who no doubt was a classmate in Floydada. They also shared a love of music, based on Gladys’s letter.

A quick check online found that Gladys L. Felton married Travis Plato Collins sometime between the 1920 census, when she was single and at home and 1923, when their son, Travis Pat Collins, was born.

I would have loved to have shared this letter with someone in the Collins family. However, Travis Sr. died on 4 June 1979, Gladys died on 8 January 1992 and their only child, Travis Jr., predeceased them both, passing away on 18 February 1973. All three spent their lives in Floydada, where they are buried.

Here is Gladys’s letter to Pearl:



Floydada, Tex.
Tuesday, Sep. 3 (1918)

My Dearest Pal,

Did you just think I had forgotten you. Well I sure haven’t and I never can forget my old Pal for it would be impossible fer (sic) me to meet another person in the world to whom I love any more than I do you. And I know I couldn’t meet any one with any more virtures (sic) than you and honestly Pearle I have heard more good tings said of you since you’ve left here than any other one person. So often those girls we used to go to school with speak of you and they say such nice things about you. Sometimes I getting to thinking of those days when we were together so much and I hate to think we can never live them over again but I guess you shouldn’t think of the past though. And I do hope some day in the future we can be together again. Say I have so many things I could tell you if I could just see you. So much has happened since last I saw you. I have been in Floydada abut a month and a half since I left school. I had been in Dallas, Tex. Almost a year studying in a music conservatory and I sure did enjoy my work. I took music from a Norwegian man who has just been in America a few years and he certainly is good. Pearle I have the dandiest sweetheart you ever saw. I went with him all the time I was in Dallas and of course like him much better than I ever liked any boy. I have some good looking pictures of him. He is in the Army now at Trenton New Jersey and I miss him so much but I hear every day now but he is going to sail for France soon and then I won’t hear so often. You ought to feel sorry fere (sic) we girls now for nothing is left for us to do but stay at home and be lonesome for all the boys are gone we ever knew.

So many people have left here since you were here. I know you must have heard by this time of Ada being married. She is now living in Pueblo Colorado and has a boy about six or eight months old and it sure is a darling baby we think. Ada visited us a few months ago and she ask (sic) me if I ever heard from you. Said she sure would like to see you so much. Say how is your baby. Certainly would be glad to see him and also would like to see your husband. Pearle I just can not realize you are married and are a mother so (soon?) my life st? dosen’t (sic) seem that you are at all. Say write me and tell me how you are and tell me something of your husband for I would like to know what kind of a man you have and what does he do as an occupations. Tell me every little thinig for I am so interested to know about your affairs. I sure would like to have your picture if you have any of your baby too. Pearl I hope sometime you can visite (sic) me for you don’t know how much I would like to be with you. Some day when the war is over and I get married [if I ever do] I hope I will not be so far that you can not visit me. Say how is your mother. Surely wish I could see her and your baby brother Alton once more. I wonder if he ha forgotten me. Where is your mother. Tell me all about her. Now dear write to me real soon. Your Friend always, Gladys Felton, Floydada, Tex.

It is clear to me that Gladys considered Pearl a good friend and Pearl likely felt the same since she kept this letter until she died in 1989. However, to be honest, I was looking forward to reading a nice, newsy letter and I can sum up what Gladys said in way less than 6 pages:

1. We had a great time hanging out together and I miss you.
2. Ada (no surname) married, had an infant son and moved to Pueblo, CO.
3. Gladys had an unnamed boyfriend in the Army, stationed in NJ and being deployed to France.
4. Gladys took studied at a music conservatory in Dallas with a Norwegian man.
4. She wants to know all about Pearl, her husband and her infant son.

That’s about it! 12 Months of Fascinating Family Finds – Sept 2015

My September Find in 12 Months of Fascinating Family Finds was actually discovered while researching for a friend and relates to his family, but if you have Nova Scotia roots, this might be a great resource for you.

Canadian census records generally begin with the 1851 census, although there are some census records for 1842. Researching the time period before those census records can be somewhat difficult. There may be land deeds or probate information, but aside from those resources, it is possible that not much else may exist to document an ancestor’s life.

My September Fascinating Family Find is the discovery of the 1827 census for Nova Scotia, Canada. It is not an every name census, but it gives a staggering amount of information for each household. Even better, it is available and searchable online at the Nova Scotia Archives.

I entered a search for “Gallagher” and I am looking for Daniel, who lived in Ketch Harbour. Three Gallagher hits came up – two for Daniels and one for Thomas. One of the Daniels lives in Ketch Harbour, so he is my man.

Ketch Harbour 1827 Census

Daniel “Ghalleger” is the 17th entry.

What questions were asked on this census?

1. Name of head of family
2. Number of males excluding laborers
3. Number of females excluding servants
4. Number of hired laborers of males servants
5. Number of male servants
6. Number of souls in the family
7. Occupation
8. Religion
9. Number of births in family for year ending 30 September
10. Number of females married during same year, including servants
11. Number of deaths, including servants
12. Number of acres of land cultivated
13. Bushels of wheat produced
14. Bushels of other grain produced
15. Bushels of potatoes produced
16. Tons of hay produced
17. Number of horses owned
18. Number of horned cattle owned
19. Number of sheep owned
20. Number of swine owned

Ketch Harbour was a very small place, but I feel like I know a lot about these families from the questions on the census. It was a totally unexpected fascinating family find!

If you have Nova Scotia roots, check out the other databases available at the Nova Scotia Archives.





Oklahoma Dust Bowl School Days

Kids here in Tucson have already been back in school for a couple of weeks now. I’ve also been working on the family history digital images and the two together put me in the mind of Ruby, my mother-in-law.

I wish my mother-in-law was still with us to ask questions. Like my grandmothers and my husband’s grandmother, his mom, Ruby Sturgell Stufflebean, was a saver of family photos, report cards, news clippings, and whatnot.

Most of the items they collected sat in drawers and boxes for many years, leaving them in excellent condition, but unseen by family members until the last few years. As Ruby and husband Ed downsized and moved house, photos and mementos started to come back to the light of day. However, not everything was uncovered, so to speak, until after Ruby passed away.

While sorting through still more boxes, I came across a lot of newspapers clippings and photos of Ruby’s family. I had already seen many from the Stufflebean side and Dave’s dad identified many of the people in his collection of pictures.

Ruby’s clippings had to do with her life growing up in Oklahoma. She was born on 10 July 1919 in Verden, Oklahoma to Oscar Eldon Sturgell and Ethel Anne Nation, but the family soon moved about ten miles west to the “big city” of Anadarko, Oklahoma. In 1930, the population of Verden was about 600, while Anadarko boasted 5000+ residents. These towns are southwest of Oklahoma City.

I imagine that the Sturgell family moved to Anadarko as much for work opportunities for her father, Oscar, as for elementary school access for Oscar’s and Ethel’s children. By 1930, they had seven – three daughters, Edna, Ruby and Nadjamae and four sons, Houston, Eldon, Richard and Dale. I found the family in the 1930 census, but it appears the census taker forgot to list one child – youngest son, Dale, who was born in 1927 and would have been about three years old then.

Why would I have liked to talk to Ruby about her life growing up in Oklahoma? Well, the Depression and the Oklahoma Dust Bowl were both long before I was around. I did study both in U.S. History in high school and I have heard many people speak of how difficult life was in the 1930’s and that the U.S. economy didn’t really get back on its feet until World War II.

Perhaps the worst day of the Dust Bowl era was “Black Sunday,” 14 April 1935:


Black Sunday

Millions were out of work and many not only lost jobs, but they lost their homes, too. I just never heard many stories of people living high on the hog during the 1930’s.

I am also aware that Oscar Sturgell, or Ott as he was called, didn’t have an opportunity for much education and only finished sixth grade. In 1930, after the Black Friday stock market crash, he was married with a wife and seven children to support. He was a house painter for many years and then worked as an attendant at a gas station.

These facts just didn’t fit with the life described in Ruby’s life mementos. Most covered the years she attended junior and senior high school. Here is Ruby as a teenager:

Ruby Sturgell

None of the news clippings are dated, with the exception of identifying the 1937 high school graduating seniors, but I am sure they came from the local Anadarko newspaper.

Ruby was a Camp Fire Girl and her chapter planned a candy sale during a meeting held at the Sturgell home:

Junior Camp Fire Meeting at Sturgell Home

I wonder what candy they sold – perhaps penny candy? How much were they able to make in profit?

Ruby was able to graduate from high school at a time when many children had to leave school to help earn money to keep their family members fed, clothed and housed. She was better at some subjects than others, but her favorite subject was English.

Senior Year English Literature

I remember her saying she like English in school, but I don’t think she ever mentioned that she liked acting in class plays, which seems to be the case.

Student Play

Ruby Sturgell, Actress

Ruby was a very pretty young woman – her lights lit up when she smiled and that was a trait she kept for her entire 93 year-long life. When she was just a sophomore, she was chosen as a candidate for Senior Football Queen.

Up for Football Queen

What really surprised me, though, being in the midst of the Depression was this news article:

Senior Class Trip

Instead of attending a senior banquet, Ruby’s graduating class was going on a trip to Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico. That was a 500+ mile trip each way and quite a few students participated. How did these families all afford a trip like that with a hotel stay? I know it was just a bus and a hotel stay, but it was still during the Depression!

Ruby had one photo of the students about to enter the Caverns:

Carlsbad Caverns, Spring 1937

Students also apparently had an opportunity to meet other high school students and Ruby met one young man, King, who was quite taken with her, as she kept his invitation to his own high school graduation.

King & Ruby in New Mexico

Ruby never attended college, but she was wooed by the AAUW with an invitation to their tea.


AAUW Invitation

The seniors even had their own printed calling cards.

Ruby’s Calling Card

Ruby even saved several calling cards from girls who I assume were her closest friends.

Both a baccalaureate and a commencement program were held.

May 16, 1937

Baccalaureate Program

May 20, 1937

Commencement Program

I wish I had seen all of these clipping four or five years ago. Ruby passed away just over two years ago and, while her memory for things that happened that day wasn’t too sharp anymore, like many senior citizens, she could remember events long ago as if they did happen that day.

In spite of growing up in a large family during the Great Depression, Ruby’s teenage life seems to be typical of teenagers’ lives decades later when I was growing up.