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The Courtship and 40-years of Marriage of
William Monroe Guffey and Sarah Francis Young.

written by: Vela C. (Guffey) Lowry, on February 12, 1966


In 1898, William M. Guffey and J.D. Reeves, his brother-in-law, set out on horseback for new opportunity, and perhaps an adventure, to the Indian Territory, which we now know as Oklahoma. The roads were very narrow, and not paved as our modern roads are; some places two vehicles could not pass, and bridges were few-and-far between. In trying to cross a stream which had no bridge, one of their horses got tangled in wire and drowned. This ended the trip, and they headed back to Lexington, Arkansas, their home. This is about 75 miles northwest of Little Rock.

They would not give up with this try, so started to Indian Territory again in 1899. This time they were on foot and rode freight trains whenever possible. At night they camped by fire hobo style, to save what money they had. After they had made it as far as some lonely place in Oklahoma, one night robbers took all of their money. Naturally, there was nothing to do but head homeward again. Much credit should be given them for making two try’s to reach the land that offered them new opportunity.

J.D. Reeves was from Hattieville, Arkansas, and knew my grandmother’s mother, who lived there. Hotels were few-and-far-between, and after being robbed they had to seek a night’s lodging as best they could. My great-grandmother Clifton, who must have been a wonderful person – for my Mother loved her dearly – gave them food and lodging. My Mother was making her home with her grandmother Clifton, and this is how she met W. M. Guffey. Our Mother, whom we were taught to call Mama, and referred to our Father as Papa, was the eldest of five children when her father died of pneumonia. This left grandmother Young with four boys and Mama, who was 13-years-old at this time.

William M. Guffey lived at Lexington, Arkansas, some 40 miles from Hattieville, Ark. He did his courting via going horseback the 40 miles to Hattieville. Courting in those days did not compare to the 1966 style. I have heard my Mother say that Papa did not even kiss her until after the wedding ! Mama was 20-years-old at the time she married Papa.

After the marriage, on April 4, 1900, they homesteaded near Shirley, Arkansas. Later they moved to Lexington, some 15 miles away. My father, and his brother Joseph Louis, and their father had a general merchandise store in Lexington. They must have prospered for both brothers build nice homes. Uncle Joseph’s home is still being occupied. Our grandfather lived on his homestead a few miles from the store. Extending credit caused them to loose the store. Lexington is a beautiful place where the pines are stately, and one does not realize he is on a mountain. The mountain covers many miles; this leaves the appearance around Lexington as being in the wide-open country.

It must have been with a great deal of thought that the two families decided to sell their lovely homes in Lexington and move to Shawnee, Oklahoma. I was one-year-old at this time. By this time, uncle Joseph and Aunt Bitha had three children, and we were four, Ernest, May, Dona and Vela. In January 1910, the two families took the train at Arlberg, Arkansas, for Oklahoma. Landing in Oklahoma with no home proved quite a problem for the two mothers. They kept the children in a hotel – or tried to – while the fathers scoured the country to locate farms to resettle on. Fortunately, within three days suitable housing was found for both families.

Several days before the families took the train from Arlberg, Arkansas, my uncle George W. Guffey and my cousin, John Cummans (who is now deceased ), left by wagon for Oklahoma taking our household necessities along with them. They were 16 days on the road; and found the only ferry bridge across the Arkansas river at Dardinell, so came to Paris, Arkansas and into Fort Smith. At night they would tie uncle Joe’s collie dog, Phelps, near the teams to keep horse thieves from stealing the horses. The boys camped out at night as a means of protection for the horses and of saving what money they could. George and John were 18-years-old at this time. Wasn’t that an adventure for two teen-agers ? They arrived in Oklahoma ahead of the families, so household furnishings were available when farms were located.

Their new home was in the vicinity of Bellmont, southwest of Prague, Oklahoma. I have very few memories of this farm, but do recall going through a pasture and passing a pond on my frequent visits to my grandfather Guffey’s home. This is where Virgil and Vernon was born.

When I was nearing five-years-old, my family bought a farm south of Seminole, Okla. I recall Virgil and I climbing a peach tree each day and watching for the school wagon, that brought the older children home from Seminole Schools. Due to mother’s failing health, we were unable to keep the farm. This is most unfortunate, for in later years some of the best producing oil wells of Seminole field were found on this farm. Who knows whether this wealth would have brought us happiness or sadness ? But, how nice it would have been if my parents could have had some of the wealth to educate and raise their family without such a financial struggle.

From the farm, we moved to Seminole where Papa worked as a Singer Sewing Machine salesman, and in doing odd jobs. I attended my first school in Seminole. Due to Mama’s lengthy illness, we were still desperately poor. In the school May Poll Olay, I had to have a new dress; the folk could not buy the material, so my teacher bought it for us. How humiliating and heartbreaking this must have been to the folk !
Mama was bedfast by now; her ailment is now known as vitamin C deficiency, but at that time they didn’t know how to cope with it. Ernest was 15-years-old at this time; he got a laundry route, delivering and picking up in a little red wagon ! With part of his earnings he hired a woman to come and clean house for us. A wealthy man saw our plight and offered to adopt Ernest. My father was furious at the idea ! He replied: “What do you think I am an animal ?”. We should all appreciate the struggle physically and financially that our parents went through in keeping us together.

Finally, the struggle to survive in the city gave way to a move to a farm northwest of Seminole. As we moved to our new location, we tied the family cow on behind the wagon. Periodically we would stop to let the cow rest. As share-croppers on this farm Papa managed to keep us clothed and fed for two years. Mama’s health still remained very bad.

In finding better locations, our next two moves were in the vicinity of Plover Hill and Garden Grove Schools. Willierene was born in 1918, near Plover Hill and Emmet was born one mile north of Econtuchka, near Garden Grove. Cotton was our main source of income, and all worked in the field at an early age. Children had to be sent away to high school. Ernest was working in Prague as a clerk in a drug store at this time. Papa arranged for an apartment there where Dona and I could stay with Ernest and attend high school. After about two months of schooling, she eloped and married; this was a big disappointment to Papa.

In attempting to locate nearer high schools, Papa moved us to a very good farm just east of Shawnee. We prospered there, so much so that we bought a new Chevrolet in 1925. At one attempt at learning to drive, Papa gave up the wheel. I was the only one old enough to drive, so I chauffeured the family around. Like all teen-agers, this was not a great burden for me to bear ! Finding rent too much of a burden on the farm, the next move was to enter the dairy business.

For many years Papa sold grade A milk in Shawnee. Again all children worked to keep the family income going. The dairy was located at 1900 E. Farrell St., in Shawnee. Papa managed to send Virgil, Vernon, Willierene and Emmet, through high school before making his demise on Feb. 12, 1940. Mama was left with no means of support, so Vernon clothed Eldwin and saw to it that he finished high school.

Mama made her home with Mae and Jimmie at the Farrell St. address, until Mae married H.C. Minnis in July of 1942. Then, for many years Mama made her home with Mae and Haydon, at 1601 N. Kickapoo St., Shawnee, Okla. From their home we went to live with any of her children whom she felt she could help. She always shed a ray of love and contentment wherever she made her home. Due to her failing health, she was put in Park View Rest-home, in Shawnee, in January of 1965. Soon both of our parents will have gone to their reward. They had many friends and were loved by all who knew them. All things come to an end, and face it we must; even seeing our dear ones for the last time. So ends the story of two people who had a love for each other that carried them through forty years of earthly trials, but I am sure all who are left behind feel that they did their jobs well !

Written by Vela Cora (Guffey) Lowry
b: 25 Dec 1909, Lexington, Van Buren Co., Arkansas
d: Jan 2000, Shawnee, Pottawatomie Co., Oklahoma

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