Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Tombstone Tuesday: Oliver's Tomb, Then And Now ~ Sarah's Return

Sonora Cemetery, Sonora, Sutton County, Texas

My great grandfather Oliver Morton Wallen died from Tuberculosis in 1907 at the age of 37 years. He and his family left Kentucky with the hope that the drier climate of Texas would slow the progression of the disease that had affected his lungs for years. Sadly, it was in vain as he died within two years of moving.

Below is the picture of Oliver's tomb just after he was buried. Pictured left to right: his brother Jesse Uriah, his widow Sarah Francis (Davis), twins James Hobart and Charles Homer, twins Sula Susan and Thomas Miller, and my grandfather William Jesse. This is the only existing picture of Jesse Uriah that I am aware of. Jesse Uriah also died of Tuberculosis ten years later.

Pictured below is the same stone taken within the past couple of years. This photo and the top photo were taken by my cousin Larry Martin and his wife Kathy of Somerset, Kentucky.

My great grandmother Sarah returned to Mt. Vernon in Rockcastle Co., Kentucky after Oliver's death but before she returned she went to Victoria, Texas to visit with other family members, probably Oliver's father, stepmother and half siblings. Dale R. Wallen, son of twin James Hobart, wrote to his uncle Charlie and told him this story that I have transcribed verbatim:

"Dear Charlie,
     This is the story, as best I can remember, that Uncle Bill told me, when I took him to see his Father's grave in 1961.
     He said after the funeral of his Father, Uncle Jessy, put Mother and the two sets of twins Tom and Sula and Hobert and Homer on a train to Victoria, Texas. Uncle Jessy, took him (Uncle Bill) and most of there belongings in a wagon and left for Victoria, befor the train. (I think they may have left a day befor their mother). The night the train passed the wagon Uncle Jessy lit a handful of matches so that mother could tell how far along in the trip they were. (He did not tell me how long the wagon trip took.) In Victoria other relatives were waiting for them. (He did not tell me about the return trip to Ky. other that it was 3 to 4 months, after the funeral.)
Dale R. Wallen"

Oliver died on January 19, 1907 and on August 16, 1907 this announcement was made in the Mt. Vernon Signal: "LEVEL GREEN NEWS: Mrs. O. M. Wallen and children who migrated to Texas two years ago have returned to old Kentucky."

A year and a half later we find this announcement in the Mount Vernon Signal on January 22,1909: "GRIFFIN'S MILL NEWS: Mrs. Sarah Wallen is preparing to send her children to the Masonic Home."

Sarah taught school in Louisville until she removed the children from the Masonic Home.  See my blog Wordless Wednesday: At The Louisville Widows And Orphans Masonic Home for more information and photos. She then went on to teach in Rockcastle Co., Kentucky.

I have copies of the original entry and dismissal papers from the Masonic Home in Louisville which they sent to me in September of 2000. All five children were received on Saturday, May 1, 1909, 11 a.m. on the recommendation of Ashland Lodge #640, "children of deceased Master Mason". They were discharged on October 6th, 1911 to their mother. According to Frances Caroline (Wallen) Towner, her father (twin Thomas Miller Wallen) told her that his mother Sarah had said that even if they had nothing to eat they would never be separated again and sometimes, he said, they went to school with only a piece of bread in their lunch pails.


  1. I love the photo of the family around the gravestone. The two sets of twins are adorable. You just never see pictures like this so it is wonderful you shared it with us today. Thanks!

  2. I just learned today that my family has a connection to the old Masonic Home here in Louisville- my greatgreatgreat grandpa's second wife finished out her life there in 1926. Do you know where their records are housed?

  3. You can contact Masonic Homes of Kentucky. They have the records of all who lived at Masonic Widows and Orphans Home. (Same location just different name)

    1. I already did that, many years ago, and they sent me all the records, thanks!