Thursday, July 15, 2010

Treasure Chest Thursday: From Diamond Came Gold

My all time favorite Find A Grave discovery

Above photo courtesy of Shalina Thomas

Diamond Cemetery, Stephens County, Oklahoma

Above photo courtesy G. William Whitworth, Jr.

Daniel Thomas (D. T. or Uncle Tom) Wallen was the fifth and last child born to my paternal third great grandparents, Jesse B. and Louisa Tyree Wallen, (born 1861 not 1871 as shown on stone).  He and three of his siblings, Oliver, Isaac, and Lucy left Rockcastle Co., Kentucky around 1882 for Texas and promptly disappeared. That was back fifteen years ago in my research and the Internet was not quite as easy to navigate as it is today and so I preferred staying back in Kentucky where I was comfortable and where my own great, great grandfather William M. Wallen remained until he too left for Texas many years later. I knew these other four would surely turn up sometime in the future, which of course they all did. William was the oldest of the siblings and would probably inherit his parents Kentucky homestead. Of the remaining siblings, D. T. was the youngest, barely 20, and the only one of the four Westward bound that was not married with family. William's son, my great grandfather Oliver Morton Wallen, wrote a few excerpts in his diary concerning his uncle:

1894 - "In March I bought 50 acres of land joining Grandma's farm for $50.00, of D. T. Wallen." 

Jan. 17, 1900 -" Went to papa's, worked some in a new ground. Wrote two letters after dinner, one to D. T. Wallen and one to Guy Griffith.  Jan. 18 - Went to Mt. Vernon. Sent D. T. Wallen $10.00."

And after Oliver also went to Texas:

Aug. 2, 1905 - "...After noon went to Uncle Tom Wallen's rock query 11 N. W. Sanger..."

I didn't think Uncle Tom would even have a marker. After all, he was never married and had no known descendants and much of the time he lived in a tent in the rock quarry where he made a living. So, when I was making a rather broad search of Find A Grave using the Wallen surname, I was stunned to see "D. T. Wallen" in the list I pulled up. "D.T." was the name besides "Uncle Tom" that he was most known by. Of course, I wasn't sure it was really his tombstone until I clicked on his name and saw the cemetery was in Stephens Co. Oklahoma. The birth date was off by 10 years and I never really knew his death date. The State and County were what hit me! Now it all made sense! The thing that threw me off in earlier years was a letter copied for me by my distant cousin Connie Borgren that was to her grandmother from a lady in Gainesville, Texas.

"January 17, 1961
Yes, we knew uncle Tom Wallen since very early childhood.  He came to Texas from Kentucky and was a rock mason.  In fact he lived in a tent in the rock quarry near Clear Creek.  Later Uncle Tom's mother, Grandma Wallen came with her Granddaughter Viola Hays, to live with him.  It was through Viola that I knew them best as I went to school to Viola in the terms 1912-13 and 1913-14.  She married in the spring of '14 and left here.  It must have been either in '13 or '14 that her grandmother passed away for I do remember that she was not here when Viola married.  Uncle Tom built concrete cellars all over this country.  Which still stand as a memorial to him.  Infact we have one here in our yard.  When he got too old to work, he went to live with his niece Mrs. John Anderson in Sulphur, Okla., as you perhaps know. Mrs. E. W. Grundy, Gainesville, Texas"

Now, Mrs. John Anderson (Rebecca Ellen Sowder Anderson, daughter of Lucy Wallen Sowder) did not live in Sulphur and I knew this from the census. She and her family lived in Stephen's Co., Oklahoma for well over 30 years. However, there were other nieces and nephews that lived in Sulphur which is in Murray Co., Oklahoma so I thought Mrs. Grundy was probably mistaken in who the elderly Uncle Tom ended up living with. It turns out it wasn't the person Uncle Tom went to live with, but the county she lived in that Mrs. Grundy was mistaken about! Earlier census data showed his residence as that of Rebecca Anderson's half sister, Louisa Sutton Gregory. Louisa resided in the Texas counties of Denton and Cooke. Those counties were close to the rock quarry which was in the vicinity of Era, Texas northwest of Sanger. Regardless of who he ended up living with, I assumed Uncle Tom would be buried with no marker so, imagine my surprise in finding his tombstone in the Diamond Cemetery in Stephens Co., Oklahoma! My thanks to Jean for adding his memorial to Find A Grave and again for transferring the memorial to me. 

I'd love to find out more about Uncle Tom's rock quarry and I have used Google Earth to try finding it but I was unsuccessful. It could be abandoned by now. There are many rock quarries in the vicinity but none near Era which is almost exactly 11 miles N.W. of Sanger as my great grandfather described. Maybe if I actually went there.......


1 comment:

  1. Lisa, I enjoyed this story, and am so glad you waited a bit and then researched it. New stuff is constantly appearing, lucky for us. Also, I love the Diamond Cemetery, great photo by your friend.