GENERATIONS LINKED

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C. E. Bush Machine, August 1902
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Raymond Bush, Newkirk, Oklahoma.

Reprinted with permission of Kansas City, Missouri’s
Farmland News, from its November 1995 issue.

In 1899, John Franklin (Frank) Weaver got off a train in
Oklahoma, looking for a place to build a new home for his wife,
Julia, and their five children: Edgar, Edna, William, Harvey, and
Louella. The 160 acres he purchased southwest of Newkirk became
their family farm in January, 1901, soon after they arrived from
Dayton, Iowa, in a covered wagon.

‘Iowa is all right, but Oklahoma beats it,’ Edgar Weaver
wrote to his uncle in Iowa in February 26, 1903. ‘If we do have
hot winds, droughts, dust storms, centipedes and a hundred other
such things some of you Iowa people think we have, I would rather
have them all, such as they are, than your long-bill steel-pointed
mosquitoes.’

Whether that conviction was held by other Oklahomans breaking
the prairie into tillable land is unknown, but many facets of the
Weavers’ lives are known thanks to dozens of letters kept
through the decades. Those letters have given Karen Dye of Newkirk
a great deal of insight into the lives of Frank and Julia Weaver,
her great-grandparents.

‘When Frank and Julia set out for Oklahoma, they sold the
house to Frank’s brother, and it stayed in the family for
generations,’ said Dye, the granddaughter of Edna Weaver Bush.
‘That’s how I got the letters written from Oklahomano thing
was ever thrown out!’

A Civic Family

Frank Weaver wasn’t one to stay put. Born October 5, 1854,
in New Jersey, he married Julia Mumford in Henry County, Illinois,
on August 19, 1880. After they reached Iowa, Frank taught school
and farmed. He was quite active in civic affairs by the time he
settled in Oklahoma, where he served as president of the Newkirk
School Board and secretary of the Newkirk Democrat Victory Club. He
was also president of the Oklahoma State Fair Association and
secretary and treasurer of the Oklahoma Corn Breeders and Growers
Association.

Julia Ann Mumford Weaver was born February 10, 1859, in Lewis
County, New York. After arriving in Oklahoma, she, too, became
active in local organizations, including the First Presbyterian
Church of Newkirk and the Merry Wives Embroidery Club. She
frequently sold butter and eggs, which in 1904 fetched 17 cents per
pound and 25 cents per dozen, respectively.

Celebrations and Survival

The 50 letters in Dye’s collection, neatly written and
amazingly well preserved, chronicle the day-to-day life of the
Weaver family. Even in letters describing special events and
holidays, the prevailing theme is that of the basics of survival on
the prairie weather and crops.

‘It is cool and windy for the celebration,’ Frank wrote
to his brother on July 4, 1902. ‘In fact, that has been the
general condition of the weather all summer, together with lots of
rain. Wheat goes from 3 to 20 bushels per acre, oats 50 to 80.
Sometimes they will get a hundred. Corn is looking fine. Our
potatoes are fine, I never raised any better, but the rest of the
garden was poor. Got hurt by the hail. Peaches are quite plenty
now, as well as plums. How did your strawberries do? We got our
second cutting of alfalfa put up in nice shape just happened to get
between rains. Will start two plows Monday for wheat The timothy
that I sowed is headed out now so I think it done pretty
well.’

Frank and Julia’ ‘done pretty well’ themselves,
building a house with two food cellars. When he bought materials to
build the 13-room house, Frank spent a total of $459.25.

That $459.25 was well spent. ‘My children were the fifth
generation to live in that house,’ Dye said. ‘My father and
several other relatives were born there. The house is still
standing, and part of the original flower garden is still there,
along with the cedar trees that Frank brought from Iowa.’

A Glimpse of the Past

Of special interest to Dye is the information she’s gleaned
about her grandmother, Edna. According to Edna’s writings,
Frank Weaver at one time believed that a girl needed no more than
an eighth-grade education. But Edna attended Highland College in
Iowa, where she earned a teaching certificate. She taught in White
Eagle, Oklahoma, and Eddy, Oklahoma, and gained the admiration of
many, including her father. Then, she was faced with a choice that
most of today’s women can’t even imagine.

‘I suppose this will be Edna’s last Sunday of single
blessedness, for she has concluded to marry instead of teach school
any longer,’ Frank Weaver wrote on May 31, 1903. ‘I hated
to see her change her mind just as she had got nicely acquainted
and a reputation as a teacher and she was liked so well by the
young people. He is a farmer living over where she was teaching.
Seems like a nice fellow, but not what I had expected would suit
her, but love does strange things.’

That ‘nice fellow’ was Charles Bush, and he seemed to
suit Edna just fine. They married on June 3, 1903, and made their
home in Newkirk, where they had five children. The youngest,
Raymond, was Dye’s father.

For Edna, who became known as ‘Grandma Bush,’ hard work
was a way of life. For fifteen years, she ran a market every
Saturday at the Newkirk Community Building. By her own estimate,
she churned 7,800 pounds of country butter and sold 4,000 cakes,
8,000 pies and 10,000 loaves of bread during that time.

After Charles died in 1936, Grandma Bush assumed full
responsibility for the farm. When she was in her 90s, the story
goes, her son-in-law, Frank Worley, stopped by one day to help with
the milking. As they worked, he suggested that perhaps it was time
for her to sell the cows. But as they returned to the house, she
set her milk bucket down and turned to her son-in-law.

‘Frank, I’ve thought about what you said, and I think
you should tend to your business, and I will tend to mine.’ And
tend to business she did, running the family farm until her death
in 1975.

But that wasn’t the end of the family link to the land that
began with Frank Weaver’s train ride in 1899. The land that
held a family together is still in that family and still helps
support the descendants of Frank and Julia Weaver. Karen Dye, her
husband, Kenneth, and her brother, Harvey Bush, who are members of
the Farmers Co-op Elevator and Supply Company in Newkirk, grow
wheat and raise cattle on 137 acres of the land that caught Frank
Weaver’s eye nearly a century ago. That’s a family legacy
worth preserving.

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