I remember my maternal Great Uncle Will, William Wilber Conley, telling me about his family going to Oklahoma when he was a boy. I was probably in elementary school when he told me the story, so I want to emphasize that I am writing this the way I remember the story, not as a totally factual account.
He told me back then Oklahoma was still a wild land with lots of outlaws and Indians. One evening the family was on the porch when two men rode up on horseback and shot Uncle Will’s granddad. Afterwards one of the men said, “By Gawd, looks like we kilt the wrong man.” And they rode off.
On the way back to Texas, it was really cold one night. There weren’t any trees around so there was no firewood to be found for a fire. They burned some fence posts that night, but the next morning they went to the farmhouse and offered to work or pay for the fence posts. This part really bothers me because I can’t imagine anyone tearing up a fence. There’s also a very fuzzy memory about eggs. I can’t quite remember if he helped gather them or if they bought some from the farmer.
There was obviously much more to the story than this, but as is too often the case, stories and oral histories aren’t recorded. When we try to remember and want to ask questions, the person who knew the facts firsthand is no longer living. While working on my genealogy, I tried to do some research to find out if anything about the story, as I remembered it, was true.
The facts I found were that David F. Taylor, Uncle Will’s grandfather (also my maternal great grandfather), was no longer living in 1900 because the 1900 Lampasas County, Texas Census showed Elizabeth Taylor, Uncle Will’s grandmother (my maternal great grandmother), as a widow.
The 1900 Hamilton County, Texas Census showed Uncle Will’s brother, Jesse Leon Conley, was born in 1896 in “Indian Territory” and the 1910 Lampasas County, Texas Census showed he was born in Oklahoma.
Without the help of the Internet in 1987, I had gotten as much information on my own as I could without travelling to Oklahoma. At that point I contacted Carolyn S. Clark, an Oklahoma resident and researcher, whom I paid to see what else she could find in newspapers or other records from that time.
How glad I am that I did so! Her research resulted six newspaper articles that show the story as I remembered it had some factual basis. Future Thiller Thursday postings will include transcriptions of the articles.