Home > support >  Family Tree Histories

Oklahoma Family Tree Stories

This beautiful sculpture of three redbud trees with gold and silver leaves by artist Robin Starke is located just outside the Eleanor & John Kirkpatrick Research Center in the Oklahoma History Center. Each leaf of the "Oklahoma Family Tree" memorializes an Oklahoma family with the family surname, first name(s), and the town or county where they lived. In addition, a short family history will be preserved in the digital family history book at the base of the tree. This is a great way for your family to make history and benefit future generations at the same time. To find out how to honor your own family with a leaf visit the Oklahoma Family Tree Project page.

Brown Family

Edwin Francis Brown was born in Utica, New York, on September 6, 1864, and died on October 19, 1954, in El Reno. Etta Electa (née Olmstead) Brown was born on January 25, 1871, in Prophetstown, Illinois.

Edwin visited his parents shortly after they made the Run of 1889. He traded a pony and saddle for a 160-acre claim about five miles southeast of Okarche and returned to Kansas, where he married Etta on January 1, 1890. They lived in a one-room sod house, built of what settlers referred to as "prairie marble," and later built a two-story house to accommodate their growing family.

In 1909 the Browns moved to a farm near Okarche. They moved to Kingfisher in 1919 and Calumet in 1929. They retired from ranching in 1943 and settled in El Reno. Their children were Viola Anna, Ruth Iona, Ida May, Isaac Oscar, Elma Rose, Marie Elizabeth, Isabelle Eula, Marion Chester, and Alyce Louise.

Viola Anna was born on November 9, 1890. She attended Central Normal School from 1904 to 1905 and obtained a teaching certificate. At age 15, she began teaching at Pumpkin Hollow in northern Canadian County, where she earned forty dollars a month. A year later she returned Central Normal School to study bookkeeping. She worked for Meyer and Lewis Loan Company in El Reno prior to her marriage to Homer J. Thompson on January 1, 1910.

Homer and Viola lived in a two-room house on her parents' farm near Okarche before moving to a farm west of Edmond. In 1920 they purchased ten acres just west of downtown Edmond. Their first child, Charles Homer, was born on March 13, 1915. Their only daughter, Daphne Ruth (later, Van Nort), was born on February 19, 1917. Donald Edwin, who was born on August 24, 1920, died during World War II on April 7, 1941. Howard Earnest was born on November 26, 1927. Their fifth child, Chester Lee, was born on September 13, 1931 and died on February 22, 1933.

Homer farmed and managed Snyders Grocery in Edmond. He later purchased his own store and operated as Thompson's Grocery. He served as an Edmond city councilman for several years and was a deacon at First Christian Church. He died on September 19, 1951, and is buried at Memorial Park in Oklahoma City.

Viola described her childhood in pioneer days as follows:

"Dad raised cattle. We had a big, red barn and a large orchard. We had all kinds of fruit, dried apples, peaches and corn. We made kraut and stored it in a barrel in the cellar. We milked cows and kept fresh milk in the cellar and butter in the open well. We had gallon crocks for milk from which we skimmed off the cream and churned it in a five-gallon crock. We kept some apples in the cellar, but had a wagon load buried in the orchard covered with straw and dirt. We also had cabbage, carrots and turnips buried that way. They didn't have jars for canning then. Mother baked bread every day in the kitchen wood stove, sometimes using cowchips for fuel. She was famous for her lemon pies."

"Father went to El Reno, about eleven miles, every Saturday in the wagon to get groceries. We knew what time he would be home so we ran to meet him. He would stop, and we all got in the wagon for treats of peppermint, horehound candy, raisins, or apples. Dad helped get telephone lines and electricity in the neighborhood. He also helped dig graves and worked on the roads. Neighbors all helped each other and would sit up with sick folks."

Viola summarized her pioneering childhood:

"These pioneer memories have enthralled me. The proud people have inspired me and given me encouragement. I am thankful for growing up in pioneer days. I admire my dear mother and father for their wisdom, strength, and courage. Hearing stories at my parents' knees of guerilla raids, Civil War, Indian raids, hot winds, droughts, prairie fires, torrential rains, blizzards, cyclones, locust, rattlesnakes, outlaws, horse thieves, and mortgage fiends. Women, as usual, were forgotten, but we remember these marvelous pioneer women who survived the bushwhackers, red skins, the blistering sun, and the angry wind, while pursuing their daily chores with quiet heroism, without ostentation as they watched their families and homesteads grow. At first there was only prairie on every side—not a tree, not a house, not even green grass. Pioneers started building dugouts, sod houses, and one room houses. Now tall buildings and beautiful trees dot the Oklahoma sky line. My story has been a labor of love."

Viola died on April 7, 1985, in Edmond Memorial Hospital. She was laid to rest at Memorial Park Cemetery in Oklahoma City.

Homer's and Viola's children include Daphne Thompson, who married Turner Van Nort on April 17, 1949. Daphne was an active member of the 1889ers Society. Their children are Stanley L. Van Nort and Anna May Van Nort. Turner died on July 13, 1986. At the time of this writing, Stanley had thirty years tenure as a lieutenant with the Oklahoma City Police Department and had four children: Chris, Brandie, Aaron, and Stefanie. He married Liz Fajen on November 17, 2000. Stan's son, Aaron, married Kristin Hoffman on December 12, 2003.

Anna May married Timothy Perkins on August 20, 1994. Cancer claimed her life on December 8, 2006.

Back to list