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Oklahoma Family Tree Stories

This beautiful sculpture of three redbud trees is located just outside the Eleanor and 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 is preserved in the digital family history book at the base of the tree. Sponsoring a leaf is a special way to recognize your family 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.

Brewer Family

Family Tree Leaf
Brewer, Harley John & Nellie Alberta Ellis
Binger, Caddo County

Harley John Brewer was born in Lincoln County, Kansas, on March 4, 1879. His parents, Benjamin Brewer (May 20, 1849–June 29, 1908) and Amanda Ellen Duncan (May 20, 1850–May 31, 1915) both traced their roots to early settlers in Iowa.

Harley's paternal grandparents, Thomas Brewer (b. circa 1813) and Elizabeth Houston (b. circa 1818) farmed in Washington County, Iowa. His maternal grandparents, Alexander Grant Duncan (July 5, 1826–October 5, 1924) and Mary Jane Dillon (January 9, 1831–July 21, 1923) homesteaded in Taylor County, Iowa. They paid $1.25 an acre to the US Land Patent Office for their forty acres. They were especially proud that their farm sustained them for nearly seventy-five years, even though they used an "X" to sign their names. Alexander served four years in Company F, 29th, in the Iowa Infantry Volunteers during the Civil War. Confederates took him prisoner at Camden, Arkansas, during the Battle of Jenkins' Ferry as he was coming to the aid of wounded Union soldiers.

Harley's mother, Amanda Ellen Duncan, was the first white girl born in Dallas Township, Taylor County, Iowa. Benjamin Brewer, Harley's father, was born in Henry County, Iowa, and married Amanda on November 16, 1871, in Page County, Iowa. They moved to Lincoln County, Kansas where Harley and his nine siblings were born.

Benjamin also secured a US Land Patent for 160 acres in Lincoln County for the sum of $1.25 an acre. As an energetic supporter of temperance, women's suffrage, and placing good citizens into law enforcement, Benjamin apparently devoted so much time and energy to social issues that three broomcorn crops failed. He came to the Cherokee Strip in the 1890s and settled first in Kay County, Oklahoma Territory, and later Cowley County, Kansas. In Arkansas City, Kansas he helped to start and then edited the Searchlight, a temperance publication that also promoted good government.

Benjamin's commitment to social causes compelled his sons, Harley and Vinton, to venture out on their own and register for the Kiowa, Comanche, and Apache land lottery of 1901. The competition was fierce, as 170,000 people were vying for 13,000 homesteads. Winners' names were drawn from a hopper in El Reno. Harley's number 4,971 made him one of the lucky new landholders. He chose his 160 acres in Caddo County, Oklahoma Territory, and married Nellie Alberta Ellis (August 19, 1882–March 5, 1932) at Gage on May 17, 1903.

To prove that he had lived on the land for two years, Harley provided four witnesses to testify that he had made improvements, including a 12x16-foot log house, 12x16-foot barn, a water well, and a granary. He also put seventy-five acres under cultivation and fenced 120 acres. Clearing in compliance with homesteading requirements, Harley received a warranty deed after paying $1.25 an acre.

Harley's and Nellie's three children—Velma Vivian (April 17, 1904–July 29, 1986), Veldo Harry (March 9, 1906–October 25, 1992), and Benjamin Ansel (February 26, 1908–March 3, 1936)—were born in Caddo County. As their children advanced in school, Harley and Nellie dreamed of providing a better education and opportunities than the one-room Bald Knob School had to offer. Harley sold his 160-acre Caddo County farm, along with his horses, cattle, hogs, chickens, feed, farm machinery, and household goods to purchase 160 acres just south of the Kansas border in Kay County, Oklahoma. Their children attended schools in Newkirk before transferring to Arkansas City High School in Kansas.

Nellie died on May 5, 1932. Harley then married a widow, Edna Jane Winslow, on May 17, 1933. After his son, Ben, died on March 3, 1936, he sold his Kay County land. He and Edna sold her Cowley County wheat farm in 1950 after Harley was thrown from his horse and suffered a severe leg injury. They moved to Arkansas City, where Harley passed away on June 26, 1963. Edna followed him in death on December 1, 1977.

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