PRECIOUS MEMORIES

PIONEERS OF GARFIELD COUNTY, OKLAHOMA

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I-ps2.gif - 684 BytesIsaac "Ike" and Mabel (Irey) RoelseI-ps2.gif - 684 Bytes

By Ellen Roelse Roberts


When Uncle Sam and Aunt Bessie Cutter moved down to Chattanoga, Oklahoma (this town is close to Lawton, Oklahoma where Fort Sill was an Army Base already then) mother went down by train. Trains were crossing the state in all directions by this time and when she went to visit the Sam Cutters she was about 18 years old. While there she met our father, Isaac (Ike) Roelse.

He was a young cowboy, I guess you could say (he broke horses to ride). He was a plasterer by trade in those days. They lived in dugouts, where they plastered the dirt walls, and built chimneys. The plastered wooden farm buildings inside were later to be painted, until paper was made to be put on the walls. Mother stayed awhile with this aunt and uncle. Daddy's parents didn't live too far away. When they went to church Ike would come and go to church with them so they got pretty well acquainted. His father was a veteranarian and Doctor of people, too. In those days there weren't very many Doctors or Vets.

Isaac came to the Irey home to get married on July 1, 1908 to Mabel Irey by Rev. W. J. Forshee and witnessed by J. P. Gibson and Angie Debo. They went back to Chattanoga, Oklahoma, to live. While there, a son was born who didn't live and is buried in a cemetery west to the corner of town, north 3 miles, west 2 miles. While they lived there grandmother, Elizabeth Roelse, died and she is buried in the same cemetery. In 1917, grandfather Peter Roelse, died in Enid, Oklahoma, and father took his body to be buried with grandmother.

Mother and daddy later had two sons, Irey Lewis and Arthur Alvin, and they lived in Arkansas awhile before moving to a farm two miles east and 1/2 north of Douglas, known as "Grandpa's Eighty". I was born Ellen Elizabeth. My folks found it hard to try to farm at this time so they moved to Enid. Daddy worked for the Enid Water Works, night watched for Newmans, and later worked at Champlin Refinery and helped to take care of lawns at the city park. We children were getting pretty good size. We had two more sisters born while in Enid; Dorothy June and Maudie Esther. Daddy said town was no place to raise children. Daddy got to rent a farm and bought the horses and cattle from Mr. Scott Rather, two miles east and one mile south of Covington.

About the time we were getting ready to move a neighbor lady that we had all become good friends with, died leaving a large family. He wasn't able to take care of them, so he put some out in homes. One was about the age of Irey so the folks felt sorry for him. They adopted Emory, 10 years old. Then we moved to the farm. We all learned a lot. One time the boys saw a black and white kitty on the train track which went beside the farm. They tried to get the kitty off the track and it turned out to be a skunk. So mother had the boys bury their clothes for awhile and clean up. We had hard times with six children to make a living for. We learned to milk cows and usually I got more milk on myself than in the bucket. I can remember when the 64 highway was being built. They used horses to make the shaping and grading of the sides so the cement could be run. Men brought teams from all over the state to work on this highway. Even our father worked, then on week-ends. They would leave our yard full of wagons and teams for father to water and feed until Monday morning.

I was always tagging daddy around and one day when he was going to work some ground I stood in the gate to keep the mule colts from following their mothers that daddy was driving until he could get through the gate, to shut it. The colts kicked me and knocked me down. I was knocked unconscious for awhile. So I learned in farm life one had to be cautious. About two years later we moved over on Grandpa Irey's farm as he and grandmother had moved to Enid, where Aunt Iva and Uncle Raymond could go to high school. While here we still worked hard and learned a lot.

Daddy would put soles on our shoes, mother made all our clothes; boys shirts, underclothes and all we girl's clothes but socks and shoes. Some relatives would send us clothes they couldn't use any more and mother and Aunt Dora and Aunt Bessie would make clothes over for us. The boys worked with horses, helping daddy with field work, raising big gardens, milking a bunch of cows, hogs, chickens, turkeys, geese, ducks and guineas. We raised most of our living. All had to be done with horses. We would go to Douglas to church every Sunday if the weather wasn't too bad. A lot of the time, Uncle Joe's (Joe Gibson) would come along with hay bales and quilts over the wagons. We children, mother and Aunt Dora (Dora Piper Gibson) would set on bales and have lanterns in there to help keep us warm. Daddy and Uncle Joe would ride in the seat to drive the horses. He had a blanket and gloves made from a horse that had died that he had tanned. This was real warm and broke the cold.

I can hardly remember when we were just family alone. There was always someone staying with us; an Aunt Lib, Grandfather Irey's sister, stayed a long time; Uncle Sam Eisen and Aunt Iva; Grandmother Irey and Uncle Raymond. One time there were 13 of us. When Arthur was in the 7th or 8th grade, he had penumonia real bad. We used to have lots of snow blocked roads. This was the way it was when Arthur was sick. When he got over it the Dr. said he better not get it again. So mother, grandmother, Arthur and Raymond went to Colorado and stayed all summer so he could get over the penumonia better. They rented a restaurant and ran it to help pay their rent and bills. While they were gone, we girls learned to cook, wash and all of the things to keep up a home. We made bread, dressed chickens, even if we had to carry it to the field for daddy or the boys to kill for us. We learned to pick cotton, chop cotton, hoe corn. We all had a busy life and a lot of happy times.

To make Christmas money I would go at night with brother Arthur to hunt skunks and opossums. We had a good dog but the folks wouldn't let us use a gun so Arthur had gotten a hedge limb that made a good club. We would take it, the lantern and the dog, and when it got dark we would strike out. We were told to go just 1 1/2 miles north or 1/2 mile south. When the dog would bark we would start running in the direction we could hear the dog. When we got close I took the lantern and Arthur the dog and he would kill the skunk with the stick. They had to be careful not to ruin the hide for we didn't get much for skins if they were torn. We got 50 cents for opossums and 75 cents for skunks, if they had two stripes it was $1.50, depending on the season. Most every time we went out we came back with all we could carry. We didn't get stunk on except from carrying them. I'll bet we smelled anyway! Our noses would run and our eyes sure watered. The dog usually got the worst of the smell. I think daddy helped skin and stretch hides on boards with salt to cure them.

We picked cotton for Uncle Joe. In the fall, indians would come through from out west going to Pawnee. We would be coming home from school when they would be starting camp on Uncle Joe's east place in a low spot where a pond is now. That was always quite a sight to see. They were always trying to trade horses. Then we came into the days of cars and, later, tractors. That was when daddy quit farming for he tried to drive the car and ran it up a bank west of the home. He never could get the hang of tractors. Mother was getting tired of the hard work on the farm.

All of we children were getting married. Arthur had met a Covington girl, Ruth Boepple. They went together until she finished school and they were married. I had met Lloyd Truman Roberts at a square dance party. We went together three years and were married. Maudie had met and gone with Chester Paul Mercer from Hayward and they got married. Dorothy had met Ruth's brother, Edward Boepple, and gone with him. When she graduated from high school, they were married in Kansas. Irey met and married Anna Mae Murry in Kentucky. Later, Irey was drafted in the Army (World War II). Irey died June 19, 1979. Emory had left our family and went to Pampa, Texas, to his sister when he was a freshman or sophmore in high school. So he didn't come back to be part of our family. I lost Lloyd April 4, 1961. We all had children but Irey. They all were little at the same time and all grown up at one time. I had married Lloyds brother, Ellis Roberts, June 19, 1964, and he died February 3, 1979, with a massive heart attack.

(Note: My mother wanted to write this story including the Cutters and Ireys because if the family history isn't written up on these two families this information will eventually be lost history for future generations. Aunt Mude Daugherty is 92 years old and helped mother with a lot of the story. Esther Roberts Roever, 1980)

ROELSE-VERHAGA FAMILIES Taken from a history written by Elizabeth Roark Forsman

The earliest I know of this family is from the Napoleonic period. Some place in France on November 16, 1801, a girl child was born. Her name was Mattie Jacobs. Her father and some of her older brothers were drawn into Napoleon's armies. All of them were killed, her father on the retreat from Moscow. There was only one twelve year old boy left in the family to carry on the family line. Napoleon was getting short of man-power and was ready to conscript 12 year olds for his depleted army. The mother of the family decided that she had sacrificed enough to Napoleon, so she fled with her remaining son and at least two daughters, one of them was our Mattie, to Holland.

One of my history teacher friends says that Jacobs might not have been their name at all. During the French Revolution many of the aristocrats had to flee from the french rabble. They were called Jacobeans or Emigrees, and were being purged by the revolutionists. Many of these took the name of Jacobs and many of them fled to Holland. She says that the fact that they had the means to flee indicated that they were people of some means. She says that the peasants would have had to "stay and take it".

Anyway, probably in Westkapelle, on the island of Walcheren, Mattie Jacobs married Willebord P. Verhaga who had been born in Holland on October 8, 1803. They were married January 24, 1833. They had five children who died, but did have a daughter, Elizabeth, born in Holland January 27, 1940 who survived.

Willebord P. Verhaga, aged 41, and Mattie, aged 42 and pregnant, came from the old country May 12, 1844. Their son, Peter W. Verhaga was born September 25, 1844 in Rochester, N.Y. The family lived in Pultneyville, Wayne County, New York, until October of 1848 when they moved to Sheboygan County, Wisconsin.

Wisconsin seems to have been filling up in the area of Sheboygan County with settlers from Holland. Willebord must have had one of the original land grants. Their farm was almost surrounded by water. It must have been triangular in shape, with Lake Michigan on one side and two rivers on the other sides. It probably was nice and damp, like Holland. There was a waterfall nearby. It probably was located two and one half miles northeast of Osburg.

The family prospered and told their friends back home in Holland of the good land and good living available in Sheboygan County. Willebord was an industrious farmer and had built himself a bountiful farmstead. He was asked by some of his friends in Holland to examine the country around him and select pieces of property for them. A good many families came to Sheboygan County from Holland. Among them were the Roelse family, consisting of Jacob Roelse, born May 19, 1813 in Holland; his wife nee, Adriana Lous, born November 2, 1815; and their son Peter, born July 18, 1836.

My mother, Jane Adriana, says that the people came over the hill to the Verhaga farm like a swarm. They had one or two wagons, but most of them were walking. There was great rejoicing when old friends were reunited; and the Verhagas did their best to make their guests welcome. There were so many that the food was prepared in big kettles over the fires in the farm yard, and people slept everywhere.

The immigrant men were so eager to see where great-grandfather Willebord had chosen their land, that they insisted that they set out that very day to see their land. There were no horses nor wagons to accomodate all the men; so they decided to set off marching, going first to one new farm site and then another. Then they would see what each had drawn in the choice of farms.

The women were happy to stay at the farm and get themselves, their children, and their clothing clean. Then, too, there were some sick people with them. That was the tragedy. On board the ship a few had died and some of the guests were infected with cholera. As soon as Great-grandmother Verhaga realized the seriousness of these illnesses, she isolated those that were sick. They were kept in a certain part of the house, when there were too many of them, they had to be moved into a hay loft. The well ones had plenty of work to do, taking care of the sick. They continued to do the cooking in the yard, because it would not be contaminated there.

There was the problem of the children. The women decided to put all of well ones into a big hay loft over a barn some distance away from the sick people and the house. They put Peter Roelse, the eighteen year old son of Jacob and Adrianna (Jane), in charge of the little ones. The meals were carried to the barn, Peter would climb down for them and then take the food up to his little charges. The medicine that was the only preventative they knew of was a mixture of whisky and pepper.

The women put the bodies of those that died in a barn and waited for the men to return. Unfortunately, Jane Lous Roelse was one of those who died on July 10, 1854. She was one of those who had made the long journey in vain. When the men got back they had the bodies of some of their comrades also. Their benefactor, Willebord Vergaga, had been a quick victim of their scourge from ship-board. He had died on July 8, three days before Jane Roelse. They were buried in Gibbsville, Wisconsin cemetery, near Doctor Lappan's grave.

On November 15, 1854, Jacob P. Roelse and Mattie W. Verhaga were married in Sheboygan County. My mother always considered it a marriage of convenience. Mattie was left with a going farm on her hands, and two young children. Jacob was needing a farm and he and his son needed a woman to care of them. I guess that they never did get along very well. Jacob wasn't the manager and farmer that Willebord had been and she was older than he was.

On April 15, 1856, Elizabeth Verhaga and young Peter Roelse of the town of Wilson were married at the home of A. J. Hollebrand, Justice of the Peace at Holland, Wisconsin. To this couple 21 children were born. Five of the children died of smallpox within a week before the Civil War. The rest died in infancy, usually not a year old, mostly of "summer complaint". Of these 21 children, eight grew to maturity. These people were devout members of the Dutch Reform Church and believed that you took what God gave you and were grateful whether it was good or bad.

Because he had lost so many of his family with smal-pox, grandfather Roelse made it a point to vaccinate all of his children when they were infants as soon as heard about Jenner and his cow pox. He did the job himself and believed that if a little was good a lot was better. My mother had a scar that indicated that she nearly lost her arm from the vaccination. Another service that he performed for his daughters was that he pierced their ears when they were small because a pair of gold earrings was standard equipment for little girls.

Mattie's brother, Peter, had smallpox at the same time the five children died in one week. He survived and did his bit for the family by representing it as a soldier in the Union Army during the Civil War. He died at Sawtelle Hospital, near Los Angeles, CA. He went to war while grandfather stayed home and took care of the farm and family. Great-grandfather Jacob went to war, as did his son Isaac.

Grandmother Roelse always wore a black taffeta blouse and skirt when she dressed for church. She sometimes wore the colorful paisley shawl from India that grandfather had gotten for her on one of his trips back to Holland. Even her housedresses were dark and dull. She didn't have printed ones until my mother made her some in 1906 or so. Married women were not supposed to wear gay dresses. She had some jet beads and earrings and her plain wedding band that were not considered to undignified to wear.

I think that grandfather was strict with his children. He was the lord and master of the house and just naturally got the best of everything and had his own way. He visited us several times and he once told me he didn't like it as well at our house as he did at Uncle Isaac's because I was too nice. I didn't play tricks on him as Uncle Isaac's children did. Maybe I was too scared of him.

The family had moved to Wisconsin the year it became a state. In 1872 the grass hoppers had eaten the crops and grandfather decided to move to Iowa where the land was good and there were no grasshoppers. The arrived at Hospers Station, Sioux County, Iowa on October 5, 1872. There was, and still is, quite a Holland Dutch settlement there in western Iowa. Unfortunately, by 1882, grasshoppers had ruined grandfather's farm three times in Iowa. In October of that year they moved to Denton, Texas. While they were living on a farm, which I think was a few miles northwest of Denton, their french grandmother, Mattie, died. Also two girl babies. My mother said they were buried on the farm that had been called The Ridley Place, in the Parker cemetery seven miles west of Denton and one and a half miles south of the Gus Eagan place. Mattie was 81 years old and she had been a lot of places and seen a lot of things. I think she was blind, or almost blind, in her declining years.

After her death grandfather really made his home with Uncle Isaac. He came to see us once in Douglas, Arizona about 1913; and then again in 1915. During the latter visit he had cataracts removed from his eyes at the Phelps Dodge Hospital when it was on the north side of 10th street. While he was lying helpless in the hospital, Pancho Villa attacked Agua Prieta, the Mexican town across the international border in Mexico. The cannon made so much noise and there were so many wild bullets flying around that grandfather thought the Mexicans were fighting outside in the street by the hospital. He was frantic with his eyes bandaged and demanded his money (he always carried about a hundred or so dollars for emergencies) and demanded to be gotten out of there. This was not very good for a person whose operation, at that time, called for absolute immobility of his head and body. In spite of this he did regain partial vision.

Because he was blind he had to be shaved by someone else. He had a mole on his face which got cut off frequently. During this visit it became malignant, or at least was recognized as such. In those days they didn't believe in surgery as it was thought that caused the cancer to spread, so there was nothing to be done. He wanted to go back "home" which was to Uncle Isaacs.

It is to the very everlasting credit to Isaac's wife, Mabel Irey Roelse, that she nursed grandfather in his last, long illness. He died at their home February 15, 1917. He is buried at Duncan, OK, I think. Uncle Isaac put up a stone on the grave there.

OBITUARY From the Enid Morning News, April, 1965

Services will be today at 4:00 pm in Henniger-Allen Chapel for Mrs. Mabel Roelse, 78, who died Sunday afternoon in a local hospital following a long illness. Rev. Bill Bushness will officiate with burial in Enid Cemetary. Pallbearers will be Tommy Atterberry, H.H. Williams, Gene Brumfield, Erman Swiggart, Harold Brown and Frank North.

Born in Newton, KS, Mrs. Roelse made the run with her parents, who staked a claim east of Douglas. She attended a country school northeast of Douglas. Mrs. Roelse was married July 1, 1908, at Douglas to Isaac Roelse. They moved to Chattanooga and returned to Douglas, living there until 1940, when they moved to Enid. She was employed as a practical nurse at Enid General Hospital for a number of years.

Mrs. Roelse was a member of the Davis Park Christian Church, White Shrine and Ruth Chapter of Order of the Eastern Star, to which she belonged for 60 years. She was preceded in death by her husband, Isaac, in 1953, an infant son in 1909, and a daughter, Mrs. Ed (Dorothy) Boepple, in 1962.

Survivors include: three sons, Irey and Arthur of Enid, Emory of Pampa, TX; two daughters, Mrs. Ellis (Ellen) Roberts, Marshall, and Mrs. Paul (Maudie) Mercer, Lewisville, TX; a brother, Raymond Irey of Waukomis; two sisters, Maude Daugherty, Waukomis, and Iva Brown, Joplin MO; 17 grandchildren and 14 great-grandchildren.

OBITUARY From the Enid Morning News, 1953

Services for Isaac Roelse, 76, will be conducted at 1 pm Sunday in the First United Brethren church with Rev. R. G. Trent officiating. Burial will be in the Enid cemetary under direction of the Henniger-Allen Funeral Home. Mr. Roelse died at his home, 720 East Broadway, early Friday morning after an illness of three months.

A native of Shelton, Iowa, he came to Oklahoma from Texas in 1904, settling near Spencer. He moved to Enid and made a permanent residence here in 1940.

Survivors include his wife, Mabel, of the home; three daughters, Mrs. Lloyd Roberts, Douglas, Mrs. Ed Boepple, Ellenwood, Kansas, and Mrs. Paul Mercer, Dallas; three sons, Ira, Danville, Ill, Arthur of Enid and Emory, Great Bend, Kansas; and 16 grandchildren.

Pallbearers will be Earl Newingham, Roy Grammont, John Fouts, Lloyd Carl, W. H. Leeper, and Billie Brabson.



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