Mary Emeline (WILBOURN) MIDKIFF

Source: Midkiff, Mary Emeline Wilbourn. Photograph. Taken before Sep 1919. Reproduction of original photograph in the possession of Miriam Robbins Midkiff, Spokane, Washington. 2008.

Mary Emeline WILBOURN was my husband’s Great-great-grandmother Midkiff. She was born 11 Aug 1839 in Sandoval Twp., Marion Co., Illinois to Dr. John Wilks WILBOURN of Orange Co., North Carolina and Martha Susan DEADMOND of Bedford Co., Virginia. John and Susan’s respective families had migrated to Marion Co., Illinois by 1831, when they married. Mary was the fourth of nine known children which included Rufus K. (b. c. 1833), Denita Frances (b. c. 1836), James Manissa (1837 – c. 1837), John Henry (b. c. 1843 – bef. 12 Mar 1878), Aramanthe E. (b. 1846), Thomas Jefferson (1849 – 1942), Sarah Jane (1851 – 1940), and Benjamin Franklin WILBOURN (1854 – 1944).

The Wilbourn family moved from Illinois to Grayson Co., Texas between 1843 and 1846, and were prominent in that early community. It was there on 24 Jul 1859 that nearly-20-year-old Mary was wed to Charles Anderson MIDKIFF. They lived in Sherman Township when the 1860 U.S. Federal Census was taken; a time when trouble between the North and South was brewing. Charles served with the Texas Cavalry for the Confederacy, along with two of his brothers. About that time, the family moved to nearby Springville, Cooke Co., Texas. During the war, their two eldest, William Preston (1862 – 1936) and Charles “Anderson” Jr. (1865 – 1948), were born. Louanna Ellen “Annie” (1868 – 1940), John Franklin (1870 – 1926; my husband’s great-grandfather), Ethel Susan (b. 1874), and Thomas Jefferson “Tex” MIDKIFF (1879 – 1941) soon followed. An infant, Mae, did not survive.

The Midkiff family remained in Cooke County where they were enumerated in the 1880 U.S. Federal Census. Charles’ occupation was a miller. Sometime within the next few years, they moved to Lexington, Cleveland Co., Oklahoma Territory, where some of their children were married and their first grandchildren were born. Ever on the move, the family may have also lived in Pottawatomie Co., Oklahoma Territory, and were definitely residing in Delta Co., Colorado by 1902, where Charles was cattle ranching.


The Midkiff Family in Delta Co., Colorado. Charles and Mary are in the center, surrounded by their children, children-in-law, and grandchildren.

Source: Midkiff Family at Home in Delta County, Colorado. Photograph. Taken c. 1902 – 1908. Original photograph in the possession of John and Mary Lou Midkiff, Midland, Texas. 2008.

On 10 Mar 1908, Charles wrote his brother in West Texas from Hotchkiss, Delta Co., Colorado and told him he had sold his ranch the summer previously, as he had been injured when his mules ran away with him, getting caught under the wagon and breaking his left leg. Because of being crippled, he could not work the ranch in the winter when the snow was so deep. This injury was probably also motivation for Charles and Mary to retire after a few years to Chico, Butte Co. in Northern California, where the warmer climate and town living were more suitable for the senior couple. Mary’s mother and four younger siblings and their families, along with most of the adult Midkiff children with their families, also lived in the area; however, I haven’t done enough research to discover if the Wilbourns or the Midkiffs emigrated to California first.

In 1914, both Mary and Charles are listed on the Butte County Voters Registration. California had granted suffrage to women in 1911, nine years before the federal government did so. After Charles died in 1919, Mary lived with their daughter Annie until her own death in 1923. Mary and Charles are buried in unmarked graves in the Wilbourn Family Plot in Chico Cemetery.


The “empty” grassy spot in the midst of the Wilbourn Family Plot in Chico Cemetery is the final resting place of Mary Emeline (WILBOURN) MIDKIFF, and her husband, Charles Anderson MIDKIFF, Sr. The graves of Mary’s sisters can be seen in the foreground.

Source: Midkiff, Charles Anderson Sr. and Mary Emeline (Wilbourn) burial location, Chico Cemetery, Chico, Butte Co., California. Photograph. Taken 31 May 2006 by FindAGrave photo volunteer Laural N. D. at the request of Miriam Robbins Midkiff. Digital photograph in the possession of Miriam Robbins Midkiff, Spokane, Washington. 2008.

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Mary Emeline (WILBOURN) MIDKIFF

Source: Midkiff, Mary Emeline Wilbourn. Photograph. Taken before Sep 1919. Reproduction of original photograph in the possession of Miriam Robbins Midkiff, Spokane, Washington. 2008.

Mary Emeline WILBOURN was my husband’s Great-great-grandmother Midkiff. She was born 11 Aug 1839 in Sandoval Twp., Marion Co., Illinois to Dr. John Wilks WILBOURN of Orange Co., North Carolina and Martha Susan DEADMOND of Bedford Co., Virginia. John and Susan’s respective families had migrated to Marion Co., Illinois by 1831, when they married. Mary was the fourth of nine known children which included Rufus K. (b. c. 1833), Denita Frances (b. c. 1836), James Manissa (1837 – c. 1837), John Henry (b. c. 1843 – bef. 12 Mar 1878), Aramanthe E. (b. 1846), Thomas Jefferson (1849 – 1942), Sarah Jane (1851 – 1940), and Benjamin Franklin WILBOURN (1854 – 1944).

The Wilbourn family moved from Illinois to Grayson Co., Texas between 1843 and 1846, and were prominent in that early community. It was there on 24 Jul 1859 that nearly-20-year-old Mary was wed to Charles Anderson MIDKIFF. They lived in Sherman Township when the 1860 U.S. Federal Census was taken; a time when trouble between the North and South was brewing. Charles served with the Texas Cavalry for the Confederacy, along with two of his brothers. About that time, the family moved to nearby Springville, Cooke Co., Texas. During the war, their two eldest, William Preston (1862 – 1936) and Charles “Anderson” Jr. (1865 – 1948), were born. Louanna Ellen “Annie” (1868 – 1940), John Franklin (1870 – 1926; my husband’s great-grandfather), Ethel Susan (b. 1874), and Thomas Jefferson “Tex” MIDKIFF (1879 – 1941) soon followed. An infant, Mae, did not survive.

The Midkiff family remained in Cooke County where they were enumerated in the 1880 U.S. Federal Census. Charles’ occupation was a miller. Sometime within the next few years, they moved to Lexington, Cleveland Co., Oklahoma Territory, where some of their children were married and their first grandchildren were born. Ever on the move, the family may have also lived in Pottawatomie Co., Oklahoma Territory, and were definitely residing in Delta Co., Colorado by 1902, where Charles was cattle ranching.


The Midkiff Family in Delta Co., Colorado. Charles and Mary are in the center, surrounded by their children, children-in-law, and grandchildren.

Source: Midkiff Family at Home in Delta County, Colorado. Photograph. Taken c. 1902 – 1908. Original photograph in the possession of John and Mary Lou Midkiff, Midland, Texas. 2008.

On 10 Mar 1908, Charles wrote his brother in West Texas from Hotchkiss, Delta Co., Colorado and told him he had sold his ranch the summer previously, as he had been injured when his mules ran away with him, getting caught under the wagon and breaking his left leg. Because of being crippled, he could not work the ranch in the winter when the snow was so deep. This injury was probably also motivation for Charles and Mary to retire after a few years to Chico, Butte Co. in Northern California, where the warmer climate and town living were more suitable for the senior couple. Mary’s mother and four younger siblings and their families, along with most of the adult Midkiff children with their families, also lived in the area; however, I haven’t done enough research to discover if the Wilbourns or the Midkiffs emigrated to California first.

In 1914, both Mary and Charles are listed on the Butte County Voters Registration. California had granted suffrage to women in 1911, nine years before the federal government did so. After Charles died in 1919, Mary lived with their daughter Annie until her own death in 1923. Mary and Charles are buried in unmarked graves in the Wilbourn Family Plot in Chico Cemetery.


The “empty” grassy spot in the midst of the Wilbourn Family Plot in Chico Cemetery is the final resting place of Mary Emeline (WILBOURN) MIDKIFF, and her husband, Charles Anderson MIDKIFF, Sr. The graves of Mary’s sisters can be seen in the foreground.

Source: Midkiff, Charles Anderson Sr. and Mary Emeline (Wilbourn) burial location, Chico Cemetery, Chico, Butte Co., California. Photograph. Taken 31 May 2006 by FindAGrave photo volunteer Laural N. D. at the request of Miriam Robbins Midkiff. Digital photograph in the possession of Miriam Robbins Midkiff, Spokane, Washington. 2008.

New Genealogy-Related Websites

Interesting new (or new-to-me) websites I’ve discovered during the past week:

  • *South Dakota State Archives has started databases of Civil War veterans (both Union and Confederate) listed in Dakota Territory’s special Veterans Census of 1885 (hat tip to Leland Meitzler of Genealogy Blog). Also at this archive website, I discovered the South Dakota Newspaper Vital Records Index, spanning 1781 – present. Joe! You need to add this one to your website!
  • *Southern California Genealogical Society’s Virtual Surname Wall is now searchable. You can also add your own surnames.

New Genealogy-Related Websites

Interesting new (or new-to-me) websites I’ve discovered during the past week:

  • *South Dakota State Archives has started databases of Civil War veterans (both Union and Confederate) listed in Dakota Territory’s special Veterans Census of 1885 (hat tip to Leland Meitzler of Genealogy Blog). Also at this archive website, I discovered the South Dakota Newspaper Vital Records Index, spanning 1781 – present. Joe! You need to add this one to your website!
  • *Southern California Genealogical Society’s Virtual Surname Wall is now searchable. You can also add your own surnames.

The California Death Index on RootsWeb

I’ve been using the California Death Index at RootsWeb a lot this evening to look up Midkiff descendants for my husband’s family tree database. A distant cousin is preparing to publish a new book on the Midkiff family, and has asked that we submit updated descendant reports of their primary ancestors, Franklin Preston MIDKIFF and Ellender “Nellie” OLIVER. Of course, any living descendants will not be included, but there is much data in the family tree that needs tidying. I’m particularly looking up death dates and places in the various death indexes online, both state death indexes and the Social Security Death Index, for those descendants that are likely to be deceased (appearing as aged 80 or above in hubby’s database).

A couple of things I noticed of which other researchers should also be aware. The first is that the Soundex feature doesn’t apply to either the mother’s maiden name or father’s last name when running a search; only the surname of the deceased that you are searching for will have their name Soundexed. That may be true of the Metaphone feature as well (I haven’t checked). So searching for children whose mother’s maiden name is Midkiff, and using the Soundex feature will only bring up the exact Midkiff spelling under the category “Mother’s Maiden Name,” and not Medkiff, Medkeff, Metkeff and other strange varieties that I often see.

Another warning comes with possible errors in the California Death Index where it is linked to the Social Security Death Index, also on RootsWeb. I found that John Leland KIRBY, Sr., who married a Midkiff descendant, had the Social Security number 560-03-5333 linked on his entry in the California Death Index. When I clicked on the link, I was brought to the SSDI page for Louis ESCALLIER (“What the heck?!”). Running John’s birth and death year through the SSDI search engine cleared up the matter. His Social Security Number was 560-03-3333. Also, the SSDI states his birthday was 22 Oct 1899, whereas the California Death Index says 22 Sep 1899.

So which is correct? It’s hard to say, but my guess is that since the error for the Social Security Number came on the part of the California Death Index, then it’s more likely that the CDI’s birth date for Kirby is also incorrect. Looks like there was some sloppy data entry here (not that I’ve ever done that before!).

All that said, the California Death Index is a great help and guide to obtaining original records. I’ve been able to sort out relationships and find more family members by using this resource. By putting this data on our family trees and then uploading my GEDCOM to RootsWeb’s WorldConnect, I’ve been contacted by many Midkiff descendants over the years and been able to verify the information as well as share with them their family history.

The California Death Index on RootsWeb

I’ve been using the California Death Index at RootsWeb a lot this evening to look up Midkiff descendants for my husband’s family tree database. A distant cousin is preparing to publish a new book on the Midkiff family, and has asked that we submit updated descendant reports of their primary ancestors, Franklin Preston MIDKIFF and Ellender “Nellie” OLIVER. Of course, any living descendants will not be included, but there is much data in the family tree that needs tidying. I’m particularly looking up death dates and places in the various death indexes online, both state death indexes and the Social Security Death Index, for those descendants that are likely to be deceased (appearing as aged 80 or above in hubby’s database).

A couple of things I noticed of which other researchers should also be aware. The first is that the Soundex feature doesn’t apply to either the mother’s maiden name or father’s last name when running a search; only the surname of the deceased that you are searching for will have their name Soundexed. That may be true of the Metaphone feature as well (I haven’t checked). So searching for children whose mother’s maiden name is Midkiff, and using the Soundex feature will only bring up the exact Midkiff spelling under the category “Mother’s Maiden Name,” and not Medkiff, Medkeff, Metkeff and other strange varieties that I often see.

Another warning comes with possible errors in the California Death Index where it is linked to the Social Security Death Index, also on RootsWeb. I found that John Leland KIRBY, Sr., who married a Midkiff descendant, had the Social Security number 560-03-5333 linked on his entry in the California Death Index. When I clicked on the link, I was brought to the SSDI page for Louis ESCALLIER (“What the heck?!”). Running John’s birth and death year through the SSDI search engine cleared up the matter. His Social Security Number was 560-03-3333. Also, the SSDI states his birthday was 22 Oct 1899, whereas the California Death Index says 22 Sep 1899.

So which is correct? It’s hard to say, but my guess is that since the error for the Social Security Number came on the part of the California Death Index, then it’s more likely that the CDI’s birth date for Kirby is also incorrect. Looks like there was some sloppy data entry here (not that I’ve ever done that before!).

All that said, the California Death Index is a great help and guide to obtaining original records. I’ve been able to sort out relationships and find more family members by using this resource. By putting this data on our family trees and then uploading my GEDCOM to RootsWeb’s WorldConnect, I’ve been contacted by many Midkiff descendants over the years and been able to verify the information as well as share with them their family history.

The Legend of Joseph Josiah ROBBINS

See images of your Civil War ancestors’ Pension Index cards.

When I was growing up, one of the favorite things I loved to hear when I being tucked in bed by my father were the old family stories. Living in Southeast Alaska in the ’70s, no one had television, unless they lived in one of the cities like Ketchikan. So good books and other printed material, oral stories, and recorded music (once our little farm outside of town got electricity) were our main forms of entertainment. How grateful I am now for that childhood!

The one story I heard occasionally was of father-and-son ancestors, Joseph Josiah ROBBINS and Charles H. ROBBINS, who had both fought in the Civil War. Ol’ Charlie had had plenty of adventures and because my grandfather remembered him (Charlie was Grandpa’s great-grandfather) and attended Grand Army of the Republic reunions with him, those adventures which provided plenty of material for good family tales were quickly passed down the generations. Charlie himself helped proliferate the legend of his father.

Joseph Josiah ROBBINS had fought in the Civil War as an old man on the side of the Yankees, went the story. He had joined up because he already had military experience fighting in the Mexican War of 1848. While out West during in 1849, he had headed towards California to hunt for gold with the other Forty-Niners, but changed his mind and returned to his family in Pennsylvania. While in Union Army, he was captured by the Rebs and incarcerated in the infamous Andersonville Prison in Georgia. Conditions there were so terrible, that Joseph had gone blind from scurvy. In an interview by a reporter from a local paper not long before his death in early 1934, Charlie told of how his father had been a participant in a prisoner exchange, and thus had been returned to the Union Army. He had lived to be 99 years old.

Nine years ago this month, I sent off to the National Archives for a copy Joseph’s pension application. I believe I spent a total sum of $20.00 (those were the days!). I received 25 legal-sized photocopies of documents from his file, and what a treasure trove they were! First of all, they confirmed his service as a private in Company E, 58th Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteers from 26 September 1861 to 9 January 1865, with a little more than a year-long detachment with the 7th Massachusetts Battery. Joseph, although at age 41 would have been much older than most of the recruits, was certainly nowhere near being an old man! The records provided a first name and a death date and place of a wife we had never heard of, prior to his marriage of our ancestor. They also gave the date and place of marriage to my ancestor Marinda and confirmed that her maiden name also was ROBBINS (still working on how they possibly could have been related to each other!). There were all sorts of juicy tidbits including how difficult it had been for first his wife (who would have also been elderly during that time), and later his son and daughter-in-law, Ben Franklin and Helena (SWEET) SKINNER ROBBINS, to care for him in his elder years, blind and senile as he was. There were no nursing homes in those days, no respite care, no traveling nurses or Hospice services to assist the family.

The pension records confirmed that Joseph was indeed blind, and that it was related to his military service; but it lists in detail how that disability came to be. While Joseph was at Cliffburne Barracks in Washington, D.C. in early June 1864, he was hospitalized at Satterlee Hospital for fainting, bleeding from the nose, and chronic inflammation of both eyes. His biography in History of Manistee, Mason, and Oceana counties, Michigan…, which as far as I can determine, corroborates with all sworn statements in his pension records, describes the cause as sunstroke. A week after he was discharged at Chapin’s Farm, Virigina, he sought out both a doctor and a lawyer in Philadelphia and applied for his first Invalid Army Pension, stating that he had “lost almost the entire sight of both eyes rendering him unfit to follow his occupation,” which was farming. The pension records give a clear picture of the difficulties that Joseph and his family members had because of his disability from the time he returned home from the war until his death in Newfield Township, Oceana County, Michigan on 27 July 1905. He was 84, not 99, as son Charlie claimed.

Nowhere in his pension records is there any mention of capture, imprisonment, or a prisoner exchange. There is also no evidence that he served in the War with Mexico; but then, it’s not likely that information would show up in these records. Their purpose was to determine that Joseph had become disabled through his military service during the Civil War, and that he deserved a pension, as did his widow Marinda, after his death. Attempts I’ve made to verify possible service during the War with Mexico have led nowhere. In the Civil War Prisions database maintained by the National Parks Service, I have not been able to find Joseph, even though I’ve used a variety of spellings, first and last name combinations, and initials.

I believe that Joseph’s story was confused in his son Charles’ elderly mind with other tales he may have heard from his GAR comrades, or perhaps with the tragic tale of his best friend and step-brother-in-law, Angelo CRAPSEY, whose experiences in the infamous Confederate Libby Prison caused him to go insane and later kill himself after the war’s end. So although the account of Andersonville made for a lively legend, the real story of Joseph’s service during the Civil War was a fascinating account, nonetheless!

(See a photo of Joseph’s grave here.)
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Bibliography:

History of Manistee, Mason and Oceana counties, Michigan … Chicago: H.R. Page & Co., 1882.

Michigan. Oceana County. County Clerk’s Office, Hart. Death Registers. Joseph J. Robbins entry.

Robbins, Bryan H., oral history. Various dates from c. 1970 through c. 1984, at Robbins homes in Alaska and Colville, WA. Transcript held in 2007 by Miriam Robbins Midkiff,
Spokane, WA.

Robbins, Robert L., oral history. Summer 1989, at Midkiff home near Deep Creek, WA. Transcript held in 2007 by granddaughter Miriam Robbins Midkiff, Spokane, WA. Mr.
Robbins is now deceased.

Unknown. “Charles Robbins is One of First to Visit Hesperia.” Photocopy of typed transcribed undated clipping, c. 1931 – 1933, from unidentified newspaper, possibly in Newaygo County, Michigan. Owned 2007 by Miriam Robbins Midkiff, Spokane, WA.

United States. National Archives, Washington D.C. Civil War Veteran’s Father’s Pension Application File of John Crapsey, application no. 284,159, certificate no. 380,350.

United States. National Archives, Washington, D.C. Civil War Veteran Pension Application File of Joseph J. Robbins, application no. 60,087, certificate no. 193,978. Includes documents from Civil War Veteran’s Widow’s Pension Application File of Marinda Robbins, application no. 833,911, certificate no. 623,194.

United States. National Park Service, Washington, D.C. Civil War Prisons database, Andersonville. Online <http://www.itd.nps.gov/cwss/prisoners.htm>. Viewed 1 September 2007.

View the Brady Civil War Photos collection.