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Gertrude Helena (Wood) Cordray

Surnames: Berrey, Booth, Cordray, Edwards, Fox, Holmes, McDaniel, Powell, Prowell, Rose, Seaman, Wood, Yeager.

First Memories of the Wood sons were: Floating the Missouri on a barge with all posessions in a covered wagon. The cattle were driven over.

The bunchgrass of midwestern Kansas was waist high and thriving still when Grandparents Clifton and Anna Mae Wood arrived via covered wagon on the plains of Comanche County in the late 1890's. They had three small sons: Harold Boyd, Ernest Clifton, and John Prowell at that time. A daughter, Barbara, had died in infancy and Samuel Basil was yet to be born as they settled there in Kansas.

Pettie County, Missouri, near Sedalia had been their home prior to this time and each had descended from early settlements from the state of Virginia. Clifton's descendants were of English origin and Anna May's name had been McDaniel, a descendant of Sir Thomas Edwards of Edwards Castle on the Island of Wales and of James N. Yeager who was a member of the Yeager Families German Settlements of Madison County, Virginia. They were to have relatives on both the Yankee and Confederate sides of the Civil War. Clifton was born in 1861 to Susan Anna Wood and Elisha Wood (1824). There were 12 living members of his family. The youngest Sam Mody Wood, also came to Comanche County, bought a farm near Clifton's and married Christina Booth. We played as children in their former sod house and were close 'friends' of these cousins. Anna May's sister, Rowena Dale McDaniel married Thomas Berrey and all had families and settled in Comanche County.

One of the most interesting stories I remember. Grandmother and our beautiful Aunt Rowena relating is of an eerie trip home from school where they crossed a wooded area in Missouri. They kept hearing a strange, loud, cry resembling a human distress cry; it came closer and closer--they ran faster and faster and just as they reached the corral gates near their house, a huge puma or mountain lion broke from the woods and dashed for them. Their father silenced it with a shot from his powder loaded gun.

It seems the first shelters each of the families had were part dugout, part sod homes and their teams were also driven in larger shelters, fashioned of beams over a small coulee and Grandmother tells of them dashing into the team's barn one frightening day when they were recovering from smallpox and a prairie fire raged toward their home. They doused wet blankets and hovered under them, with the frightened horses, and the fire skipped swiftly enough over their shelter so that all survived.

A beautiful orchard of cherries, apricots, peaches, plums, and apples was planted by them. We enjoyed the fruit and playing in the trees. They all missed the wooded Missouri landscape as Kansas has only those trees planted by these hardy pioneers in that particular part of the plains. Our Grandmother was the world's tastiest cook. Her perserves, jellies, pickles, cheeses and homemade breads and pastries were delectable, and our early childhood's were magic times when we were with Grams and Gramps.

We were to see all types of poultry raised; the plucking of the down from the geese made feather beds and pillows and we ate duck, goose, chicken and squab at their table.

Harold, the oldest son, married Hattie Booth, a sister of Christina (who married Clifton's younger brother, Sam). Their two sons were Clifton and Eugene and they have families and grandchildren. Ernest married Leone Powell and their son is Donald Ira, now a professor at Rice University, Houston, Texas. John Prowell, our dad, married Erma Mae Fox, whose parents, David and Jennie Fox, also resided and farmed in Comanche County, near Coldwater. Mom tells of her father trading their lovely, productive farm near Larned for the "sand heap" farm four miles from Coldwater. Granddad was a good carpenter and built a sturdy barn on their place. The trek from Larned to near Coldwater required several days and they camped and ate 'store bought' beans and apple butter, Mom relates.

The Fox family later traded the Comanche County property for a homestead property near Moorecroft, Wyoming.

Samuel Basil Wood married Gladys Rose and they had seven children, all born in or near Wilmore (and scattered about the world now). My uncles married the most wonderful of women and I treasure them all! Granddad Wood's living was from a few cattle; he raised and sold mules and the Mennonite's famous Turkey Red Wheat.

My oldest sister and I attended Pleasant View school taught by Zelma Holmes in 1924. I was sent as a companion to Sis Margaret and loved school with a rare passion, but I actually started first grade in Wilmore in 1925. There I attended the town schools for the next ten grades finishing schooling and preparing to teach in Sheridan, Wyoming in 1936.

The other children of John Prowell Wood and Erma Mae were Margaret, I--Gertrude, Jack Prowell, Harold Wayne, Dorothy, Eleanor, Virginia, and Norma Arlene. There were 21 grandchildren and are 40 great-grandchildren in 1980.

As a very young girl, I would say "When I am grown up, I shall marry a Wyoming rancher and live a most exciting life." That is exactly what I did. We were general managers of the great and famous PK Ranches throughout 34 wonderful and colorful years. I can think of a no more varied and exciting life, how I treasure it all.

Anna May and Clifton, Christian and Samuel Ernest, and Eugene Wood are all buried in the Wilmore Cemetery. Aunt Rowena and Uncle Tom Berrey and their son-in-law, Bernard Seaman and others of the Wood and Booth families are there also. Sam Basil and young son George are buried near each other in Medicene Lodge cemetery and the three generations of their descendants are carrying on the traditions and many fine endeavors.

Our Dad, John Prowell, lies buried about six blocks from my home in Sheridan, Wyoming. We find our many "Tuzzins", Aunts and Uncles very fine friends.

By Gertrude Helena (Wood) Cordray, Comanche County History, page 322, published by the Comanche County Historical Society, Coldwater, Kansas, 1981.

Related Links:

Thomas & Rowena BERRY

Comanche County, Kansas, United States of America

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This page was last updated 27 November 2003.