John Cobb Welch Story
John Cobb Welch Story


Laura Williams Welch

On a cold morning December 26, 1873, John Cobb Welch and Miss Elsie Butler mounted a horse and rode to the home of Jeff McGhee to be united in marriage. Mr. McGhee was a member of the Cherokee Council for Delaware District and was licensed to marry Cherokee Couples. His home was on Cowskin Prairie near the community we know as Dodge, Oklahoma.

Welch was born near the beautiful Valley River near Cherokee, North Carolina, December 26, 1849. He was the son of James and Lucinda (Parker) Welch. His father was one-half Cherokee and his mother was a white woman.

Elsie (Ailsey) Butler was born near what is now Mose Ridge Prairie on September 6 1856. She was the daughter of Reverend Elisha Proctor Butler and Dorcas Landrum Butler. Her father had made the journey over the infamous "Trail of Tears" as a small child and was reared in an orphan home south of what is now Chouteau, Oklahoma. Doracs Landrum was born and reared southeast of Vinita. Ailsey Welch was the sister of Susann Fox, Elizabeth Crittenden, John Butler, Aaron Butler, William Butler, and Reverend James Proctor Butler. At the close of the Civil War the Butler home was burned by "bushwhackers," and the family made a new home on Honey Creek, southeast of what is now Grove, Oklahoma. Near the new home a little chapel was built and was known as Butler Chapel. This little chapel remained active until it was taken over by the Southern Methodist Conference about 1927.

After the marriage of Cobb and Ailsey, they lived with and worked with his parents. The men were cattle buyers for a Kansas company, and the women raised geese to "pick" for feather beds and pillows, dried the wild fruit they picked in the summer, carded, spun, and wove the cotton they grew and did all the other tasks that pioneer women faced each day.

To this union were born six children -- Molly Ethel who became Mrs. John Ward, Cora Florence who became Mrs. A. P. Gentry, Jonathan, Alice, Betty, and Ausley A. Welch who married Irene Williams, a teacher in the Salina School. Mr. and Mrs. Aulsey Welch are living at Pryor, Oklahoma. Aulsey is eighty-seven years old, and Irene is eighty-two. [NOTE: exact date unknown]

Cobb and Ailsey's grandchildren are Veva Ward who died in childhood, Mont K. Gentry, Kenneth A. Gentry, (deceased), Butler M. Welch, and Gladys Abigail (Welch) Kozicki.

After fourteen years of marriage, the young Welches decided to seek a home for themselves on Cowskin Prairie, and Cobb set out to hunt for an all-weather spring to have water. All the years they had lived on Elm Branch, they had hauled water from Grove Spring, a distance of two and a half miles.

The search began and soon he found the spring that is now known as the Harlan Spring. He found a good building place for the cabin they would build, and Cobb went home happy. That beautiful spring was the main topic of conversation at the supper table that night. He had only to build a pen around it, and it was his. Next morning he went real early to do that, but a man who had eaten supper and heard the conversation, had built a pen around the spring during the night. A new search started, and another spring was found about a half mile west of the first one. A pen was built and a building place chosen. This land was the future home of Cobb and Ailsey and became a landmark on the old road from Southwest City, Missouri, to Vinita.

During the fourteen years they had lived with his parents, they had walked away from three little, freshly-mounded graves in Butler Cemetery. This would be a new life, and their new home would be as near to those little graves as the home place was.

That winter the logs were cut and hewed, a twenty by ten-foot cabin built, and they wanted to move before the spring work started. Ailsey had heard the cattle buyers tell how women in the other states had cookstoves, and her homemaking heart craved one for her home. At this time the U. S. government had made a payment to the people that was called "Bread Money." Cobb had his bread, for they had raised a small wheat crop and hauled the grain to a mill in Jasper County to be ground into flour.

The family made a slow, hard trip to Niosho, Missouri to buy a cookstove. The name of the little stove was "Dinner Bell," and what a beauty it was -- the only one on the prairie -- in fact, the only one in Delaware District, Indian Territory!

Finally moving day came, and Cobb, Ailsey, and the two little girls, Molly and Cora, started home. On the way, Cobb and a helper cut down two trees and sawed them into blocks just right to sit on, for they were to be their new dining chairs to place around their homemade table. The feather beds and straw ticks were placed in the bunks built on the wall, and Ailsey made the meat, potatoes, and biscuits for supper. Molly had carried a little bowl of wild honey to add to the first supper. (The writer has heard this marvelous woman relive this incident many times.)

The land was new and fertile, the grass was high, and the water was cold, clear, and plentiful. A man could fence as much land as he pleased as long as he didn't fence closer than one-fourth mile from his neighbor. Cobb began making rails, and fencing land. He was prospering. James Welch became ill and passed away, and the partnership was between Cobb and Lucinda Welch. The cattle buyers came to Cobb's house now and paid for the cattle in gold. No banks were in the Delaware District in Indian Territory. The politicians in the Downing party came, too, to discuss the good and bad qualities of the Chief.

Suddenly, the Strip Payment became a reality. Cobb controlled four head rights, and they had some gold buried so a new home was in the offing. Plans were drawn for an eight-room two-story house. All the framing for the house was constructed of walnut lumbr hauled from the Sam Fields sawmill on Spavinaw Creek. All the siding on the house was poplar that was hauled in wagons from Neosho, Missouri. This was a big and hard project, but by 1895 it was completed and also a twenty-acre apple orchard was set out. Ailsey was proud of her new home and worked hard with her chickens, turkeys, and geese to have money to furnish it. God placed His hand on this devout Christian woman, and her wishes were fulfilled. Most of the furniture came from the famous "Splitlog Sale."

About this time, a stranger came into the area and made tests of some of the Welch soil. He reported that clay was available to make red soft brick. The kilns were built and the excavation was begun. Lots of brick were made. Some of them were donated to build the little Missionary Baptist Church that was built in Grove, Oklahoma. Lucinda Welch was a charter member of this church, and the donation honored her memory.

In 1900 the Frisco Railroad built a line from Rogers, Arkansas, to Grove, Oklahoma. It ran through the center of the Welch farm -- sometimes setting his corn fields or wheat fields on fire and sometimes killing the stock. The first time that passengers rode on this new train was on an excursion run from Grove to Southwest City, Missouri for a New Year's Eve dance.

Times were changing rapidly in Indian Territory. The Dawes Commission had enrolled all eligible Cherokees, determining who were eligible and who were impostors.

Statehood (1907) was just around the corner, and the older men began to feel insecure. Cobb was determined an excessive landowner, and his roll number 8780 and Ailsey's number 8781 called for each of them to be allotted sixty acres of land. That was a real heartbreak for them.

Hard work, exposure, and age began to take their toil upon each of them. Cobb's eyes began to fail him, and twilight settled about him and finally complete darkness. In 1927 a severe fall left him with a shattered hip joint. For two years he was completely bedfast. In 1929 sunset came, and in 1930 Ailsey followed him

They sleep in the Butler Cemetery surrounded by their parents, their brothers, and sisters, and their children and a grandchild. Could any place more beautiful be found to await the trumpet of the great Arch Angel?

written by Irene Williams Welch
(Mrs. Ausley Welch of Pryor, Oklahoma)

photo of the Cobb Welch family in 1885
photo of the Cobb Welch family in 1895

This site is dedicated to the memory of my parents, Tommy and Beulah (Cline) Nipper.

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