On This Day: Birth of Clifford Lee Harding and Aubrey Nichole Laney

Clifford Harding was born October 17, 1942, in Iola, Kansas, and resides in Lawrence, Kansas.

Aubrey Laney was born October 17, 1991, in Plano, Texas, and resides in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Clifford is my uncle. Aubrey is my niece.

Siblings Clifford and Sandra Laney in Iola, Kansas – September 1943

My Uncle Clifford and my mother, his older sister, Sandra Joyce Harding (b. 1938), grew up in a very small town in southeast Kansas: Iola, in Allen County.

He and his family moved to Lawrence, Kansas, in the late 1950s.

He took up farming with his father, and he eventually took over the Harding family farm and manages it to this day.

He has been married and divorced three times and has an adult daughter, Kathy Lee “Katy” Harding (b. 1987), from his third marriage.

Clifford continues to work the land, spend time with his beloved dogs, and follow KU Basketball.

Aubrey and Kevin Hammett – October 2017

Aubrey Laney is proud of her birthplace, especially because her husband has ties to Texas as well. However, she and the rest of my brother’s family did not remain in that state for long. They returned to Oklahoma where my brother and his wife began their married life together. Aubrey graduated from Owasso High School and earned a Bachelors degree from Oklahoma State University.

Members of the Laney Family in Texas: Standing, L-R Sandra Joyce Harding Laney (my mother); Garry Bruce Spector (my husband) and Susan Diane Laney Spector (me) pregnant with Melanie Beryl Spector. Seated, L-R: Chelsea Dyane Laney (my niece), Scott David Laney (my brother), David Arthur Laney (my father); and, on Scott’s lap: Aubrey Nichole Laney. Photo taken by Pamela Means Laney (my sister-in-law) in Texas in the summer of 1997.

She was married in Waimanalo, Hawaii, on May 29, 2018, to Kevin Hammett. They are expecting their first child—a boy—in December.


A family heirloom was recently passed along to Aubrey and Kevin: an infant coat and hat crocheted by her great-grandmother, Elizabeth Ann Williamson Laney (1915-2005). The set had been made many years before to be given as a gift. It would appear to have been saved for the perfect recipients!

On This Day: Birth of Jean Linton

Jean Linton was born October 15, 1921, in Denison, Kansas. She currently resides in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Jean Linton is my 1st Cousin 1X removed.

Jean Linton Hemphill at a granddaughter’s wedding in 2012

Jean Linton and her younger sister Frances Linton (born in 1924 and also still living) were the children of William Roy Linton (1881-1964) and Vida Cathcart (1890-1994)—my great aunt.

Jean left the farm of her childhood to attend Geneva College in Pennsylvania. It was there that she met the man she would marry: Willard Edgar Hemphill (1915-2003.) Like so many of my ancestors, it was a shared membership with the Reformed Presbyterian Church—with which the college has an affiliation—that figures into the story of how they met.

Willard and Jean Linton Hemphill

On May 18, 1943, the couple made Geneva College history as the first married couple to graduate together.


Jean Linton Hemphill, surrounded by her husband and three sons

The couple raised three sons, all of whom attended Geneva College. One of their sons became a pastor and served Reformed Presbyterian congregations in Shawnee, Kansas; Selma, Alabama; Westminster, Colorado; and Laramie and Casper, Wyoming, before recently retiring.

Vida Cathcart (Jean’s mother) holds her young half-sister, Ina Vera Cathcart (my grandmother)


Unfortunately, my personal contact with Jean has been minimal, largely due to distance. However, following the completion of my Masters degree in 1987, my first professional job was a one-year post as interim oboist with the Con Spirito Woodwind Quintet, which was at that time an ensemble-in-residence at Duquesne University. During my year in the Pittsburgh area, my mother and maternal grandmother, Ina Cathcart Harding (1911-2002)—Jean’s aunt—came from the Midwest to visit me. The three of us visited Jean at the Reformed Presbyterian Home where she resides today.

Because of the Internet in general and social media in particular, I have been able to get vicarious glimpses of Jean in recent years through the social media posts of one of her granddaughters. And in the process of researching this post, I happened upon a gold mine of information about Jean’s life in this beautiful tribute to Jean’s late husband, written by another of her grandchildren.

(It would appear that the Hemphill DNA is associated with high academic scholarship and a talent for writing!)

By all accounts, she is in good health and good spirits as she celebrates her ninety-eighth birthday!

On This Date: Marriage of John Wesley Laney and Cordelia Paris

John W. Laney and Cordelia Paris were married on October 15, 1877, in Greene County, Missouri.

John and Cordelia Paris Laney were my great great-grandparents.

John Wesley Laney’s father, John Laney–my 3X great-grandfather

John Wesley Laney’s father, John Laney (1817-1894)–my 3X great-grandfather–and his brother, George Marion Laney (1829-1893), had relocated to Greene County, Missouri, from Greene County, Tennessee in 1848. Cordelia’s father, John James Paris (1837-1884) was born in Kentucky, but sometime before marrying Cordelia’s mother–Rebecca Angelina Hampton (1836-1874)–he had moved to Greene County, Missouri. Rebecca was born in Tennessee, but had come to Greene County, Missouri, as a teenager.

The two were married and raised a family in Greene County, Missouri.

Marriage License of John Wesley Laney and Cordelia A Paris(h)

The couple had five children, the youngest of whom was my great-grandfather, Ernest Arthur Laney.

Interestingly, it appears that following John Wesley’s death, Cordelia married his older brother, Rev. Samuel F. Laney, who had become a widower four years earlier.

Rev. Samuel F. Laney and his first wife, Sarah Shockley Laney
The Monett Times – Monett, Missouri – 16 November 1917
Rev. Samuel Laney fought in the Civil War. (His brother John Wesley was too young to serve.) Samuel served the Union Army with the 8th Missouri Cavalry Volunteer Regiment, Company F.

John Wesley and Cordelia Paris Laney are buried together in Maple Park Cemetery in Aurora, Lawrence County, Missouri.

Rev. Samuel Laney and his first wife Sarah are buried together in Concord Cemetery in Ridgely, Barry County, Missouri.

On This Date: Death of Rachel Agnes “Aggie” Curry

Rachel Agnes Curry

Rachel Agnes Curry was born July 9, 1875, in Bloomington, Indiana; she died October 14, 1957, in Oskaloosa, Kansas.

Rachel Agnes Curry was my great-grandmother.

Agnes Curry and her family moved from her birthplace in Indiana to Jefferson County, Kansas, when she was five years old. She was one of six children of James Faris Curry (1842-1921) and Matilda Russell (1846-1913) who lived to adulthood.

At the age of thirty-one, she married Thomas Mathews Cathcart (1863-1947)—my great-grandfather. Tom Cathcart’s first wife—Lizzie Wilson (1859-1902)—had died as a result of illness, leaving him the sole parent of a five-year-old and a seven-year-old.

I do not know how he dealt with this loss and the extra burden that came with it, but I have to believe that marrying Agnes improved both his and his young children’s spirits and enabled my great-grandfather to more easily focus on farming.

In 1911, Agnes and Tom added another child to their family: Ina Vera Cathcart (1911-2002)–my grandmother.

My great-grandfather, Tom Cathcart, with the two children from his first marriage—Mark and Vida (standing); his second wife, Agnes; and their daughter, Ina—my grandmother.

Sisters: Agnes (78) and Vera (74) – October 1953

The last ten years of her life were spent without Tom, and the last three years of her life were spent at a home near Oskaloosa.

She wasn’t far from her daughter, Ina, though, as well as other family members. Three months before her death, she was fêted for her eighty-first birthday.

The Atchison Daily Globe – Atchison, Kansas – 18 Jul 1957
The Winchester Star – Winchester, Kansas – 25 Oct 1957
The Winchester Star – Winchester, Kansas – 18 Oct 1957

Agnes Curry Cathcart is buried, alongside Tom, in the cemetery alongside the Reformed Presbyterian Church In Winchester, Kansas.

On This Day: Birth of Robert Beattie Cathcart

Robert Beattie Cathcart was born on October 2, 1820, in Rocky Creek, South Carolina.

He was my great great grandfather.

Robert Beattie Cathcart was one of nine children born to John Cathcart (1789-1864) and Mary Harper (1789-1873), who were each born and raised in County Antrim, Ireland. The couple and their two small children immigrated to Chester County, South Carolina, in 1816. Robert was one of the couple’s seven children born in America.

Upon coming to America, the Cathcart family was welcomed into a growing community of Covenanter immigrants who had settled in South Carolina. These Scots-Irish believers and their ancestors had escaped religious persecution in the United Kingdom. They found religious freedom in the New World, but by the middle of the nineteenth century, the young country was becoming more and more polarized with regard to the practice of slavery. Many Covenanters found it increasingly difficult to reconcile their church’s and their own personal opposition to slavery with residing in communities where many others did not share nor appreciate their abolitionist beliefs and for whom the practice of slavery was considered essential to their existing way of life.

I have written previously about other members of my family who were Covenanters who elected to relocate to Bloomington, Indiana, another Covenanter enclave.

Suffice to say, my numerous Covenanter ancestors faced difficult choices as the country moved ever closer to civil war.

The very first generation of my Cathcart family to have emigrated from Ireland had been Robert’s grandfather, James Cathcart, Sr. (1763-1861) and his wife Nancy Jane Beattie Cathcart (1765-1845)–my 4X great grandparents. They left County Antrim, Ireland in 1816, accompanied by their eight children, the oldest of whom was John Cathcart–Robert’s father. John and Mary Harper had been married several years and had two small children at the time that they immigrated. Robert and his other siblings were born after the family’s arrival in America.

South Carolina Flag of 1861

It is possible that James Cathcart, Sr.’s brother, John Cathcart, Jr., immigrated to South Carolina as well; we know that his children did so. James’ brother Samuel Cathcart, Sr. (1778-1861) remained in County Antrim, but several of Samuel’s sons–James’ nephews– immigrated and remained in South Carolina.

Sons of Samuel Cathcart, Sr.--nephews of James Cathcart, Sr.-- who stayed in South Carolina as did their descendants.  The brothers were born in Bushmills, County Antrim and died in Columbia, South Carolina.

Pictured, left to right:
Robert Cathcart: 1811-1865;
George Hume Cathcart, Sr.: 1813-1859;
John Huey Cathcart, Sr. (in Citadel uniform): 1826-1908

James Cathcart, Sr., and Nancy Beattie Cathcart and seven of their children chose to remain in South Carolina. The eldest–Robert’s father John–did not.

In 1847, several years after his mother’s death, John, along with his wife Mary Harper Cathcart (my 3X great grandparents) and their nine children (including Robert) moved to Randolph County, Illinois, joining a burgeoning Covenanter community there.

Jannet White Mathews and Robert Beattie Cathcart on their Wedding Day – 23 Jan 1851 – Chester, Illinois
The original Bethel church, erected in 1834, where the Cathcart and Mathews families worshipped.

Robert was a young man by now, and it was here that he met a young Irish immigrant: Jannet White Mathews. Both the Cathcart and Mathews families descended from Scottish Covenanters, and both families were members of the Bethel Reformed Presbyterian Church in Eden, Illinois. Robert and Jannet were married in 1851.

As I detailed in a previous post, the Cathcarts’ life in Illinois was marked by tragedy with the couple having to bury five of their children there. Partly in the interests of removing his despondent wife from a place associated with such loss and grief, Robert and Jannet and their five surviving children relocated to eastern Kansas, settling on a farm near Winchester.

The family’s faith and the church community had been the center of their lives in Illinois, and Robert wasted no time becoming an integral part of efforts to organize and expand the Reformed Presbyterian congregation in their new home. Shortly after the family’s arrival, Robert was chosen for the office of ruling elder. He served the congregation in that capacity for more than thirty-two years.


Robert Beattie and Jannet Mathews Cathcart and their adult Children. Winchester, Kansas, ca. 1895.
The Winchester Star – Winchester, Kansas – 16 Feb 1900 (Note the advertisement for corsets in this photocopy of the print edition!)
The Reformed Presbyterian Church of Winchester, as it looks today.

Robert Beattie Cathcart, along with many other members of my family, is buried in the cemetery alongside the church he helped to organize. I have numerous living cousins who worship in this very church to this day.

On This Day: Birth of Omar Weldon Laney

Omar Laney was born October 1, 1911, in Joplin, Missouri.

He was my paternal grandfather.

Omar Laney was the only child of Ernest Arthur Laney and Norma Ethel Lewis, both natives of Missouri.

He attended Joplin High School, where he was a member of the ROTC.

He was married for a few years to Juanita Calhoun with whom he had a son, Billy Gene Laney. The marriage ended in divorce.

On September 6, 1936, Omar married Elizabeth Ann Williamson, my grandmother, in Joplin.


My father was born in June of the following year.

Omar Laney and infant son David (my Daddy) ca. 1938

The time the young family would have together was relatively short. When the U.S. entered World War II, Omar joined the Merchant Marines, spending long periods of time away at sea. He travelled all over the world, as you can see from the various ship manifests below.


I’ve always loved this photo of my Dad and his mother and her mother-in-law. This photo was taken on the streets of New York sometime during the war. I’m guessing that the three family members pictured here had travelled from Joplin, Missouri, and met my grandfather’s ship upon its arrival and were sight-seeing during his short leave. A camera buff, Omar probably took this photo.

I love how the photo captures the determined look on my grandmother’s face as she clutches my father tightly to her body. I read her expression as (1) a protective mother, perhaps fearful of dangers that might befall her child in bustling New York City, and perhaps (2) an anxious mother and spouse, knowing that her time with my grandfather was going to go by far too quickly and that all too soon he would be shipping out again. It’s also interesting for me to note how very young she appears in this photo.

Jayhawk Ordnance Works, built during World War II, was a large ordnance plant producing ammonium nitrate. From the story at left originally printed in an employee publication, it appears that Omar worked at Jayhawk prior to his military service and that he returned to visit while on furlough.

After the war, the former military chemical plant was privatized, and at one point it was the world’s largest producer of ammonium nitrate fertilizer in the world.

From a timeline of the history of MRIGlobal

After the war, my grandfather returned to Joplin where he lived all of his life except for a period of ten years when he and my grandmother resided in Lawrence, Kansas, where he was employed as an engineer for Cooperative Chemical Association.

My grandfather passed away in 1985 at the age of seventh-three, just before I graduated with my undergraduate degree

He lived to see the first member of his family—his son—graduate from college. And he lived to see my brother and me grow to adulthood.

My granddad and me, ca. 1963

I never thought about it before writing this post, but maybe my granddad’s vehicles—of which he was very proud—had something to do with my favorite color being red…??

My grandfather and me ca. 1964

I will always remember those times that I made him laugh and just how how subtle that hard-earned chuckle was—just like my Dad’s laugh. And, like my Dad, he had a little twinkle in his eye when he smiled or when he was thinking of playing a prank. He had many interests and had many dreams and aspirations that were sadly just out of reach for him, mostly for health reasons.

I will treasure always my memories of my grandfather, particularly at those holiday gatherings that I know he loved so much. I will also treasure the memory of the special effort that he and my grandmother made to attend the recital I gave as a senior in high school.

And just maybe I will think of him the next time I’m in need of a new vehicle and debating about a color choice!

On This Day: Marriage of David Williamson and Anna Young

David Williamson and Anna Young were married on September 26, 1872, in Perthshire, Scotland

David and Anna Young Williamson were my great great grandparents.

Scotland as it would have looked at the time of my great great grandparents’ births.
Map of Scotland – Tallis, John & Frederick (fl. ca. 1846-1850); drawn & engraved by J. Rapkin

David Williamson was born June 27, 1846, in Crawford, Lanarkshire, Scotland. He was one of seven children. He and at least one of his brothers were coal miners. His brother William Williamson, who attended University of Edinburgh, reportedly managed a coal mine for Queen Victoria!

Anna M. Young was born April 11, 1851, in Cargill, Perthshire, Scotland. She was one of eleven children. She married David Williamson in Perthshire.

Post card of mining site – Galena, Cherokee County, Kansas (ca. 1890-1910)

The couple and their five children immigrated to Crawford County, Kansas, in 1887. Their sixth child, my great grandfather, was born shortly after the family’s arrival. David’s brother William immigrated at about the same time. The two brothers worked in the mines of Southeast Kansas.


Anna Young Williamson, surrounded by her children and family dog. Photo taken shortly after the birth of my great grandfather in 1888. He is the toddler, clutching his mother’s skirt.
The Pittsburg Headlight – Pittsburg, Kansas – 12 May 1892

Family lore has it that David had some issues with alcohol (and perhaps owned a saloon at one time?) Local newspaper accounts of the time paint a picture of an immigrant who had money troubles and who ran afoul of the law, serving time in Girard, Kansas, as well as in Leavenworth. It appears he abandoned his home and family on several occasions.

His oldest son appears to have been involved with his father in a scheme of cashing out their business, skipping town, and leaving their creditors in the lurch.

The Leavenworth Times – Leavenworth, Kansas – 22 Jan 1898

At some point, David ended up living with this son and his family in Witt, Montgomery County, Illinois.

The Pittsburg Daily Headlight – Pittsburg, Kansas – 1 Sep 1893

Besides David’s own misfortunes, the brother that had journeyed with him from Scotland to America—William—was tragically killed in a mining accident in Scammon, Cherokee County, Kansas, seven years after the brothers’ arrival in America.

David Williamson died in Illinois in 1908 at the age of sixty-two.

Anna Young Williamson passed away in 1934 at the age of eighth-three.

Whatever unhappiness Anna experienced in her married life, she seems to have been blessed with loving and devoted children who, along with their own children and grandchildren, spent many happy moments with Anna.

Four Generations: Anna Young Williamson, her daughter, Jean Williamson Oliver, her granddaughter Anna Oliver Russell, and her great grandson William Oliver “Bill” Russell

David and Anna Young Williamson are buried in Olivet Cemetery in Pittsburg, Kansas.