Thomas Clayton, first son of Elijah and Mary “Polly” Calk, was born in Clarke County, Alabama, November 21, 1820. Polly was Elijah’s second wife. The name of his first wife is unknown but between the years 1789 and 1818 they had eight children. Six of these children were living in 1820, so Thomas was born into a large family of step brothers and sisters.
Clarke County, Alabama, is a fertile wooded part of the state. The country website describes the area as “diversified with hills and valleys” with rich soil along the banks of the Tombigbee and Alabama Rivers which form its boundaries. Since this was farming and timber country more than likely Elijah’s family depended on the land for their livelihood.
Early in the 1840’s, Thomas met and courted Mary Elizabeth Larrimore. They married February 4, 1847, in Clarke County. Thomas was twenty-six years old and Mary was seventeen. Just over one year later on December 6, 1848, their first son Early Jackson was born.
Thomas and his fast growing family remained in Clarke County for eight more years and during that time four more children were added to the fold – William Matthew (1850) Thomas (1852) Anna (1854) and Elijah Clayton (1856).
By the time of the 1860 United States Federal Census, Thomas and his family had moved to Red River, Sevier, Arkansas. The name on the record is incorrectly listed as “Cork.” Thomas and Mary’s family had grown by one – a one year old daughter, Sarah.
We do not know how long the Calk family stayed in Sevier County, Arkansas, but it is believed that in about 1862 Mary gave birth to another daughter named Molly before their departure.
THOMAS AND FAMILY HEAD TO TEXAS IN A WAGON TRAIN
Another Calk family researcher by the name of Wayne Calk shared this bit of family lore with me.
The story is passed down in my line was that Thomas C. family left for Texas in a wagon train and that Mary and the youngest child died on the trip to Texas. It was said that both died during childbirth. I accepted this as fact because I have never found Thomas or any of this children on the 1870 Texas (except William) census and I knew they were there in 1868 because of a marriage record I found. I finally found a newspaper [article] in an Oklahoma newspaper that mentions William Calk and sister Mollie who were meeting after not seeing each other for over 50 years. I finally found a husband for her by the name of George Danner (or Dammer). I’ve never found anymore info on them.
I have not located the marriage record mentioned by Wayne Calk nor have I found Thomas Calk on the 1870 United States Federal Census. So there is little we know about him during the years between 1860 and 1880. Of course, we have to remember that the American Civil War occurred from 1861-1865 and certainly affected the lives and livelihood of all people. I have not found a military record for Thomas and none of his sons would have been of an age to serve.
We do know from the 1880 census that Thomas was married Minerva Fitzgerald Collins Ray and they had four more children, Jerry W. (Jerry Walter), Iry Del (Ira Dell), Alonzo E. (Alonzo Evans), and Thurmenta (Lula Samantha). Also living with the family were children by Minerva’s previous two marriages – Columbus Anderson and Sarah E. Ray. The family was living in Frio County, Texas, and Thomas’ occupation was “farmer.”
Before his death Thomas and Minerva had one more son named John W., born in about 1884. Thomas died December 28, 1893 in Lytle, Atascosa, Texas. He and his second wife, Minerva, share a grave marker in the Benton City Cemetery in Atascosa County.
Ancestry.com. 1850 United States Federal Census [database online]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Ind., 2009.
Ancestry.com. 1860 United States Federal Census [database online]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Ind., 2009.
Ancestry.com. 1850 United States Federal Census [database online]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Ind., 2009.
Ancestry.com. 1860 United States Federal Census [database online]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Ind., 2009.
Early Jackson was the first child of Thomas Clayton and Mary Larrimore Calk. Their home at the time was Clarke County, Alabama, which is located in the southwest part of the state with the Tombigbee and Alabama Rivers forming its borders. I am somewhat confused about Early Jackson’s exact birth date. His tombstone inscription gives December 8, 1845 as the date, but three census records record 1848 and one records 1846. I am inclined to think the census records may be more on target since information for tombstones was often given by a person who may have been misinformed.
Like many other pioneers the Calk’s were a farming family living a rugged and harsh existence in Clarke County, Alabama. The 1850 United States Federal census records J.J. Calk, age 30; Mary Calk, age 20; Early Calk, age 2; and William Calk, age 0.
CALK FAMILY HEAD TOWARD TEXAS
By the time of the 1860 census was taken the Calk family had left their long time home of Clarke County, Alabama, and was living in Sevier County, Arkansas. Four more children had been born. The family of eight consisted of Thomas, age 40; Mary, age 31; Early Q., age 12; William M., age 9; Thomas B, age 8; Anna E. age 6; Elijah age 4; and Sarah Q., age 1. The census taker or transcriber misspelled the name as “Cork” as well as recording inaccurate initials for Early Jackson and Sarah Jane. Sometime after this census one more daughter named Molly was born before the family left Arkansas.
It is my feeling the Calk’s were on the way to Texas and may have stayed in Arkansas for only a few years. I have not been able to find either Thomas or Early Jackson on an 1870 United States Federal Census, so I cannot back up my suppositions. Perhaps the name is spelled incorrectly, but for some reason they have fallen through the “genealogical cracks.” This will require more research.
Another Calk family researcher by the name of Wayne Calk shared the family lore that while traveling on a wagon train from Arkansas to Texas, Mary Larrimore Calk died. It is possible she died while giving birth. If true, this story gives us an indication of the difficult circumstances our ancestors faced as they traveled into unknown territories seeking a better life. I am amazed at the strength and determination of these men and women.
Wherever the Calks were living during the 1860’s their lives must have been affected by the United States Civil War. Both Arkansas and Texas seceded from the Union in 1861 to join forces with the Confederacy. It was a tumultuous time no matter where you lived. I imagine it would have been a very difficult time to move and settle into a community, not to mention establishing a means of livelihood. Most citizens were called on to assist in the war effort, especially in supplying the military with needed resources. If the Calks were farming, it is likely they had to do their part.
The next time I found any information about Early or his father, Thomas, they are in McLennan County, Texas. Marriage records for both father and son were furnished by family researcher Wayne Calk. Early Jackson married Louisa S. Champion on June 1, 1867, and his father Thomas married Minerva Randolph Fitzgerald on May 25, 1868. Both marriages were in McLennan County. Calk family lore says Early’s wife Louisa died in 1872.
EARLY JACKSON CALK AND WINCY TITSWORTH WED
Early J. Calk is recorded on the 1880 United States Federal Census in Atascosa County, Texas. The census was taken on June 12. It is interesting to note that same day a marriage license was issued in Medina County, Texas for E.J. Calk and Wincy Titsworth. The wedding ceremony was performed by William C. Newton on June 20 in Castroville.
Evidently Wincy had previously been married and had a 6 year old son named Levi Carlisle (Carlyle). One undocumented internet source gives the first husband’s name as Bell. However, it is also possible her child was born out of wedlock. I found Wincy and Levi Titsworth (not Bell) on the 1880 United States Federal Census in Atascosa County, Texas, living with the John L. McCaleb family. The record states the relationship as “cousins.” Of course, this could mean they are cousins of John McCaleb or his wife, Elizabeth. As mentioned above, the census was taken a very short time before Early and Wincy married. Evidently, Early adopted Levi because he later uses the name “Calk.”
After their marriage Early and Wincy moved to Bonham, Fannin County, Texas, and it was there they had their first child. A daughter, Ethel Cleora, was born September 19, 1881. Over the next years their family continued to grow. From internet information I retrieved the names of several of their children but not much else. Clementine was born about 1882, followed by Maude in 1884, Helen in 1886, Granvill C. in 1889, and Early Jackson III on January 1, 1894. I have verified that Ethel and Early Jackson III were born in Bonham but have no information about the other children.
When the 1900 United States Federal Census was taken the Calks were in Bonham, Texas. They were recorded as follows. Note the misspelled names. Early J. Call, age 53; Nincy Call, age 45; and Early Call, age 4. Early’s occupation is “Farmer.” I do know that Levi, Ethel, and Clementine married before 1900, but since none of the younger children were listed it makes me wonder if perhaps they were no longer living. If that was the case, they faced a lot of sadness in their married life.
I do have information about four of their children. Levi married Martha Dell Davis; Ethel married George Franklin LeBus (my maternal grandparents); Clementine married John Ervin LeBus, George’s brother; and Early “Earl” Jackson III married Zora Maurice Taylor. Listed below are the children and grandchildren of Early and Wincy Calk.
Levi Carlisle and Martha Dell Davis Calk: Cleora Parilee Calk, Elizabeth “Bessie” Louise Calk, Mildred Bernice Calk, Daisy Dell Calk, William Carlisle Calk and James Ralph Calk.
George Franklin and Ethel Cleora Calk LeBus: Frank Leyburn LeBus, Hazel Annabelle LeBus, Archie Carlisle LeBus, Jack Blackburn LeBus, Irene Clementine LeBus, Roy Henderson LeBus,Laura V. LeBus, George Franklin LeBus, Jr., Ethel Marie LeBus and Donavel Calk LeBus.
John Ervin and Clementine “Clemmie” Calk LeBus: John Ervin LeBus, Jr., Margaret LeBus, Annabel LeBus and Johnnie LeBus.
Early “Earl” Jackson III and Zora M. Taylor Calk: Earl Calk, Jr. and Jesse William Calk.
Sometime after 1900 the Calks moved to Nocona, Montague County, Texas, located in far north Texas. It was there that Early Jackson Calk died at age 58, a young man by today’s standards. His tombstone gives his death date as May 15, 1906 and he is buried in the old Greenbriar Cemetery in Montague County.
If this narrative about Early Jackson Calk seems rather sketchy, it is because my primary sources of information were from the United States Federal census records. That made “reading between the lines” quite difficult. Nevertheless, I imagine that as a farmer he had a hard life trying to provide for his family, particularly during the years following the Civil War. If there is truth in family lore, he experienced the death of his first wife and several of his children. On a more positive note – he lived to see several of his children marry and have families. Early and Wincy were able to experience being grandparents and that must have been a source of great satisfaction.
Ancestry.com. 1850 United States Federal Census [database online]. Provo, UT, USA: The Generations Network, Inc., 2005.
Ancestry.com. 1860 United States Federal Census [database online]. Provo, UT, USA: The Generations Network, Inc., 2004.
Ancestry.com. 1880 United States Federal Census [database online]. Provo, UT, USA: The Generations Network, Inc., 2005.
Ancestry.com. 1900 United States Federal Census [database online]. Provo, UT, USA: The Generations Network, Inc., 2004.
“Arkansas in the Civil War,” http://www.civilwarbuff.org
Ethel Cleora Calk would have been amazed had she known about the rich, full life awaiting her in the future. I say this because she was born into a very modest home on September 9, 1881, in the small town of Bonham in northeastern Texas. Her parents were Early Jackson “Jack” and Wincy Titsworth Calk. Both of them had previously been married and Wincy had a 6 year old son, Levi Carlisle. Jack later adopted him.
According to both the 1880 and 1900 U.S. Federal Census records, Jack was a farm laborer. Chances are the Calk family lived a very simple life. I imagine that along with her family, Ethel learned to live modestly and frugally. In the years following Ethel’s birth the Calks had five more children – Clementine “Clemmie” (about 1882); Maude (1884); Helen (1886); Granvill (1889); and Early “Earl” Jackson (1894). I have little information on these siblings. However, it seems possible that Ethel had a lot of experience playing the role of “big sister” and, undoubtedly, was given a great deal of responsibility helping her mother in this busy household.
Sometime before 1899, Ethel met her future husband, George Franklin LeBus. He had moved to Bonham between 1880 and 1899. Family lore tells us that he was an inventive man with an entrepreneurial spirit, so I imagine him being a persuasive suitor. By the time they married, November 5, 1899, George had opened a blacksmith and tool manufacturing shop. I am sure they had hopes of growing a successful business, but little did they know that the door was opening to a life beyond their wildest dreams.
Along with a growing business, George and Ethel started their family with the birth of their first child, Frank Leyburn, born September 9, 1900. During the next few years while continuing to live in Bonham, the family grew larger with the births of two daughters. First, Hazel Annabelle was born January 23, 1902, and then Archie Carlisle, born December 1, 1904.
GEORGE LEBUS MOVES HIS BUSINESS AND GROWING FAMILY
George’s tool manufacturing business continued to grow, and in about 1905 his services were required in Madill, Marshall County, Oklahoma. He felt living here was important enough to move his family. While living there, Ethel gave birth to another son, Jack Blackburn, born April 17, 1906; and a daughter, Irene Clementine, born February 17, 1908.
By 1910 George had opened yet another place of business in Henrietta, Clay County, Texas. On the LeBus International website there is a brief history of the company with a few old photographs. One picture is of workers at the old Henrietta plant. So, as you might expect, George moved his family to this little community in north central Texas.
While living in Henrietta, George and Ethel added two more children to their family. Roy Henderson was born April 10, 1910, and Laura V. was born January 28, 1913. Unfortunately, we have no photographs of the LeBus family at this time of their life together, but I imagine it would have been a grand picture of George, Ethel, and their seven children. However, they are not finished growing yet!
ELECTRA, TEXAS BECOMES HOME FOR MANY YEARS
By 1917 we find the LeBus family in Electra, Wichita County, Texas. It seems that this little town grew somewhat when oil was discovered in 1911 and the Electra Oilfield developed. I believe this to be one of the reasons George wanted to bring his business to the area.
Living in Electra must have agreed with George and Ethel because they lived there for about fifteen years. During that time they would have three more children. George Franklin, Jr. was born May 10, 1917, and Ethel Marie came along August 6, 1919. Their last son, Donavel Calk, was born March 13, 1925. Sadly he died on March 22, 1925. I do not have information about the death of this child, but I think it was a tragic event in the life of this large family.
By the time of the 1930 U.S. Federal Census, the LeBus family had grown much smaller. George and Ethel are listed with their youngest three children and one servant. As expected, the older children married and had begun families of their own. The LeBus family continued to grow, but this time it was with the addition of grandchildren. Because I am one of those grandchildren, I know that “Pa and Ma” loved their grand-parenting role. Nothing made them happier than being surrounded by their children and grandchildren and hearing of their accomplishments.
GEORGE AND ETHEL ON THE MOVE AGAIN
George LeBus knew he had to go where there were business opportunities, so when the East Texas oil boom occurred, the LeBus family moved to Longview to open a machine shop in 1934. This company developed into LeBus International.
In 1938 George and Ethel decided to make yet another move, this time to Wichita Falls, Texas. They found a very large and beautiful home there and the one which became a legend in the family. They called it “The Big House.” In her autobiography, Lucy Ann Nance Croft remembers it this way.
As I try to recall memories of Ma and Pa LeBus’s home (Mr. and Mrs. George F. LeBus, maternal grandparents) in Wichita Falls, Texas, the word that comes to mind is “palatial.” The house I am referring to was the one I remember visiting as a small child; they called it the Big House. They purchased this thirteen-acre estate in the early 1930s and lived there for about twenty years. Amid my mother’s memorabilia, I found the newspaper clipping from the Wichita Falls Record News about my grandparent’s home.
‘George F. LeBus, who left Electra a few years ago to enter competition in the East Texas oil field at Longview, made his return to this area auspiciously significant when he purchased the baronial home name by which the estate is known to Wichitans, covers an expanse of 13 acres on Harrison Avenue in southwest Wichita Falls. The construction of the home is of brick and reinforced concrete, towering three stories and supplied with 19 rooms and six bathrooms . . . the architecture is English colonial. An ornamental iron fence surrounds the grounds, on which are, in addition to the luxurious home, tennis courts, tea house, greenhouse, rose arbor, rose garden, lily ponds, fountain and a four-car garage over which are comfortable quarters for two servants and laundry room.’ (Wichita Falls Record News)
I recall that even though my grandparents were quite wealthy, lived in a lovely mansion with a high-profile life, and had many children and grandchildren, they were both very loving and caring to each and every one of us. There was a lot of laughter, visiting, and hugging in the Big House. Large family holiday gatherings, lively dinners, reunions, birthdays, and dances in the ballroom in the basement were not unusual in such a large family. As Ma said, “it takes a lot of living in a house to make it home.” My grandparents certainly accomplished that. (Croft, 25-27)
Ma LeBus loved “The Big House” with all its lovely furnishings and grounds. However, it must have been the glorious good times there that meant the most. It was, indeed, a luxurious environment. Best of all, Pa and Ma loved having family and friends gathered there to enjoy it with them.
As much as Pa and Ma enjoyed their big old house, a time came when they began to consider selling it. Even with servants, it must have required a lot of Pa and Ma to maintain such a property. Perhaps this was one of many reasons to sell “The Big House” and make a move. In about 1946 they made quite a big change after they sold the lovely home. Evidently they vacationed in California and liked it so much, they decided to move there! Some other family members moved there at the same time, so Pa and Ma must have led the way. Some of us recall taking summer trips out to visit them and hearing all the Hollywood stories. They lived there for about one year and I imagine it was a year long holiday for them!
At this time in their life together, Pa and Ma made the decision to move back to Wichita Falls. I suppose they felt it was really “home” to them. Undoubtedly, they had many long time friends there and deep roots in the community. I recall that they were especially involved in the First Christian Church. They built a lovely home on Miramar Street which was both large and comfortable. As always, it was important that their home be a gathering place for family and friends, and this home filled the bill having a spacious living room, dining room, kitchen, guest rooms and lovely yard.
After moving back to Wichita Falls, a very memorable event in the life of the LeBus family was George and Ethel’s 50th Wedding Anniversary celebration on November 5, 1949. It was, indeed, an evening to remember. Here is an excerpt from an article in the Wichita Daily Times about the event.
Mr. and Mrs. G.F. LeBus, who observed their 50th wedding anniversary Saturday, were honored guests for an elaborate reception held at the Wichita Falls Country Club. More than 500 family, friends, and relatives called between the hours of 7 and 11 o’clock. Hosts and hostesses for the affair were the couple’s eight sons and daughters, each sharing duties with his wife or husband.
On the occasion of their 50th wedding anniversary, George and Ethel were interviewed by Frances Hyland, a reporter for the Wichita Daily Times. Ma LeBus gives us an insight into her full, rich life being married to Pa for all those years.
It’s like a big party all the time,’ says smiling Mrs. G. E. LeBus in describing her family life. And, that’s easy to imagine because now, as Mr. and Mrs. LeBus are completing 50 years of married life, they are surrounded, quite frequently, by most of their eight children, 27 grandchildren, four great grandchildren, and the various and sundry ‘in-laws.’
Like all big families, the LeBuses enjoy being together and seldom let a day pass without seeing one another if it’s at all possible. And, all is quite congenial, the mother says, because they have made it an unwritten rule to laugh away any differences that might ariseAs they aged, both Pa and Ma began to have some health issues. Ma may have been frailer, but it was Pa who died first. On December 24, 1956, Ethel lost her beloved husband, George. Even with very good help and health care, along with family to keep her company, life after Pa’s death was difficult for her. After being plagued by Parkinson’s disease during her last years, Ethel LeBus died on October 1, 1960 in Wichita Falls, Texas. Here is an excerpt from her obituary.
Mrs. George F. (Ethel) LeBus,) 79, resident of Wichita Country almost 50 years, died Saturday afternoon at her residence, 2204 Miramar. Funeral services will be held at
2 p.m. Monday at the First Christian Church with Dr. George R. Davis officiating. Burial will be in Crestview Memorial Park under direction of Owens & Brumley Funeral Home.
Survivors include three sons, Roy LeBus, George F. LeBus, Jr., and Frank LeBus; five daughters, Mrs. Hazel Grizzle, Mrs. Paul Bilbrey, Mrs. C.D. Knight, Mrs. Denzel Morrow, and Mrs. Bennett Nance; and one brother, Earl Calk; 34 grandchildren, and 28 great-grandchildren.
Reared in Bonham, where she was born Sept. 9, 1881, Mrs. Ethel LeBus and her late husband were married at the home of her parents in that city Nov. 5, 1899…Always active in community affairs, Mrs. LeBus was one of Electra’s busiest P.T.A. workers, and taught a Sunday School class. In Wichita Falls, she was a conscientious member of the First Christian Church, the Woman’s Forum, and the Garden Club and for a time served as sponsor of the Senior-Junior Forum.
In her autobiography, Lucy Ann Nance Croft remembers her grandmother Ma LeBus.
Ma LeBus was a very affectionate, caring woman who would always reach out to me for a hug and a kiss. Having her family gathered around was extremely important to her. Even though she had servants who helped keep her home in beautiful condition, her house reflected her good taste and style in its design, art, and furnishings. If you were a guest, she was concerned about your comfort and gave you special attention. I think of her as a religious person but not overly pious. She and Pa were interested in their church (Christian Church) and were committed to its work and worship. (Croft, 41)
Ancestry.com. 1900 United States Federal Census. [database online]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2004.
Ancestry.com. 1910 United States Federal Census. [database online]. Provo, UT, USA Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2006.
Ancestry.com. 1920 United States Federal Census. [database online]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2010.
Croft, Lucy Ann Nance, Looking Back: Reflections On My Life, 2007.
Ethel C. LeBus, death certificate no. 62986,Texas Department of Health, Bureau of Vital Statistics, Austin, Texas.
Fannin County, marriage certificate no. 103410, vol. L, p. 508, Bonham, Texas.
Heritage Quest Online. 1930 United States Federal Census.
Hyland, Frances, “Mr. and Mrs. George F. LeBus Recall Events in Life Together During Fifty Years Since Marriage,” Wichita Daily Times, November 6, 1949.
LeBus International, Inc. (website), “The LeBus History,” http://www.lebus.us
Wichita Falls Times, obituary for Mrs. George F. (Ethel) LeBus, October 1960.