The Twibell family, circa 1910. Photo coutresy Ann Berg.

The Twibell family, circa 1910. Photo coutresy Ann Berg.

Pioneer Potluck: About our dad’s Kansas ancestors

  • By Ann 'Grannie Annie' Berg
  • Tuesday, February 23, 2016 4:03pm
  • LifeFood

The Twibell ancestry goes back to Monghan County, Ireland. John Twibell was born in 1760 and died in Montpelier, Indiana in 1853 at the age of 93.

My sisters and brothers, John, Ginger and Elaine, and Jim’s grandmother, Mary Francis Twibell McClure (known as Hattie), were descendants of this John Twibell. Perhaps that is where our dad, John Melvin McClure, got his name and why he ingrained in us, as a family living on a farm in northern Colorado, composed of mostly German, Russian community, that “You are Irish and don’t you forget it!”

My Mom, Loretta, would also say that to us and added, “So don’t do anything to shame your Dad!” I still hear those words!

The picture on Page B-6 shows how they dressed and how stern most of them were.

Center front is James and Laura Timmons Twibell. She died at age 102 years and 8 months.

Their children left front are: Vena Twibel (Jim Nelson’s mother) and her brother, Lester. Back row left is Ned, our dad’s mother Mary Francis (Hattie), Nora and Frank. The photo was taken about 1910.

This is an e-mail letter to me from cousin Jim Nelson, age 91. who lives in Salina, Kansas with his wife Janet. He is the son of Vena Twibell Nelson and Alfred Nelson. He has mastered the computer very well!

“I remember Uncle Frank. He lived in Oregon and drove a Packard Touring car to visit his parents every few year, James and Laura, who lived just outside of Westfall, Kansas. He had one daughter, Alberta.

“I can’t seem to remember Nora. She died very young from childbirth.

“Uncle Ned lived in Salina and we saw him several times a year. His wife Alice and he had a number of children. He worked in his later years as a security guard here in Salina.

“I well remember Grandpa Jim. He was a farmer and owned a quarter section east of Westfall. He sold his farm and he and Grandma Laura moved to Lincoln. He suffered a stroke and turned very violent. The only one he would let care for him was Aunt Hattie (Ann’s grandmother). There Aunt Hattie was with her big brood of seven kids having to drive her Model T, 15 miles to Lincoln each day. He soon passed away. Grandma Laura stayed on in Lincoln a few years. One school year, my sister Doris stayed with her and attended Lincoln High School.

“Then Grandma Laura sold the Lincoln house and had a small house built in Westfall. She lived close to Aunt Hattie until she fell and broke her hip. (Ann’s note: You may remember that ‘Grandma Laura’ whom use kids referred to as ‘Great Grandma Twibel,’ read to us the letters to Hattie from her sons who were station all over the world in WWII.) Grandma Laura’s hip was ‘repaired’ and she could walk with a homemade walker that sister Doris’s father-in-law, Harley McGinnis, made in his blacksmith shop in Westfall. Grandma Laura spent 14 years living with my parents Vena and Alfred Nelson and sister Lola. Lola was the caretaker. She always ended up emptying the pots!

“Uncle Lester was married to Bertha Howell. They lived in Westfall. He was the manager of the W.C. Wyatt Grain Elevator. The ‘buckets’ that took the grain to the rail head so that they could be loaded onto the railroad box cars, were powered by a huge one-cylinder engine, housed in a small building just outside the elevator. To start the engine, one had to stand on the flywheel to get it turning, then jump off. He didn’t jump! He opened a hole in the roof. We lived just 3/4 of a mile east. Someone got word to us. We loaded into our Model T Ford and drove into the village. The folks let us kids off at Uncle Ralph’s house. He had married Aunt Nora and after her death lived as a bachelor for many years across the street from Uncle Lester’s house. We sat on the front porch listening to the final groans of Uncle Lester, then the screams of Aunt Bertha and his two daughters.

“As a side note: Uncle Lester was given to much anger. Everyone was afraid of him. I well remember my mother, Vena saying to , ‘You are going to be just like you Uncle Lester!’ And I was, until I received the Lord as my Savior at age 19!

“Aunt Bertha was the postmaster at that time. I can’t remember when she and her girls left Westfall. The little building was moved a block to ‘main street’ and my sister Doris’s sister-in-law, Dolorous (?), was appointed postmaster.

“Later sister Doris and husband Thomas moved to Uncle Lester’s house. They lived there a number of years. He worked as a mechanic at his father’s blacksmith (Ann’s Note: The person who made the walker for Grandma Laura) until Thomas was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s. He was treated by the M.D.s at Salina and was dying. Archie Little a customer of theirs, came to see Thomas and said, ‘Be ready tomorrow morning at 5:00. I am taking you to Hutchinson — 60 miles away — to see my ‘doctor.’ That ‘doctor’ was a ‘healer’ and used all kinds of equipment to ‘heal’ people. Thomas was so weak he could not work any longer. That ‘doctor’ told him, ‘It will take some time to get rid of the poison that those M.D.s have put in your body and once you are clean, I will cure you.’ A year later Thomas was inducted into the Army, was captured by the Germans and was in a prison of war camp for many months. He was released and returned to Kansas where he lived to be 99 years of age. He worked in his shop until he was 86.”

Thank you Cousin Jim for your history-filled memories.

We must have longevity in our family. Dad’s youngest sister, our Aunt Alma who moved to Alaska at age 90, lived separately in a little house, that her son Hal built. Her granddaughter Billie Ann and four great-grandkids lived nearby. She was 98 years old when she got her wish “to go see Jesus” in Soldotna.

I had the privilege to discuss with her the ways of life in the “old days” compared to today. She told in great vivid detail of the trials of everyday living “back then!” I appreciate the continued history of our family and hope that you write down your memories for your families next generation.


Written with the help of the great the memory of cousin Jim Nelson, Salina, Kansas.

■ ■ ■

Pioneer Potluck is written by a longtime resident of Alaska, Ann Berg of Nikiski. Ann shares her collections of recipes from family and friends. She has gathered recipes for more that 50 years. Some are her own creation. Her love of recipes and food came from her Mother, a self taught wonderful cook. She hopes you enjoy the recipes and that the stories will bring a smile to your day. Grannie Annie can be reached at anninalaska@gci. net

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