Schooling the bride

Fair notification: The meaning of the title does not become clear until the end.

Lige, Delma, and Belle Howard Davis.

My wife’s great-grandfather Elijah Franklin Davis came to Indian Territory shortly after 1900 along with not just his mother and siblings but also some of their neighbors from the White River Valley in Taney County, Missouri. By 1903 he had married Leonia, one of the Gilstraps, another family that had come to the Arkansas Valley in the Cherokee Nation. They lost two sons in childhood and were separated by 1910 when the census finds them both back home. Lige is living with his mother, Melseena, and her new husband, Will Gilstrap. Leonia is in the house of her father, Will Gilstrap’s brother James. The only surviving child of Leonia and Lige, two-year-old Gladys, is with her mother. School census records show Gladys spent her childhood in the homes of her grandparents. Leonia remarried to Harry Raines, a union lasting over 57 years. When I first began researching my wife’s family in the mid-1990s the Internet barely existed and genealogy was far more dependent upon contacting libraries, courthouses, and distant kin either in person or by mail. It took some time to even discover that Lige Davis had been married more than once, let alone tease out the details. In addition to the lack of technological tools that are readily available today, the surname Davis is seventh most common in the U.S. which often poses the challenge of too much information.

With the advent of websites such as and services like Ancestry genealogy research is far less of a logistics problem than it once was. In fact, information routinely comes to the researcher unbidden. When I received some of Ancestry’s ‘hints’ tying Lige Davis to a third marriage it was naturally of great interest but a bit perplexing. No matter how many Davises there are, a record of Elijah F Davis marrying Mattie Stockstill with Elder J. F. Gilstrap officiating and Lige’s brother Riley Davis as one of the witnesses must be my man.

Headstone of Mattie J Davis and her daughter Lola. If these dates are correct this cannot be the wife and daughter of Elijah Franklin Davis, both of whom were alive in 1920.

The problem was that the records associated with Mattie showed her to be on the 1920 census with her parents AND buried near Gore at the White Cemetery with a headstone showing her death in 1917. The Findagrave memorial baldly states the contradiction. No matter how much broadband one has, that does not compute.

The Stockstill household on the 1920 Census with Mattie Davis and her husband Eliga listed after Mattie’s parents, and their daughter Lola listed last.

Mattie’s parents, Dan and Annie Stockstill, are buried at the same cemetery, as are several other members of the Stockstill family. The desire to fit the headstone to the known Mattie and Lola Davis is understandable. In fact, so far no record of Mattie after 1920 is apparent and Lige Davis did remarry in 1924 to Nina Belle Howard. There is also no definite record of Lola reaching adulthood. But the mother and daughter at White Cemetery have dates of death in 1917 and 1918 which suggests that they could have been casualties of the Spanish Flu epidemic. Efforts to better identify them have yet to provide results.

As mentioned above, Lige Davis remarried on Sept. 6, 1924, to Nina Belle Howard(Nina rhymes with China). Nina’s father Charley had to sign consent, as she was three months shy of 18. The couple made their home in Cookson and Lola, Lige’s daughter with his second wife Mattie Stockstill, is with them as evidenced by this remarkable school census card:

School census report from 1925 signed by E. F. Davis.

There is a second student in the household attending school district 67 in Braggs along with seven year old Lola. At first glance it seemed that there was another child of Lige Davis to account for, but a moment’s consideration made it clear that this was not a daughter but instead his new bride, using her middle name of Belle. Lige Davis signed the school attendance record as the parent or guardian of his wife. As odd as that sounds today, it obviously was not that unusual then as Lige’s brother Delton also signed as parent or guardian for his wife Maggie.

Lola appears on the school census again in 1926 but not after that, her fate is unknown at this time. Lige Davis died in Seminole of a heart attack while minding oilfield operations alone on the night shift in 1933, leaving Nina Belle to raise their three children, Velma, Delma, and O B. Nina Belle remarried in 1938 to a Bill Carnahan who died in 1945 and she remarried for the third time to Howard Eads in 1948 and he lasted much longer than seven years.