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Old West Kansas


Kansas Family History

Tales of William Henry AMSBURY

The Kansas Heritage Server would like to thank Deborah Zimmerle for providing this material.

I am a descendant of Harriet Amsbury McClain. And I wanted to pass on to you some information about our common ancestors William Henry and Matilda Amsbury. These are stories I have been told by my mother, Helen Abby Sheridan Bender, who heard them from her mother and grandmother.

Matilda Beckelhimer, according to my grandmother, and great-grandmother, probably went by the name Beehimer. (I am not sure how this was spelled as the story is also told that two of her brothers each used a different spelling for the name due to a mix-up on some sort of official government records, possibly military records.) Some members of her family used the name Beehimer after coming to the U.S. instead of Beckelhimer because it sounded less German. She and William Henry were married by a traveling preacher. The story goes that they wanted to go a bit farther west and couldn't join the wagon train until they were married. The minister came to town within a day or two of the wagon train moving out. Matilda was embroidering a white on white pillowcase for her future home when William came to tell her the preacher was in town. Matilda's mother immediately began preparations for a wedding, sending William out back to kill the chickens for the wedding dinner. The pillow case was laid aside and never finished. It has been handed down, just as Matilda left it on her wedding day, from one generation to the next. I have seen it, my mother now owns it.

I have also heard that William walked home from California after the Gold Rush, and that he had been gone long enough that when he got home his daughters didn't recognize him. They first thought that a tramp was in their yard and they couldn't understand why, when they told their mother about the tramp, she ran right out and hugged and kissed him. Then, they realized he was their father. William and Matilda also had a son born before he went to California, however, my mother can't remember his name. He died before adulthood.

Here is the story I've heard about why William joined the army in the Civil War. It seems his daughter Mary was engaged to a young man who wanted to buy a replacement for himself in the civil war draft. William would have nothing to do with Mary marrying a draft-dodger, so the young man went to war and got killed. Mary challenged her dad to put his money where his mouth was, so to speak, so he joined up himself. I also think that he was enough of an adventurer to have joined up anyway, even at his age, just for the adventure of it.

I have heard that William Henry Amsbury was rather deaf in his last years. Every day he would go into town to buy a newspaper and read it on the way home. One day, either William or the train was off-schedule and William was hit by the train on the way home. It seems he had the paper in front of his face, reading it, and couldn't hear the train coming. That is how I heard that he died.

Mary married James Lamar because he was the first man that asked her after her fiance died, or so Harriet said. They had four children. Lamar went to town one day to sell a cow and never returned. William Henry found out about it, and that Mary was in no financial condition to raise all the children alone. He rode horseback in a snowstorm to Mary's home and took the youngest two, both girls, home with him. One was four years old, I don't know her name, she only lived to be 14. The other was Emma who was three weeks old. William buttoned her inside his coat for the trip home. She lived with William and Matilda until she married. My mother met her when she came to Oklahoma to see my Great Grandmother Leni Leoti McClain Edwards. Mary eventually re-married and had another daughter. More than one of her daughters died of consumption at a young age.

Harriet Amsbury had five children by David McClain. Sons Julian, Perely, Elmer (who died as a child) and Herschel, known as Frank. Their daughter was Leni Leoti born in Ohio on March 17, 1871. She was my great grandmother. She married Perrin H. Edwards and went to Oklahoma with him. Perrin Edwards and Harriet McClain both went on the Oklahoma land run and took town lots in what is now Ponca City. I do not know what name Harriet used to register her claim. Harriet was married four times, although she only had children by David McClain. She would have been between her second and third husbands at the time of the land run, I believe. She is buried under the name Harriet Amsbury McClain McEwen. McEwen was her last husband and the only one to out live her.

Leni Leoti McClain and Perrin Edwards had three children. My grandmother Alta Matilda Edwards was the oldest. She was born in Kansas on November 13, 1891 while her father and grandmother were away officially registering their Oklahoma claims. Their other two children were Helen G. Edwards who married Jerry Hubbs, and Eric Stanley Edwards who married Ethel Long and later, Enid Newcomb. My grandmother married Philip Edwin Sheridan and had four children; Allen Cyril Sheridan, born October 31,1918; Freida Bell Sheridan born May 22, 1920, died January 3, 1927; Roger Philip Sheridan, born March 15, 1922; and Helen Abby Sheridan born December 3, 1927. Helen married Chester Earl Bender Jr. in 1951 and they had three children, Deborah (that's me) born April 10, 1953, Esther born May 2, 1956, and David Charles born August 20, 1961.

My grandmother knew William Henry Amsbury and also "Uncle Frank" Amsbury and apparently visited them in Kansas when she was a child. My mother believes Grandma must have seen the wooden swing you referred to in your information. I am not sure of the form you used in your Family Group Information. I am very new at formally recording family history. I hope that the information below will make sense to you and let you see how it all ties together. I have visited Harriet Amsbury McClain's grave on several occasions. She is buried next to my grandparents Alta and Phillip Sheridan, and their daughter Frieda Bell. Perrin Edwards, her son-in-law is in the same cemetery in Ponca City, Oklahoma. Harriet's only daughter, Leni Leoti McClain Edwards spent the last few years of her life in Texas with her daughter Helen Hubbs and is buried there.

Family Group
William Henry Harrison Amsbury
Spouse: Matilda Beckelhimer (Beehimer)
F Child 1 Harriet Amsbury
Born: 2-Jan-1842In: OH
Died:In: Ponca City, Ok
Buried under the name Harriet Amsbury McClain McEwen in the Odd Fellows
Cemetery, Ponca City, Ok
Spouse: David McClain
Born:in: OH
Died:in: KS
M Child 1 Julian
Born:in: OH
M Child 2 Perely
Born:in: OH
M Child 3 Elmer
Born:in: OH(died very young)
F Child  4 Leni Leoti
Born: March 17, 1871  in: OH
Died: 1958in: TX
Spouse: Perrin H. Edwards
born:in: NY
Married: in: KS
F Child 1 Alta Matilda Edwards
born: November 13, 1891  in: KS
died: May 5, 1967       in: OK
Spouse: Philip Edwin Sheridan
born: October, 20, 1891  in: KS
died: February 10, 1964  in: OK
M Child 1 Allen Cyril Sheridan
Born: October 31, 1918    in: KS
F Child 2 Frieda Bell Sheridan
Born: May 22, 1920Died: January 3, 1927 (buried next to Harriet McClain McEwen)
M Child 3 Roger Philip Sheridan
Born: March 15, 1922
F Child 4 Helen Abby Sheridan
Born: December 3, 1927    in: OK
Spouse: Chester Earl Bender Jr.
born: May 29, 1926     in: OK
F Child 1 Deborah Bender
Born: April 10, 1953       in: OK
Spouse: Howard Edwin Zimmerle Sr.
born: January 4, 1959    in: IA
M Child 1 Howard Edwin Zimmerle II
born: July 3, 1981         in: IA

spelling for the name due to a mix-up on some sort of official government records, possibly military records.)

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