Cousins, and Forebears: A Family Reunion and a Road Trip
An Illustrated History
My mother had no brothers, only a single sister who had no children, so I had no cousins on my mother’s side. On my father’s side, however, I had seven cousins. Combining them with my three brothers and me, my Greider grandparents had a total of eleven grandchildren. In the 1930’s families did not travel casually as they do today so, with the family scattered through Ohio, Kansas, Oklahoma and Nebraska, we cousins did not grow up knowing each other. I did meet most of them over the years, as adults. In an October 2000 reunion, for the first time the seven surviving grandchildren of William and Emily Greider met together in the same place at the same time.
My grandfather, William Henry Greider, was born in Indiana in 1865, the year the Civil War ended. He tells the story of his early life in his autobiography, From Dawn to Dusk. An extended excerpt appears in Donald Grider’s recently-published book about the Greider family, The Greiders of the Chiques Valley.
As a young teenager, Grandpa ran away from an abusive home and from that time on he supported himself. When working on the Ira Dickinson farm near Manchester, Kansas, he met the family on the adjoining farm which belonged to George Tichenor and Caroline Lauer Tichenor. He reports that “he often saw the Tichenor children as they trudged past the Dickinson farm on their way to the Flora school.” As Grandpa put it, “Little did he then dream that fourteen-year-old Emily with brown hair, the eldest daughter and leader of the flock, was someday to become his wife and the mother of his children, and for nearly fifty years, up to the last day of her life, be his loyal and loving companion and helpmate.”
Emily Tichenor was born in Rochester, New York in 1870. Her mother was Caroline Lauer Tichenor, and her father was George Tichenor, the fourth son of William Tichenor, a dentist in Rochester during the 1830’s and 1840’s. William Tichenor’s career in Rochester has been documented in two interesting publications by Eugene Umberger, Jr. (Rochester History, Vol. LIX, No. 3, Summer, 1997, and No. 4. Fall, 1997, published quarterly by the Rochester Public Library).
William Tichenor had four sons: Enos, Henry, Horace, and George. The three older boys died before adulthood. The death of Henry, at age 18, was particularly grim; he was then employed as a brakeman on the Central Railroad and died in accident when he fell between two cars. This resonates with a story my father told me when I asked him why his mother’s parents left New York State for Kansas. His grandfather, George Tichenor, had a good job on the railroad, but his wife felt it was dangerous work, as demonstrated by the death of a relative in a railroad accident. She insisted on the move to Kansas.
William Tichenor also had three daughters: Bethia Augusta, Mary, and Emily. George’s youngest sister, Emily, was probably the person for whom my grandmother was named.
By all accounts, George Tichenor’s wife Caroline was a strong-willed woman. When once I suggested to my father that life on a Kansas farm with eleven children must have been difficult, he smiled and said that for his grandmother it was not so difficult because she was “an executive type.” Cousin Donna, who knew Caroline Lauer Tichenor in her later years, tells me that as soon as Grandma Tichenor arrived for a visit she began issuing orders.
In 1878 George and Caroline Tichenor left Rochester and settled on a farm in Kansas. Two sons died there, but the rest of their eleven children lived to adulthood. Emily — the oldest and, one presumes, one who carried out her mother’s orders — was teaching in a local school when she married William Henry Greider, also by this time a teacher. True to the conventions of the day, for the rest of her life she did not work outside the home. Their first child, my father, Harold William Greider, was born in August 1894 at the Tichenor farm. Grandpa was teaching elsewhere at that time but it was summer and I assume Grandmother went home for the birth. My grandparents lived in several towns in Kansas and, for a time, Grandfather served as school superintendent in Marysville. My father has recorded a tape of his memories of Marysville, which tape I hope to find and transcribe.
In 1903, Grandfather accepted a teaching position at the Topeka High School. He loved teaching and had concluded that he could “never be entirely happy in administrative work.” He spent the rest of his teaching career at Topeka High School, retiring from it in 1934. His children all grew up in Topeka.
My grandparents had five children; the youngest, Arthur, died as an infant. The other four posed for this picture in 1906, three years after the move to Topeka. All the family members of my father’s generation are gone now. My mother was the last. She died in 1999 at the age of 99.The four Greider children all married, all had children. My father married Gladys Elizabeth McClure and they had four children: David McClure Greider, Nancy Eleanor Greider Gluck, Richard Merrill Greider, and William Harold Greider. David died in 1966, only 39 years old. The rest of us remain.
Ruth Greider married Robert McCandless. They adopted two children, Robert McCandless Jr. (“Bobbie”) and Ellen. Ellen died in her twenties and Bobbie maintains no relationship with the family. We have been unable to locate him.
Ernest Greider married Genia. They had two children, Donna Greider Nance and Roger Greider, both still living.
Clarence Greider married Cornelia Widney. They had three sons, Clarence Edwin Greider Jr. (“Ed”), Robert Greider, and Kenneth Greider. Kenneth died about 10 years ago; his brothers survive him.
When we organized the reunion we were able to enroll the seven surviving and reachable cousins. In age order, they are Ed, Robert, Donna, Roger, Nancy, Richard, and William. Five of us are retired while Roger still teaches mathematics and William is a journalist.
After the reunion plans had been made, my brother Richard urged William and me to join him in a search for our father’s – and grandparents’ – places in Kansas. We visited there as a family only once. In the summer of 1941, probably because Emily Tichenor Greider was in failing health, our family of six went to Topeka for two weeks. The family car could not hold us all, so some went by car and some by train. We stayed in my grandparents’ house and we all, even William who was only five at the time, have memories of incidents from that visit. Among the memories we share are the afternoon trips to Gage Park to swim in the enormous municipal pool and the climb up into the dome of the state Capitol building.
So we went back. After meeting in Kansas City, Richard, William and I went on to Topeka. The high school building in which my grandfather first taught has been torn down, but the fine new building completed in 1931 still stands and we visited it.
The Topeka High School Alumni Association has reprinted a history of the school, 1870 – 1932, and this history contains many references to my grandfather. He served in this building during the last years of his teaching career, but we most enjoyed his presence in the 1916 faculty picture which appears below.
We visited Gage Park and found there the descendants of the ducks that we fed. The pool is still very large. It was in this pool that I used and overused the water slide until I wore through the bottom of my bathing suit. Humiliated, I sidled back to the changing rooms hoping no one could see my bare bottom.
The state Capitol no longer lets people climb all the way up to the dome. We were happy not to feel obligated to repeat our earlier exploit.
We looked for three addresses at which William Henry Greider and family lived at various times. Two of the houses had been torn down, including the one in which we stayed in 1941, and the third is in sorry shape. Grandpa would have been sorry to see its condition. As a teacher, he had his summers free, so he made a practice of buying a house in need of work, fixing it up over the summer, and then selling it or renting it. He also moved the family through a series of these houses.
Washburn College in Topeka, attended by all the Greider children, is now Washburn University. Only two of the buildings remain from my father’s time; the rest were destroyed by a tornado in the 1960’s.
From Topeka we drove to Manchester. My father’s Affidavit of Birth gives his place of birth as “County of Dickinson, Township of Flora, near Manchester.” A history of Dickinson County states that Manchester, founded about 1870, at one time had a railroad station, two hotels and an opera house. It is a ghost town today.
All of that area has lost its inhabitants. My greatgrandparents raised a large family on 80 acres of land. They weren’t rich, but they weren’t poor either. As we drove through the area, looking for our sites, we talked with several farmers and workers. One farm is 1200 acres; another, 1500 acres. A man with “a few hogs” means that he has over 700 of them. The changes in farm equipment – larger, more expensive – and the market result in many acres being cultivated by a very few people. We saw abandoned houses: the land around the house is cultivated, but the house stands empty.
We found the former Tichenor farm. This area is divided into sections, each one mile square, with roads running along the section lines. A quarter section is half a mile on a side, 160 acres. The Tichenors had 80 acres located on Camp Road and 3400 Road. Next to it is the site of the former Dickinson farm. Neither site has a farm house now, although a local farmer who stopped said that the Tichenor house was occupied until about 15 years ago when, after a change in ownership, the new owners bulldozed the house and surrounding trees and burned them. Land is valuable and, in underpopulated country, houses are less so – houses and the trees people plant around them interfere with efficient agriculture.
We walked back to the house site. Maybe something from the lives of those people would still be there. The site was chaotic with tumbled earth and dismembered stumps. All around were plowed fields and sprouting wheat.
As I started back I reflected on my recent visit to the Celtic artifacts at the British Museum and how many of them were discovered by farmers plowing their fields. Only a few steps from the former house, I saw something metallic, reached down and pulled a small iron casting from the earth. Cleaned up, it proved to be part of a child’s toy train or tram. I hope that my father, who spent many summer days at the Tichenor farm, may have played with it.
We went to Oklahoma City to meet our cousins, but first we went to Kansas to meet our forebears. As we came to know those forebears better, we also knew our cousins better. We cousins share those teachers, those farmers, this land.
Nancy [Greider] Gluck, January 2001
Postscript, August, 2012. Since our reunion in 2000, my brother Richard and Cousins Donna, Edwin, and Robert have died. Meet your cousins while you can.