I’ve Been Workin’ on the Railroad

Lola with Mildred

Lola with Mildred

Within two years after the birth of their first daughter Mildred, the young Ferguson family moved to Sedalia, Missouri. While in Sedalia, Tom took a job with the U.S. Postal Service as a railway mail clerk. This job provided a good middle class income for the family that would see them safely through the Great Depression of the 1930s. His route went from Sedalia, Missouri to Parsons, Kansas. While in Sedalia, their second daughter Dorothy, was born May 2, 1908. Clyde followed shortly being born on May 7, 1910.

In June of 1911 the family moved to Webster Groves, Missouri. Tom was transferred to St. Louis where he worked on the St. Louis to Sedalia line. Mary Elizabeth Baker, Tom’s mother, lived with the family in Sedalia and moved to Webster Groves with them. She stayed until the early 1920s when she moved back to Fort Scott, Kansas. Russ was born December 12, 1912 and Mary was born June 13, 1915.

Railway postal clerks spent long periods of time away from home. They loaded the mail onto the car, sorted, cancelled, and filled sacks with the mail for delivery to post offices across the U. S. The postal rail car, officially known as the Railway Post Office (RPO) car, located behind the locomotive, was in a precarious position in the event of an accident. In early days they were made of wood making the cars vulnerable to fire. Because postal rail cars carried mail containing money, jewels, and other valuables, they were often the focus of robberies. I’m sure Tom carried a shotgun with him while working. Railroad postal clerks were looked upon as the elite of the postal service and Tom Ferguson was one of them.

    Sorting the Mail on the RPO

Sorting the Mail on the RPO

Starting a New Life Together…the First Years of Tom and Lola’s Marriage

Tom and Lola Ferguson

Tom and Lola Ferguson

In the early years of the twentieth century, the Ferguson’s started their new life together in Kansas. Automobiles were not being produced for the general public so the main mode of transportation was via horse, wagon, or train.

 Family stories show that sometime after their marriage the couple went to Colorado where Tom became a hired hand on a ranch. Because Kansas was the crossroads for several train lines Tom and Lola most likely traveled by train. Tom grew up on a farm so he was probably used to the hard work, but we are not sure just what he did on the ranch. And no one knows the circumstances, but Lola wound up cooking for the ranch hands.

 According to my husband Dave, his Grandmother’s cooking was plain but good. She made great fried chicken and saved the hearts and livers for him. We make meatloaf using her recipe and Dave has fond memories of her Buckwheat pancakes. This has carried over into our life as Dave makes Buckwheat waffles for our grandchildren when they spend the night.

Ferguson, Glennie Button

A button from an article of Glennie Ferguson’s clothes

 How long the job on the ranch lasted can’t be determined. The Ferguson’s most likely returned to Kansas prior to the birth of their first child Glennie who was born on November 3, 1903. I can’t imagine losing a child, especially a young child, but Glennie died on August 15, 1905. How heartbreaking. Glennie was one year and nine months old when he died; Tom was twenty-five and Lola was twenty-two. How poignant is the button, taken from a piece of Glennie’s clothes, one of the few remembrances of that short life that remains one hundred and four years later. And as Glennie’s life ended, the life of a new child was forming within Lola, probably unbeknownst to the young couple at the time.

Tom Ferguson, Growing Up in Bourbon County, Kansas

The fourth of five children, Thomas Carrol Ferguson was born on July 23, 1880 to Thomas Bunn Ferguson and Mary Elizabeth Baker Ferguson. The family resided in the Fort Scott, Kansas area. At the age of three Tom’s father died leaving his mother to raise five children who ranged in age from ten months to eleven years of age.

 The 1885 Kansas census shows the family still in Scott Township. They most likely continued to live and work on their farm with the help of James C. Ferguson, their uncle, a farmer and living with the family. Mary, their mother, was a housekeeper. Tom’s sisters Rebecca Adaline and Sophia, and his brother Walter, attended school. Sammie, the youngest, was two. The Pope family lived close by.

 By 1895 uncle James was no longer listed as living with the family. The Kansas census shows that Sophia, Tom, and Samuel attending school. Rebecca (Ada), married to Charles Clary, lived nearby. At the age of twenty, Walter lived at home. No record remains but I believe that Tom and Lola knew each other from a very young age and both attended the same school. A friendship most likely developed that led to their marriage in 1901.

Ferguson, Tom Woodmen Association

Tom Ferguson in his Woodmen Association Uniform

Tom was a handsome fellow. His World War I draft registration paper shows he was slender, of medium height, and had blue eyes and  dark brown hair. He was a joiner. This is evident from records of the Kansas Odd Fellows Lodge No. 395. He joined the Modern Woodmen of America, a fraternal benefit organization formed to protect the financial well-being of families after the death of the breadwinner. “Members were protected with life insurance and also enjoyed fraternal benefits …”¹. The Modern Woodmen of America organization still exists today. In researching the organization I found that many men belonged to drill teams. There were pictures of the drill teams on their website wearing the uniform that Tom wears in this picture. I wonder if it is possible that Tom belonged to a drill team?


¹From the website of Modern Woodmen Association, https://www.modern-woodmen.org/AboutUs2/History/Pages/Timeline.aspx

The Genealogy Bug

The Genealogy Bug

I really can’t remember what started me on my search for my ancestors and those of my husband. Retired, I have several hobbies that I enjoy. Perhaps I became bored with those hobbies; all I know is that I am now addicted to genealogy and the intimate details of the lives of my ancestors.

I have to thank my sister-in-law Judy for her help in getting me started. She has been searching for information about the Ferguson and Pope families for many years and gladly shared what she had with me. Judy was fortunate to have been stricken with the bug while my husband’s grandmother, Lola Pope Ferguson, was alive. Although grandma Ferguson was late in her years she furnished Judy with information to get her started. Through time Judy collected information the old-fashioned way via snail mail and eventually with a subscription to Ancestry.com.

And to my benefit, Judy shared her data and pictures with me and sent me on my own journey into Ferguson land. For the next year I gathered information, followed blogs, attended genealogy seminars, and honed my skills. That work on all fronts continues today.