My family is a hardy bunch of contemporary Midwesterners and Floridians whose ancestors emigrated from England and Prussia over 350 years ago. One of the first of our kind to land in America, John Throckmorton, helped to establish the first Baptist church in the country in Salem, Massachusetts with Roger Williams before going on to found the city of Providence, Rhode Island. Ambitious man, apparently. Another of my ancestors served in the 1st Ohio Regiment during the Civil War and fought in the Battle of Shiloh, among many other battles over his three years of service. This is only a smidgen of the history I have found in my Dickensheets family tree.
Throckmorton? Dickensheets? (Don’t forget my Bieber lineage!) Go ahead, poke fun all you want at my family names, but know this – I have castles named after me in England! Moving on…
Most of my family, from centuries past and until now, is settled in Northern Wisconsin and Southeastern Ohio (only in recent decades have some of us headed south to Florida). There is a distant connection to the Ingalls family of Little House fame by way of my grandmother by marriage, but besides that most of our kind have stayed east of the Mississippi River with the exception of my daughter and me. However, a few weeks ago, my brother informed me that we were not, in fact, the first of our family to head this way…out here to Oklahoma.
Introducing Isaac Wentz – a grandson of the first Dickensheets to arrive here in America!
On Saturday, a friend and I took a drive out to Jones, Oklahoma, where Isaac and his wife are buried. It is only about 25 minutes away from my house in Oklahoma City but I found it a bit comforting that others in my family tree are nearby. So what if they’re dead?
The weather was a bit chilly but the sun was out, making it a near-perfect way to spend an afternoon in an old graveyard. I haven’t enjoyed a good old cemetery stroll since the last time I visited Savannah, Georgia. And no, the Jones IOOF Cemetery is hardly an elaborate showcase of burial vaults and historical markers, but the headstones served enough purpose to at least make me want to know more about these people who were alive when Oklahoma was only a territory, not even yet a state.
Did Isaac come to Oklahoma for something or to escape something back East where most of his siblings remained (good ol’ Grandpa Dickensheets had amended his will out of resentment, though I don’t know if Isaac or his mother were affected)? And why did he decide to settle in the small town of Jones? The Oklahoma Land Run took place long after Isaac was already established here with his wife and children. I know so little (read: nothing) about the history of Oklahoma, especially this region, and can’t imagine what could possibly make life so appealing here at the time.
Yet Isaac and I have at least something in common with each other – we’ve both left our families and all we know back East to make a life of adventure in the wild, wild West (even if my adventures really only consist of visiting long-lost relatives in nearby rural Oklahoma cemeteries).