[Last updated: 5 June 2016]
Johan Friedrich Stembel (Great-grandfather)
Frederick Stembel (Grandfather)
John Stembel (Father)
OLIVER FREDERICK STEMBEL (1825 - 1887)
Oliver was born January 17, 1825, in Middletown, Maryland. He was John and Eleanor's 10th child, but at the time of his birth, he had just three older siblings: a sister 12, a brother, 11, and another sister 5.
When Oliver was about 7, his family loaded their belongings into covered wagons and moved to Urbana, Ohio. A few years later, his family moved to a farm a few miles northwest of Urbana. That's where he grew up.
In 1850, Oliver married Margaret Sharp in nearby West Liberty. He was 25. She was four years younger. According to a granddaughter, both of Margaret's parents perished in a flood in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, (not the Johnstown flood, however) and Margaret came to Ohio with another family, possibly as a servant.(1) Oliver and Margaret had five known children, all born in West Liberty, Ohio. Sometime after 1880, Oliver, Margaret, and their daughter Eleanor moved west in hopes that the drier climate would alleviate Oliver's asthma. They first moved to Kansas, but eventually settled in Valley City (Johnson County), Missouri, not far from the family of his late cousin, Jacob Stembel (son of Frederick Stembel, Jr.). Jacob's widow had moved to Johnson County, with her son and his wife, 20 years earlier.
It appears that Oliver's four sons eventually followed their parents to Missouri (although one returned to Ohio later).
Oliver was reputedly an avid outdoorsman who enjoyed hunting and fishing. He passed away in 1887 at the age of 62. Margaret stayed on in Missouri. She died 14 years later. Both are reportedly buried in Knobnoster, Missouri, but I was not able to locate their graves on a visit there, however. I have since been told there are no markers on their graves.
Oliver and Margaret's children:
A. John Bradford (or Benjamin). John was born October 20, 1851. He was raised in Ohio. In 1882, he traveled to Missouri with his brother Marcellus and a cousin, Albert Stembel, son of his uncle Joseph. He was about 30 at the time of this move. He eventually settled in Kansas where he married Mary Hoskins (he may have been married before). He and Mary had three children between 1892 and 1898: Roy, Willard, and John Benjamin. Soon after John Benjamin was born in 1898 something happened to the marriage because in the 1900 census John had a new wife.
The same 1900 census shows Roy and Willard living with their Uncle William (John's brother) in nearby Missouri.
John, Jr., on the other hand, was living with an innkeeper in Bonner Springs, Kansas, according to the census. Family lore claims he was crippled by a fall when he was a baby.
Curiously, John, Sr. was also living in Bonner Springs in 1900. He was living in a rented house on Shively Avenue with his new 18-year-old wife, Nellie Fry. They had a one month old daughter, Gladys. Even more curious, the census taker recorded 48-year-old John's age as 35! Also living with them were Nellie's mother, Catherine,(2) Nellie's 16-year-old brother, and a 49-year-old widow, who was boarding with them. Evidently this marriage ended soon after, for Nellie remarried about 1903.
According to a family member, John died sometime around 1928.
John Stembel's four children:
Roy died on Christmas Day, 1958.
At the age of 15 John was living in a special home for wayward boys in Chino, California. When the United States entered World War I, John enlisted. I'm not sure if he served overseas. At the time of the 1930 census, John was back in California, living in Los Angeles, California, and working as a laborer for the city. He was residing in a boarding house with the owner, Ella Westphal, 73, a widow whose relationship with John was recorded as his step-mother.
In the early 1950s John was a watchman at the city's water and power agency. In 1952 John was admitted to the West Los Angeles Veterans Administration Hospital where he died March 9, 1955. He is buried in their cemetery.
B. Marcellus Lafayette. Marcellus Lafayette, known as "Lafe," was born August 12, 1855, in Champaign County, Ohio. According to family tradition, when Lafe's father, John, moved his family to Ohio, they were accompanied by one or more of the Stembel's slaves. Once in Ohio, they continued to live with or near the Stembel family. When Oliver's second son was born, a former slave who was their nanny, was given the privilege of naming the baby. She chose Marcellus Lafayette Stembel.(5) This woman figures prominently in another incident in Lafe's life. As a child, Lafe sustained an injury to his arm and developed a severe case of blood poisoning. It spread to the point where the doctor was considering amputating his arm if it didn't improve soon. The nanny appealed to the family not to allow the amputation, but to let her apply a traditional poultice to his arm. Within a day of the application of the poultice, the infection was under control and his arm was saved.(6)
I believe it is highly likely that the Stembels who moved to Ohio freed their slaves and took them with them, although they don't show up in the census records (however, in the 1830 census a young black girl was living in the household of Frederick Stembel, John's brother, who lived in Xenia, Ohio, 50 miles south of West Liberty).(7) Though technically free, the former slaves probably lived with, or near, the Stembels and continued to work for them. I believe it's likely census takers ignored the free blacks living with the Stembels, or maybe the Stembels didn't volunteer the information to the census takers for whatever reason.
Lafe traveled to Missouri in 1882 with his older brother John, and a cousin Albert Stembel (a son of Joseph Stembel, Oliver's younger brother). Just before Lafe left, his Aunt Maria (Maria Josephine, Oliver's sister) gave him a Bible dated March 30, 1882. The Bible was last in the possession of his daughter, Mary Stembel Davis.
Evidently Lafe did not remain in Missouri very long, for just over a year later he married Emma Ida Clark in Spring Hills, Ohio (near the Champaign - Logan county border). They were married on Lafe's 28th birthday. Emma was ten years younger than Lafe. They had six children, two of which died in infancy
Lafe ran a blacksmith shop in the town of Crayon (Champaign County), Ohio, and farmed an 81-acre farm on shares after he was married. Later, he built a two-story building in Crayon, which had a general store with a post office on the bottom floor and an I.O.O.F. Hall upstairs. For a time he also had the region's telephone switchboard in a back room (his daughter Mary remembers working in the store and at the switchboard). Lafe worked as a part-time troubleshooter for the phone company after that.
Lafe and Ida lived in Champaign County until Ida's death in 1913. Lafe eventually moved to suburban Detroit to live with his daughter, Mary. He died there on January 11, 1934. Lafe and Ida are both buried at Spring Grove Cemetery in Millerstown, Ohio.
Lafe and Emma Stembel's six children:
William died March 16, 1949. After his death, Mary went to work for a coal dealer. She ran the office and handled sales. After the owner died, Mary ran the company for a few months until a buyer could be found. Then she quit working for good. I corresponded with Mary from 1986 to 1988; she provided information about her branch of the family. She died about November 18, 1989. Her ashes were placed next to her husband in the Michigan Memorial Cemetery.
C. William C. William was born February 2, 1859 in West Liberty, Ohio. In 1880 he moved to Valley City, Missouri according to his granddaughter, Peggy Taylor Palmer. He was 21 years old and unmarried at the time of the move. In 1896, at the age of 37, he married Ida Caldwell, a 23-year-old native of Missouri. Over the next 10 years they had four children. In addition, two of his brother John's children came to live with them (see John Bradford above).
William died in 1938 at the age of 79; Ida died in 1960 at the age of 87.
William and Ida Stembel's children:
Jesse died December 13, 1955, in Kansas City. Hazel's house was purchased by the state for the Crosstown Freeway, so she moved in with her sister, Gladys in 1971. Hazel died soon after, on April 6, 1972, in Warrensburg, Missouri. She is buried in Kansas City.
Hazel and Jesse Taylor's child:
D. Joseph Van Swearingen. Joseph was born on May 4, 1862. Joseph was a long-time family mystery. Mary Stembel Davis Joseph's niece) told me how one day he just moved away from his Ohio home and the last anyone heard from him was in 1896. I finally located him in the 1900 federal census. He was living in Thomas County, Kansas, with another family. He was single. He listed his occupation as farmer. Recently, I located him again when I found him listed in the 1920 census. He was working as a "Hired Man" in Wheatland (Yuba County), California, about 30 miles north of Sacramento. According to the census, he was 59 years old.
E. Eleanor Josephine. Ella, as she was known, was born January 9, 1869, in Ohio. Her family moved west when she was in her early teens, eventually settling in Valley City (Johnson County), Missouri. On September 14, 1890, she married Frank P. Lanham, in Johnson County. Sometime around 1903, they moved their five children to a farm near Tulsa, Oklahoma. Frank and Ella had four more children after the move for nine children in all (8 boys, 1 girl). All but one of their nine children remained in the Tulsa area and are buried in or near Tulsa.
Ella and Frank's only daughter, Sadie, married William Bratton in 1918. William was part Osage Indian and lived on the Osage Indian Reservation near Tulsa. After their marriage Sadie and William lived on the Osage reservation. Their seven children were 25% Native American and it appears they were raised as Osages. They owned a rather large homestead which they called Turkey Creek for the creek that ran through their property.
William's Native American heritage is thus: William's father, Isaac Tell Bratton, was a white man born in Ohio in 1862. He was living in Oklahoma in 1898 when he married a 16 year old Osage Indian, Josephine "Pah Skah" Long(8). William was their first born. For more about his family, click here..
Sadie Lanham's marriage to William Bratton, an Osage Indian, was fortuitous, for in 1907 all registered Osage Indians received an allocation of 657 acres in 1907 when Oklahoma became a state. They also received "headrights" to a share of all royalties paid to the tribe for oil pumped from reservation lands. Oil was discovered on the reservation in 1897. By the 1920s the market for oil had grown dramatically and by the mid-1920s the Osage Indians were recognized as some of the richest people in the state. This writer has not researched the impact this had on Sadie and William's family.
Incidentally, Mary Stembel Davis believes Margaret was working as a maid or servant for the Stembels at the time Oliver married her.
2. One possible reason for John's sudden change in age is that Nellie's mother was only 47 years old--one year younger than John! According to the census, Nellie's mother had six children and all were still alive. However, in the column for "Years Married" it says three, so she may have been widowed and remarried. Both Nellie and her brother reported their father's birthplace as England.
3. Personal letter from Marcellus Lafayette's daughter, Mary Stembel Davis dated August 26, 1986.
6. Ibid. (Lafe's daughter, Mary, said her father told her this, and she believes it happened that way because she has never known him to exaggerate.)
7. According to Helen Hoover Santmyer, who wrote a best selling book about her hometown, Xenia, Ohio, this is how the Black section of Xenia got started. She writes, "The East End [the Black section of town] had begun soon after the first settlement of the frontier village [of Xenia]. Virginians, Carolinians, and Kentuckians who disliked slavery came into the Northwest Territory to escape it, and a few brought their slaves with them, set them free, and sometimes bought them farms." We can assume Marylanders, a slave state, also did the same. [Santmyer, H. H., "Ohio Town, A Portrait of Xenia." Harper & Row, 1984. p. 87.]
8. In 1907, at the time of Oklahoma Statehood, Josephine was one of 2,229 registered Osage tribe members.
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