Arriving in Houston, Missouri late Thursday afternoon we first stopped at the local Visitor’s Center staffed by the Houston Chamber of Commerce. Despite not having much historical information they did give us helpful information about the area. We picked up a map and a few brochures and headed to the local branch of the Texas County Public Library. They had a wonderful genealogical section and we spent several hours there. Ruby discovered a tax record for the year of 1890 that listed our great grandfather Schuyler Colfax Langley and our great-great grandfather, which was a valuable record as it covered the time period of the dreaded destroyed 1890 U.S. Federal Census.
Research Tip: Look for alternative records to fill in the gaps left by the missing 1890 census-tax records or lists,
The next morning we arrived early to the Texas County Courthouse in Houston, Missouri.
We searched for our ancestors land records and found several land records regarding the Keeney family. Later we would visit these locations.
The Texas County Genealogical Society was only open for a few hours that morning so we stopped researching at the courthouse and went over for a couple of hours. The staff was so helpful. They located a file on the old town-site of Success that we had never seen before, with pictures of the old store and the house our great-great-grandfather lived in. So exciting for us.
We headed back to our Swedish Hideaway and spent the evening going over the information we found. I went over the land records we found and plotted out where they were so we could visit them.
We met up with our cousins, Bonnie and Renae the following morning. We’ve talked on Facebook but I had never really actually met them before and I was so excited to finally get the chance. Bonnie is my mother’s first cousin and Renea is her daughter. I wanted to hear the stories Bonnie had of the family and I was really looking forward to talking with her.
The four of us met up with our personal tour guide, Rick. He took us through a tour of Old Success.
The old town is long gone, nothing left and without help we would have had no idea where it was. Thanks to Rick’s generosity and knowledge we now know the exact spots where the old store and house were located, plus he told us that our great grandfather Schuyler had a drugstore there as well.
We never knew. In addition, he told us that locals in the area thought that the drug store Schuyler operated, was more of a saloon than a drugstore.
We also learned that a big part of the town was laid out for a public park and they had lots of activities going on there. Old Success also had its own phone service, it only served the town, no further. Progressive at the time.
Site of Schuyler Colfax Langley’s “drugstore” at Old Success.
After the tour of Old Success, we went to an old cemetery where our 3x Great Grandparents Joseph and Julia Carroll Langley were buried. This was on private property and because Ruby had the guts to call ahead we had permission to access the cemetery. You’re my hero Ruby.
The directions we had were a bit sketchy and as this was a large property we ended up in the wrong place, but it was an adventure. Good thing we were in a four wheel drive truck.
We did see a beautiful old homestead and the ghost of gardens past via our wrong turn.
We finally got clarifications about how to get to the cemetery and made our way there.
It was literally in the middle of a pasture, surrounded by a wire fence and lots of cow pies.
The cemetery was on land settled by the Fieldens. The Fieldens were neighbors of Joseph and Julia.
The cemetery was very small, and it was a mess. However, Joseph and Julia’s combined tombstone had been a bit maintained and we were able to get pictures.
There are several other people buried here but it looked like the stones had been bulldozed into a pile. Sad. Very Sad. Hopefully, someone will be able to rescue this little cemetery. We were fortunate that we were able to see it before it deteriorates further.
Following that backroad excursion we visited the cemetery where our great great Grandfather William Braz Langley was buried. He and wife Izza M. Browning Langley were buried at Ellis Prairie Cemetery in Ellis Prairie not far from Old Success. He made arrangements for his and his wife’s gravestone, the pavilion protecting them and provided the funds for its care.
That evening we took over the hotel lobby where Bonnie and Renae were staying and compared and shared our family photographs. Bonnie was a gold mine of information as to who some of the people were in our pictures and had wonderful stories to share that neither Ruby or I had heard. Hopefully, it was as fun for them as it was for us.
One of the stories Bonnie told us answered a question as to why one of my great uncles was nicknamed Dommer. Bonnie told us that during the days of prohibition my great uncles, Dale and Pat Langley, were moon-shiners and when the sheriff would come around Dale could run faster than a dominicker chicken, thus the name Dommer. Must be true. I found an article in the Hugo, Oklahoma paper that told of Pat on trial for possession of 96 pints of whiskey. No mention of Dale!
Bonnie also had several pictures I have never seen.
I enjoyed every moment of our research trip and I’m looking forward to the next.
I came away with a new understanding of the area and communities where my grandparents lived.
I encourage you to take your own genealogical research road trip and here are some tips that I hope will be useful.
- I Do as much online research as possible before you go. Review and be familiar with what you already know.
- Map out the places you know you want to visit, Google Drive Maps is a great tool for this.
- Your time may be limited so make a schedule, but be a bit flexible.
- Call ahead to the organizations you will be visiting. Sometimes the hours or days of operation have changed and they have not updated their online presence.
- Ask permission before you photograph or scan ANYTHING, some of these organizations are on a very tight budget and charge for copies to fund operations.
- If allowed use a portable scanner for pictures-such as the Flip Pal. I thought my phone would be enough, but a portable scanner eliminates glare and produces a sharper image. Lesson learned the hard way on that one.
- Be friendly, even if the staff are not. Be patient, show a genuine interest in their community and they tend to open up and become quite generous with sharing their knowledge.
- If you are there for just one day and the local organization or museum is closed that day, find contact information, it is usually posted, or ask at the courthouse or adjacent businesses, and call and see if they will open for you. Many of these volunteers are so excited for you to be there they would be happy to show you around and answer your questions. Never hurts to ask.
- Contact some of the donors of materials found at the genealogical or historical society if they are still in the area. They may have even more information, documents and pictures.
- While getting copies of info from publications, be sure to include the front and title page with all the publication information to use for your source citations.
- Take a notebook, plenty of pencils, and notepads.
- Follow the area’s Facebook groups that are focused on the history of your area of interest, they are usually administered by a local history buff.
- Contact members of the groups to meet up to get a local point of view and get a better history of your area. (I know you are smart enough to use common sense and meet in a public area.)
- Ask questions. Lots and lots of questions. Remember the basic reporter’s questions: who, what, when, where, why and how.
- Use a voice recorder because I guarantee you that you can not remember everything that was said during an interview. There are many free apps available for just this purpose.
- Make it a point to allow time at the end of each day to review what you’ve found and where you found it, so you can make a reasonably coherent source citation. It is so frustrating to find a document and realize you have no clue where you found it.
- Enjoy the trip and have fun.
I would love to hear about your research road trips and your best tips for getting the most out of your journey.