John Riley Letter

Letter from John Shrader Riley to Tim Sharp (his grandson)
1/4/1985

Dear Tim,
You are asking for something which I can tell you very little. I was born 1-29-06 in Okmulgee, I.T. Why I do not know. Dad had married a girl in Sapulpa, but grand father Elijah Riley was teaching school in Okmulgee & I assume we moved there to be with him, later moving back to Sapulpa. Grandfather was born in Missouri 8-6-1852, don’t have the date of his death. He married a Maria 5-4-57 and died 12-8-1916.

Dad had 2 sisters, Charlotte Myers who lived in State College, Pa. I lived with her and her family during my senior year of high school & planned to enter Penn State but came back to Sapulpa when sschool was out & never did go back. Got a job with the Frisco R.R. and stayed in Sapulpa. The other sister was Lucinda Rudolph and I never did [know] what happened to her.

Grand dad was raised in Missouri where he attended Missouri University & obtained a degree in law which was in the early 1900s before Okla. state hood. He didn’t practice law but taught school in Okmulgee, I.T. Later he got in a poker game and lost his diploma to a shrewd person, erased Grandfather’s name and put his on & became a great criminal lawyer.

Dad had married a Nora Belle Harman who he met at the boarding house for RR men operated by her mother in 1882. Mother raised me as a sissy, taught me to cook, sew and everything about a woman. I never did outgrow it and would always rather play with girls than boys. She died in 1918 or 1919 of blood poison in an operation she had had.

Dad later [married] the nurse who had taken care of mother — Electra somebody. They had 2 sons (1/2 brothers to me). One lives in Sapulpa (Pat) & one died (Bub).

My first wife was Eddie Mae Snapp, born 10-27-1906 in Ingersoll, Okla., whom I married in 1924. We had 2 daughters, Marjorie and Shirley. We were divorced and I married Elizabeth Linch Locke, who lost her husband during WWII. She had one son, Charles W. Locke, who lives here in Bristol and teaches at Va. Highlands Community College in Abingdon. Monday 2-4-85 is our 40th wedding anniversary. We had Bill, his wife, Carol and son Michael over for dinner tonite. Eddie Mae died at 61 in Winfield, Kansas.About 15 or 20 years ago a man came into the store and said he had married a Riley girl from Chinquapin on the South Holoton River in Sullivan Co. He had lost his wife a few months before, who could have told me about 4 brothers who had built a log cabin in the wilds but all had moved on as they got older and in most cases took a wife.

I made 2 trips out there before I found the cabin, it had been deserted except for 1 room for several years. It was pretty rough and by itself. No close neighbors and they wouldn’t tell me, a stranger, anything. He had a son in Florida and was leaving to live with him and promised to send me some information, which he never did. I figure one went to Missouri where grandfather was born & one to Bowen, Ill., where his father & mother lived. After his father died grandfather moved back there to take care of his mother. Since my mother had died, Dad got me a RR pass there & I spent Christmas & summer vacations with him. I was always his choice … called me Sunny Boy & anything he had I could get.

There were 3 boys (young men) & a girl about my age. In the winter time we’d take clubs and knock the rabbits out of the snow covered fence rows. We sold them for 5¢ each. In fair weather they would junk old cars for the metal. If I had some of those beauties covered with fancy brass trim & every thing I’d be quite rich but in those days old cars were not a collectors’ item, just junk to cut up and get out of the way.

The girl about my age helped grandfather with the house work and if I wasn’t hunting rabbits or junking I was generally at Grand Dad’s petting around on the girl, which we both enjoyed.

Tim, I am sorry I can’t give you much on the family tree. I got interested once after the man told me about the cabin but I couldn’t get anything.

Maybe the book will tell you some. There are several different groups of Rileys in the U.S. I think you’ll find us as being Scotch-Irish with pretty much pure blood in the early ones.

* * *
You talked about your paper job. I was state editor here for several years where I wrote local stories & put heads on wire copy. That was several years ago, before they started using shears & paste & then photographing the sheet for the press.

Write to me Tim & give me any news.

Love & prayers to you

Liz & Riley

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