Volume 8, Number 4 - Summer 1983

A Search for Gayler Family
by Larry Gayler

On April 12th of 1982, I mailed out 150 letters to a list of Gayler families with a little information that I had accumulated from my father, Carson Gayler. This was the beginning of my search for Gayler family members and a desire to develop enough information to discover some of our family tree. My first goal was to gain information on my great-grandfather, James Barney Perry Gayler. Success. Within days of mailing this mass of letters, the phone started ringing, and letters started coming in with information on a number of Gayler families, some having traced their personal family lines back to England, Scotland, and Ireland. Most valuable were the letters from children of the sons and daughters of J. B. P. Gayler. With this start, and follow-up calls, and a trip to Mountain View, Arkansas, I had this part of the family pretty well documented, finding eleven children of this marriage with Amanda Clementine Parks. These children produced a total of (83) eighty-three grandchildren, one of whom was my father.

My decision to go back another generation required more research. The new Dallas Library has a geneological section. With the knowledge that James B.P. Gayler came to Arkansas from the family farm, later to the site of Branson, Missouri, I asked for help from a librarian to find what county that was in. She found that it was Taney County, and that it was founded in 1837, one of the oldest in the State of Missouri. With this information and the fact that J. B. P. Gayler was born in 1842, I pulled the microfilm showing the census records for 1840, 1850, and 1860. This is a very slow, deliberate, eye-straining job. There was nothing in the 1840 census. I found a C. S. Galer in the 1850 Census. I had already learned that many persons taking the census could barely write, and were often poor spellers. The census also showed that both the husband and wife could not read or write. The key was the second child listed - how many J. B. P. ‘s could there be? I was reasonably sure that this was my great-great-grandfather and his family. The 1860 census was too faded to be of much use. The 1870 census did confirm that this was the family, yet the family head, C. S., was not on the census. With the knowledge that one of James B. P. Gayler’s sisters was named America Orilla, I could confirm that this was his family. On the 1850 census, I had also found a family headed by a "D. Gaylor." He was age 36, born in North Carolina, had a wife born in Tennessee (the same as Calvin) and nine children, the two oldest born in Illinois, and the last seven in Missouri. Later, while in Branson, in a copy of the 1860 census, I found a family headed by a John Thomasson, with the five oldest children having the surname of Gaylor, all born in South Carolina. It is a speculative guess of mine, that these other families were headed by brothers of Calvin, and in the area where Calvin had been since approximately 1838 or ‘39. His oldest son had been born in Missouri in 1839 and I know Cassandra's family was in this area, settling in Polk county some years before.

Who was C. S. Gaylor, as the later census records spelled it? What was the actual spelling? Questioning of grandchildren and widows of two of James’s sons, I found none who knew what the initials stood for. I had found that the wife’s name was Casandra A. on the 1870 census. Still no recognition. Eight months later with still no further progress, I had continued to accumulate information on the family of James B. P. Gayler. Finally I decided to go to Branson, Missouri, and search for leads there. Returning from a Texas Water Quality Board meeting in Austin on February 26, 1983, I found I had received a large manila envelope from Jody Jones of Colorado Springs, Colorado. This was her reply to a family letter received in my initial mailing of almost a full year before. She is the great-granddaughter of Campbell Maynard (Doc) Gayler. My records showed him to be the brother of James B. P. and a son of C. S. Gayler.


In my original letter, I had mentioned and requested information on a "Doc" Gayler, the one lead to a brother of James B. P. I had. She enclosed several items of family information, including newspaper clippings telling of a trip by Meredith Ewing and Ira Owen Gayler to visit their brother "Jim" Gayler in Syracuse, Kansas and to work in harvesting crops. This brother was, of course, James Washington Gayler. In interviewing family members, I had always been told of Cherokee Indians in our family tree. Until this point I had not found documentation, only rumor. Mrs. Jody (Gayler) Jones enclosed a family prepared "paper" detailing the marriage of Susan Dockery to Will Sizemore, a full blooded Cherokee Indian. Their fourth child, a daughter after having four sons, was named Mary Anne Texas Sizemore, and she became the wife of Campbell Maynard (Doc) Gayler. The children of this union were, therefore, one-quarter Cherokee. This is a very interesting fourteen page document. I will refer to it later as a point of further involvement with our families past. In answer to some of Jody’s questions, I wrote her a letter and enclosed a completed family information sheet on James B. P. Gayler. As I had mentioned my planned trip to Branson for the period of March 13th to the 20th, she wrote back with the name of Campbell Maynard’s daughter, Margery (Gayler) Hodson of Riverton, Kansas. I called her immediately upon receipt of the letter. Mrs. Hodson knew a lot of history, including the fact that the initials C. S. stood for Calvin Smith Gayler. Her confirmation, along with America Orilla’s and James B. P.’s, that the correct spelling was Gayler, made me pretty confident that the census takers were the ones in error on the census records. I did alter the official census records of two organizations during my trip to Branson, with a notation for future searchers of my three sources.

My trip was like a fairy tale and a "day dream", rolled into one. My wife Sandra and I left at 6:20 a.m. on Sunday March 13th. We drove to Tulsa, spending the night with her sister and family. On Monday, I chose to take the back roads through Arkansas. What good luck! This brought us through the site of the "Pea Ridge Historical Battlefield." This was the decisive battle that kept Missouri in the Union, even though this threw upper Arkansas and lower Missouri into the status of a "no man land. For you who are descendants of William Calvin Gayler and Milbury Francis (Kendrick) Gayler, I found that five Kendrick brothers entered the Confederacy in Van Buren, Arkansas, on July 15, 1861, and fought in this battle. For descendants of Campbell Maynard (Doc) Gayler and Mary Anne Texas (Sizemore) Gayler, this battle was fought in fields adjacent to the land where Mary’s father, Will Sizemore, was seized from his field by Union Cavalry, never to be heard from again, on approximately March 5, 1862, two days before this major battle. The loss of full blooded Cherokee Will Sizemore, lead to the eventual move of his wife Susan and her four sons and one daughter to Taney County Missouri after the war. As a result of this move, Mary met and married "Doc" Gayler, founding this branch of Calvin’s family. Yes, a James M. Gaylor of Arkansas was also in this battle and family recollections place three of Calvin’s sons in the Missouri forces present. They were Archer Meredith Wingfield Gayler; James Barney Perry Gayler; and Joseph E. Gayler. This battle was fought on March 7th and 8th, 1862. Nine family members for some of us. There may have been more! Research to the present now shows that Calvin’s, wife’s brothers served as officers for the Union, with Missouri forces; while their sons were Confederate supporters and soldiers. This selection of sides was to prove dangerous to Calvin, disastrous to Casandra and the children, and in the end, result in his death and the death of three of his sons. It also led to the loss of their substantial land holdings and all personal possessions. A side note, I remember playing with two Civil War confederate cavalry swords as a boy. These were passed from James


B. P. to his oldest son, William Calvin, and left with my father when he cared for William Calvin in his old age.

Without knowing it at the time, our three hour trip to the battle site of "Pea Ridge" was a valuable foundation for the days to follow in Branson.

A little history at this point will make Calvin’s story more understandable and prepare you for the events leading up to our good fortune in finding such a wealth of data and information.

Following the battle of Pea Ridge, the valley of the White River, both in Arkansas and Missouri, became a battle ground without lines to show who was in control. Guerrilla warfare became the norm. Confusion was added when a radical Kansas Senator, James Henry Lane, took a loose government Order for Union troop support, and turned it into his personal vendetta against all southern sympathizers, in support of his abolitionist beliefs. His band of Kansas roughians and drifters, became known as "Jayhawkers." They wore Union uniforms, but robbed, murdered, raped, burned, pillaged, and plundered anyone, regardless of side, that they could violate. Senseless killing and torture by the "Jayhawkers," led to retaliation by hot heads among the Rebel supporters and the area became flooded with the blood of men, women, and children. Many fled the area for safety, leaving behind the strong hearted, and a mixture of both the Best and Worst of mankind. No one was allowed to be neutral. Those that did not choose sides were the constant victims of both interests. The Union officers levied taxes on any known rebel sympathizer to both punish them and to support Union forces. All possessions were confiscated and any resistance was met with death. Often brutal death, often a source of entertainment for the "Jayhawkers" or soldiers present. Union Generals gave orders, "that anyone not supporting their army could be considered enemies and they should be stripped of their possessions, their houses burned, and if resistance is given, they are to be killed." (Quote from Borderland and Rebellion by Elmo Ingenthron) Both sides had excesses. Seventy-seven men who chose to be neutral in Northwestern Missouri, were linked together with heavy chains around their necks, and other chains about their arms and wrist, and were marched for four days, into Arkansas. There the Governor himself gave them the choice of serving in Confederate forces or imprisonment without hope of release. Seventy-five chose to serve, most died in the War. Remember this brief statement of the conditions of this 1861 to 1865 period. It will help you in a better understanding of the actions "forced" upon Calvin Gayler and the deprivations his family was to endure at the hands of occupants of the area.

Leaving the battlefield after a tour of it, we drove to the Branson area. Upon arriving, we took a brief run through the town to find the library, Chamber-of-Commerce, and the oldest cemetery. We also wanted our first look at the lower bottom land, comprising the old business district of Branson.

On Tuesday morning we decided to go to the small community library. After a brief explanation of our purpose, the librarian handed me a few issues of a magazine called the Ozark Kin to look through . Before ten minutes had passed, we met a distinguished gentleman named Dr. Lyle Owen, who is very knowledgeable about the Branson area. He asked our name, the spelling, and then said, "I have just completed an article on an old gunsmith, Calvin Gaylor, but he spelled it with an ‘or’." I blurted out, "That’s my great-great-grandfather, the very man we are up here to search for." With that, he sat down. From then on, for long, action packed hard working days, Dr. Owen took us under his arm while leading and guiding us through our search we accumulated a wealth of family history and learned the little human interest stories that make family research personal and worthwhile.

When Dr. Owen was a boy, entering high school in Branson, some of his friends, including his younger brothers close friend, Dallas Cox, took him down


the side of the mountain about two miles from the downtown area, in an area now known as Branson Heights Bluff. They were taking him to a focal point for local youngsters known as the "Old Soldiers Cave." This cave was difficult to get to and hard to find, even knowing where it was located. This cave, whose entrance was barely large enough for a person to lay on his back and wiggle down into, was by legend, the hiding place of an old soldier during the Civil War. It was "tear drop" shaped, spreading from the tiny entrance to a width of some twenty feet and a length of thirty-five feet back from the cave opening. Also like a tear, it grew from very small to almost seven feet in height in the tallest portion and curved to only a few feet at the very back. On the outside, from just a few feet below the entrance, it could not be seen. Certainly its approximate 100 feet above the flowing White River at the base of the bluff, protected it from even the most careful observation. Above was sheer, verticle, solid rock. Either side shielded the way to the entrance, and you had to stand directly before it to see the small hole of the entrance. The excursion with his friends stuck with Dr. Owen. It always held his interest and stirred his imagination. In 1934, he was able to acquire about 100 acres of mountain top, with the property dropping to the White River below. About 1940, he was able to add to his property, additional acreage and River front, to be a total of one mile of the river, on a curve. Most important to us, the new land included the "Old Soldiers Cave" of his youthful interest. Who was this old soldier who spent most of four years in this hole in the mountain side? What was the story behind "The Old Soldiers Cave?" In 1965, an article in the "White River Valley Historical Society" quarterly publication carried a story by Jesse (Yarnell) Cox, relating incidents in the life of her husband. Tom Cox’s grandfathers’ life during the Civil War and of his having to hide in a cave on the area of mountain now known as Branson Heights Bluff. His hiding was a result of his skill as a gunsmith in making and repairing all manner of guns. This made him a threat to the military forces in the area. It seems that his wife would sneak food to him after dark. A signal was arranged with the wife putting up a colored cloth when it was dangerous to visit the home site, and a white cloth when she felt it safe. Dr. Owen, a charter member of the Historical Society saved the article, starting a file with it. Thinking that if he could document this bit of information and gather more, it might make a nice article for future publication, and it could also answer his interest in the old cave. Now, after eighteen years of accumulating information, contacting family members of the Cox’s, he had confirmed that one of the boys that had taken him to the cave the very first time, was in fact a great-grandson of the old soldier, Calvin Gayler. As we talked, he mentioned that Calvin had died of lung problems about one year after the end of the war and these problems were thought to be related to his long periods of confinement in the moist interior of the cave. He had four sons that had fought in the Civil War, with one dying in a battle, one being bushwacked in his own family field as he left home to return from a furlough, another to die within days or weeks of returning home from the war, either from illness, wounds, or a combination, and one son who had survived and moved to Arkansas, thereby losing contact with the remaining four daughters and two younger sons.

Leaving the library after some very frenzied conversation, we were invited out to Dr. Owen’s home to pick up his article and some of the information he had accumulated in his research. Before we went inside, we were drawn to the edge of his yard, overlooking the river, and a view of several miles of the Ozarks. Directly across from the property and the curve of the water, some 300 feet almost straight down, is property now belonging to The School of the Ozarks. I could not help but imagine what old Calvin had seen from his cave, this very area we now were looking onto. If you ever get the opportunity to visit and


want to experience the same feelings of walking into your own heritage and historical past, Dr. Owen has expressed his welcome for any other descendant to visit him and even go over to the cave if you wish. He is in the phonebook, and you can best reach him about supper time or in the evening.

After our look across the valley, we entered Dr. Owen’s rock home. Built in 1911, we found the large main room lined with book shelves, filing cabinets, desks, and storage shelves set out into the room. I believe it is what you might guess a Professor’s office to be when retired from active classroom work but still very actively involved in research and correspondence with numerous friends and associates. He showed us his research work on Calvin Gayler and other data he thought we might be interested in. After lunch, we took his folder to the library and photocopied sixty-seven pages of letters, articles, and documents he had accumulated in his research. As it was still early in the day, Dr. Owen called a lady named Augusta (Gusty) Johnson, in her eighties, who had written an historical and genealogical column for the local newspapers for over forty years. She lives in Kirbyville, so off we went to visit her. As it turned out, Jessie (Yarnell) Cox, whose article on the cave had started Dr. Owen’s research was her aunt. From Mrs. Johnson’s we went to Forsyth, the county seat of Taney county since its founding in 1837. On the way, we stopped at the "Ozark Mountaineer" book shop to get copies of some of the original magazines in which articles dealing with Calvin Gayler were published. I also picked a copy of the Elmo Ingenthron book I mentioned earlier. We fortunately got copies of the 1965 and 1967 magazines we were seeking. Then on to Forsyth and the courthouse. On the way, Dr. Owen started filling us in on the history of the area and for the first time made us aware that we had history and family here also.

Important to all Calvin and Casandra’s descendants, is a mill that was in Forsyth. The mill was then (till 1866 or ‘67) the property of a man named Reynolds. His picture is in the Land Of Taney by Elmo Ingenthron with a write up about him. He married a Parrish. I will find out during a trip to Ft. Worth in a few weeks for sure, but I believe a sister of Casandra. About 1867 Barnet Perry (Barney) Parrish took over the mill, and I know he was Casandra’s brother. This mill was about one-fourth to one-half mile from the site of the old Courthouse, on the Swan River. Its foundations are still there today. It was the first mill in the area. One story from the Cox family letters, tells of Casandra, after losing at least two houses to Union soldiers’ torches and having hungry children, taking three days in the Missouri winter, riding the mountain trails on a mule to this mill to get meal and flour. When she got back to the area across the White River from her farm and kids, she found the river full of floating blocks of ice. Without shelter for the night, and knowing her youngsters were hungry, she forced the mule, with sacks of meal and flour on it s back, into the water. She hung on and the mule swam and found its way through the ice to the other side. This and other stories you will see in the Calvin Gayler papers I am working on, will convince you that this was one heck of a woman. She had courage, responsibility, strength, and the will to survive the burdens forced on her during this period. As far as I can tell at this time, everyone of her children was named for her family. Names many of you reading this have, or those of fathers, mothers, brother, or sisters. From this trip, I found where the B. P., in James Barney Perry Gayler comes from, Casandra’s brother.

Several more things were discovered during Tuesday. On our return trip from Forsyth, we took a side trip up farm road "J" to "Murder Rock." This is the place where the notorious Alf Bolin waylaid families, robbing and killing many as they went on the major North-South road of the period from Springfield to Arkansas. You, Louis


L’Amour novel readers, will note references to him and his gang, the Baldknobbers, and other references to this area where so very much history was made.

Tuesday evening was spent reading all the letters documents and articles I had photocopied earlier in the day. I learned a lot. Thus ended our first day of research--exhausted but grateful for what we had found!

(To be continued)


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