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Biography of Madison Kay
1867-1956

submitted by Louise Kay Horton

"This is a picture of my Kay family
at their residence at 906 Euclid Avenue
in Lawton, Oklahoma..."

Madison Kay was born on March 31, 1867, just two years after the end of the Civil War. His father died when he was very young (about 3). His mother moved back to Arkansas to live with her family. She remarried when he was 15 years old. Hemptead Co. Arkansas Marriage Rec. p. 104 Book G--- "John H. Bull to Mrs. Jane E. Kay October 17, 1882."John Bull was a minister and a rather stern fellow. Madison found the Reverend entirely too stern, and ran away from home at every given opportunity. As a result of this unacceptable behavior, he was "bound out" to a master wheelwright who taught him the trades of wheelwright and carpentry...

After serving out his apprenticeship, Madison set out for Texas to become a cowboy and to see the vanishing wilderness. It is no doubt he visited his grandfather Harris Kay at least once as an older child for he knew his Uncle Henry Kay and where he lived for he kept up with him and his children over the years. He also knew of his Aunt Mary Kay Brown's family and visited them often... Both families had children his age and they kept in close contact over the year.

(A year or so before he died in 1956 his son Ervan James Kay who was living in Abilene received a phone call from a woman who told him she felt sure they were cousins... She was Claude Whitburn and her mother Lizzie Ivy of Lawn was the daughter of Thomas and Edith E. (Forbes) Kay. When Madison came for a visit that spring, Ervan, his wife, his daughter Louise took Madison and Bama out to the Ivy place in Lawn and the two aging couples reunited after many many years and spent the day with old memories... It was a wonderful time for both couples and I am sure they hated to see the visit come to a close ... They never saw each other again for they all passed away within a year or so.)

Madison spent a number of years driving cattle on the Chisolm Trail, witnessed many a barroom brawl with fearless gunslingers, traveled west to California were he saw the vanishing herds of buffalo on the plains along the way. He participated in one of the Land Rush that opened the Oklahoma Territory and once built a home for famed outlaw Frank James in Missouri. He returned to Texas in the early 1890s when he learned of his Grandfather Harrison Kay's death. He traveled to Comanche, where his uncle Henry Kay was living, to settle his share of this estate. He sold his interest of the property in Falls Co. to Holman Hancock who was the stepson Harrison had raised.

Madison was a tall, tan, slender cowboy who by this time sported a fine dark mustache. While visiting and looking for employment in Comanche, he was attracted to a beautiful auburn-haired young miss at a church social. She was Virginia Alabama Webb who was living with her older brother and going to school. He was eleven years her senior and more worldly by far. The same tales that he told to fascinate the young Miss Webb during their courtship held his grandchildren spellbound when retold many years later.

Madison and Bama Webb were united in marriage on December 19, 1897 in Proctor, Comanche Co., Texas. They were treated to a "Shiveree"on their wedding night by friends and family, who marched around and around the Honeymoon Cottage, with their candles lighting the cold brisk night, singing over and over "Madison Kay got caught in a Webb."

They lived in Comanche and Erath Co., for a number of years. On Jan 12, 1898 a son Virgil Kay was born and died. They lost their next baby at birth also. Then on March 23, 1901, Neal Jerold Kay was born in Stephensville, Texas. Shortly thereafter, the adventurous couple decided to go to Oregon. They left Texas with Bama's sister Georgia and her husband Johnny Brewington and several other families. They got as far as Oklahoma, Indian Territory, when Madison's beautiful but unsound team of horses died. According to Madison, "One died of the colic and the other one died of the blind staggers."Stuck in Oklahoma, he's skills as a wheelwright and carpenter became quite valuable. He was employed by the U.S. Army at Fort Sill to build and repair the caissons and wagons for the army. He also built houses in the Gore Addition of Lawton, Oklahoma. Bama often was quoted as saying "Like the cobbler's children who had no shoes, I was the only woman in town still living in a tent."It was in that tent that their forth child, a son, Ervan James Kay was born on April 23, 1903.

The Kays moved to Maysville to try farming, and after and unsuccessful crop, they moved to Paul's Valley. On August 25, 1905, their first daughter, Winnie Beatrice Kay was born. Two more children were born between 1907 and 1909. A daughter, Sunshine was born cr. 1907 and a son Charles Thomas, in October, 1909. According to family Sunshine was a particularly beautiful child and a real favorite of Madison.

On one of these moves Ervan, who was a small and impressionable young boy, remembered that the family spent the night in a wagon yard. There was a large and rowdy family next to them. That night at the supper table a fight broke out among the children. One of the older boys was heard to remark about the reason for the disagreement: "Well, Ma, just make Johnny quit dipping in the deep end of the gravy with the big end of his tatter!" Times must have been hard!

Like other families of the time a trip to town on Saturday often ended with the family portrait being taken. The Kay family now numbering four plus must have decided it was time to have the family's "likeness"made. The kids were sat upon a wicker chair and of course the family dog, Buck, who was never out of sight of the kids was right in the middle. Ervan always said the dog took the best picture. There for posterity was wide eyed Winnie looking scared to death, hanging on to "Buck"s neck, perched on the arm of the chair. Ervan, shoeless as usual, looking like someone had just pinched him and Neal, the oldest, trying to look cool with his thumb carefully hung in his beltloops, shoeless also... Indeed Buck did look most comfortable... Bama and Madison with the baby, who was right at one, placed carefully between them, didn't look much more at ease that the children. But for 1908 it was a great portrait and a treasured item in their Granddaughters (Louise Horton) home.

By 1910 Madison had built Bama her home. It was a fine sturdy home at 906 Euclid Avenue in Lawton. Around 1911 the happy family paused for a family picture. They gathered the children and themselves on the front porch of their cozy home. With Madison leisurely leaning back in his rocker, his foot propped on the porch post and Buck, the family dog, in his lap. Bama seated close by with little Charles on her lap. Sunshine standing all prim and proper with a large bow in her dark hair next to Madison. Ervan sitting and swinging his bare feet off the porch with a large bandage on his forehead and Winnie and Neal standing beside Bama.

When Oklahoma was about to be admitted into the Union, there was a vote to see it would be a wet or dry State... Madison and a friend took Madison's fine new horse, hitched to the buggy, to town to vote... This new horse was supposed to be quite a fast horse. Madison who loved to race, decided on the way back to race a train with his new acquisition. The horse was running full tilt when the road crossed the tracks just ahead of the train. The train hit the horse and buggy, throwing Madison over the telegraph wires cutting off his ear. The horse was killed in the accident but fortunately Madison and his friend were not seriously injured... A doctor sewed Madison's ear back on and he carried the scar for the rest of his life.

On February 7, 1912, Bama gave birth for the eight time to a beautiful daughter whom they named Juanita Fern. In October of 1912 tragedy struck the Kay family when Sunshine became very ill. Family history has it that she had what was called at the time "membranous croup." By October 31, 1912, her breathing became more and more labored and she passed away... Madison would later recall that he never again liked Halloween for, "I was out hunting an undertaker on Halloween night, for my little Sunshine was gone." This must have broken both their hearts... The family dog, Buck, also disappeared that same night and did not return for several days...

One day Bama heard a whining and scratching at the front door. It was Buck. She opened the door and let him in. He went to the room where Sunshine had been and sniffed and looked around. He went all over the house looking. He gave Bama a long sad look then went back to the front door. He whined and indicated that he wanted out so she opened the door. Buck went out the door, down the walk, turned and looked back at the house and Bama standing in the doorway. He whined once more, turned and went out the gate, never to be seen again.

Madison, heartbroken, decided he could not remain in Oklahoma. He decided to go to Texas to try and find work. He packed the family up and they took the train to Comanche, Texas where his cousin Alonzo Kay, son of Henry Kay, lived. Alonzo by now had a growing family about the same ages of Madison's children. They stayed with his family for a short time. Madison took the train to Dallas to see if he could find a job to support his family. As he got off the train with the large toolbox in which carried his carpentry tools, he was approached by a gentleman who asked him if he would use those tools. "I certainly can!"was his reply. The gentleman gave him the address of his company which was moving its headquarters to Dallas.

Madison was hired by the MAGNOLIA PETROLEUM COMPANY on the referral of a man whose name has been forgotten. Madison sent for Bama and the children. They packed up their belongings, and the Alonzo Kay family saw her off at the station in Comanche. The boys romping on the train tracks, ears pressed to the tracks listening for the train and Bama worrying over her ever growing brood. Neal 11, Ervan 9, Winnie 7, Charles 3, and Juanita a babe in arms. Upon reaching Dallas, Madison had told Bama to take the Oak Street Trolley to possibly Hickory Street. The kids seemed concerned at to their destination. Bama calmly sang this little ditty to calm their fears. "Hickory horses, white oak saddles, boys and girls all ride astraddly."

The Kay family finally settled in a large house on the corner of Pear Street. The large house was full of children and laughter, family feuds and music. Tragedy struck again in April when a Scarlet Fever epidemic was running rampant in the area. All of the children were sick in varying degrees but little Charles 5 yrs old, seemed to be the weakest. He was sleeping with Neal and Ervan when he woke up crying, Ervan woke to see Charles stumbling across the floor. He ran to him and grabbed him, just as he fell. Madison had heard the crying, came in the room and gently took Charles from Ervan's arms. Charles died shortly afterwards from heart failure. It was April 24, 1914, the day before Ervan's 11th birthday. He was buried on the 25th. Ervan always said, in a choked voice, that "Charles almost died in my arms."

By June there was a happy occasion as the Kay Family welcomed a little pink bundle into the family. Mable Kay was born June 13, 1914, in the house on Pear St. Madison was busy with the construction of more and more Magnolia Service Stations and warehouses. On May 4, 1917, the Kay clan welcomed the tenth child and last in this line to the family. William Derwood Kay was born in the house on Wendelkin. Ervan recalled his mother not being well the during the night and the doctor being called. Madison had reassured his son that everything was fine... When he went downstairs the following morning he found his father occupied with the contents of a large box which had been placed on the floor in front of the stove. As Ervan came closer to see what was in the box, Madison carefully pulled back the little blanket and said, "Son, meet your baby brother."

Madison worked for Magnolia Petroleum Company for nearly twenty years, trained two of his sons in his profession and retired in 1932 as Construction in Marketing. Ervan had worked with his father in construction for a number of years and joined the company in 1932 and began a long career with Magnolia as the Maintenance Superintendent for West Texas and New Mexico. He was one of four Maintenance men who covered all of Texas. In 1934 Magnolia erected a huge neon Flying Red Horse on top of their building in Downtown Dallas. The big Flying Red Horse became an icon and beacon not only for all of Dallas but especially the Kay Family. Between Madison and Ervan there was an accumulated sixty years of Mobil construction that they supervised. Ervan retired in 1969 but continued to do construction for Mobil for the next eight years.

Bama Kay passed away March 6, 1956, her hair still auburn at eighty years of age. Madison followed her in December of the same year at almost 90 years of age. They are both buried at Laurel Land Memorial Park in Dallas, Texas within sight of downtown Dallas and the Flying Red Horse.

Comanche County OKGenWeb
County Coordinator: Linda Simpson

 
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