James Henry Corel was born on June 3, 1865 to Susannah Clay McGee and James Pickens Corel in Wakarusa Township, Douglas County, Kansas. He was the fifth child, but the first born son.
In April of 1892, James Henry, along with a group of others from Lawrence, Kansas, had traveled by spring wagon to the Oklahoma Territory to stake a claim on the Cheyenne and Arapaho land that opened for settlement on April 19, 1892. They traveled through the Big Red Hills to the South Canadian River behind a couple of Indians who were detecting quicksand. The group camped overnight on the south side of the river near Caddo country.
“That morning the womenfolk got breakfast and we waited for the time we knew the opening to be. When that hour got there we all climbed into the wagon and rode out to stake our claim.
“It was a kind of secluded place, with wild bluestem growing as high as a man on horseback. Each of us got 160 acres and all our claims were close together… We missed the greatest rush, because it was from the border places like El Reno.”
After the homesteads were recorded by the government officials, each new land owner had six months to return and plant crops. I now know where my procrastination comes from, because it was five months later, on September 28, 1892 that my great-great grandfather, James Henry Corel married Emma Augusta Miller in Lawrence, Kansas. It would be another month before another traveling group would leave Lawrence for their new homesteads in the Oklahoma Territory.
“We left here with a four-horse covered wagon and one riding horse. There were six other wagons from Lawrence making the trip, and it took us 16 days. After we got there we lived in a log cabin until we could get lumber from El Reno.”
James would farm this land for only two years before returning with his wife and young son to Lawrence, Kansas in January 1895 to care for his parents and their farm. He “proved up” his land by putting up $1.25 per acre to the government in order to keep the land in his name. It was during this year that James Henry Corel built the first part of the ‘old farm house‘ that is still inhabited by his descendants today.
Over the next 13 years Emma and James Henry would have seven more children, requiring James to add on a second story with four bedrooms.
After all the children had grown and moved out to start their own families, tragedy struck when Emma died suddenly from a cerebral hemorrhage in May 1938. The youngest child of Emma and James Henry, Kathryn, moved her young family ‘out home’ to the ‘old farm house’.
In the late 1940′s James realized he would not be returning to his homestead claim in Oklahoma. He sold the land to someone living in that area.
James watched his grandchildren grow up and start families of their own. He would even see his great grandchildren grow and play at the ‘old farm house’. James Henry lived a very full life, living until he was 95 years old. He passed away January 20, 1961 and was buried at Oak Hill Cemetery in the family plot four days later.