Jacob Ragle
and
Mary Jane Woodruff
of
Iola, Kansas
and
Oakland, California

 

 

 

 


Jacob Ragle was born on August 28, 1861 in Raglesville, Indiana and died on January 28, 1939 in Oakland, California. He was the second child born to Alonzo Ragle and Susan Ellen Toon.

Mary Jane Woodruff was born January 23, 1864 and died December 28, 1939. She and Jacob were married on September 6, 1888.

This is the extent of the record on their early lives, with the following exception. Kalida, an extinct settlement originally located just east of Yates Center, Kansas, had one of the early schools in this area. In an article about Kalida School District 16, Abe Woodruff, an adult, is mentioned as the carpenter who installed a door on the abandoned cabin which was first used as the school. This is doubtless Abraham Thornton Woodruff, b. July 16, 1834 d. May 18, 1920 in Iola, Kansas, the father of Mary Jane Woodruff. Her mother was Sarah Anne Kretzinger, b. September 19, 1838 in Wayne Co. Ohio, d. December 13, 1902 in Yates Center, Kansas. Among the first 12 students in the school in late fall 1867 are listed Charles, John, and Mary Woodruff. I have listed John as a brother of Mary, and have assumed that Mary Woodruff is the Mary Jane Woodruff who married Jake Ragle. I am not sure where Charles Woodruff fits into this picture. On the basis of age, he is unlikely to be the Frank (Franklin) C. Woodruff listed below. According to the closing records of the school, Algern Ragle, Jacob's older brother, taught in this school sometime after 1881.

A record also exists of an Edith L. Naylor who married Frank C. Woodruff on Sept. 9, 1909 and had children Curtis and Claud Woodruff. The Ragle connection is confirmed by Claud Woodruff (Claud Clinton Woodruff, b. August 13, 1917), who describes "my cousin Ed Ragle who was some ten years our senior used to ride his motorcycle from Iola to the old farm..." "Ed Ragle" must be Edmund Woodruff Ragle, b. 1904, d. 1954, youngest son of Jake and Mary Jane. There will be more to say about Ed Ragle later. He was apparently a very interesting person.

We are fortunate to have several personal letters written by Jake Ragle. Copies of the letters were provided by Annice J. Clayton Crimmins. They add wonderful detail to the dates and places cited above. One can place identities on several people mentioned in the letters. Bob and Fred are, in all likelihood, Robert Lucian Ragle and Frederick Alonzo Ragle, younger brothers of Jake and Algern. Fred's wife is Naomi Belle Williams. Frank might be Franklin C. Naylor, mentioned above. Bob Ragle farmed in the Burdett area until dust-bowl days, then moved to Colorado Springs. Fred and Belle Ragle moved to Colorado Springs about the time of these letters, and Alonzo died in Indiana in the same interval. The reference to "going to Pa's to can peaches" is a reference to the Ragle farm near Burns City, Indiana, then re-occupied by Alonzo and his daughter Molly Ragle. More information on these people and events is to be found elsewhere in this document.


In 1906 Jake was in Burdett, in western Kansas. He writes:

To: M. J. Ragle, 27 Ohio St. Iola, Kansas.
Sat. May 26, 1906 Burdett, Kansas

Dear Mary,

As Robert is going to town today I will write you a letter and send you $20. Perhaps you had better see about the taxes and pay what you can on them. Frank has the distemper and has done only about a weeks work since coming here. Jim is doing all right.

It was very dry but has been raining this week. This almost makes a good wheat crop certain. We have almost 40 a. to break yet then Harvest. All well. Would like to see you all.

Good bye Jake


Burdett, Kan. Aug. 5, 1906

Dear Mary,

Your letter ordering me home rec'd. a few days ago. As the time was nearly up when I got it I was afraid to come.

I rather dread the hot fall weather there, but hope I will be able live over it. Bob is going to start to Canada today and Fred will probably go with him. Bob will probably sell off most of his stuff here so I will have no chance to dead head a ride so I can't go. Fred's wife is going to Colo. Spgs. tomorrow to visit while Fred finds them a house. Of course I would like to go to Alberta or any country where we could get us a good farm and heathful climate.

If I could get 5 or 6 good horses and come out here in the spring I could make lots of money breaking. If I had had them this time I could have made $300 to $400 but I suppose if we were able to own 5 or 6 horses I wouldn't need to work. Where Bob has been farming is high dry prairie rich soil but so dry that the surest thing is a failure. Wheat sometimes makes about 40 bu. to the acre but often it makes only two or three or nothing. Some have made money at it but not many.

You had better have some one take care of the cow for the milk when you get ready to go to Pa's to can peaches. I will start home soon possibly some time this week. I wish I were home now. In fact I would not have come out here had I not thought it would benefit my health. If we could live out here so I cold be at home here I think would be a good thing for me as well as the rest of you.

A few miles East of here is the best part of Kans for agriculture and this would be about as good if it got the rain. I don't believe there is a finer farming country in the world than the Arkansas bottoms but land is so high there we couldn't buy more than 20a at the outside. This higher land is different from the bottoms but they say is as good when it is seasonable.

It has been raining quite often lately and threshing is not progressing very well. The threshing is barely started and wheat is going down down to nobody knows where. Wheat is yielding so much more than expected some of Bob's that i estimated at 10 bu. went 16. Some that he thought not worth cutting was 7 bu. He had i e, Fred & him and Eikmus the land lord, 2800 bu which would probably weigh out almost 3000. Wheat is 56 c today. Was 57 last week. I will try to get home in time to plant those strawberries anyhow this fall.

J. Ragle


In addition to these letters, several members of the family have provided some comments. From Marjory Ellen Ragle Rasmussen:

Marjory remembers Mary Jane as a very severe and strict old woman who wore her hair pulled back and who wore long black dresses and boots. Using the child's eyes' for things out of the ordinary, in the ways of children, the kids thought that Mary Jane was quite peculiar. Marjory also remembers Jake as a very warm and loving man.


Marilyn Tucker Blank writes:

"If I really try, I can remember Grandma and Grandpa Jacob Ragle in Iola, Kansas, in the 1920's. They lived in East Iola on S. First Street. My parents lived on S. Third Street, so we weren't very far apart. My memories of their house are very faint. I think it was a rather small two-story house situated on a corner. But I remember very well the big barn behind it. It was full of hay and horses and big wagons and rich smells.

"In 1925 we moved to 622 S. Cottonwood in Iola to a big house with a huge barn and lots of good cement sidewalks to roller skate on. My little brother and sister were born there, and Grandma and Grandpa Ragle came to visit regularly. Sometimes Grandpa would come with his team of horses and a big wagon. He hauled water for stock from the Neosho River (which was near our house) to farmers who were in need of it.

"Sometime in the early thirties Grandma and Grandpa went to California with Uncle Ed Ragle who was a bachelor at that time and was a school teacher in Fresno. My family, the family of Warren Tucker and Alta Ragle Tucker came to California in 1933 and Grandma and Grandpa Ragle came to live with us in Oakland.

"It was Grandpa's job and mine to wash and dry the dishes together. Grandpa sang all the old Methodist hymns while he washed and I dried. I always marveled at his knowing all the verses to every hymn! Even now when we are singing at my Methodist Church in Castro Valley, I sometimes realize we are singing something that Grandpa sang.

"About 1960 my husband and our two children visited Iola and found Grandma and Grandpa's house in very bad shape, abandoned. It was very sad and depressing for me to see it like that. But about eight or ten years later we visited there again. The house and barn were gone and the property was a grassy park. The big trees shaded a young mother who had spread a quilt for a baby girl on the green grass. I felt better!"


Jamie D. Tucker, grandson of Jacob Ragle and son of William Warren Tucker and Alta Alberta Ragle, writes:

"Once, as a small boy, I asked Grandpa what kind of work he had done in his younger days. He replied that he had been a "drover," which did not tell me much since I didn't know what a "drover" was. I told Daddy that Grandpa said he had been a drover and asked what that was. He laughed and conceded that Grandpa did occasionally run a few hogs into town, if that was what it took to be a drover. Still not satisfied, I asked Mama what kind of work Grandpa had done and she replied that he had been a teamster. He owned a team of horses and a variety of wagons and did custom hauling in and around Iola, Kansas. She recalled that when she was a little girl a flood had covered about half of Iola and she was very pround when Grandpa had hooked his team to a section of boardwalk that had floated free and used it as a raft to transport people and their belongings from their flooded homes into the dry part of town. I didn't learn for several years that a drover was a cowboy. Had I known that at the time, I probably would have been greatly impressed. I still don't know what is true. All the information I obained pertained to his later life, no telling what he did in his youth. He certainly lived in the proper place and time to be a drover.


Jacob's granddaughter Carol Elaine Verry writes:

"When I was a litle girl living in Oakland, California, Grandpa Jacob Ragle lived with us. I remember I said to my aunt Florence, who also lived with us, 'Grandpa is always happy and nice.' She said 'Humph, you didn't know him when he was young and had responsibilities.'

"The Ragles loved to argue. Once when Aunt Florence was arguing politics with Grandpa (I'm sure it was to get in the last word), she told him she would send him to the poor house if he didn't vote for Roosevelt. He didn't seem bothered, but it upset me. I was only about four or five years old, but I have always found it difficult to vote for a democrat.

"My elementary school was a little less than one mile away, and a few blocks beyond was the library. Often after school I would walk to the library. On the way, next to the school was the park where Grandpa would be sitting on a bench talking to his friends. A little further on was the Congregational Church we attended. (There wasn't a Methodist Church close by.) Sometimes Grandpa would be there talking to the Reverand James B. Orr. The Reverand enjoyed all attempts to erase the period after the middle B. A block beyond the church was the library and Grandpa was often there. I was told he liked to read the encyclopedia. I don't remember that, but one day I found him at home holding the dictionary and chuckling to himself. I thought it was strange at the time, but a few years later I found there were indeed reasons to chuckle about the words in a dictionary.

"We lived in an old Victorian that had a sizeable front porch. One day when grandpa was sitting on the porch, my friends and I decided to walk to the little store that sold a double popsicle for 3 cents. I asked Grandpa for the money. He had a pocket book that was long and narrow. He reached way down to the bottom and pulled out the 3 cents. I felt guilty that it seemed to be all the money he had, but it didn't stop me from enjoying the popsicle.

"Grandpa loved Limburger cheese. He kept it in an old victola cabinet under the lid where the victrola had been. Sometimes I would take a friend up to his room and lift the lid so we could sniff.

"When Grandpa died his family and his friends missed him. The grandparents of my best friend lived next door. They had come from Russia when the Czar was overthrown. The grandmother didn't speak or understand much English, but by the tears in her eyes I knew she understood Grandpa was gone. I remember thinking there was some special understanding among old people.

"There was a certain presence about Grandpa. I have the armchair Grandpa sat in at the dining table. Over the years that chair has seemed to hold his presence of strength and stability."

Jacob Ragle, sometime prior to 1939
(photo from Carol Verrey)

About her grandmother, Carol Verrey writes [June, 2004]:

("Mary Ragle [Mary Jane Woodruff Ragle], as remembered by her granddaughter, Carol Verrey)

"Grandma Ragle was not well the last years of her life. Through the eyes of a child she seemed crochety. My Father was always so good to her. When grandma would be mad at aunt Florence and leave, dad would go hunting for her in the car and find her sitting on a curb worn out. One time he thought he would cheer her up and drove her to Lake Merit, which was a lovely lake and park close to downtown. Grandma said "There's the old duck pond." Dad thought that was very funny.

"Grandma did do grandmotherly things. One day whe I was only about 8, I was sitting with needle and thread trying to sew a doll dress. I wrapped the thread around my finger and pulled it down to a knot. Mama [Alta] was watching and asked how I learned it? I said grandma had taught me.

"Jamie was always thinking up interesting things to do. The kids in the neighborhood would often check to see what he was doing. When the back yard in Oakland was in the process of being re-done, Jamie and some neighbor boys dug a big hole in the back yard and fitted a door on top. There was an opening at one end where three or four little ki8ds could crawl under the door. Jamie built a fireplace at the other end with a stove pipe to the outside. Three or four of us were there trying to bake a potato. The final event was grandma stomped the whole thing in. Of course as children we thought she was mean, but years later with adult eyes I could see she was the only sane person around.

"I said something to mama about grandma being mean. Mama's eyes filled with tears and she said, "you didn't know her when she was younger and had all the Claytons and Tuckers over to dinner."

"Grandma Ragle was very proud of aunt Florence's Oriental rugs that had been purchased in Europe after world war one. I remember her straght legged bending over to pick up a thread or little bit of paper from the rugs."


Obituary from the Yates Center News, Yates Center, KS, February 9, 1939:

An Old Settler Dies at Oakland, California

"Jacob Ragle, an old settler of Woodson county, died at the home of his daughter in Oakland, Calif., January 29, at the age of 77 years. His wife and five children survive him.

"Mr. Ragle came to Woodson county from Davies [sic] County, Ind., in 1873 [sic: This should read "1882']. He homesteaded the old Keck ranch which was on the site of the present ranch location. His father was a merchant at Toronto for many years. On September 12, 1888 he was united in marriage to Mary J. Woodruff, of Yates Center, who survives him."