Nellie Strake on the McKenney Family

The below letter was written by Nellie (Nona) Lenora Reynolds, daughter of Charity Alice McKenney.

She was born 1877 April 22 in Minnetonka, Minnesota and died December 6, 1963 in Coos Bay, Oregon. Nellie first married (1) Oscar William Peterson abt. 1900 in Lincoln Co., Oregon. He was born about 1873 in Wisconsin. She married (2nd) Frederick William Strake, son of John Strake and Augusta, on October 4, 1914 in Waldport, Oregon (by C. E. Linton, J.P., wit. C. M. Johnson and Dolores Johnson). He was born October 23, 1885 in Wassau, Wisconsin and died May 9, 1973 in Lincoln County, Oregon.

The letter is addressed to Doris. This was Doris McKenney b. 1908 in Montana, daughter of George Ellis (Bob) McKenney and Rachel Adeline Arnold, who married Lester Matson.

* * * * *
Waldport, OR
Oct. 26, 1960

Dear Cousin Doris,

Your letter came today. This is all very intriguing. You of the Minnesota McKenneys and knowing my names so well–and also my mother’s must be a relative. You did not say what your father’s or your grandfather’s Christian names were, but I think the latter must have been my Uncle John McKenney. He and Aunt Annie had two boys, Roy and Bart, and one daughter, Lena. Could she be the Aunt Nell you mentioned. In my Mother’s Old album, which my daughter Rose now has is a photo of her in her confirmation dress. I have one of all three children when they were quite small.

Nellie was wrong on this first guess. Doris’ grandparents were Samuel Bartow McKenney and Ella Addie Fryer, Samuel’s second wife. She correctly lists here John and Annie’s children, Nicholas Roy, Lena and their own Samuel Bartow.

Roy was born not far from here, about 3 miles south of Walport, my mother attending his birth.

Nicholas Roy was born June 20 1886.

Uncle John and Aunt Annie had eloped and married and come to Oregon and bought land and built a nice house about 1/2 mile from where we then lived. He taught the Waldport school and was my second teacher. I had been to one term of school before.

Now this is a surprise to read that John Eugene McKenney, b. May 7 1853 at Council Bluffs, had eloped with Johanna “Anna” Roth. They were married 1884 Nov 22 at St. Cloud, Stearns, Minnesota. I know Johanna was born Nov 3 1865 at Meridian, Connecticut. I have that they were residing in Oregon in 1887 but were back in Minnesota by 1891.

I was 4 years old in Minnesota when Uncle Samuel McKinney was killed in Louisiana. Bart was two. Uncle John went down there and brought Bart back–his mother had died when he was an infant and later Uncle Sam had married Bart’s mother’s sister, Harriet Lagsau. Bart’s mother’s name was Antionette. They were French women. So Bart was 3/4 french. He grew up as my brother and his children and grandchildren called me “Aunt Nona”. The reason for “Nona” is when I was little I couldn’t say “Nellie” I pronounced it “Nonie” so that is what my family and friends always called me. I added the “a” instead of the “ie” but some of my Reynolds relatives have always called me “Nell” being named for my mother’s youngest sister.

Antoinette Lagroue was Samuel Bartow McKenney’s 3rd known wife. We have no evidence that he ever married Henriette, and in all documents we have she went by the name Lagroue. Their family was “French” but had been in the Louisiana bayou for several generations.

Now, if you are not Roy’s or Bart’s daughter, then there is still Alden McKenney, youngest son of Sam born in Louisiana. He went back to Louisiana, but later came back to Oregon, married, and had a family, but I never knew his family, tho a son of his, also a “Bart” lived in Salem some time ago.

In any case, you have a cousin, Floyd. This cousin I started to tell you about is Floyd C. McKinney–son of my adopted brother Bart. There seems to be a difference in the way the McKenneys spell the name. Some–Uncle John, for one, spelled it with an “i”, but I see you–and also Floyd spell it with an “e”. Floyd’s father died when he was 4 years old and his mother married again–a mean man–and Floyd came to my home when in his early teens and he says my home was the only real home he ever knew. He looks like his father. Those big dark eyes and is such a good man. His wife and 2 teenagers adore him.

Samuel Bartow McKenney Jr. and Frances “Fannie” Lorena Peek had 4 children: Clifford (1904-1921), Harry B. (1906-1958), Floyd (b. 1909) and Mildred (b. 1915), so it seems Floyd was the only one remaining a live at this time.

The “Bart” was for the French name “Bartow” tho I believe it was originally spelled “Barteau”. My mother’s mother was French. Years before the Bartows had come from Quebec and grandfather McKenney was Irish from New York State.

As far as I know her ancestor Elijah Bartow moved from New York to Ohio. If her information is correct they’re from Quebec. But the McKenneys were Irish and from Ireland>Pennsylvania>Ohio.

Please write me and tell me just which branch of the McKenney family you come from. I would be most happy to see you. Do you drive? If not get some one to bring you over–let me know before you come so I’ll be sure to be here. You could call me at L17-3173. I’m just a bit over a mile north of Yachats, on west side of hiway–just opposite an old dairy barn near the road on east side–a side road goes to the beach past north side of my house. It’s (house) brown with stone fireplace on north end and lots of small porch posts–part way up–I’m also opposite the last point of rocks north of Yachats–where ocean beach starts and runs on the mouth of the Alsea Bay. My name is on top of the big mail box by hiway in front of the house. Its not a hard place to find.

I’m unable to locate this on a map.

That article of mine in the Statesman caused a lot of repercussions–another letter today from an old friend I had not seen for 20 years, and Monday a man and wife I hadn’t seen for 30 years also living in Salem, drove clear over here to look me up.

Please let me hear from you.

I flew back to Minn. in ’52 and was there during Aug. with a Barnes relative. The Barnes were no blood relation, but had intermarried with the Reynoldses and my stepfather was Cal Barnes, so they were always Uncle, Aunt and cousins all my life. This Bessie Wiley with whom I visited lived on Lake Minnetonka not so far from where I was born near Wayseta. I tried to locate some McKenney or Bartow, but did not find any. I didn’t get to go as far away from Minneapolis as Melrose. I attended the State Fair in St. Paul and got to see all the wild birds, animals and fresh water fish and some wild flowers, even water lilies, that I remembered and the autumn colors. It was a very wonderful trip and I got to see a lot of territory–Portland to San Francisco to Chicago and back via Phoenix, Arizona.

Speaking of the fall colors of the hardwoods, on the north side of Alsea Bay on the home place of my mother and stepfather is a beautiful sugar maple that Uncle John sent to her years and years ago in a cigar box. There were a lot of tiny trees all of which grew except the oaks. They won’t grow west of the coast mts. This sugar maple, the last time I saw it was 35 or 40 feet tall and aflame with color. My granddaughter from L.A. was so intrigued by it when we passed that she was to take color pictures of it on return trip, but it was too dark by then. She and family were up again this summer. They live in Los Angeles, they had no time to go over there this time.

If you want to contact your cousin Floyd McKinney they live at #1045 Shipping St. N.E. in Salem. They both work so the only time would be weekends or in eve. He is foreman now and she is private sec. for Commissioner. She comes from Aberdeen, Wash. and is a very sweet person. One beautiful daughter, —-, looks like her Dad and son, —-. Just home from navy. Floyd has never seen any McKenneys so couldn’t answer your questions, tho I’m sure he would be glad to see you.

I hope I haven’t talked you blind. Anyway, I’ve let my fire go out while I was gabbing and it’s bedtime anyway so bye for now.


Nona Strake

* * * * *

Nona was 83 years of age at the time of this correspondence. Floyd would have been 51. Both are long since dead. Have struck out Floyd’s children’s names as I don’t know about them, if they could still be alive. It’s been a long enough time that I figure it’s all right leave Floyd’s street address of the time.

One wonders if the sugar maples she writes about are still there.

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2 Responses to “Nellie Strake on the McKenney Family”
  1. Glenn Backes says:

    I am the grandson of Mildred McKenney described here (1915-1992). Her son Jack Backes (born 1945, Aberdeen, WA) and currently of Ocean Shores, WA is my father. I can be reached at glenn backes (one word) g mail dot com.

  2. Glenn Backes says:

    My dad believes that Mildred was born in Walport, Oregon in January of 1914. He has the record, thinks it was the 29th. But he’s visiting and working from memory.

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