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Donna Flood
Inez Barbee

Inez Barbie could have been a girl of ten rather than a woman of ninety-two. A screen door on her well kept, wood-frame-house now separated us. The woman sized me up, looked out toward the car where my husband waited and then back again at me. With one hand she pushed the door open seemingly satisfied with what we looked to be.  Her living room was pleasantly furnished and could have been that space out of my own grandmother's house from the time I was nine years old in 1946.

“You are still keeping house?”  My admiration was there in my voice.

“Oh yes!  I have all the conveniences though.”  This elderly but somehow young women seemed to be apologizing.

“There is a washer and a dryer here. It makes it easy to keep my bed linens nice and fresh. I just toss them in the machine and then on to the dryer. I have a daughter here who helps me too.  When she called her daughter's name it was the exact name as my daughter's. She told me she had another daughter with my name. Her name, Inez, is my sister's name. I knew her husband Mark's name too since this was my son's name also.

“When my sister-in-law over there at Ponca called me here at Bartlesville to ask permission for you to come visit no one could have told how shocked I was. We haven't heard anything from your branch of the family for years and years.”

“I know. If not for the old pictures Dad left I wouldn't have even known the name, Barbee. It is strange  after searching this whole nation for Barbee people I would find them in my own town. When I called your sister-in-law she told me right off we were related. However, she said she was getting ready to go in a rest home. This must have been when she called you.”

This delicate woman in front of me now smiled. If we did not know her age one would have thought she was around fifty-six. A well kept figure with a very small waistline didn't say ninety-two.

It was our purpose to have Inez take us to the graves of my grandfather's sister, Dora (Doshia) Jones, Frenchman there in the cemetery at Caney, Kansas. We had only a short time and I wanted to visit with her a bit so we took her to lunch at a small country café in town. My mind was satisfied as to why she was so well kept when she only ordered a cup of clear soup and water.

We quickly finished our lunch and headed toward the cemetery. Although I had seen it as a girl the size of it surprised me a bit. Inez told us where to go, the exact road and location she knew well. Toward the middle of the cemetery stood two old cedars. Close to them were two large beautiful white marble stones. Even though the dates were after the change of the century of 1800's to 1900's the stones lookedto be new. The writing on them was clear and easily read. Someone had planted a white rose bush next to the two markers. Dora's son Dennis Frenchman and his wife Dora was buried next to her. Those marker's were in a black basalt marble. These were low to the ground though.

I had to weep a few tears over my great aunt's grave who I had never known. Her tragic death and then the death of her sixteen year old daughter next to her only six months after Dora's death seemed so sad to me. Inez stood quietly beside me with an understanding attitude.

In order not to tire this gentle lady too much we drove her back to her home. While I walked her back up to the door I did not want to leave but knew I must. There is such a sad feeling about a person when we are certain there would not be another meeting. The distance between Bartlesville and Ponca City isn't too much but somehow our schedules keep us from driving there only on such an occasion as this.  Still Inez did live another number of years. Her kind sharing of information and  calling her daughter over allowed me to meet this descendant too. We also met her son and it was his way to share information with me about his mother and their family. After she was in the rest home he said she usually called them every day.

The history I have written of that grand family is available now for my family. There is a picture of the very handsome, Benjamin Gray Barbee, in my living room. His U.S. Marshall's badge rests on the lapel of his suit coat. He is the father of William Mark Barbee, husband to Inez.

The contribution this strong family made to the area around Bartlesville was listed in a full page spread in the Phillips Oil Company's 66'th year anniversary brochure. They were honored by the showing of their genealogy.

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