Womack and Gastin Families, Wallowa County, Oregon

The Womack Family


I do not know much about my father’s family. They lived in Missouri. Father’s mother died, I was told, when he was born. I don’t know my grandfather’s name for sure but I believe it was William. My father’s name was Jacob E. Womack. My Grandmothers name was Lureene. I was named after her and my granddaughter; Kathryn Lureene is also named after her. I have been told that my ancestors came from Wales and were coal miners. They settled in Virginia when they came from Wales.  This information was given to me by a cousin. When a young man, my father came to Wallowa to live with his brother, my Uncle John, who had come to the west years before. He then came to Lostine where other relatives lived, here he met my mother and they were married. I do not know the date. I was born July 10, 1897 near Lostine, Oregon. My sister Gladys was born May 28, 1900 and my sister Mina on December 12, 1903. I also had a half sister Leola. (Leola was a child of Emily’s and was raised by Sarah --by Gary Jaensch). She married at at an early age so we weren't very close. When I was seven years old, my father died in 1904 so, I can’t remember him too well, I can remember him teaching me my A B C’s. A relative told me that my grandfather remarried and raised another family. I do remember my Uncle John but not well though. I did go to their home some when I was a small girl.


I was well acquainted with some of my cousins, Bertha, Fanny, Marion and William. Some cousins of my father came west in the early days. I am not sure if Uncle William Womack was his uncle. His wife was Aunt Martha. They had a large family. I remember most of them, especially Uncle Croft, as we called him. His family was close to us. Also a daughter, Aunt Mary Bell Ward and her family. This Womack family came west from Illinois and Missouri. Some other cousins settled in Idaho, later coming to Oregon. The one I knew best was Lee Womack.



Womack and Gastin Family


When I was 9 years old my mother and Thomas Gastin were married and he became a real father to us girls. We loved him dearly. He was a poor man, working to support us. He worked mostly on farms. Later when the railroads came to Wallowa County he worked on them.


The Gastin family came west from Missouri and settled near the town of Wallowa, between Wallowa and Lostine, along the river road as we called it. Papa Gastin had three brothers, Uncle Frank, Uncle Archie and Uncle James. He also had two sisters, Aunt Jennie and Aunt Nellie. The Gastin families treated us girls as their own. Uncle Archie never married. Uncle Jim and his wife aunt Kate lived on wheat farm a few miles from Wallowa. They had a family of four sons and one daughter, we girls loved to go visit them and spent many happy times with them. Uncle Jim died quite young; Aunt Kate lived to an old age. My children also loved to visit her when they were young.


Mother and Papa had a long marriage and a good life together. Papa died in 1942 and mother died in 1949. My parents are all buried in the Lostine Cemetery. (Emily’s grave is between Jacob Womack and Thomas McClellan Gastin’s)


Wallowa County was Indian country. They lived there, the hunting and fishing was good and they loved the rivers and mountains.


In 1867, a treaty was signed with the government and by 1871 settlers began to come into Wallowa County, many settled in Lostine, a little place.


After the Homestead Act was made, more came mostly from the east and Lostine became a town. It was named Lostine after a town called Lostine, Kansas because so many people from Kansas settled there. So many farms came into use as well as businesses in town. By the time I was a child it had several stores, two hotels, drug store, blacksmith shop, a gristmill, meat market, bakery, schools and church. I have such fond memories of my childhood years and as a teenager there.


The winters were long and a lot of snow, which we liked to play in. When spring came we girls would go to Lostine hill and other places to pick wild flowers. We looked forward to that. It was said there were Indian graves on the hill.


By the time I was a teenager we had other things to do. In the winter there was school activities. Some parties and basketball. My sister Gladys and I were on a team and of course sledding and skating. When we were older we went to dances some. So I had a happy childhood. We had a good home where there was no strife and plenty of love from Mother and Papa. My sisters and I were always close and still are.


Later the City had a civic building where lots of activities were held. Finally we had a motion picture show, the silent type. In the summer there wasn’t much to do. Gladys and I found what work we could.


As you see our young lives were filled with love although, we had some bad times and some tragedies when we were small. There was an old cook stove in our back yard so, one day we got some matches and was going to put a fire in it. The outcome was that, I caught on fire and almost lost my life. I was down for a long time; I still have a scar on my hip. Another time my sister Gladys contracted typhoid fever and her life was in danger. One time we lived on a farm my Papa was leasing and a near tragedy almost occurred. There was an irrigation ditch running not far from the barn lot. It wasn’t very wide, so Gladys and I decided to take our little sister Mina, who was four or five for a boat ride, so we made one by tying a rope in each handle of a washing tub. We put her in it, one of us on each side of the ditch. We did fine until we came to the footbridge and we had to let it go, so she went on down. Luckily Papa heard us scream and rescued her. We almost got a good spanking that time. I remember we were sent to the house to stay in. Papa didn’t believe in using a paddle. These are a few little stories I thought might be of interest.


Later we moved to Echo, Oregon where Papa was employed on the railroad. Mina was in school then.... Gladys and I were working, she at the post office and I at a hotel.


At this time World War One was on and it was a sad time. In the winter of 1918, there was a terrible flu epidemic and many people died. All of us had it except Mina.


While working at the hotel, I met a young man, James Franklin Wood and on January 14, 1919 we were married. Three children were born to us, Marjorie Ellen, October 29, 1920, and Sarah LaVonne, November 18, 1921, and LeLand James, August 21, 1926. Marjorie was born in Hermiston, Oregon, LaVonne in Stanfield and LeLand in Wallowa.


James (Jim) was working as a signal maintainer at the time on the railroad and we lived in Echo, Oregon. We lived in Durkee, Oregon, Princeton, Idaho and Wallowa, Oregon. We had a good marriage for nineteen years, when he became ill and on May 3, 1938 after a long illness with cancer, he passed away, he is buried in the Lostine Cemetery. Memory still lingers on of a good husband and a loving father.


Later I met an old friend, Hans Finstad. Friendship was renewed and on February 3, 1940 we were married. At that time he lived in Baker, Oregon where he worked for Oregon Lumber Mill. We made our home in Baker. He was a good stepfather to my children. LeLand was a boy of 13 when we were married and he raised him as his own son.


We were privileged to have had 44 years together, living in the same home we bought when we married. On November 23, 1983 he passed away and is buried in Baker, Oregon.


I am now living in Port Lavacca, Texas where my daughter LaVonne has so kindly taken me into her home.


I have 9 grandchildren and 15 great grandchildren.


Additional Information from Clara

Womack Family

Wallowa County

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