Many of the early settlers came to America in the cause of religious freedom. I do not know why my great-great-great-grandfather came. He was married twice, and sired 16 children. One of his son’s, Peter, was my great-great grandfather. I have no information of the religious bent of either of these Peter Shaklees. However, we know that my great-grandfather, John Phillis Shaklee was a Methodist, and my branch of the Shaklees have been Methodists for more than 150 years.
John Phillis Shaklee, son of Peter and Abigail (Phillis) Shaklee, was born Tuesday 1 August 1826 in Morgan County, OH. John P. Shaklee was baptized, probably in the Methodist church, 20 Aug 1845.
John P. and Eliza (Northcraft) Shaklee were married August 20, 1846 by the Rev. William Lepor, a Methodist Episcopal minister. The wedding took place at 2:00 p.m. in the home of Eliza's sister, Christiana Shaw in Monroe County, OH, and Eliza's half-brother, Jacob Sappington, bore the expense of the wedding.
Eliza Jane Northcraft was born Monday 6 Oct 1828 in Green County, PA. When she was only eight years old, her Uncle George Church, from Monroe County, OH, visited at their home. She accompanied him on his return, riding behind him on horseback a distance of more than 200 miles. She took the name of Church because her Aunt Sally and Uncle George Church raised her. At the age of 14, she spent one year with her mother, but then returned to the home of her mother's sister, Sally Church, until her marriage to John P. Shaklee.
John P. Shaklee was known for his piety and religious reverence for his creator. As an example, it has been said that on the day following his marriage, he took down the old family bible and read therefrom, and then offered prayer. From that day to the day of his death, the family prayer and praise service around the home altar was a part of the daily routine of a busy life. To their union was born 11 children, my grandfather William F. Shaklee being the oldest son.
In November 1853, in company with two other families in immigrant wagons, they moved their possessions to Henry County, IL. The children of that company later looked back to the journey as one of their early pleasure trips. There, after living in their covered wagons for a time, a hewn log house was erected on a newly purchased farm.
John Phillis Shaklee was one of the main builders of the Clover Chapel, a country church near Woodhull in Henry County, IL. The following tribute to him was published on the occasion of the 40th anniversary celebration of Clover Chapel 21-25 February 1907: “First mention is due to the man of God, whose object in living seemed to be to help someone along the journey of life, whose life all might emulate, but few could equal, who was one of the kindest men we ever knew, -- John P. Shaklee. He with his family came to this country from Ohio, in November 1853, and had no sooner settled than he began to think about organizing a Methodist class. In the early winter of 1854 he organized a class in the old Pine school house ---. The first members consisted of John P. Shaklee and wife, John Bostwick and wife, Isiah Booher and wife, Isaac Sageser and wife, Barbara Jane Snyder, and perhaps some others. Brother Shaklee went to Beamington (now called Orion), and got Rev. H. J. Humphrey to come and preach."
In March 1871 John and his family moved to a farm 10 miles west of Holton in Jackson County, KS. One of his first acts upon arriving in Kansas was to begin work on another country church. The following quotes are from "The History of Olive Hill Church", written in 1927 by his daughter, Rella Blosser): "-- He was instrumental in bringing a minister to the little old school house which stood 1/2 mile south and 3/4 mile west of the site of the present church; there they worshipped and a Sunday school was conducted until the Olive Hill school house was built. The services were continued there under the pastorate of the Circleville circuit. The school district had been divided, the log school house abandoned, (and the school district was named Olive Hill in honor of the superintendent of schools, Olive E. Stout, who had secured the division).
"As a young girl in the home, I remember how father spent much time soliciting funds for the building (after a charter was applied for in 1887 to build a church), and the reports he would make when coming in from those horse-back rides and what differences of opinion were reported. The carpenters, of whom two were Godfrey and Sturgeon, were boarding in our home at the time a windstorm blew down the frame-work of the building, and I remember what consternation prevailed when that dire calamity was announced. Many thought that was the fated end of a church building at Olive Hill. -- A member of the building committee wrote, 'Through the persistent efforts of John P. Shaklee, we are today indebted for the pleasures and benefits we have derived from the use of the Olive Hill church, for we do not believe this church would be here today if it had not been so. He spent day after day riding on horse-back over these sparsely settled prairies, endeavoring to raise the funds wherewith to go on with the re-building. Accordingly, plans were remade; it was decided to build a few feet smaller on each dimension, and eliminate the plans for a vestibule, on the corner of the building, with the belfry.'
"(J. P. Shaklee was among the ) Charter Trustees. Olive Hill Church was dedicated July 25, 1884. -- (Another wrote about him, 'He was known as the most reasonable of men. He never lost his temper, but could stand for the right against any odds, and was known the same way (in Illinois as) in Kansas.'"
John Phillis Shaklee died Wednesday 26 August 1885 at the age of 59 years and 25 days following a severe attack of appendicitis. He was buried in the Olive Hill Cemetery.
The first Ladies' Aid Society of Olive Hill Church was organized in the fall of 1898, and Eliza was among the charter members. Many hours of work were done by the faithful Aids to obtain money to keep the church furnished and in repair (Blosser, 1927).
Eliza died Monday 1 Aug 1904 at her home near Breckinridge, OK, at the age of 75 years, nine months and 26 days. She was buried beside her husband in the Olive Hill cemetery west of Holton, KS.
My grandfather, William Francis Shaklee, son of John Phillis and Eliza Jane (Northcraft) Shaklee, was born 1 Jun 1849 in what is now Noble County, OH.
In addition to farming, Will became the teacher in the rural school district known as Winding Vale in Jackson County, KS. Will was aware that some of the older boys in the school sometimes liked to gang up and challenge a new teacher. But Will always used a hickory wand as a pointer. It also doubled as an "enforcer". He never had discipline problems in his school.
One of the students at Will's school was Harriett Stalker. A romance soon developed, and a letter to "Miss Hattie" written 6 Apr 1877 indicated the course of future events. "If nothing prevents I will be at your home one week from next Sabbath evening. You said (in your letter) it seemed as though everything went against our keeping company. You know there is a saying 'A bad beginning makes a good ending'". They were married in the home of the bride's parents 10 Sep 1878. To this union was born 7 children, the youngest son being my father Vere Stalker Shaklee.
Harriett Joanna Stalker was born 18 Sep 1858, daughter of Elisha L. and Elizabeth Margaret (Coffin) Stalker, on the Hungate Estate near Livonia, Washington County, IN. She spent her childhood until 11 years of age on a farm near Livonia and on the Kelso farm where her father was overseer after the death of Dr. Kelso.
Will played an important part in the construction and operation of the Olive Hill Church. The following quotes are from The History of Olive Hill Church by Rella Shaklee Blosser, 1927. "In 1853 a charter was applied for, to build a church. Rev. Sedore was the pastor in charge at that time; funds were solicited, contracts drawn for building, with F. M. Bostwick, L. D. Stephenson and W. F. Shaklee as building committee. Following the windstorm mentioned above in John P. Shaklee’s account, W. F. Shaklee wrote: 'The preacher had made the contracts and we (the building committee) had signed the contracts on dotted lines, but when the wind-storm came, the contracts did not amount to much, as there were no bonds, and contractors were not worth anything."
Will was also superintendent of the Sunday School at Olive Hill Church for several years.
In 1887 the Soldier Circuit of the Methodist church was established, and the men who organized it were: R. J. Tolin and Jacob Suman of Soldier; Ezra Woodburn and J. L. Wesley of Ontario; and William Shaklee of Olive Hill. Will also served as a Justice of the Peace in 1887 and 1888.
Harriett J. Shaklee was among the charter members of the Ladies Aid Society mentioned above.
Will bought a relinquishment near Waukomis, Oklahoma Territory, from Glen Walters. In April 1900 Will went to Enid, Oklahoma Territory, and on 28 Apr 1900 filed Homestead Application No. 10970 for Lots 3 and 4, and the E half of SW quarter of Section 7, Township 21N, Range 6, W.I.M. containing 154.82 acres.
Will continued to be quite active in the Methodist Church, and was largely instrumental in building the First Methodist Church at Waukomis. He served the church as Sunday School superintendent and was a member of the Official Board for a number of years. During a church banquet on 29 Mar 1909, Will was on the program speaking on the topic, "Our Church".
In February 1919, Will and Vere (my father) went to the Watonga area and looked at some farms. Will bought the W half of NW quarter of Section 3, Township 15N, Range 12, W.I.M in Blaine County, OK, while Vere bought the NW quarter of Section 15, Township 15N, Range 12. Will also bought a house in Watonga where he and Harriett lived in retirement.
The Will Shaklees continued their church activities in the Watonga Methodist church. Harriett was on the Ladies Aid committee to help in the kitchen when they served the High School Junior Senior Banquet in 1921. She also helped make bungalo aprons to be worn at the time.
William F. and Harriet Shaklee’s Golden Wedding anniversary, September 10, 1928, was celebrated with a dinner in the dining room of the Watonga Methodist Church. They acted as host and hostess to 67 relatives and 8 invited guests. An attractive banner with “Shaklee, Fifty Years” in gold letters was placed on the wall just back of the bride and groom. A newspaper account of the celebration in the Watonga Republican stated, “the dining room was a gold and white bower of beauty with its streamers of crepe paper and baskets of flowers. A large wedding bell of yellow and white was suspended just over the table where the bride and groom were seated. Great baskets of golden rod dahlias and other autumn flowers were placed all over the room on stands. The menu was especially planned with the idea in mind of carrying out the yellow and white color scheme. The dinner was served by the Methodist Ladies Aid Society. “The white angel food cake with yellow frosting and the ice cream in the form of wedding bells added an artistic finish to the menu.”
After dinner, a short program was given. Among the events were appropriate remarks by the Rev. O. W. Brown, a retired Methodist minister who had known the Shaklee family for many years; and a short talk by the Rev. Morrison, a Methodist minister, on the lives of men and women like Mr. & Mrs. Shaklee and their value to the community.
Will died at Watonga, OK 6 Jun 1932 (The Watonga Republican, 1932). He was buried in Section D, Lot 66 of the Waukomis cemetery Waukomis, OK (Warranty Deed, 1932b). His obituary noted, “he was a devoted and consecrated Christian and was very faithful in his church work. He was a regular worshipper until his hearing got so poorly he could no longer hear the singing and sermon.”
Harriet died at her home in Watonga, OK 9 Jan 1947 at 88 years of age. She was buried in the Waukomis Cemetery, Waukomis, OK, beside her husband.
My parents, also Methodists, had been active in church work. Vere S. Shaklee was the Sunday school Superintendent and both parents sang as members of duets, quartets and other choral groupings in the small one-room school house which served as a community church when I was growing up on a Blaine County farm.
It is interesting that, in 4 generations of my line of male Shaklee Methodists, I am the only one who married a Methodist girl. My great-grandmother Shaklee was raised by her aunt and uncle, and we have no record of her church affiliation, if any. My grandmother Shaklee was raised as a Baptist. My mother was raised in the Disciples of Christ church. But I met Rose in the Methodist church in Enid, and we were married there almost 4 years later, after I returned from overseas duty in WWII.