The Shellenbarger Family
By Don House
John & Mary Ann (Haynie) Shellenbarger
Almost any native of Bixby has heard of the old Shellenbarger School and Shellenbarger Church previously located on the corner of 131st Street and Memorial Drive. But what is known about the family for whom these institutions are named? We at the Historical Society do not have as much information as we would like, but we are happy to share what we have. A lot of our information is, “word of mouth.” It can be supported by newspaper clippings, letters and other documentation. We would be happy to receive any additional information, pictures or corrections from our readers.
John H. Shellenbarger, a descendant of “Black Dutch” ancestry, was born November 1, 1859 in Michigan. He moved to Joplin, Missouri, where he married Mary Ann Haynie in 1879. In 1893, John, Mary and four children emigrated in a covered wagon to the area three miles north of the small town of Bixby, Indian Territory.
That first year, they rented a small farm. However, Shellenbarger, soon, acquired over 200 acres on the northwest corner of what is now 131st and Memorial Drive.
According to Bixby old-timers and confirmed by a Tulsa Tribune article in 1938, the Shellenbargers ran a very successful agricultural operation. They diversified their crops, rotating mainly between cotton, alfalfa and their principal crop, corn. In addition, they raised hogs, cattle, poultry. They, also, sold cream and honey, according to the Tribune article. It is said, the Shellenbarger family enjoyed the convenience of electricity, generated by their own Delco power plant, long before it was available as a public utility.
There were, supposedly, at least six Shellenbarger children. However, names are known of only five of them, Dick, Nellie, Willard, Bessie and Earl.
Willard died in Bixby of tuberculosis in about 1933. He never married.
Bessie Shellenbarger married Will Henney. They lived in the Frye Township north of Bixby until Will’s death about 1933. Will and Bessie had three children, Mildred, Nellie and Leroy. After Will’s death, Bessie married Bob Buffalo. The Henney children lived with their grandparents, the Shellenbargers.
Mildren Henney married Edna Lundy of Bixby. They moved to Oregon. Eventually, Bessie joined them in Oregon where she married for a third time.
Earl, the youngest, never married. He died in Bixby of injuries he sustained in a fall from a pecan tree while picking pecans, about 1935.
In the late 1930s or early 1940s, John and Mary Shellenbarger sold their farm. They relocated in Oregon to be near their surviving children.
John H. Shellenbarger’s obituary in the December 28, 1948 issue of the Medford Mail Tribune, Medford OR, shows, in addition to his widow, three surviving children: Dick T. Shellenbarger, Nellie Griffitts and Bessie Kimbrell; fourteen grandchildren and 26 great-grandchildren. He was, also, survived by a sister, Mary V. Miller. The obituary acknowledged his membership in the I.O.O.F. Lodge 474 in Bixby OK.