Marie Jones Tefft

Her grandchildren and great grandchildren affectionately called her Mamo. In retrospect, it was a sturdy, no-nonsense name, much like Marie. She was of pioneering stock, with family who made their way from Ohio to Kansas, and eventually to California. While they probably didn’t make the trip in covered wagons, it was not an elegant journey.

Marie was the daughter of Thomas Warren Jones and Charlotte Prather Foster, one of nine children. She  was born 15 October 1874, after her parents had left Ohio and settled in Sandoval, Illinois. Although her two oldest sisters were born in Pike County, Ohio, she and the rest of her siblings were born in Illinois. Eventually the family moved to La Harpe, Kansas. It was while she was living in Kansas that she met John Quincy Tefft from Garnett, Kansas. The Teffts had made a similar journey from New York to Michigan and then down to Kansas. There was wanderlust in both bloodlines. J.Q., as her future husband was known, had grown up in Garnett, Kansas, but was anxious to see the world.

The couple fell in love but did not marry before he was sent to fight in the Philippines during the Spanish American War. After suffering an injury, he was sent home, putting an end to his desire to travel overseas. The day after he returned to, he and Marie married. It was 02 November 1899 and the ceremony was at the tony-for-turn-of-the-century-Kansas Copeland Hotel in the capital city of Topeka. The hotel would burn to the ground less than a decade later.

After their wedding, the couple lived in Emporia while J.Q. went to the State Normal School to obtain his teaching degree. While there, the couple took in boarders to help cover their expenses.

Four years later, J.Q. and Marie moved to Kinsley, Kansas, 250 miles west, where J.Q. taught at Kinsley High School for three years and Marie kept their house in order. Their two oldest daughters Margaree and Portia were born in Kinsley.

In the summer of 1909, J.Q. went to Durango, Colorado where he secured a teaching job in Aransas City. Marie followed with Margaree and Portia on 21 September 1909. At the end of the school year in 1910, the family moved to La Harpe, Kansas, where Marie’s family lived. Two months later, her father-in-law died in Oregon. As the executor of his father’s estate, her husband traveled to Portland to settle his father’s affairs, leaving Marie and the girls at the family home in La Harpe.

J.Q. had the soul of an adventurer. Instead of returning to Kansas, he decided to seek his fortune in Los Angeles, sailing directly down Southern California to look for a job. Marie and the girls followed, arriving on October 18, 1910. Once again, to help make ends meet, the family took in boarders. John worked at a department store and did some teaching. While living in Los Angeles, daughter Anita was born.

While Marie was busy raising her daughters, J.Q. was fighting the urge to uproot his family again. He considered his options and decided on trying his hand at homesteading. In the Arizona desert. At the end of 1912, J.Q. moved to Cochise, Arizona, and homesteaded 160 acres. Four months later, Marie followed him with their three daughters, along with his brother James Tefft and his family. The conditions were rough, with the family living in a tent until the end of 1913. No one but James was happy there.

Discouraged about life in Arizona, J.Q. moved back to California to try to secure a new teaching job in the Los Angeles area, leaving his family behind in the sweltering heat and poor living conditions. By that time, Marie was pregnant with her youngest daughter Charlotte and could no longer travel. Margaree and Portia, who were about six and seven, did what they could to help care for baby Anita and their mother. It had to be in the spring, because Charlotte wasn’t born until August. The women lived in a tent in the heart of the desert, along with scorpions and snakes. That summer in Arizona was brutal, but somehow the women survived, and baby Charlotte was born on August 18, 1913.

According to her daughter Anita, Marie was very angry at being left behind in what she considered deplorable living conditions. Even after J.Q. moved his family into a small cobblestone, two-room house, Marie remained angry; it almost ruined the couple’s marriage. At the time, Cochise was just 60 miles from Tombstone, a hot bed of activity during those wild west days. It was not the place to be raising four young daughters.

After securing a job at the Vermont School in Los Angeles, J.Q. sold his property in Arizona and moved his family back to California. By 1920, the family was finally settled in Pasadena. Their new home was in the hills on Linda Vista Drive, above the Rose Bowl stadium and surrounded by lush vegetation, the antithesis of home in Cochise. J.Q. purchased a property that had a country store in front, and living quarters in the back. Marie operated the store while J.Q. taught at a local high school. The girls no doubt helped out around the store when needed. Marie’s mother, by then a widow, moved in with the family and helped Marie with her children and grandchildren.

In the home on Linda Vista, Marie finally found the security and contentment for which she longed. Their traveling days were over and she relished the security and stability that were now a permanent part of her life. After her husband retired from teaching school, they sold the store to the Jurgenson’s chain of gourmet markets and moved to Leucadia, California, in the northern part of San Diego county, where they could be closer to daughters Margaree and Portia. This is the home that I remember, the home by the sea with the big yard and the stone wall and lots of flowers. It was a magical place to visit.

Marie died in 1963. I wish I had been older during her life time. There are so many questions I have about her family and her travels and the secrets and lies that make all families unique. On the other hand, maybe it’s better that those things remain hidden.