Maude Ethel (Stephens) Ballenger

Maud Ethel Stephens was born 28 May 1881 in Bunceton, Cooper County, Missouri. Her parents were James Box Stephens and Laura Jane Shrout. The oldest of six children, her sibling were Ernest (1883), Mary Lou (1885), Oscar (1890), Harold (1897) and Alice Truna (1901).1

In 1900 her family as still living in Palestine Township, Cooper County, Missouri. Census records for that year show Maude's occupation as that of a seamstress.2 According to Louise (granddaughter of James) Maud enjoyed dancing quite a bit. This was disapproved of by her strict Baptist father, so on occasion she and younger brother Oscar would sneak out of the house. Their clandestine practice paid off when they won a local dance contest.3

The exact timing is uncertain, but around 1907 Maud's family moved to Tucumcari, New Mexico.4

According to a story told by Mary (Ballenger) Fristad, on a certain occasion the Stephens family went to a camp church meeting. Loading up the wagon with everything needed for a short term stay in the wilderness, the family joined other members of their church. Upon their return from the outing, they found their home burned to the ground. With nothing holding them in Missouri, the family moved west. It is also possible that the frail health of their youngest daughter Alice contributed to the move, as the drier climates of the Southwest states were considered beneficial to one's constitution.5 It is likely that Maud stayed behind in Missouri, establishing her own home and continuing in the seamstress profession.

Around 1908, Maud and an "Aunt Belle" set out for the Oklahoma Territory, where they applied for land patents at the General Land Office in Woodward, Oklahoma, setting up adjacent claims in Cimarron County.6 Law stated that the homesteader must establish a residence on their property - so together they built a cabin that straddled the boundary between their parcels - each living at the end of the building that projected farthest into her own land. They were dressmakers for the officers' wives at Fort Sill, and Maude recalled seeing Geronimo sitting in his rocking chair on the porch of his cabin.

"Aunt Belle's" exact family relationship to Maud is not yet known. Mary E. Fristad stated that "Aunt Belle" was a somewhat slightly older, nonrelated family friend.5 Her actual name was unknown to Mary at that time. However, the name on the land patent record for the adjacent parcel (same application date, two claim numbers later) is listed as Theodesia E. Stephens.7 Thus it is possible that Aunt Belle was actually a distant cousin - Cooper County, Missouri had many branches of the Stephens family at that time. More research needs to be done.

Returning from Oklahoma, Maude joined her family in New Mexico. The family heard of a Presbyterian church being started in a nearby school, and they began attending. A Bible class there was being taught by a young man, for whom Maude immediately "set her hat."5 This was Archie Grey Ballenger - they were married on 14 January, 1914.8

The new family moved for a brief time to Columbus New Mexico, where Arch worked as a bookkeeper for local businessman Mr. Dean, owner of the town grocery store and three lumber yards. While in Columbus, their first daughter Laura Lou was born (2 Nov 1914).9 In the early morning of 9 March 1916, the Mexican bandit Pancho Villa's forces attacked the town. Maude (pregnant with daughter Mary) and carrying young Laura in her arms, fled in terror into the countryside and hid in the sagebrush from the sound of gunfire.5 Archie's employer Mr. Dean was shot down in the raid.10 They returned to Tucumcari in 1917 11; Archie carried daughter Laura with him on his horse, while pregnant Maude took the train. Daughter Mary Ethel was born in Tucumcari on 26 October 1917.12 Arch and Maude lived in Tucumcari for several years, where Arch became a cattle rancher.

At some point before 1920, the family moved from Tucumcari to Hemet, California where Archie purchased several acres of land, on which he set up an apricot orchard.13 Son Archie Grey (Junior) was born 17 January 1920.14 Archie's father and mother moved with them, as Thomas Ballenger had a medical condition (possibly asthma) that doctors felt the climate of California might assuage. Thomas passed away in 1921,15 and his widow Mary continued to live with the family for several more years, alternating between Hemet and the Fresno area (where her daughter Minnie Lue (Ballenger) Harbin was living). Mary died 5 April 1932.16

In 1941, Archie sold the property in Hemet, and he and his wife moved to a half-acre lot on Coolidge Avenue in Riverside, California.17 There were no apricots on this property, only oranges and walnuts.18 They lived there for another decade until, at the age of 73 on 28 March 1951, Archie Grey succumbed to colon cancer. He died at home, and was buried in Olivewood cemetery in Riverside, California.19 The property was sold, and the proceeds were used to buy a home for his daughter Laura Lou. Maud lived with her oldest daughter until she passed away on March 17, 1961 at the age of 79. She is buried next to her husband.19

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Maude Ethel Stephens c.1900