Olen Payne Wood – The Mystery Continues

I recently spoke to my cousin Kathy Wyler.  She told me that she had written a short story about the disappearance of our uncle Olen Payne Wood in the past.  She said that she would try to find me a copy.  She and her husband Phil Wyler have moved several times in the last couple of years and are now living in Abilene, Texas close to family members.  Kathy will be 91 on the 31st of March.  She was born in Africa of missionary parents.

Kathy wrote me a letter of about 5 pages that indicated she could not find the original story she had written but she described what she knew of Olen’s disappearance.  I will let her tell you what she told me:

Dear, dear Cuzin Charles:  Grandmother Wood’s story of Olen inspired me to write “A Family Resemblance”.  This will be highlights of things she told me:

One day we were going through her trunk.  (I was in lst grade in Loraine, Texas – about 7, I guess at the time; so you will imagine my story, to my way of thinking may sound like a fairy tale).  Grandma had bought a piece of land in Blanket, Texas from the Houghton family.  (At that time Olen, Jimmy, Zelma, Mayma and Bessie were still at home and moved with Grandma everywhere).

Lizzy Houghton was about 14; she and Olen fell in love.  Lizzy’s brother had a bunch of wild friends.  On the Houghton Place there was a very “nice” storm cellar.  “Tom” Houghton gambled and drank with Olen and friends down there.  Our family had always known this.  (Uncle Jimmy’s experience with Olen were probably a large part of this).

Since Grandpa Wood had died, I’ve often thought Grandma looked up to Olen to “head the family”.

About dusk one evening “Tom” Houghton and friends showed up with horse and wagon.  Bessie saw them down the road.  She grabbed the shotgun and ran to the attic, which had a window right over front porch (true story).

Wood siblings with Grandpa Anthony
Flora on your far left. Bessie standing behind Zelma. Grandpa Anthony holding James Oscar. Fletcher Pinckney standing behind William Henry and Olen Payne on your far right.

As it turned out, Houghton demanded Grandma give him the deed to her land (she had not paid it off yet in full).  Our precious angel Grandma Wood gave him the deed and promised to move.  (She didn’t know where Olen was that night).

Then “Tom” caught his little sister Lizzy with Olen kissing out in the barn.  He beat up Olen and told him if he touched his sister again, he would kill him.  That night Olen told Grandma he was having to leave for awhile and would write.  Of course we know he never did.

In the 1940’s when Zelma, Jeannie, Kathryn and Grandma Wood were living on the Hill in Abilene, Texas there was a bit of scary news paper article about some human bones found in a cave near Loraine.  Uncle Jimmy in California wanted to investigate but Grandma said “no”.

Lizzy Houghton and 2 daughters came to ACC to College.  They lived a few blocks from us.  They went to church with us.  Never spoke, recognized or visited.  Zelma never made any moves either.  Grandmother grieved silently.

Charles, some day, I hope, I’ll find my original.  I think this is quite actual.  I began the original with Grandmother’s trunk.  Olen had given Lizzy a little gold locket watch which Grandma gave me to play with.

9 thoughts on “Olen Payne Wood – The Mystery Continues

    1. My great uncle, Henry Wood, was the father of Mary Aline (Wood) Finch. Mary Aline and her husband died in the flu epidemic in 1917 and left two orphan sons. Your father was raised by the parents of Mary Aline (Wood) Finch.

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      1. I have photos of their tombstones and also death records if you would like copies. Floyd and Aline died within 13 days of each other during the flu epidemic in 1918. You may remember the custom of the time was to sit up with the sick until they got well and the with dead until they were buried. My grandfather, Floyd Filo Finch, had been taking his turn sitting up with church members and neighbors. Edna Jane Wood, the youngest of the eight children, told me that when Floyd got sick and died, his wife Aline turned her face to the wall and quit trying to get well. My father (age 5) was also sick and lay unconscious off and on for the next 18 months. His younger brother, Moris Palmer Finch, was only two, and never got sick. My understanding is that Henry and Emma took care of both little boys for years. Actually it probably was Edna Jane who did most of the caregiving. She was like a mother to my daddy and was with us every summer and every holiday until she died.

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      2. I would like a copy of what you have on the Finch couple. Mary Aline was a favorite cousin to my mother Bessie Beatrice (Wood) Graham. They knew each other well in Glen Allen Alabama before the families migrated to Texas. My oldest living (and only living sibling besides me) Mary Aline Graham was named after your grandmother Finch. Mary Graham is 93 and living in Lubbock, Texas. She never married.

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    1. Henry Wood and Emma Catherine Wood raised your father. They perhaps sent your mother to Blanket, Texas to stay with my Grandmother, Vernettie Jane (Anthony) Wood for her to be the midwife. She was widowed when my grandfather James Samuel Wood died near Mineola, Texas in 1904. She then moved the family west to Blanket, Texas and it was there that Olen Payne went missing.

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