William Britton Claiborne

Second Child of Arthur Smith and Martha Jane Claiborne
20 August 1872 – 11 January 1946

William (“Britt”) Claiborne was born on 20 August 1872 in Arkansas as the second child of Arthur Smith (the 1st) and Martha Jane Claiborne. In adulthood Britt was a big man, standing at about six feet, three inches tall and weighing about 240 pounds. On 8 December 1895 Britt married Jennie (or Virginia) Norvell, whose father had fought for the Confederacy during the Civil War.[Jennie was born in 1876 to Elijah B. Norvell and Virginia Massey. Elijah was born on 5 April 1841 in Bedford, Tennessee. Elijah served in Company B of the 44th Tennessee Infantry Regiment during the Civil War. Virginia Ann Massey was born in 1844 in Tennessee.]

Britt was known to most as “Uncle Britt” and was a favorite of the kids as he usually carried some candy with him in his pockets which he would give out to the children.[William R. Claiborne (“Bob”), a descendant of Britt, met a gentleman in 2002 while at the annual Lebanon Church picnic who knew Britt and relayed the story to Bob.] As a strawberry farmer, Britt was an active member of the McRae Fruit and Truck Growers Association during the 1920’s. Later in life Britt would serve as the town constable in McRae, Arkansas. His job was to check all buildings at night to make sure they were locked.

William (“Bob”) R. Claiborne, a descendant of Britt, enjoyed a story he often heard of Britt – when Britt bought his first car and took it to church the first Sunday he pulled up to the tree and hollered “whoa!” as if to mimic a horse. Unfortunately the car did not respond like a horse and he ran into the tree.[Email from Bob Claiborne to Joshua Andrew Claybourn, April 2007.]

Jennie would die around 1900, but it is not known if Jennie died in childbirth during the labor of her daughter Mary, or if she died for some other reason shortly thereafter.

Not long after Jennie’s death, on 9 December 1900, Britt married Georgia Ann Nichols.[Georgia Nichols was born in February of 1879.] After this marriage and the birth of their twin sons in March 1903 in Arkansas, the family moved to Antelope, Logan County, Oklahoma, where Bob is listed in the 1910 census as a farmer. This same census indicates Georgia gave birth to three children with one living, so the couple must have had another child who died young. The family moved back to White County, Arkansas, before 1918, as son Robert’s World War I draft card indicates that he and his father are both living in McRae, Arkansas. In the 1920 census, Bob is a farmer in White County with his wife Georgia, daughter Mary, and son Sam in his household.

On 11 January 1946, Britt died. Because he was such a large man they had to order a special casket for him.[Email from Bob Claiborne to Joshua Andrew Claybourn, April 2007.] Georgia followed in death less than a month later on 9 February 1947.


Britt and Jennie had two children:

  1. Robert C. Claiborne
    during World War I
    Goldie Minnie Disney
    (date unknown)

    Robert Chester Claiborne was born on 31 January 1897 in McRae, Arkansas. He ended up in Denver when his car broke down on his way to Oregon with a friend. They knew people that had moved to Denver and stayed with them, but Robert ended up staying in Denver for good. There, while working for Gates Rubber Company, he would meet Goldie Minnie Disney (born on 14 December 1901 in Garber, Oklahoma). The couple married on 14 August 1927 in Denver.

    Robert was drafted in the Army for World War I and underwent basic training. Sometime thereafter his company was put on a ship for the night and supplies were loaded in preparation to depart for war the next day. But when the next day came they received word that Germany had surrendered. They were taken off the ship and a few days later Robert was discharged.

    Goldie’s Lineage

    Goldie was the fifth child of Gilbert Levi Disney and Eliza Roxena Moore. Goldie’s father, Gilbert Levi Disney, was born on 28 September 1868 to James K. Polk Disney and Abbiegail Poston. Abbiegail’s spelling of her first name is unusual, but this is the way it was spelled when she applied for a Civil War widow’s pension and also how it is spelled on her headstone in Garber, Oklahoma. Gilbert’s father James served in Company I of the 26th Iowa Regiment in the Civil War. His enlistment papers, dated 14 August 1862, show him to be 5 feet, 4.5 inches tall, dark complexion with brown eyes and brown hair. He was wounded on 13 May 1864 at the battle of Resaca, Georgia at the hands of Sherman’s famous march to Atlanta. He was severely wounded and records show that he lost his left arm near the shoulder joint. He would receive a pension because of the wound. He is listed in the 1883 Ottowa County, Kansas pensioners’ role as receiving $24.00 per month. He is buried in Pittsburg, Kansas.

    Gilbert, Goldie’s father, was present when the Oklahoma Strip was opened in 1893. He was a farmer near Garber, Oklahoma, for a good portion of his life. The family would move to Louivers, Colorado in about 1910 and Gilbert would work for the Dupont dynamite factory there. This would only last a short time and they would move back to Oklahoma. Gilbert contracted the measles and began to put up hay when the weather was bad, causing him to lose his eyesight. The family then moved to Denver, Colorado in the 1920’s because of Gilbert’s poor eyesight and to be close to Earl, their son, who contracted tuberculosis after being gassed in World War I.

    Goldie’s mother, Eliza Roxena Moore, was born on 5 February 1871 to Harrison E. Moore and Mary Ann Oakes. Mary Ann’s birthdate is unknown but she died on 21 July 1884. Harrison was born on 13 January 1842 and died on 22 July 1885. Harrison served in the Civil War in Indiana’s 43rd Infantry. He and Mary Ann would marry on 8 November 1864 when he returned from the war. Harrison was the son of Eliza Conner and Valentine Moore. William Henry Harrison, who would go on to be elected President of the United States, married Valentine and Eliza in 1832 in Cleves, Ohio. Valentine was the daughter of Kesiah Stewart and Orson Moore. Kesiah’s father was John Stewart, who was kidnapped by his uncle in Ireland so he could control the boy’s estate.

    Goldie’s father (Gilbert) died on 4 November 1952. Her mother (Eliza) died on 15 June 1943.

    Robert and Goldie’s life after marriage

    Following her marriage to Robert, Goldie stopped working for Gates, but Bob stayed with the company until he was 65 years old and was forced to retire. Bob and Goldie would spend the majority of their married life in a nice small home at 2338 South Lafayette, in south Denver. Although Robert would suffer a stroke that would disable him later in life, none of that tainted fond memories in the mind of Robert’s grandson William (“Bob”), who writes:

    “I still have some great memories of him that will stay with me forever. I can remember walking in the back door of the house and hear him holler ‘come here sport’ and slap his hands together, and I would come a running. He smoked a pipe and whenever I smell a pipe with the tobacco that he used it reminds me of him. My favorite story that everyone has heard many times is of watching the ‘Three Stooges’. He worked the day shift at Gates and was off of work at 3 p.m.; the ‘Three Stooges’ were on Channel 2 and must have started at 3:30 or 4:00 p.m. I would watch the ‘Three Stooges’ and soon as it was over the phone would ring. I would run to answer it before my mom could even turn around. It was Grandpa and he always asked ‘did you watch those knuckleheads today’. Well of course I did and we would talk and laugh all about the episode we had just watched.” [Ibid.]

    Bob also notes, “Chester was his middle name but the only way I know was from looking at his death certificate because he hated the name and would be upset that I knew.”[Ibid.] Robert died on 28 August 1978 in Denver, Colorado. He is buried in Chapel Hill Cemetery. Goldie would die over two decades later on 10 January 1999 in Denver, Colorado. She too is buried in Chapel Hill Cemetery. Robert and Goldie had one child:

    1. William (“Bill”) Gilbert Claiborne was born on 10 November 1928 and married Geraldine Lou Coates on 5 September 1949 in Denver, Colorado. Geraldine was born on 3 February 1930 in Denver to Walter Raymond Coates [Walter Raymond Coates (20 April 1901 – January 1988) was the son of Selina Flavell and Edward Coates. Selina was born on 17 June 1873 in Chesterton, England, and died on 16 May 1952 in Denver, Colorado. Selina’s father was John Flavell, who came to the U.S. in 1881 and to Colorado in 1882. He worked primarily as a coal miner. Walter’s father was Edward Coates, who was born on 31 March 1875 in Wigan, England and died on 7 February 1953 in Denver, Colorado. Edward’s mother was Jane Johnson and his father was John Coates. Edward and Selina came to the U.S. on the S.S. Majestic on 15 November 1900 at Ellis Island. Edward would list his profession as a “collier,” which means coal miner, and their destination was listed as Weld County, Colorado, to stay with Selina’s father.] and Garnet May Thorne.[Garnet (10 May 1907 – 10 Nov. 1970) was the daughter of Anna Marie Meeves and Eugene Thorne. Anna Marie (1887 – 6 Aug. 1928) would die in a work related accident at the Gates home. She was washing clothes and her scarf became entangled in the ringer of the washing machine, breaking her neck. Anna Marie’s mother, Sophie Clausen, was born in 1871 in Germany and died on 9 April 1942 in Superior, Colorado. Anna Marie’s father was Jerry Meeves, born in 1864 in Germany and died in 1939 in Superior, Colorado. Jerry and Sophie came from Germany to Iowa, then to Wyoming, and finally settled in Colorado before 1910. Jerry was a miner for most of his life. He was the mayor of Superior, Colorado, in 1928 and in 1932. Garnet’s father, Eugene Thorne, was born in 1883. This is all that is known currently about him; he left the family after the children were born and was described as the “black sheep of the family.” Garnet’s parents divorced in 1915.]

      Bill served in the National Guard when the Korean War broke out. His unit from Colorado was out of active duty and he spent all of his time state side in Camp Polk, Louisiana. His unit was never deployed to Korea and as soon as the war was over he was discharged. Geraldine died 2 November 1986 in Denver and is buried in Crown Hill Cemetery. Bill and Geraldine had three children:

      1. Sandra Louise Claiborne was born and died on the same day on 23 December 1952. She is buried in Crown Hill Cemetery in Denver.
      2. William Robert (“Bob”) Claiborne was born on 5 May 1955, in Denver, Colorado. Bob married Susan Fay Tucker (born 28 November 1958) in Newtown, Missouri. Bob spent his later teenage years watching the draft on television, as most young men of his era did while the Vietnam War was being waged. The last year the draft was held was in 1973, the year Bob graduated high school. In 1974 Nixon announced he would begin to withdraw troops and end America’s involvement in Vietnam. Along with this they ended the draft. Bob turned 19 in 1974, the year that he could have been drafted if he had drawn the right number. “I tell people that no matter what I still like Nixon,” he said. Bob and Susan Fay divorced on 2 November 1987. They had two children:

        1. William Michael Claiborne was born on 6 September 1979. He married Kristine Louise Rogers (born 17 October 1978) in 2003. The couple had two children:

          1. Bailey Rae Claiborne was born on 10 March 2004.
          2. Brooke Ryan Claiborne was born on 27 January 2006.
        2. Johnathan Ryan Claiborne was born on 11 October 1981 and died two days later. He is buried in Crown Hill Cemetery in Denver, Colorado.
      3. Deborah Ann Claiborne was born on 3 March 1961 in Denver and married Rae Gilmore. They would later divorce. They had two children:
        1. Steven Gilmore was born on 11 May 1987.
        2. Brian Gilmore was born on 29 June 1989.

  2. Mary Ann Claiborne was born on 9 February 1899 in Arkansas.[Social Security Death Index, Arkansas, Number: 431-40-6755.] She married John Albert Boyer (1864-1930) on 28 January 1924 in White County, Arkansas. They had three children listed below. John died on 14 August 1930 and Mary Ann died many years later on 15 March 1967 in White County and they are buried together in Weir Cemetery.

    1. John D. Boyer was born in 1926 in White County, Arkansas. He married Lillian Iris Rogers (1932-2008) on 4 April 1953 in White County. They had one child, son James Boyer.
    2. Lu Ella Boyer was born on 30 September 1928 in White County, Arkansas. She married Troy Braden Sowell (1913-1997) on 1 December 1944 in Faulkner County, Arkansas. They had two sons. She died on 29 July 2014 in Faulkner County and they are buried together there in Grissard Cemetery.

      1. Troy Eugene Sowell was born on 15 September 1945 in Faulkner County, Arkansas, and died there on 21 July 1994. He served in the U.S. Navy from February 1965 to October 1967 in the Vietnam War.
      2. Paul H. Sowell was born in 1946 in Faulkner County, Arkansas.
    3. Albert John Boyer was born on 4 December 1930 in White County, Arkansas, and died there on 25 June 2006. He is buried in Weir Cemetery.

The children of Britt and Georgia Ann were:

  1. Sam E. Claiborne was born on 25 March 1903 in Arkansas. He married Erma Addis Holden (1902-2000) on 25 July 1922 in White County, Arkansas. They moved to Denver County, Colorado, between 1935 and 1940, where they lived the remainder of their lives. He died there in March 1982 and they are buried together in Chapel Hill Memorial Gardens Cemetery in Arapahoe County, Colorado.

    1. Wilma Jean Claiborne was born in about 1924 in White County, Arkansas.
    2. JoAnn Claiborne was born in about 1935 in White County, Arkansas.
    3. Linda Claiborne was born after the 1940 census, probably in Denver County, Colorado.
  2. Ed Claiborne was born on 25 March 1903. Ed died as a small child but the exact date is unknown. Sam and Ed were twins.

References and Notes