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Seventh Child of William Divine Claybourn
8 February 1851 – 1909
Ephraim S. Claybourn

Ephraim Smith Claybourn (known as “Doc”) was born on 8 February 1851 in Dix, Illinois. On 20 August 1870 he married Ms. Mary Jane (Harvey) Dudley (known as “Jennie”).[Mary Jane “Jennie” Harvey was born on 18 December 1847 in Marion County, Illinois.] Jennie had previously been married to Elijah H. Dudley, who was a Sergeant in the 3rd Illinois Cavalry Regiment in the Civil War.[Jennie and Elijah married on 5 February 1868 in Jefferson County, Illinois. Elijah lived from 1844 to 1911.] Together they had a daughter, Ella.[Lucinda Elzora “Ella” Dudley was born on 7 March 1868 in Jefferson County, Illinois. On 28 June 1893 she married James B. McMillin in Champaign County, Illinois. He was born on 12 October 1866 in Jefferson County, Illinois. Together Ella and James had one child, and then divorced during the 1920s. James died on 1 December 1943 in Champaign County and is buried there in Mount Hope Cemetery. Ella died May 1968 in Decatur, Illinois at age 100. She is buried in Fairlawn cemetery in Macon County, Illinois. Their first child, Byron McMillin (of Decatur, Ill.), lived from 29 May 1894 to 7 May 1947 and served as a Lieutenant in the Air Force in World War I. Byron had one child named Jack H. McMillian who lived in Oklahoma City, Okla. Ella and James’ second child was Jack McMillin, who also served in World War I, and who had a son named Jack B. McMillin that resided in Oklahoma City, Okla.] Jennie and Elijah divorced in August of 1870, just before she married Ephraim. The couple moved to Urbana, Illinois in about 1875 and to Champaign, Illinois in about 1884.

Ephraim began working for the government in 1891 as an engineer on the Missouri River. In 1892 he was transferred to the Mississippi River and stationed on the U.S. Dredge Fleet at Memphis, Tennessee, first as chief engineer of a twenty inch centrifugal dredge. In this capacity he conducted several important tests of engines, boilers, fuels, etc., under different conditions, speeds, etc., and with the dredges using different types of pumping equipment. The results and deductions arrived at were published by F.B. Maltby, then Superintendent of Drudging, in the “Engineering News” in about 1902.

“Doc” was advanced to Master of Dredges and later to Master Mechanic in which capacity he built and operated the extensive shops necessary to keep up the dredging plant, which at that time included eight of the largest dredges afloat, five large stern-wheel tow-boats, four smaller survey boats, three or four other large tenders and numerous smaller craft such as pile drivers, air compressors, barges for many purposes, and a sectional floating drydock which was built on the spot.

In 1905 the U.S. government sought engineers for work on the Isthmian Canal construction, and since Ephraim was considered one of the best in the nation, he was transferred there to the Panama Canal with the position of Superintendent of all floating equipment of the government property on the Canal Zone. His nephew Vern Claybourn wrote, “Ephraim Smith Claybourn was a fine machinist and a most efficient steam engineer.” According to an Official Register published in 1907 by the United States Civil Service Commission, Ephraim was paid $3,000 per year.

When he went to Panama, he designed and constructed the Cristobal drydock shops and rebuilt the “Old French” dock to accommodate vessels of 300 foot length and about 25 foot draft. He was carried on the rolls there as Superintendent and had full charge of about 500 men. He supervised the construction of many types of machines for the different phases of that mammoth job, including the building outright of several dredges and the rehabilitation of a variety of “Old French” machinery that was adapted to the American methods of performance.

Reflecting back on Ephraim’s life, his nephew Verner noted, “I worked under him and with him for about ten years and have had ample opportunity to observe executives, both on these jobs and elsewhere, and say, unqualifiedly, he was the most efficient and at the same time the most popular executive I ever knew.” Work on the Panama Canal became a family business of sorts. Two of Ephraim’s nephews, John G. Claybourn and Vern Claybourn, both also went to work on the project and rose to prominent roles.

Ephraim worked on the canal for about three years, but while there he fell from a vessel in dock to the concrete floor and broke his hip, the shock also affecting his heart so that he finally resigned. Eventually he died in 1909. The Champaign (Illinois) News reported the following in an article headlined, “E.S. Claybourn Hurt in Panama – Died in Champaign – Was Born at Dix”.

Ephraim Smith Claybourn died at his home in Champaign Sunday. Mr. Claybourn was born near Dix, Jefferson County (Ill.), February 8, 1851. He was the father of seven children, four of whom, with his widow, survive.

Mr. Claybourn was married on August 20, 1870, to Mary J. Dudley. They came to Urbana 34 years ago and to Champaign 25 years ago. Mr. Claybourn died in the house to which they moved from Urbana at 410 W. White St. The cause of his death was a rupture of the heart, caused by an accident which happened August 15, 1906, while he was superintendent of floating equipment on the Isthmian Canal.

Mr. Claybourn had an interesting life. He entered the service of the government in 1891 as an engineer on the Missouri River. In 1892 he was transferred to the Mississippi River as chief engineer, which position he held until 1905, when he was again transferred to the more important work of the government, and in a position where the government assembled its best engineers, on the Isthmian Canal construction, where he was again promoted to the position of superintendent of all floating equipment of the government property on the Canal Zone. He was recognized as a man of more than ordinary executive ability and had excellent control of the men under him and by them was regarded as a most excellent friend, as is shown by the many inquiries as to his condition while he was here sick. Mr. Claybourn had been practically disqualified from performing his duties almost ever since his injuries.

As “Doc” Claybourn he was more familiarly known to many persons. In fact many of his most intimate acquaintances never knew any other name. The funeral was held at two o’clock Wednesday afternoon from the residence with the Odd Fellows in attendance. Rev. E.B. Rogers officiated.

Ephraim Smith Claybourn and Mary Jane had seven children:

  1. Charles Claybourn was born on 6 April 1873 in Jefferson County, Illinois. He married Agnes Ellen Dunbar on 2 December 1894 in Champaign County, Illinois.[Agnes Dunbar was born on 14 November 1876 in Champaign County, Illinois.] Together they had five children, listed below, and lived for a while at 518 New York Ave., Peoria, Illinois. Charles worked for a farm implement company. Agnes died on 20 May 1949 and Charles died on 1 November 1950, both in Peoria. They are buried together there in Swan Lake Memory Gardens Cemetery.

    1. Willis Franklin Claybourn (called “Bill”) was born on 22 October 1895 in Champaign County, Illinois. His grave marker lists his World War I military service. On his World War II draft card from 1942 it says he is living in South Bend, Indiana working for Bendix Products Corp in the Aviation Department. Bill had no children and died on 11 April 1964 in Los Angeles, California. He is buried in Swan Lake Memory Gardens Cemetery in Peoria, Illinois.
    2. Charles Todd Claybourn was born on 17 April 1899 in Champaign County, Illinois. He married Kathryn E. Schneider in about 1923 and they had two children together, listed below.[Kathryn Schneider was born on 3 July 1900 in Illinois] Kathryn died in January of 1967 and Charles followed in February of 1976, both in Peoria, Illinois.

      1. Jack Charles Claybourn was born on 12 June 1926 in Peoria, Illinois. He was a World War II Marine Corps veteran. Jack married and later divorced, but had no children. He worked for Illinois and last worked as a self-employed carpenter. Jack died on 9 April 2003 at his residence and is buried in Swan Lake Cemetery.
      2. Joyce Marie Claybourn was born on 22 January 1930 in Peoria, Illinois. She married Allen Clay Stutzman in the early 1950s and they had three daughters together, listed below.[Allen Stutzman was born on 8 November 1922 on Spring Bay Road, East Peoria, Illinois.] Joyce died in September of 1973 and Allen died on 22 September 2002, both in Peoria.

        1. Deborah Stutzman
        2. Donna Stutzman
        3. Rebecca Stutzman (“Becky”) was born in 1956. Her last name became McCumber, presumably from marriage. She was a world-renowned icon in the sport of skeet shooting. She won over twenty-five world skeet shooting championships, with her first in 1983. She also set a world record, hitting 1,183 consecutive targets in the 12-gauge ladies division. Becky was inducted into the Illinois Skeet Shooting Association Hall of Fame in 1995 and the National Skeet Shooting Hall of Fame in 2003.
    3. Dunbar Claybourn (called “Ding”) was born on 24 June 1901 in Champaign County, Illinois. As with his brother Willis, Dunbar served in World War I. On 14 June 1922 in Winnebago County, Illinois he married Martha Boffin.[Martha Boffin was born on 8 March 1905 in Chicago, Illinois.] A newspaper report says they were part of a double elopement and both couples were detained by police because the cars they were driving were stolen. In about 1939 Ding married Mabel Morris.[Mabel Morris was born on 6 May 1909 in Peoria County, Illinois.] Something bad happened because as of the 1940 census they were both in prison — he as an inmate at the Illinois State Penitentiary at Joliet in Will County, Illinois and she as an inmate at the State Reformatory for Women in Livingston County, Illinois. The 1944 Peoria city directory shows them both living in Peoria again, but not together. Mabel died on 19 October 1945 in Peoria County and is buried in Spring Bay Cemetery. Ding died on 10 October 1962 in Peoria County and is buried in Swan Lake Cemetery.
    4. Robert Claybourn was born on 8 January 1907 in Champaign County, Illinois.[Most information regarding Robert Claybourn and his descendants is derived from Robert’s niece “Dee,” who corresponded with Joshua A. Claybourn in July of 2009.] In the 1930 and 1940 census he is listed as a single man living with his parents. But in the 1933, 1936 and 1937 Peoria city directories he is shown as married with a wife May L. Claybourn. The marriage probably ended in divorce as there is no death record for his wife in Illinois state records. He served in the Army Air Corps during World War II as a technical sergeant and was captured as a prisoner of war on 26 July 1943. He was held at Stalag 9A Ziegenhain Hessen-Nassau, Prussia 51-09 until 25 May 1945. Robert married Florence Elizabeth Reiman in about 1950, as the 1952 Peoria city directory is the only one showing him living with a wife named Florence.[Florence Reiman was born on 2 August 1920 in Peoria County, Illinois. She married Harry William Harris (1914-1997) on 5 November 1937 in Peoria County, Illinois. They had a son, John P. Harris, in 1939 in Peoria County, but as of the 1940 census she and the baby were living with her parents and he was living in a boarding house.] They had one daughter, Ellen. They divorced in Fresno County, California in January of 1969.[A year later, on 29 January 1970, she married Forrest C. Labelle (1912-1980) in Fresno County, California. She died there on 31 August 1980.] Robert died on 24 October 1972 in Fresno County and is buried there.
    5. Eddie Claybourn’s retirement photo
      Edwin (“Eddie”) S. Claybourn was born on 4 March 1911 in East St. Louis, Illinois.[Most information regarding Eddie Claybourn and his descendants is derived from Eddie’s daughter “Dee,” who corresponded with Joshua A. Claybourn in July of 2009.] Eddie’s father (Charles) wanted to name Eddie “Ephraim” after Eddie’s grandfather by the same name, but allegedly Charles’s wife Agnes did not care for the name, so they compromised with the name of Edwin. He married (1st) in about 1929 to a woman named Bernice, born in about 1913 in Illinois. Eddie married (2nd) in about 1932 to Julia Etta Hutson (1911-1964). They had one child, Patricia Ann Claybourn, in 1934. Eddie and Julie then divorced and Julie married again in December 1937 to Orville Bliss Marshall (1910-1961).[Julia gave birth to three half-siblings: James Orville Marshall (1938-2002), Edward Thomas Marshall (1942-1954), and Sally Ann Marshall (1944-2001). Orville and these half-siblings are all buried in Glendale Cemetery in Tazewell County, Illinois.] Eddie married (3rd) to Irene Mabel Mitchell on 18 May 1938.[Irene Mitchell was born on 30 July 1920 and hailed from Galesburg, Illinois.] Eddie and Irene had one child, Dee, listed below.

      Eddie worked for Caterpillar Tractor Company in Peoria, Illinois from 1939 until 1973. He started out working in the shop as a time study man. He wanted to better himself, so in the 1950’s he attended Bradley University taking engineering courses. He graduated from Bradley in 1958 and then proceeded to get a job in management in the planning department at Caterpillar, Inc. as an engineer, traveling all over the U.S. in this capacity until he retired in 1973. Eddie was also a Mason. Eddie and Irene lived and died in Peoria, with Irene dying on 4 July 1971 and Eddie following in death on 11 April 2000.

      1. Patricia Claybourn was born on 14 July 1934 in Peoria, Illinois, to Eddie and Julia Claybourn. She married (1st) in about 1956 to Mr. Bozarth. In 1965 she changed her name to Patricia Ann Marshall, either by marriage or assuming her step-father’s name. In 1975 she changed her name to Patricia Ann Brown. She died on 28 August 1998 in Panama City, Florida.
      2. Dolores (“Dee”) Claybourn was born to Eddie and Irene Claybourn. She married Jack Dwaine Wills on 16 August 1960 and divorced him on 18 March 1982. She and Jack had four children, listed below. Dee was employed by Peoria County as a supervisor in the criminal division of the Circuit Clerk’s office.

        1. Kathie Dee Wills was born on 16 February 1961. Kathie married Gary VanVoorhis in Peoria, Illinois in March of 1987, and the couple later divorced in 2000. They had one child, Jessica Van Voorhis, who was born on 3 April 1989. Kathie remained in Peoria, Illinois and owned her own business.

        2. Michael Wills was born on 20 July 1962 in Peoria Illinois. Michael lived in Hudson, Florida and worked as a carpenter. He had 3 children: a son, Michael Adkins Wills, born on 26 August 1982, and twin girls, Erica Wills and Rachelle Wills, born 7 August 1993.

        3. Scott Dwaine Wills was born on 29 June 1963. He married Lisa Comstock in 1989. They had one son, Matthew Wills, born on 23 January 1990. This family lived in Hudson, Florida, where Scott worked as a construction foreman. Scott died on 27 January 2011 after a long battle with cancer.

        4. Christopher Edwin Wills was born 6 September 1968. He served in the U.S. Army in Iraq. He suffered a serious back injury while in Iraq which required extensive surgery. He was sent back to the U.S. for the surgery and then was medically discharged from the army in April of 2008 due to his injuries. Christopher married Stephanie Petit in Peoria, Illinois in 1997. They had one son, Adam Wills, born on 20 January 1998. Chris and Stephanie were divorced in 2002. Thereafter Chris moved to New Port Richey, Florida.
  2. Maude Claybourn lived between 1877-1904. She married but had no children.
  3. Daisy Claybourn was born in 1879 and died before the age of eighteen in 1896. She did not marry.
  4. Grace Myrtle Claybourn was born on 28 March 1882 in Champaign, Illinois. She was the Chief State Officer of the Pythian Sisters. She married in about 1919 to Ernest Thomas Hubbard.[Ernest Hubbard was born on 9 May 1893 in Champaign, Illinois.] He served in World War I and worked for the post office. They lived at 35 E. Green St. in Champaign, Ill. and did not have children. Ernest died on 5 March 1953 and Grace died on 6 Dec. 1957.
  5. Helen M. Claybourn was born on 5 April 1888 in Champaign, Illinois. She married on 8 June 1910 to James Lyttle “Jamie” Olmstead, formerly of E. Moline, Ill.[Jamie Olmstead was born on 4 February 1887 in Champaign, Illinois.] They lived at 35 E. Green St. in Champaign, Ill. and had no children. Jamie died on 5 May 1974 and Helen died just fifteen days later on 20 May 1974, both in Mahomet, Illinois. Helen and her husband Jamie are buried together in Mount Hope Cemetery in Champaign County, Illinois.
  6. Harriet Claybourn: nothing more is known about Harriet other than her name.
  7. Elizabeth Claybourn: nothing more is known about Elizabeth other than her name.

References and Notes