Grandmother and great grandmother reunite after 100 years.
It’s not very often that someone makes the conscious decision to road trip all the way from Arizona to Dodge City, but for Nancy Compton, it is definitely worth it.
As a psychic medium, Compton frequently travels between Arizona and Pennsylvania. This week she is traveling back home to Sedona, Ariz. from Pennsylvania, and on her way through Kansas she plans on making a very special trip to the Dodge City cemetery.
“My grandmother was born in Dodge City in November 1917 to Arthur and Helen, or Nellie, Ruggles. She was their 7th child,” Compton said. “Unfortunately Nellie passed away from influenza a month later in December. Arthur was devastated and unprepared to care for 7 children under the age of 13. My grandmother was given up for adoption and adopted within a week of her mothers passing.”
Compton’s grandmother, Katherin Helen Ruggles, who’s adoptive name is Kathreen Reeves, passed away on August 10, 2002 in Hot Springs, Ark. According to Compton, she plans on reuniting Nellie and her grandmother upon her arrival in Dodge City.
“She passed away 15 years ago, and this November also would be her 100th birthday,” said Compton. “This trip is my first ever to her birth town, and I intend to visit my great grandmother Nellie’s unmarked grave. I'm bringing with me a handful of my grandmother’s ashes to spread on my great grandmothers grave so that the two can be reunited 100 years later.”
Compton’s grandmother didn’t know much about her birth family after she was adopted. Knowing this information, Compton stated that she spent most of her childhood pestering her grandmother with questions about her long-lost relatives and encouraged her to find them. Finally, in 1978, Compton convinced her grandmother to allow her to search for her relatives.
“She told me that I had a better chance of getting struck by lightning than finding her family,” said Compton. “Think about this, this was in 1978 before ancestry.com, before DNA and before computers.
“I lived in southern California at the time and I decided that I was going to find her birth family in Kansas, so I had gone to my local library and got phone books for Kansas.”
Compton said that she wrote letters to every person with the last name Ruggles in the Kansas phonebook. She stated that she must have wrote several hundreds of letters, with each letter containing her name and phone number.
“This was also when answering machines first came out and we had got one because my husband is the gadget guy so he needed that,” said Compton. “I came home one day, 6 months after I wrote all the letters, and turned on the answering machine and I had a phone call from a girl named Velma Ruggles. Well, she turned out to be my great aunt.
“Her son in Wichita had gotten one of my letters and excitingly called his mom because his mother had always wondered what had happened to her baby sister. So from there, me and Velma figured out that there was a definite connection and everything matched up.”
According to Compton, her grandmother had two brothers and four sisters. Unfortunately, her two brothers and father had already passed by this time.
From that point, Compton says that her grandmother travelled to Kansas to reunite with her sisters.
“They were all in the same vicinity, and it was very interesting when they met because they all look alike and they all kind of had the same interests,” said Compton. “It was really interesting, it proves how your genetics really do affect your interests in life.
“The reunion was sort of mixed, all of them had different reactions. My grandma was a little regretful that she didn’t get a chance to grow up with them and some of the sisters were jealous because they felt like my grandma had a better life than they did.”
Compton then explained why her great aunts may have felt this way.
“It was really difficult on my great grandfather Arthur because Nellie was the second wife that he’d lost, and he really loved her. He never recovered from her death,” she said. “He was just a really sweet, gentle soul. It was really difficult for him, he really only had his older daughters with him who were self-sufficient, and he just never really recovered from the loss of Nellie.”
According to Compton, her grandmothers siblings did spend some time searching for her after she was adopted.
“I know that her brother spent some time looking for her, and I think some of her sisters did too,” said Compton. “Around 1918, my grandmother was voted prettiest baby at the Daily Globe, and so my grandma’s sister had cut that out of the newspaper because they knew that was her. I guess they couldn’t find her cause it was a lot harder back then, but they cut that out of the newspaper, so they knew that’s who she was.”
Compton says that after her trip to Dodge City, she plans on returning with her cousins to mark her great grandma Nellie’s grave.
“I have the lot information, so I plan to go the office to see where she is,” said Compton. “My husband and I were planning to put a headstone, but we hadn’t done that yet, we decided that I would go ahead and come into town and see the cemetery and make those arrangements then.”
Compton arrives in Dodge City today from Pennsylvania. She says she plans on staying and enjoying her grandma’s birth town until Sunday.
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