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Preserving history

Conway woman stitches 'Mother's Tree' by Carol Rolf | May 13, 2007 at 4:27 a.m.

— Today is Mother's Day and countless numbers of families will be honoring their mothers in a variety of ways.

Conway resident Lydia Josephine "Jo" Taylor Kilduff honored her mother, Octavia Lee Donnell Taylor of Camden, formerly of Conway, last year with a unique gift - a counted cross-stitch piece of needlework titled "Mother's Tree." It celebrates 12 generations of women on her mother's side of the family.

"My mother is really hard to buy for," Kilduff said. "She was really surprised and pleased with this gift."

The Mother's Tree begins with Elizabeth Haynes, who was born in 1715, and ends with Kilduff's granddaughter, Madolyn Josephine Ward, who was born in 2003.

In a written explanation about her needlework, Kilduff said: "I grew up listening to my father's mother, Lydia Taylor, talk about family. At her knee, I learned how to translate endless birth and death certificates, marriage licenses, Bible records and diaries into the story of life and family. This is our history - both good and bad - and it has made us who we are today.

"My sister had wood-burned a plaque of our family tree as a tree with my brothers and sisters as the trunk," Kilduff continues in her explanation."I used the idea of a tree as a companion to the wood-burned tree in honor of my mother who has recently gotten interested in her family history. I did this for her because I thought it would honor her as well as my daughter and granddaughter and all my ancestors. I wanted to preserve the history of women who had come before me, who had built the home that my girls grew up in, who had built the community that I live in, and who have helped build this nation."

The needlework is done on linen, "one of the fabrics of our ancestors," Kilduff said. The names are stitched with green thread. "Green presents strength and growth," she added.

A charter member of Cadron Post chapter, National Society Daughters of the American Revolution, and corresponding secretary of the Arkansas State Society Daughters of the American Revolution, Kilduff has learned much about her family roots over the years. She has 16 lines proven back to the American Revolution, one of them being the one portrayed on the Mother's Tree.

The first mother on the tree, Elizabeth Haynes of Virginia, died before her husband, William Haynes, who gave supplies for the Revo-lutionary War. All three of her sons served during the war. Her daughter, Elizabeth Haynes Leftwich, was married to William Leftwich, a colonel during the Revolutionary War. She died during the war. The third generation noted on the Mother's Tree, Mary Leftwich Walton, died in 1824. She was married to William Walton, a lieutenant during the Revolutionary War.

From Virginia, family members migrated to Alabama. Mary Walton Otey died in 1853 in Alabama; she was married to Walter Otey, a captain during the War of 1812. She and her family were among the early settlers of Huntsville, Ala., settling there in about 1817. The fifthgeneration mother, Caroline Louise Otey Robinson, died in 1888. She was married to John Robinson. Their home, "Oaklawn," in Alabama was used asa smallpox hospital during the Civil War and again as a hospital during the Spanish American War. It was Robinson's daughter, Josephine Elizabeth Robinson Boone, who brought the family to Arkansas. Her husband, Octavius Cunningham Boone, was a colonel in the Confederacy. She is buried in a Daughters of the Confederacy plot in Pine Bluff.

Boone's daughter, Octavia Boone Pegg, was born in Alabama and married to James Clark Pegg, who served for the North during the Civil War. Pegg's daughter, Josephine May Pegg Donnell, married Samuel Julian Donnell and they had only one child, Octavia Lee Donnell Taylor, who married Bruce Eli Taylor, a veteran of the Coast Guard in World War II. Octavia Taylor is the mother of Jo Kilduff.

It was Samuel Donnell's mother, Lee Ora Donnell, wife of James Donnell, who bought the house in 1901 where Kilduff now lives with her husband, Rodney, a veteran of theVietnam War. This is where they raised their three daughters, Octavia Lydia Kilduff Baldridge, 35, of Little Rock and Kristina Louise Kilduff Ward, 31, and Katherine "Katie" Elizabeth Kilduff, 27, both of Chicago. All three of Kilduff's daughters are members of Cadron Post chapter, DAR.

Octavia Donnell Taylor now lives in Camden, where she isactive in the Tates Bluff chapter, DAR. She also helps with the local historical museum and started a cemetery walk at Oakland Confederate Cemetery, where people portray those who are buried there.

The 11th mother noted on the tree is Kristina Louise Kilduff Ward, who is now married to Jeff Ward. She is a member of DAR and has served as a page at state DAR conference several times.

The 12th name on the tree is Ward's daughter, Madolyn, who is described by her grandmother as "a typical 3-yearold."

Kilduff's interest in DAR came from her father's side of the family. Her father's mother, Lydia Paul Taylor, and her daughter, Mildred Taylor Harris, along with Kilduff were among the 15 founding members of Cadron Post chapter, DAR, which was organized and chartered on Dec. 13, 1979.

"Mother could have cared less about her family history at that time," Kilduff said with a smile. Kilduff proved her father's line back to the American Revolution in order to join DAR. "Then I got mother's line in. Mother finally gave in, under pressure, and since I already had six lines she could use, she joined the chapter in Camden.

"I really believe you need to belong to a (DAR) chapter where you live and can be active," Kilduff said. "Although Mother is from Conway, she now lives in Camden and is very active there. At age 80, she has been named Woman of the Year and Volunteer of the Year in Camden."

Kilduff's sister, Charlotte Taylor of Blanco, Texas, is amember of Tates Bluff chapter, DAR, in Camden. She said her other sister, Sammy Taylor Floyd of Strong (Union County), is not interested in joining DAR, and her two brothers, Donnell Taylor and Jim Taylor, are not interested in joining Sons of the American Revolution.

Since Kilduff's mother has gotten interested in her family history, the two of them, along with Fern Taylor of Searcy, whose husband Bill is a cousin to Kilduff, have made a trip to Huntsville, Ala., to research the Taylor side of the family. Fern Taylor is a member of Cadron Post chapter, DAR, and is currently serving a two-year term as state regent of the Arkansas State Society of DAR.

"We found where the family had built their big home," Kilduff said. "We put markers there on the graves of John and Caroline Robinson.

"We had the best time there," Kilduff recalled. "We met distant cousins and visited with them. They were gracious, lovely people. And we went on a cemetery walk while we were there. In fact, the idea for the cemetery walk in Camden camefrom that trip." DAR remains an integral part of Kilduff's life. In March she attended the state DAR conference in Little Rock in her official capacity as corresponding secretary. Her mother attended as well, carrying the Tates Bluff banner in the opening ritual. Kilduff and Fern Taylor will attend the DAR Continental Congress scheduled Thursday, June 27, through Sunday, July 1, in Washington, D.C. Kilduff's daughter, Octavia, will attend and serve as a page.

Kilduff's needlework is now at the national DAR headquarters where it is being judged in a contest. DAR is selling chances ("voices" as they are called in DAR) for a custommade Mother's Tree to raise money for scholarships; Kilduff will customize the tree for the winner.

What Kilduff may be giving her mother this Mother's Day was unknown a few days ago. "Sometimes she gets presents, sometimes she doesn't," Kilduff said with a laugh. "Sometimes I give her things early. This year, the two costume dresses I made for her for the cemetery walk (in Camden) may be her Mother's Day gift."

River Valley Ozark, Pages 139, 141 on 05/13/2007

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