Franklin Lafayette Wham
Submitted by Tom and Sue Wham

Franklin Lafayette Wham ( John W. McNinch, Joseph W., William, Benjamin) was born on 10 Nov 1863 to John W. McNinch Wham ( B 1826 D 1870) and Mary Jane Humphrey ( B 1834 D 1872) in Salem, Marion County, Illinois. His Father died of typhoid fever in 1870. In 1872, after the death of his Mother, Franklin was raised by Robert McMillan Wham ( B 1827 D 1905). Franklin was named for his Father's half brother who died at Andersonville Prison during the Civil War. 

A family story about Robert McMillan Wham had him discounting his love for a young lady because she was from a family of all girls and he wanted male children. He later married Margaret Lydia Dodson and had nine girls. 

Robert did insure that Franklin got an education. Family stories have him graduating with top honors from Southern Illinois Normal University at Carbondale, Illinois, but the school has no record of him attending. I have copies of his letters written on school stationery, so most likely, he did attend the University. 

Letters and photographs indicate that Franklin taught school in Arizona between 1888 and 1893. He stayed with his Uncle, Major Joseph W. Wham ( B 1840 D 1908), on a 200 acre ranch while teaching school. The ranch was purchased in the name of Mary H. Wham, the wife of Major Wham, because of his indebtedness problems. Franklin did not like Arizona, but the wages were better than in Illinois for school teachers. 

Raymond L. Wham ( B 1910 D 1999), Franklin's youngest son, told the story of his Father declining an offer of a management position in a large mining company while in Arizona. He refused the position because he wanted to farm. In retrospect, he would have been much better off in this type of employment because asthma later took away his ability to farm. After further research, I discovered that his Uncle, Major Joseph W. Wham, was the President of the mining company in question and it was flooded out causing Joseph considerable financial difficulty. Earlier, when Joseph was the Warden of the Illinois Penitentiary at Joliet, he offered Franklin a job in law enforcement, but he declined. 

When Franklin returned to Illinois from Arizona his sister, Martha Ellen (B 1861 D 1942), introduced him to Mary Abigail Sperry (B 1874 D 1960). After a brief courtship, they were married on 3 Mar 1895. Franklin and Mary rented the Dutch Kell farm about a quarter mile South of Kell, Illinois. Three of the five children born in Illinois survived to adulthood: 

Paul James Wham B 21 April 1896 D 27 June 1967

Helen Wham B 26 Oct 1897 D 22 Nov 1897

Muriel Joy Wham B 21 Feb 1899 D 21 Jan 1984

Guy Wham B 4 Jun 1900 D 26 Jun 1900

Thomas James Wham B 21 Sept 1901 D 10 Nov 1918 

Franklin farmed and taught school in Illinois. Sometime between 1895 and 1902, Franklin and Mary went to Arkansas and attempted farming. It is unknown if Franklin was aware that his father had a second family in Arkansas, however, they had moved to Oregon by this time. Franklin and Mary disliked the swampy conditions of Arkansas and the diseases that came along with them ,so they returned to Illinois. 

About 1902, Franklin and his family moved to Oklahoma with members of the Sperry family. Franklin rented property near Sterling, Oklahoma in Brown Township. 

His brother, Stuben Dekalb Wham ( B 1885 D 1941) had moved to Sterling sometime earlier. Stuben bought land ,planted pears and sold them to the oil field workers at a good profit. He later sold the orchard and returned to Illinois. 

Oklahoma town records indicate a town by the name of " Wham" existed in Comanche County near Sterling. It is no longer in existence and could have been a roadside fruit stand to sell Stuben's pears or a shipping point since a railroad was close by. Stuben owned oil wells, so it could have had something to do with temporary drilling operations or a heavy equipment drop off point. 

Marion Sperry ( B 1850 D 1924) and Margaret ( Myers) Sperry (B 1851 D 1941) and their son Ezra D. Sperry ( B 1878 D 1955) settled in Indiahoma Township along with Joseph and Ollie( Sperry) Beasley and Henry and Bertha (Sperry) Hammond. After the death of Bertha during childbirth in 1906, her husband, Henry Hammond was present in the household of Joseph Beasley in the 1910 Oklahoma census. 

Joseph Beasley was a school teacher and taught in Oklahoma and Idaho. A family story has him placing a six-shooter on his desk the first day of school in Oklahoma to control the undisciplined element of his class. 

Ezra D. Sperry worked as a carpenter. In 1910, he filed for a homestead in Tillman County which is adjacent to Indiahoma County. 

Franklin and Mary worked hard at farming but for one reason or another the economics were just not there. Mary taught school to supplement the meager farm income. Those were hard times for the Wham family. Mary lost four children between 1902 and 1910. The children born in Oklahoma follows:

Infant male B unk D unk

Infant male B unk D unk

Franklin Wham B unk D unk

Bruce Wham B 1907 D 1909

Raymond Lawrence Wham B 25 Sept 1910 D 2 Jun 1999 

Mary Leona Dorothy Wham B 27 Sept 1911 

Ruth Roberta Wham B 2 Feb 1913

Sometime prior to 1916, Franklin and Mary gave up farming and moved to Snyder, Oklahoma where he began to work for the Frisco Railroad Line as a Baggage Master. His Asthma was becoming acute from the Oklahoma dust, as he claimed, and his physical ability to work was restricted. He dealt with this health issue for the rest of his life. 

In 1916, a tornado hit Snyder and totally distroyed all that the Wham family had. Mary, Ruth, and Raymond were buried in a collapsed storm shelter. Fortunately, they were extricated without any significant physical damage. Raymond would have dreams of this happening until his long life was over at the age of 89 years. 

Ezra D. Sperry had built his parents, Marion and Margaret (Myers) Sperry, a new house in Snyder. It is not known if it was destroyed by the tornado, but the Wham's, the Beasley's and the Sperry's moved from Oklahoma to Idaho.

The Sperry's left first and established a home on Horse Island near America Falls, Idaho. Paul Wham, the oldest son, must have gone with the Sperry's. Raymond Wham remembered getting off the train after a three day ride and meeting Paul in the railroad station. The family went to Horse Inland where they spent some time before going to Bone, Idaho where all the homesteads were. Franklin Wham, Joseph Beasley, and Jessie Sperry all filed for homesteads near Bone. Later, Jessie and Ezra Sperry jointly received land near Bone when their property on Horse Island was inundated by water from the American Falls Dam. 

Ezra D. Sperry built all the structures to upgrade the properties and comply with the Homestead Act. Franklin worked in Idaho Falls on the Oregon Short Line of the Union Pacific Railroad and helped on the homesteads when he could. Paul Wham joined the Marines in 1917 as World War 1 began. He was stationed on a ship near Vadavostock, Russia for most of the war. Thomas Wham was to young for service and became a sheep herder and helped on the homesteads when he was able.

Thomas contacted influenza, died and was buried on the day the war ended. Franklin depended on Thomas to run his homestead while he worked on the railroad. Franklin's dreams were once again dashed. Franklin purchased a home on 16th street in Idaho Falls. Raymond remembers that it had real electric lights. In Idaho Falls, Franklin continued to work on the railroad, Mary went to work at the local seed company and the children( Raymond, Mary, and Ruth) went to school. 

On 13 May 1925, Raymond enlisted in the Navy. He lied about his age and his family supported his prevarication to get him out of the house. His oldest sister referred to him as the "meanest white boy in the USA". Raymond was discharged on 24 Sept 1929 at the beginning of the Great Depression. 

Paul Wham left Idaho sometime after his second failed marriage. He was married to Irene Jacobs and they had Marjorie on 5 Jan 1923 in American Falls. Paul Jr. was born to Henrietta Herckkenen( his third wife) on 30 May 1930 in Sacramento California. The Wham family slowly followed Paul to California.

The Sperry's and the Beasley's remained in Idaho with the exception of Ezra Sperry who followed much later after the death of his parents and sister. Paul's influence with individuals working for the state allowed him to get employment for Raymond, Mary and Ruth as they arrived in California. 

Franklin and Mary Wham sold out in Idaho and moved to California in about 1933. Paul and Franklin jointly purchased a fruit farm in Orangevale,California. Franklin and Mary went directly to the new farm. Raymond joined them with his wife, Sarah Ann Morrison. They were married on 15 May 1931. Paul and his family remained in Sacramento until his retirement. Ruth had Kenneth Secor in August 1933 and Mary Wham left Orangevale to take care of the new baby while Ruth worked. She remained there until after the end of World War ll. 

In 1936, Raymond Wham started to work at Folsom State Prison as a guard. In 1939 housing was available at Represa, California which was a small community of prison workers just outside the walls of Folsom State Prison. Raymond, Sarah, Kathryn (age 5), and Thomas (age 3) along with Franklin went to live in the new housing at Represa. The property at Orangevale was rented out.

After the war, Franklin and Mary rented a house at Nimbus, California which was about half way between Sacramento and Folsom. Franklin died on 11 Mar 1945 and was buried in the Lakeside Memorial Lawn Cemetery at Folsom. Franklin died of an intestinal blockage. 

After Franklin's death, Mary Wham went to live with her oldest son, Paul, in a new house next to the old fruit farm which had been sold. In 1959, Mary Wham went to live with Raymond and Sarah Wham in San Luis Obispo, California where she died on 4 Mar 1960. She is buried next to Franklin. 

Research on Franklin Lafayette Wham and Mary Abigail( Sperry) Wham was accomplished by Thomas J. Wham, Mary S.( Hartzell) Wham, Kathryn L.( Wham) Atkinson, and Lt Col Leslie C.( Atkinson) Burns.

Memories of my Grandparents, Franklin Lafayette Wham and Mary Abigail Sperry by Thomas James Wham: My memories of my Grandfather were that of a man academically inclined. He studied Spanish,kept up with world affairs and he was an avid reader. I personally observed these attributes as a young boy while he was living with us. Each morning, he would get up early to have a breakfast of oatmeal and than go to work in his large vegetable garden until the heat of the day forced him into the house. The afternoon period was punctuated with rest and reading. I heard him say many times that "Work" was the most important thing in life. As a young boy, I was totally amazed at the fact that he could peel an apple without breaking the ribbon of the apple peel. My memories of my Grandmother are less clear because she lived with my Aunt Ruth in Sacramento. I remember a very stoic pioneer woman who always wore an apron and made sugar cookies that were out of this world. A teacher who taught my cousins( Kenneth and Glen Secor) the basics of learning. Both went on to get their Doctorate Degrees in Engineering from the University of California.