The Lewis and Parsons family in Jewell County, Kansas

After the Civil War, Jewell County, Kansas, centered in the middle of the state along the Nebraska border, a beautiful county with a rolling prairie, attracted hardy pioneers. The Lewis family pioneered in Burr Oak in the 1870’s-1880’s, led by Tom in 1870 and Cal in 1871. The Parsons family moved to Montrose in about 1894-5. As the families grew, Hazel Lewis, Cal and Belle’s next to youngest child, married Ralph Parsons, an up-and-coming young teacher and banker, oldest son of Lew and Letta Parsons, on 12 July 1916. He had become a banker in 1915 at the Burr Oak State Bank. Soon he was promoted to the Republic Bank in Formosa, where both of their daughters were born, Jeanne in 1918 and Lindell in 1920. A few years later, Ralph was promoted to bank manager in Randall, a small town to the east of Montrose, just south of Hwy 36. There he and Hazel raised their girls until the sad day that the banks were closed and he lost his job, about 1933. After selling their home and moving to Superior, Nebraska for a year, Ralph borrowed $50 from his mother and he, Hazel, and the girls drove to Florida, to live near her sister Grace and Fred Myers, who was Ralph’s best friend. After Ralph died in 1973, I remember Uncle Fred turning to me and saying, “Ralph was the best friend I ever had.” In Florida they found relief for their wounded souls and began a new life with new work. Ralph was 42 when he started over selling insurance. Soon he was promoted and given an agency in Louisville, Kentucky. By then, his girls were in high school and they stayed with Grace & Fred to finish from West Palm Beach High School. Ralph & Hazel rented an apartment on South Third Street near the University of Louisville to allow their daughters to attend the University of Louisville. Jeanne graduated with a degree in Pipe Organ and Piano from the University of Louisville School of Music, while Lindell earned a BA in English with a teaching license.

Hazel’s parents Cal “C.E.” & Belle Lewis lived in Burr Oak on part of Cal’s original homestead. Ralph’s parents, Louis “LL or Lew” Parsons & Letta lived a few miles north of Montrose in Richland Township. Ralph attended elementary school at John’s Creek, in Mankato, and then he attended Normal School. Hazel attended Burr Oak
Elementary School and high school through grade 11. Ralph & Hazel first lived in Burr Oak; then Formosa, Randall, and later Superior, Nebraska.


Our family and the Burr Oak United Methodist Church 1873-2010

Burr Oak, Kansas United Methodist from SW 1.JPG

The Lewis and Riner families were among the
founders of the Burr Oak United Methodist Church,
which began in 1873.

[notice the symbolism of the Twelve and the Upper Room]

The Burr Oak United Methodist Church was founded
on June 28, 1873. The first class met in the upper room
of a local log cabin on that date. Of “the twelve,” our family
members were Thomas Lewis, brother of  our great-grandfather
Cal “CE” Lewis; Robert Richland Skeels [RR] and his wife
Susannah Riner Skeels. She was the sister of great-great
grandmother Mary Riner Clayton [mother of Belle].  Soon
they were joined by Harve J and Mary Skeels Grubbs,
[grandparents of Homer Lewis]. CS Pangborn [married
to Roseanna Riner, another of Mary’s sisters]. William and
Phoebe Lewis [Cal’s brother]. William Riner [Mary’s brother]
and his wife Jennie Lewis [Cal’s sister]. Cal also joined in the
1870’s. All these names were on the subscription list
which paid the minister’s salary [annual renewal].

Finally, one day I noticed this name on the subscription
list: Mrs. Clayton, 1886, and it dawned on me that she
was great-great grandmother Mary Riner Clayton, our
great-great grandmother from the Riner line, who moved
to Burr Oak in 1886 to be near her Riner sisters and brother
after her husband Ben Clayton passed away. Her daughter
Belle, a widow, came with her mother and her two small
daughters. Soon Belle she renewed her acquaintance with
Cal and our line began. As a little girl, Belle lived next door
to Cal and his first wife Milly; Cal’s property was next to our
progenitor Daniel Riner in Onarga, Illinois. Daniel, born in
1796 in Virginia, was the father of Mary, Susannah, Will,
Roseanna, and Hannah, along with others who died before
the family moved to Kansas. Cal was 21 years older than Belle,
but they had the happiest of marriages from 1886 until his
passing in 1928. [saddened only by the deaths of two of their
children, and one of hers, and one of his].

Over the decades, family members served as deacons,
taught Sunday School, sang in the choir, worked in the
Sunday School classes, served in the Ladies’ Aid Society,
and faithfully served the church until the doors were closed.
Our dear cousin Anna Belle McDonnel Grubbs was there as
the numbers dwindled down to 5 or 6, faithful until the end.

In 1870, following the death of his wife and son, Cal Lewis,
our great-grandfather went to Burr Oak, Kansas and made
a claim. He joined his older brother Thomas, who had arrived
the year before. Thomas had been taken prisoner during a raid
by the 9th Illinois Calvary in Tennessee and placed in the Libby
Prison for a time and then taken to the Andersonville Prison. He
was kept in the two prisons for nine months but was liberated
and received an honorable discharge from the army at the close
of the war.

Their brother William Lewis and his wife Phoebe, along
with their sister Jennie and her husband Will Riner, came
in September 1872 [some sources say 1871]. Cal, Tom, William,
and Will Riner, and their cousin Tom Miller had all served
together for three years with the 9th Illinois Calvary. Soon
Will Riner’s family began to join him: Susanah Riner & R R Skeels
came in March 1872. Cyrus Pangbourn and Roseanna Riner
came in March 1882. Hannah Riner and Jesse Drake arrived
in 1888.

After she was widowed, our gg-grandmother Mary
Riner Clayton also came to Burr Oak in 1886, along with her
daughter Belle Hunt Fry. Soon afterwards, on April 29, 1886, Cal
and Belle were married at her uncle’s home in New Bedford, Iowa.
Cal’s brother David stayed in Onarga, IL on the family claim. Cal’s
sister Sarah Lewis & Ben Brown also pioneered in Kansas, as did
Jacob Riner, Daniel’s oldest son. The Riner-Lewis-Miller-Pangbourn-
Skeels, Grubbs, and Drake family farms line two roads in Burr Oak
Township, out toward Otego and White Rock. All these  siblings
and cousins came to Kansas together and lived [and prospered]
on a line of farms in north-central Kansas.


Methodist Church

John Adams Shafer and the Civil War, 24th Indiana Infantry

          We grew up on stories of Hazel Lewis Parsons [Dee Dee]’s father, Calvin Elvin Lewis, and his brothers Tom, William, and David [his mother would not sign for him, so he didn’t go], along with a number of cousins and friends, joining the 9th Illinois Cavalry, Company M, and fighting for three years up and down the Mississippi in the Civil War.  One cousin, George Miller was killed in New Orleans, Tom and William Lewis were interred in Andersonville Prison, and along with the others made it safely home at the end of the war.
        All four of Floyd Doud Shafer’s, [Poppa], great-grandparents and their kin came up from Rowan County, NC starting in 1810 or so:  Shaver/Shafer, Miller, Barnes, Hartley [they married into Grubbs, Robling, Beck, Loveless, Atkinson.] So many of them stayed near the original land and farms in Pike and Gibson counties. They farmed and worked in the coal mines. Our grandfather [or great-grandfather], Rollin Grant Shafer, was studious and graduated from nearby Oakland City College; he then went on to McCormick University in Chicago and became an ordained Presbyterian minister. His churches ranged up/down the Wabash River from Evansville to further up the Indiana border near Kankakee. It is his parents, America Jane Miller and John Adams Shafer, who form the basis of all these connections.
       John Adams Shaver and his brother William Shaver, along with their cousins Henry Clay Shaver and Benjamin Franklin Shaver joined the 24th Indiana Infantry on July 31, 1861 as privates in Company E. The First Sargent was from Petersburg so I am guessing that was where Company E was formed [all from Pike County, IN]. The Adjutant General’s book says they were all mustered out on Nov 15, 1865 at Galveston, Texas. A link to the Adjutant General’s book is below. It was hard to find them as their names do not come up in the index. [Their name was changed from Shaver to Shafer after the Civil War.]  They are on p. 551 of the Adjutant General’s book.  However, their cousin, Benjamin Franklin “Frank” Shafer died of disease in Knoxville at the Asylum GH, Knoxville on 20 March 1864. He joined Company G, 65th Indiana Volunteers. He was the son of great-great grandfather William Shafer’s brother Levi.
       Another cousin who served was Daniel M Hartley, 22nd Indiana Infantry, Company E. He was the son of America Jane Miller Shaver’s uncle Ruben Hartley.  Two other cousins, Alexander H Barnes and his brother Albert Barnes joined Company H of Indiana’s 143rd Infantry. Their father was a brother to Sophia Barnes, mother of John Adams Shafer. A Miller cousin, John McAtee, served in the 143rd Infantry in 1865, Company I. He was the son of Obedience “Biddy” Miller and Joseph Josiah McAtee; she is America Jane’s sister. It was his father’s land grant paper that made its way to Dwight Shafer, Poppa’s brother, and opened the way to much of my research on the Shafer family. Possible:  William R Miller, grandson of Thomas and Nancy Cresswill Miller, son of Jackson Miller who was a brother to John K Miller, father of America Jane Miller Shafer.  152nd Indiana Infantry.
         It is interesting to see the effect of the Civil War on poor farm boys. For farm families to have their sons go off to war for three years would have been a major economic hardship. They did their duty and served their country, but the terrible losses of the Civil War created havoc
for so many families. It’s amazing that our direct lines survived the war and went on to have families and be hard-working, productive citizens.
        Thankful for their service! They are all true patriots.

An Old Tibetan Dunhuang Manuscript of the Avaivartikacakrasūtra in the Stein Collection collated with Tibetan Kanjurs

Dr James B Apple’s new book,  An Old Tibetan Dunhuang Manuscript of the Avaivartikacakrasūtra in the Stein Collection collated with Tibetan Kanjurshas, been published by The Revue d’Etudes Tibétaines and can be downloaded from…

From the Preface:

This philological study presents a collation of Old Tibetan Dunhuang fragments of the Avaivartikacakrasūtra compared against a text-critical edition of Tibetan Kanjurs.2 The Avaivartikacakrasūtra is a Mahāyāna Buddhist discourse that describes how bodhisattvas become irreversible (avaivartika) from perfect Buddhahood and how they achieve irreversible bodhisattva status, a prestigious attainment among Mahāyāna Buddhist movements in South, Central, and East Asia. Although previously unstudied, this prominent scripture is one of the most influential of Mahāyāna sūtras in Buddhist culture, preserved and transmitted in South, Central, and East Asia over many centuries. The importance of this sūtra is demonstrated by its active citation in indigenous Indian and Tibetan commentaries on the bodhisattva path from the 2nd century in India up through the present day in Tibetan Buddhist communities (Apple 2013a). Analysis of the Old Tibetan Dunhuang Avaivartikacakrasūtra provides a number of valuable contributions to the study of the formations of Mahāyāna Buddhism, to the understanding of Old Tibetan language, and to the systematic study of Tibetan Kanjurs. Enhancing the scholarly knowledge of the transmission history of the Tibetan collected teachings of the Buddha (Kanjur), this monograph contributes to the philological study of Tibetan Buddhist canonical texts and traces the genealogical development of the Tibetan language in translating Indian Buddhist canonical texts.

Analysis of the Old Tibetan Dunhuang Avaivartikacakrasūtra provides a number of valuable contributions to the study of the formations of Mahāyāna Buddhism, to the understanding of Old Tibetan language, and to the systematic study of Tibetan Kanjurs. Enhancing the scholarly knowledge of the transmission history of the Tibetan collected teachings of the Buddha (Kanjur), this monograph contributes to the philological study of Tibetan Buddhist canonical texts and traces the genealogical development of the Tibetan language in translating Indian Buddhist canonical texts. Examination of the Old Tibetan Dunhuang Avaivartikacakrasūtra contributes to the philological study of Tibetan Buddhist canonical texts and sheds light on their historical development. As the Indic version of the sūtra is no longer extant, the philological basis for the present study is a Tibetan Dunhuang manuscript found in two separate fragments within the Stein collection. The primary fragment, IOL Tib J 53, is the longest and one of the earliest Tibetan Mahāyāna sūtra fragments (No. 53, La Vallée Poussin 1962) preserved from the ancient Central Asian city-state of Dunhuang (pre. 9th century). Currently preserved in the British Library, the fragment belongs to a manuscript that was acquired during the second Central Asia expedition (1907) of Aurel Stein (1862-1943) to Dunhuang (Stein 1921). The other Tibetan fragment of this sūtra, IOL Tib J 297, is also found in the Stein collection, but was previously unidentified. The current study correctly identifies the fragment as belonging to the same manuscript as IOL Tib J 53.


This study of the Old Tibetan Dunhuang version of the Avaivartikadharmacakrasūtra1 (“The Discourse on Irreversibility”) had its beginnings while I was researching as a Ph.D. graduate student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison (2001) and while writing my first book Stairway to Nirvāṇa (2008). While writing that book I became aware of a significant, yet previously unstudied, Mahāyāna scripture, the Avaivartikadharmacakrasūtra. In conducting brief, early stage research on this sūtra, I remember a catalog notice by La Vallée Poussin (1962) stating that a Dunhuang fragment of the Tibetan version of the sūtra was preserved in the Stein Collection of the British Library. I thought this was interesting at the time, but I never thought I would have the opportunity or resources to ever see or study the manuscript. Years later when I landed a tenure-track position at the University of Calgary in 2008, I had the opportunity to apply for competitive grants to further my program of research and publication. In 2010 I was awarded an internal University of Calgary Seed Grant that became the basis for a national Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) grant from 2011- 2014. The title for the awarded project was “The Restoration of Mahāyāna Sūtra Literature: A Critical Edition of the Tibetan Version of the Avaivartikadharmacakra sūtra with an annotated English translation.” The funds from these grants enabled for the travel and resources to research, and now publish, the following study on the Old Tibetan Dunhuang version of this important sūtra.

The funds from the initial University of Calgary internal grant enabled me to travel to Hachioji, Japan and reside as a research fellow at the International Research Institute for Advanced Buddhology (IRIAB) at Soka University from May to June 2010. At IRIAB I had the opportunity to consult and meet in several sessions the redoubtable, erudite, and now lamented, Seishi Karashima (1958-2019). In fact, it was Karashima-sensei who encouraged me to initially review the Old Tibetan Dunhuang version of the sūtra which IRIAB happened to have on microfilm. The microfilm was not always clear in a number of places and had smudges throughout the document. Working on the manuscript contained in the microfilm did not initially progress well. Nevertheless, Karashima-sensei encouraged me to seek out other exemplars in Japan, such as the Tokyo Manuscript (T) kept at the Tōyō Bunko and a version of the Kanjur kept at Ōtani University. Karashima-sensei also made a number of suggestions for the structure and format of the study of the manuscript. He suggested a line by line comparison of the Dunhuang manuscript collated with various Kanjurs as exemplified in his own studies on the Old Tibetan version of the Lotus Sūtra (Karashima 2005-2008). In the spring of 2012, I wrote to Sam Van Schaik, IDP Project Manager of the British Library, to sponsor and arrange for the digitalization of the IOL Tib J 53 images in the online database of the International Dunhuang Project ( I thank Dr. Van Schaik for his efforts to make IOL Tib J 53 digitally available. Mihai Derbac (University of Calgary, Ph.D. 2019) served as a research assistant to the project from 2011 to 2014. He greatly contributed to collation, transcription, and the procedures for phylogenetic analysis of Tibetan canonical documents (for which see Derbac 2019, 69-186). I thank him for all his efforts with this project. Shinobu A. Apple and I carried out research on Dunhuang Tibetan and Chinese manuscripts from August 24, 2014 to September 3, 2014 in Paris, France and London, England. From August 24 to August 28, 2014 we carried out research at the Bibliothéque Nationale de France in Paris, France. I would like to thank Dr. Nathalie Monnet, Conservateur en chef, Chargée des manuscrits de Dunhuang et des fonds chinois, for her support and assistance while we were in Paris. I viewed IOL Tib J 53 and IOL Tib J 297 in person at the British Library from August 29 to September 3, 2014. Viewing the Tibetan Dunhuang fragments at the British Library was a culmination of gathering data for the project. This opportunity was decisive for discerning many features and readings of the manuscript fragments that were not conclusive even through digitalization. I was able to completely examine IOL Tib J 53 and IOL Tib J 297 line by line and improve upon a number of readings in the edition of the text. I thank the British Library for granting me research access to the fragments.