Happy Birthday John Thomas Estes




John Thomas Estes (1856-1947)

Birth and Youth

John Thomas Estes was born on 07 May 1856 in Steedman, Callaway, Missouri as the first child of William Riley Estes and Margaret A. O’Donnell. He had four siblings, namely: James H.B., Anna Eliza, Moses Patton Barnett, and Laura Alice.

He was sometimes known as J.T.

His mother died in about 1865 when he was around nine years old. His dad remarried to Sally Hill and had two more daughters, Ida and Augusta.

John Thomas always claimed that he had run away from home when he was a teenager because he didn’t like his step-mother. But he may not have run very far. In 1870, when John Thomas was 14, they all still lived together in Auxvasse Township, Callaway County, Missouri. Nine years later, JT’s step-mother passed away in Sedalia, Pettis, Missouri. His dad died there a year later. So by age 24, John Thomas Estes was an orphan. It may be that John did not leave Callaway County when his dad and step-mother moved away. Or perhaps, as an older teenager, he did go to Pettis County, but then ran back to Callaway. In any case, by his early 20s, he was on his own.

Marriage and Children

When he was 27, John Thomas Estes married Zelpha Lou McCall, daughter of Samual Christopher McCall and Elizabeth A. Linville, on 27 Dec 1883 in Portland, Callaway, Missouri.

John Thomas Estes and Zelpha Lou McCall had the following children:

  1. Gussie Ann Estes was born on 27 Sep 1885 in Mokane, Callaway, Missouri. She married Ovid Powell Mackey on 04 Aug 1915 in Fulton, Callaway, Missouri. She died on 01 Feb 1971 in Bowling Green, Pike, Missouri.
  2. Robert C. Estes “Bob” was born in Jan 1888 in Missouri. He married Rena Alberta Collins on 19 Apr 1916 in Council Bluffs, Pottawattamie, Iowa. He died on 10 Mar 1978 in St Louis, St Louis, Missouri.
  3. Ida Mildred Estes was born on 10 May 1891 in Callaway, Missouri.  She married Leroy Richard McDonald on 15 Dec 1915 in Onawa, Monona, Iowa. She died on 27 Dec 1972 in Fulton, Callaway, Missouri.
  4. Herman Patrick Estes was born on 28 Oct 1893 in Steedman, Callaway, Missouri. He married Isaletta Bresler on 13 Oct 1919 in Ute, Monona, Iowa. He died on 04 Jan 1954 in McKinney, Collin, Texas.
  5. Thomas Leland Estes “Tom” was born on 28 Mar 1896 in Castana, Monona, Iowa. He married Lona Iona Fawcett on 30 Sep 1919 in Sac City, Sac, Iowa. He died on 20 Feb 1968 in Austin, Mower, Minnesota.
  6. James Andrew Estes “Jim” was born on 26 May 1899 in Missouri, USA. He married Anna Ethel Collins on 10 May 1919 in Onawa, Monona, Iowa. He died on 23 Sep 1968 in St Louis, Independent Cities, Missouri.

John Thomas Estes became a widow in 1900 when his beloved Zelphie died of brain fever. He was left with six children to raise. At the time of Zelpha’s death, the kids ranged in age from about one to fourteen. He didn’t remarry. He raised his six kids as a single dad.

John Thomas Estes family, ca 1914.
John Thomas Estes (seated) with his children, from left, James, Gussie, Ida, Herman, Bob and Tom, circa 1914.

Iowa and Missouri

While he was born, raised, attended school through 8th grade, and started his adult life in Callaway County, Missouri, John and his family moved around a bit including several moves back and forth between Missouri and Iowa.

  • 1910 – Union City, Daviess, Missouri.
  • 1915 – Castana, Monona, Iowa.
  • 1920 – Kennebec, Monona, Iowa.

He didn’t have a regular job, but rather worked as a day laborer, finding work where he could. For example, when they lived in Daviess County, Missouri, J.T. and his son,  Bob, worked long hours in the rock quarry. The family was very poor but they had a telephone. The girls worked in a hotel in town, and needed the phone so they could call for rides home from work. When visiting his daughter Ida in 1938, John shared some memories with The Fulton Sun Gazette. They reported,

“John Thomas Estes, of Spencer, Iowa, is visiting his daughter, Mrs. Roy McDonald, east of Fulton, reviewed some of the old time events of Callaway County. More than thirty years ago he was engaged in the timber business near Steedman. He recalls having worked on the Alton Railroad Bridge in Louisiana, Missouri in 1876. He also recalls that in 1882 he helped lay the stone foundation of the home of the late Congressman, Champ Clark, in Bowling Green.”

1915JohnTCensusIndex (W)
1915 Federal Census, JT Estes.

As his children grew and scattered, John Thomas did not have a permanent residence. He traveled around the country staying for a time with the families of each of his children. It was not uncommon for one of his kids to get a call to pick John Thomas up from the train station. When he had irritated his host family enough, they would put him on a train and send him to a new destination. He was recorded twice in the 1930 Federal Census. He was included with his son Herman’s family living in Spencer,Clay, Iowa and also listed with his son Bob’s family in Grant City, Monona, Iowa. In 1940 he was living alone, but next door to a McCall relative, in Castana, Monona, Iowa.


John Thomas Estes died on 28 Jul 1947 while staying with his daughter Ida, in Callaway, Missouri. He was 91 years old. He was buried in Riverview Cemetery, Steedman, Callaway, Missouri.

Where is he in the tree?

How do I learn more?

The Estes Family

  • Publication date: January 2019
  • Pages: 740
  • Formats:
  • This book traces our Estes family from our earliest known Estes ancestor, Nicholas Estes, who was born about 1495 in England. His descendants, beginning with our immigrant ancestor, Abraham Estes, lived through all the major events in American history. Detailed biographies are included for twelve generations of ancestors from Nicholas through the family of his 9th great-grandson, Thomas Leland Estes. Thousands of descendants have been identified and are listed.


“Aged Resident Of Callaway Dies,” 28 July 1947, Fulton Daily Sun-Gazette, Fulton, Missouri.

Ancestry.com, 1860 United States Federal Census (Provo, UT, USA, Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2009), www.ancestry.com, Database online. Year: 1860; Census Place: District 18, Callaway, Missouri; Roll: ; Page: 813; Image: 237.

Ancestry.com, 1870 United States Federal Census (Provo, UT, USA, Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2009), www.ancestry.com, Database online. Year: 1870; Census Place: Auxvasse, Callaway, Missouri; Roll: M593_764; Page: 249A; Image: 111723; Family History Library Film: 552263.

Ancestry.com, 1900 United States Federal Census (Provo, UT, USA, Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2004), ancestry.com, Year: 1900; Census Place: Auxvasse, Callaway, Missouri; Roll: 844; Page: 12A; Enumeration District: 0017; FHL microfilm: 1240844.

Ancestry.com, 1910 United States Federal Census (Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2006), www.ancestry.com, Year: 1910; Census Place: Union, Daviess, Missouri; Roll: T624_779; Page: 1B; Enumeration District: 0062; FHL microfilm: 1374792.

Ancestry.com, 1920 United States Federal Census (Provo, UT, USA, Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2009), www.ancestry.com, Year: 1920; Census Place: Kennebec, Monona, Iowa; Roll: T625_503; Page: 2B; Enumeration District: 86; Image: 439.

Ancestry.com, 1930 United States Federal Census (Online publication – Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2002.Original data – United States of America, Bureau of the Census. Fifteenth Census of the United States, 1930. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1930. T626,), Ancestry.com, http://www.Ancestry.com, Year: 1930; Census Place: Grant, Monona, Iowa; Roll: 669; Page: 2A; Enumeration District: 0011; Image: 894.0; FHL microfilm: 2340404.

Ancestry.com, 1930 United States Federal Census (Provo, UT, USA, Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2002), www.ancestry.com, Year: 1930; Census Place: Spencer, Clay, Iowa; Roll: 648; Page: 3B; Enumeration District: 25; Image: 1171.0; FHL microfilm: 2340383. Record for Herman P Estes.

Ancestry.com, 1940 United States Federal Census (Provo, UT, USA, Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2012), www.ancestry.com, Year: 1940; Census Place: Castana, Monona, Iowa; Roll: T627_1184; Page: 1B; Enumeration District: 67-14. Record for John Estes.

Ancestry.com, Iowa State Census Collection, 1836-1925 (Provo, UT, USA: The Generations Network, Inc., 2007), www.ancestry.com, Record for T L Estes.

Ancestry.com, Missouri Marriage Records, 1805-2002 (Provo, UT, USA, Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2007), www.ancestry.com, Database online.

“John Thomas Estes,” Find A Grave, Web, 5 May 2016, http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=80426560.

Missouri, Death Certificates, http://www.sos.mo.gov/images/archives/deathcerts/1947/1947_00023575.PDF; Missouri Digital Heritage, http://www.sos.mo.gov/mdh/.

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