McAlester News-Capital, McAlester, OK

State news

November 29, 2013

An 83-year journey: Gigoux family finds heritage from land run

ENID, Okla. — It’s been a long journey for Jim Gigoux. He has traveled 83 years to bring his whole family back to the Enid area to visit their heritage.

Jim and his wife Mary Jane, and their son Gerald with his wife Victoria of San Jose, Calif., and  son Jeffrey, of Grand Junction, Colo., along with grandchildren Bella, Elena, Ainsley, Avery and Juliett came on the trip, some of them making their first trip to Oklahoma and Enid.

Jim Gigoux’s father made the land run, but drove an old, burdensome Conestoga wagon and did not get to stake a claim. However, his grandmother, Minnie Fish, made the run on horseback riding sidesaddle, and managed to stake a claim. She was a 21-year-old single woman who staked her own claim and developed it by herself. Guy Gigoux managed to trade some land in Kansas and purchased 160 acres across the road from Minnie Fish. The two eventually were married and farmed and became part of the Carrier and Enid communities.

The group started the day Tuesday visiting the family homestead in Carrier. It now is owned by another, but the Sears & Roebuck house still is standing, and the Gigoux name still is at the entrance.

Ainsley Gigoux talked about going to the Congregational Church in Carrier and seeing the names of family members there. All five grandchildren were able to ring the church bell, and they also went to the cemetery and saw four generations of their family members there. Ainsley mentioned seeing where the family homesteaded.

Jim prepared a 48-page treatise of family history for each family. They studied it while on their way to Oklahoma. Bella recalled seeing the barn her grandfather often had told her about. He told stories of playing in the barn and doing flips from the barn door. Juliett said she liked the story about her cousin Griff falling into the grain bin and being covered in grain. That cousin, Lt. Col. Harry “Griff” Griffin, later flew a bomber for Gen. Jimmy Doolittle during World War II, leading the first daylight bombing raid of the war. The family members also walked along the Heritage walk in Humphrey Heritage Village and found the bricks with their names on them.

Elena said she likes stories about the farm and finally seeing it. Her class in school has been talking about the history of Oklahoma and seeing the family homestead gave those stories meaning. The original farmhouse was ordered from a Sears & Roebuck catalog and came in pieces. The two-story house had running water, hot water and indoor plumbing.

“That’s pretty advanced for a house that was built in 1901,” Jim Gigoux said.

Neighbors who watched its construction said it would never last in the Oklahoma wind. But the house still  is standing, Jim Gigoux said.

Guy Gigoux was on the board of the Sons and Daughters of the Cherokee Strip Museum, predecessor to Cherokee Strip Regional Heritage Center. In 1979, he donated the old Conestoga wagon he drove in the land run. The wagon now stands in the Heritage Center.

“I used to come out here,” said Jeffrey Gigoux. “And I will never forget a snow storm over Christmas in the 1970s. It was as tall as the wind row in front of the house. It was eight-feet deep,” he said.

Gigoux was overcome with emotion when he thought of his family being in Enid, and could not speak his thoughts. Finally, he said “it is overwhelming.”

“It’s been his number one bucket list item,” said Mary Jane. “He wanted them to have a sense of their lineage. To be part of a community that gave, from Mom and Dad’s side both,” she said.

Gerald and Victoria and Jeffrey hope their girls develop the same type of can- do attitude exhibited by Minnie Fish, who staked a claim as a 21-year-old single woman.

“The family is extremely proud to have all this,” Mary Jane said. “They saw what they have always seen in pictures.”

“We have memorabilia from the family,” Gerald said. They have an old branding iron and the crank phone from the farm house.

Gigoux has stage-three cancer and is undergoing treatment, and that is the reason his family thought they should take the trip now, Jeffrey said.

“All of us are grateful to be here,” he said.

It’s been a long journey for Jim Gigoux, but it’s been worth it.

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