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Genealogy, Elite Clubs Focus of 88-year-old


BOERNE, Texas – Nancy Polk McLarry does not watch much late-night television. She is too busy serving her community, numerous organizations and living life to the fullest at 88 years young. She has no intention of slowing down either.

She is the great-great-granddaughter of Chickasaw Nation Governor Cyrus Harris (1817-1888). Governor Harris was the first elected Chickasaw Nation Governor in Indian Territory.

She also is related to James K. Polk, 11th president of the United States from 1845-1849.

“I like to say my heritage is Chickasaw, Welsh and Texan,” McLarry explained with a laugh. “Each has its own unique traits that form my attitudes, temperament, and desire to serve others and to stay active in all the activities I am involved in,” she added.

Those “activities” read like a history book concerning America, Texas, Chickasaws and genealogy.

McLarry, a Chickasaw citizen, served 10 years as president of the Genealogy Society of Kendall County, president of Kerr County Historical Society, Daughters of the Republic of Texas (DRT), Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR), Daughters of 1812, Daughters of Indian Wars and Colonial Dames of the 17th century.

Many of these organizations require meticulous genealogical proof of kinship to be accepted as members, particularly the DRT and DAR.

Membership to the DRT is limited to descendants of ancestors who “rendered loyal service for Texas before Feb. 19, 1846” when the Republic of Texas became a part of the United States.

In McLarry’s case, her ancestor is the sister of famed Texas Republic General Edward Burleson. Sarah Burleson Thrasher would be her great-great-grandmother.

General Burleson was the third vice president of the Republic of Texas and served in the Texas Senate. As a soldier fighting Mexico for Texas independence, he was awarded Mexican General Santa Anna’s sword upon his capture after the battle of San Jacinto.

“I am still very active with the DRT and have held many offices within the organization,” McLarry said.

Most Americans will remember the DRT managed the Alamo complex in San Antonio for decades until 2015 when the state of Texas took over management and operation of the site.

McLarry served as president of the National Chapter of the Burleson Family Association for many years.

“We’d spend our convention comparing each other’s family trees and doing research,” she said.

Love of Genealogy

McLarry’s father is responsible for her love of research and finding ancestors. It has led to lifelong involvement with genealogical societies. Her father, Stillwell Russell Polk, brings the Chickasaw ancestry to the family through Cyrus Harris and his wife Nancy Thomas.

The Harris-Thomas union led to the birth of McLarry’s great-grandmother, Minnie Sarah Harris. She married John Henry Kinney and their daughter, Nancy Kinney, married Leonida Polk. McLarry’s father was born to them in Sulphur, Oklahoma.

“When I was around 10 years old, my father expressed a desire to write a book about Cyrus Harris,” she explained. “I was quick to volunteer my services to the project. This was back in the days before computers or the internet. You had to go to libraries, bookstores and courthouses to gather information,” she observed.

Little did she realize this endeavor would be the spark that ignited her love of genealogy and a desire to assist others in finding their heritage, ancestors and culture.

“Researching with my dad, I learned a lot about my tribe and vowed I would someday make my daddy proud. I have tried to do that in all that I am involved with to preserve the culture and traditions of the Chickasaw Nation.

“After I was grown and started my genealogy work, I began helping other people. That is when I learned more about my ancestry. I read volumes of books and even started helping others to find their First American ancestors,” she said.

“I have spoken to so many organizations, and those organizations began to send people to me for research. That is when I started speaking to groups. That led to speaking at other places instead of just the surrounding area. That led to creating power points and more stories. People are always interested, and I love talking about Chickasaws. The last one I did was in Kerrville, Texas, which is close to my hometown,” she noted.

One of her most beloved activities is serving as secretary to the South Texas Chickasaw Community Council.

“We have done many good things. We have given food to a needy family in the community at Thanksgiving – a homage to how First Americans were involved in the first Thanksgiving at Plymouth Colony.

“We started the ‘Sock Hop’ at the end of the year where we all bring socks – all sizes from big men to infants – and the council serves the needs of our community.

“We really have a large group when we meet monthly. We have asked many Chickasaws who live in (Oklahoma) to come and show us how to do some arts and crafts so we can learn to do them to bring some of our culture back,” she added.

A Beautiful Life

Nancy Clare Polk McLarry was born in McAllen, Texas, in December 1935. While her father was born in Sulphur, Oklahoma, the Great Depression proved such a hardship the entire family decided to relocate to McAllen, a lovely community merely a stone’s throw away from the Mexico border in extreme South Texas. The area is affectionately known as “The Valley” to Texans.

“My Polk family moved from Oklahoma to McAllen in the 1930s. McLarry’s mother, Ora Alma Thrasher, did not arrive in Texas until after the Polk family relocated there.

“The entire family came together – aunts, uncles, cousins, brothers, sisters, moms, dads, babies and elders – to McAllen. Everyone sold all their belongings to purchase farmland and raise cattle and horses,” she said.

Today, McAllen is a thriving city of approximately 150,000 people, but in 1930 only 9,000 people called it home.

“My dad remembered he and his older brother, Jodie, helped clear some of the land my grandfather farmed that would be smack in the middle of McAllen today,” she said.

McLarry graduated high school in McAllen and married at age 21 to a career military man. Together, they toured the world – from Germany, Japan, to bases in America – and produced four boys. They are Robert Eric Fields, Mark Alan Fields, Brent Edward Fields and Jeffery Scott Fields.
That marriage did not last, but McLarry found herself drawn to another military man, Edmond McLarry, who was the father of three children, Donna, Leslie and Patrick McLarry.

“His girls were grown by the time we married,” she recalled. “We raised Patrick, and my boys were living with me, so it was a ‘Yours, Mine and Ours’ situation,” she said with a laugh, recalling the 1960s movie of the same name starring Henry Fonda and Lucille Ball.

Edmond McLarry received an honorable discharge and the family moved to Boerne (pronounced Burney) where they lived for more than 40 years until his death in 2018.

Her loss solidified her desire to serve with all the organizations she is involved with and also gave her the opportunity to delve into her Chickasaw heritage.

“My Chickasaw name is ‘Chonkash Kilimpi’ which means ‘Strong Heart.’”

Additionally, McLarry is writing two books. “I am doing it for my family and do scrapbooking on all important family things and several organizations. I also write for my different organizations in their journals, newsletters, and have taken part in a composition of two books with one taking ‘Best Book of the Year’ with the Texas State Genealogy Society,” she said.

“I also have a booth at the local antique shop where I sell my handcrafted Chickasaw jewelry.

And if this is not enough fun for me, I meet with my family every Wednesday for dinner. We take turns cooking and have been doing this for 20 years.

“I do this all for my dad and my Chickasaw Nation! He was an immensely proud Chickasaw. He would sit in his chair when he was my age and listen to our Indian music. He loved to talk about when he was a boy and lived in Sulphur. He loved coming back to Oklahoma. He loved the Hill Country where I live now because he said it reminded him of the Arbuckle Mountains,” she said. “Daddy taught me to be proud of who I am. I am enormously proud to be Chickasaw, and I think he would be proud of me, too.”

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