As one drives by the Belvidere Mansion located at 4th and Chickasaw, the beauty of the home that was built around 1907 would make one wonder about this man, John Melville Bayless. It is interesting to learn why some people came to live in Claremore.
John M. Bayless was a banker, builder, and merchant. While living in Cassville, Missouri, he worked as a tax collector and later had an interest in banking, retailing, and selling mules and ties to the railroad. This led to being a contractor and building lines for the railroad. (1)
A major decision for Mr. Bayless to move to Claremore was the fact that two railroad lines were located here, and he believed the town had a promising future. His belief in Claremore changed its future. He built the Sequoyah Hotel which at that time was a showplace in this part of Oklahoma. The first “Opera House” was a three story building at the northwest corner of 3rd and Missouri. A drug store was on the ground floor with the opera house on the top floor. Many traveling troubadours performed there. (1) An athletic building, complete with an indoor swimming pool, was completed in the downtown area.
Bayless built the first light plant in Claremore, which was later sold to the city. (1) When the Belvidere was built, it was wired for electricity and had indoor plumbing.
About 1906, he moved his family here and started the Belvidere. Before the home was finished, he took sick, and the attending physicians diagnosed the case as appendicitis and said that an operation was necessary to save his life. His condition became critical and family members were notified. His entire family was present and did everything possible to save his life. He died June 2, 1907, in Claremore, Indian Territory. (2)
He was the son of Daniel Dearkin and Sarah Bayless and was born in Tennessee and moved with his family to Missouri in 1853. Education was important to the family, as he graduated from the Cane Creek Academy and Hiawassee College, Tennessee. He returned to Missouri with 40 cents in his pocket. (2)
The Bayless family came to America from England of humble stock. John Bales I was born 1617 in Colchester, England and never learned to sign his name. At the age of 18, he sailed from London on the Truelove ship as an indentured servant of William Wells, a wealthy passenger on the same ship. As labor was in demand in the new country, a person with limited funds could pay their passage by becoming a servant to a certain person in return for free labor for three to five years. By 1640, John had worked out his passage. He learned a trade, married, and saved as much money as he could. In 1661, he moved to Jamaica and became a candidate for Magistrate. In 1664, John and a group from Long Island were granted permission to purchase land in New Jersey from the Indians. He later returned to Jamaica where he died in 1682.(3)
John Bales II was born 1642 to John and Rebecca Bales in Southold, New York. Rebecca was the first wife of John Bales I. When the family moved to Jamaica, he remained in Southold, but joined them a year later. He married Ruth Rusco in 1655. It appears that he was less adventurous than his father. He was involved as a fence inspector and listed in purchases and sales of property. (3)
The last child of John Bales II was Daniel Bayles I (note the change in spelling.) He was born 1683 in Jamaica, Long Island, New York and moved to New Jersey prior to 1712. He was a prolific land owner and was most active in community affairs. His wife, Sarah, died in 1751. Eight months later, Daniel, 68 years old, married Elizabeth Waters, age 78 years. They parted a short time later…never to meet again in the State of Matrimony… “It was not surprising that Daniel married so soon after his wife’s death as the Church did not permit an unmarried man to employ a female servant. Doubtless he was unable to cope with housekeeping and sought the only solution available to him.” He died in 1752. (3)
Daniel Bayles II was born in New Jersey in 1716. He married Joanna Lake and had nine children. When Daniel was 42 years old, he decided to move from New Jersey. He moved to Maryland, Virginia, and in 1780, along with other settlers, started the long trek to Washington County, Tennessee, what was then North Carolina. This territory became part of Tennessee in 1796. Daniel Bayles II was pastor of the Cherokee Baptist Church that was organized in 1783, the first Baptist Church in the Tennessee Territory. He served as pastor until his death in 1800. (3) A family member stated that “nearly every Bayless family has roots in Tennessee. It is not an accident. It seems that the early Bayless families followed the military roads from New York, Maryland, North Carolina, and finally on to Tennessee.” (4) Daniel (II) participated in the Revolutionary War by providing materials to the colonists and five sons who fought for the American Revolution against the British. Soon after immigrating to Tennessee, the family surname began to be spelled with a double “s”. (5)
In a long list of members of the old Cherokee church in Washington County, Tennessee, records show seven generations of the Baylesses, among them three generation of Baptist preachers. John Bayles was born 1746 in New Jersey. He was commonly known as Elder John. His parents were Daniel II and Johannah Lake Bayles. He fought in the Revolutionary War and received a land grant in North Carolina for military service. John followed his father as pastor and served until his death in 1823. He and his wife, Ann Price Bayles, are buried in the Cemetery of the Cherokee Baptist Church. (7)
Daniel Bayless, born in Tennessee, was the great-grandfather of John M. Bayless. There is not a great amount known about him, except that he married Martha Deakins Eaton, and they had many children.
Jesse Bayless was born, married, and died in Tennessee. He married Nancy Ann Shannon, and their third son, Daniel Deakins Bayless, was the father of John Bayless.
Daniel Deakins Bayless proved to be more adventurous than his ancestors since they moved to Tennessee. In 1852, with the help of his wife’s brother, they built a flat-top boat. The family went by the river to Illinois. It took six months to make the trip. After they reached Cairo, Illinois, they sold the boat. From there, they went down the Mississippi River, up to the White River in Batesville, Arkansas. They continued by a team of oxen to Barry County, Missouri, where they settled. (8)
So, how did John Melville Bayless become so prosperous? John brought to Claremore his loyalty to America as his family had fought in the Revolutionary War; his faith in God, as he had descended from an impressive list of pastors, and he and his wife were active in the First Baptist Church; and he had obtained an education to prepare himself for the new frontier. This all started because a poor 18 year old came to America as an indentured servant and passed the American dream on to his family.
1. History of Rogers County Oklahoma
2. The Barry County Genealogical & Historical Society
3. Bayless Family History by Virginia Bayless O’Connell
4. Letter from Clyde Bayless
5. Ancestry.com-Daniel Bayless, Jr.
6. Roots Web’s World Connect Project: Warner Tree 2009
7. Tennessee’s Pioneer Baptist Preachers
8. THE BAYLESS FAMILY, author unknown