THE WARREN JONES FAMILY
by Virginia (Ginger) Jones Gordon
I’ve been asked to write a family history and I will try. This is meant to be a recollection of my memories as a child so if your facts disagree with mine, you’re probably right and I am mistaken. In fact, no one could write a history of the Warren Jones Family without the mention of Fred A. Chapman who was a lifetime friend and confidant of Warren Jones. Their history goes back to about 1916 when my dad was befriended by a boy scout master in Ardmore. Fred Chapman must have seen some promise in the scrawny little fatherless child who came to the scout meetings for he took that child under his wings to provide a home and good care.
Warren Jones was the “right-hand man” of Fred A. Chapman who was the owner of several thousand acres of property which was known as Russett, Oklahoma. Warren Jones was a young cowboy on the ranch and as he matured, he quickly became a real “cowman” and managed livestock for Mr. Chapman. Warren had spent his growing up years living with the Eggel Davis family. Mr. Davis was just one of the men who lived and worked the individual farms and ranches owned by Mr. Chapman. Warren went to school at Springer and graduated high school at Davis.
He used to tell me stories about riding his horse to school from the ranch in the Arbuckles. He spent some time at Oklahoma A&M College but was unable to finish college because of the depression. He had worked while in school but soon grown men were needing the jobs in college cafeterias, etc. that had formerly gone to students. Times were hard and kept my Dad from getting his college degree. He became a worker instead and worked most of his life for Fred A. Chapman. He got his education by practical means and used everything he learned from Mr. Chapman and the ranch men thusly employed until at a very young age, he was a manager of a very large agricultural operation. Mr. Chapman also owned a large ranch near Clarksville, Texas and that became my Dad’s responsibility as well. When I say it was his responsibility, I do not mean to imply he did his job single handedly. Mr. Chapman taught my dad a great deal as did all of the men who worked so hard on the places Mr. Chapman owned.
His responsibilities were to oversee the cattle, help choose breeding stock and make sure the cattle were wisely placed on Mr. Chapman’s properties. There were several ranch areas stretching from the Tishomingo and Ravia area to Mannsville and Greasy Bend---too many places for me to list here and too much for me, as the writer, to remember as I attempt to write my family’s history some 67 years after I joined the Warren Jones family.
Warren married Cleo Coffey Richards, a widow with a young son, Charley, in August, 1937. Cleo’s first husband was a respected and loved teacher, administrator and basketball coach at Russett School. After his untimely death Cleo married my father and when I was born May 11, 1939, the Warren Jones family became a family of four living in company housing just East of the school. Everyone called that house the headquarters house. I used to go across the road and sneak into first grade class before I was old enough to be correctly called a student. Mrs. McGilverry was my first teacher and, bless her soul, finally gave up on trying to keep me out of her classroom. It is my understanding that my father was on the Russett School Board but I do not know what his years of service were.
My memories include going with my father when he could take me in his truck. We would go up Mule Train Road North of Mannsville to the Norton area of Johnston County. I rode the big equipment that cut the first path of what would become the road. Cleo, of course, did not know how much mischief I got into because once she let me out the door to go with Daddy my lips were sealed. Or perhaps we’d go past Tishomingo to Washita Farms where they also ran cattle. I can remember seeing the flooded buildings, both houses and barns, that Lake Texoma eventually covered. That’s where I got to ride on the top of the pile of burlap bags (we called them tow sacks, didn’t we?). They were full of feed and loaded in the wagon Mr. Grundy used to haul feed to the cattle. To that little girl I just described, they were the height of a skyscraper. In looking back, I am quite sure they were one or two sacks high.
Mr. Grundy took care of the Washita Farm where most of the houses were made of concrete. I saw on the news just before Christmas where one of those houses had been refurbished by Habitat for Humanity. I suppose it was the same Washita Farm I remember. The house looked the same only very neat and trim, I guess concrete houses never wear out.
A few of Daddy’s contemporaries were Boss Easterwood; Boss and his wife, Carrie, lived just East of us downhill from the headquarters house with their sons Lowell, Dale, Wayne and Richard. I. C. Hall, we called him Ike, was one of the men who fed cattle and worked for my Dad. His wife was named Jewel and they lived with their son Donald North of the headquarters. Bill Wilcox drove the big truck to ferry the cattle to and from market and Claude Hudgens fed cattle in the feed yards a little North and East of Mockingbird Hill. There were many other workers that I should be able to name but cannot. As you can see, Mr. Chapman’s place was a collection of small farms and ranches. Boss Easterwood took care of most of the farming as I recall and he was a masterful mechanic which was vital to keep the collection of rolling stock up and going.
In the summertime there was a large community garden North of our house. Mr. Chapman provided the equipment and some seeds, I think, while the people on the farm shared the work of tending the garden. We went to summer school back in those days and were out of school during harvest time so the older children could help with the crops which were worked partly by mule drawn plows and partly by tractors. Then we would resume school as winter set in and no farm work needed to be done. At Christmastime Mr. Chapman would provide candy and pecans while the home demonstration club ladies made large red stockings for each child of the community. The school hosted a Christmas program and of course, Santa Claus visited. The school was the center of our lives with programs and sports. It served as a place for pie suppers and cake walks and good times were had by all.
I wish I could relate more of my stories here. Many of them were exciting to a spoiled little girl who knew every bumpy road and old barn in the county. Some were funny as I recall them and many of them poignant as I look back on my family and the other fine families in Russett, Oklahoma. I hope you enjoy my recollections of the Warren Jones Family and of Fred A. Chapman. I encourage each of you, if you have not already done so, to visit the Russett website and leave recollections of your own.