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Russett, Oklahoma

Wyatt Lee Martin Family

By Don Martin 


Wyatt Lee Martin was born near Batesville, Arkansas in 1876.  When he was 16 years old (1892), the Martin family moved to Johnston County, Oklahoma.  They lived for a while in Mannsville, Oklahoma.

He married a young lady by the name of Newton.  She and their infant son died of childbirth complications shortly after his birth and both are buried in Norton Cemetery.

Wyatt owned and operated a ferry on the Washita River near Mannsville. After a period of time, he traded the ferry to a customer for a new wagon and a team of horses.  The following summer, a flood washed the ferry away.  I always heard that Wyatt helped dig the Washita River.

In 1902, Wyatt married again to Minnie Leatta Potts and the following children were born:  (Listed with their married names) Audrey Ozella Sartain, William Lee Martin, Opal Catherine Burton, Ola Ann Dry, Hilrey Elmer Martin, Serena Mae James, Jackson Andrew Martin, twins Donald James Martin and Dowthula Jo Asbury. Infant Ruel Kenneth Martin died at age 2.  Today (February, 2007) Jack, Don and Jo are living.

The Martin’s first lived about 300 yards north of the home as we knew it, next to the Waggoner family. This house burned and Wyatt bought the Dr. White home in 1921. Presently, one of the Martin’s grandsons, Ronnie Asbury owns and lives in this home.

About 150 yards north of our home was the “teacherage” and west of that was the two story schoolhouse. I remember playing in this building as a child. We climbed to the top floor to see the young pigeons, two to a nest, scattered about the floor. The windows were all out. There was also a concrete oval-topped, open at both ends, storm cellar. I heard at times it was used as a hiding place for the wildcat whiskey drinkers and sellers.

Wyatt Martin was the janitor for the Russett School for many years.  His pay was $25.00 per month.  He left early in the morning to go to the school to start the natural gas heaters, so that the school would be warm for the students and teachers.  Since he left so early, I had to milk 13 cows and turn the cream separator.  At the end of the week, my dad and I would take the cream to Madill to sell.

My brother Jack and I also worked some for Mr. Chapman.  We loaded bundles of feed to put into silos.  We worked hard from daylight to dark and were paid $1.00 per day.  At the end of the week we would take the pay slip to the local store to exchange for groceries.  We called these “bean orders”.  I once found a pay slip for a person who had worked a week. I turned it in to the store.  I felt sure that someone was glad to get it back.

In the mid-thirties, before anyone had electricity, we had a Zenith 6-volt radio.  To keep the battery charged, we put a wind charger on top of the house. Not only could we play the radio, but we had two wires coming into the house, so we had a 6-volt light on the ceiling. Later we bought a little gasoline motor and had it out in the smoke-house. Every day we would charge up the battery. My brother Hilrey was quite the engineer/inventor for all of this. He later decided to take a wind-up alarm clock and as the alarm went off, the little winder on the back of the clock would turn as the alarm was ringing. He decided to set the clock on op of a wooden cigar box. This box had two wires coming into each end.  He tied a string on the winder and it pulled the two wires together, which made the radio come on.  This was long before the first clock radio was patented. Hilrey also took a 12”X 12” piece of board and strung 15 or 20 copper wire on nails, very close together, without touching. He hooked this up to the 6-volt battery and put a handful of sugar on the board.  As a fly lit on the wires touching two or more, it would be zapped.  At the end of the day, there would be a pile of dead flies.  It was such fun to play with and was not strong enough to shock a person.

We attended The First Baptist Church of Russett. My father was the first to get to church to build the fire and always took me with him. I can remember well “Uncle” Charlie Cumbie (as we called him) being at church, his testimony and the good influence he had on others. It is great remembering these older men taking the lead.  My dad was the song leader. “Papa” taught music in homes and churches in a number of communities.

The school, in the present location, and the well were built in the 1920’s and remodeled adding the gym in the 1930’s. I have always understood that beneath one of the corners (NW or SW) there is a container of some sort.  I cannot guess what it might be. Maybe someday we will find out. The northwest room in the school was where my first grade in school began. This room was also used as a voting place.

The Rock Island Railroad came though Russett.   It came from Arkansas to the east, through Tishomingo, Russett, Ardmore and on to the west through Ringling, OK.  It was “put in” during the teens or early twenties. It was used to supply merchants, shipping goods in from the east.  I understood that the primary purpose was to help the Ringling Brother’s Barnum and Bailey Circus so they could use Ringling, OK as their “winter haven” for the animals.  However, the circus never used it, so the railroad was removed during the late thirties or early forties.  A depot was in Russett and the water tower for the train was east of Russett, down the road toward Randolph.

I entered military service during my senior year in high school on December 15, 1942. I went through training at Sheppard Field, Wichita Falls, Texas. Next I went to Bowman Field, Louisville, Kentucky.  In May 1943, my commanding officer sent for me to come to his office.  I was scared since I didn’t know what I had done.  He said, “At ease Private Martin. I have here a letter from the Superintendent  of Schools at Russett, Oklahoma, Mr. Charles McGilberry, asking that you might come back home for the commencement  exercises at your school. I am going to let you have a 10-day emergency furlough to graduate with your class.”  I graduated in my military uniform.

My wife, Martha Lee Poindexter and I were saved to the Lord in a Brush Arbor Revival in 1942 and were baptized in Mill Creek near Norton on the north side of the Washita River.  I always say that we both received a “New Heart”.  The clinical conditions were not the best – Brush Arbor, Gas Lights, Bugs, but we had The Great Physician.

When I became County Superintendent of Schools, I conducted the election for the school to be annexed to Tishomingo.  I remember that a number of the voters were there and at the end of the day, 27 people voted yes. There was a 10 day protest period.  Before I could make a declaration of annexation, Mr. Fred Chapman came into my office in the Johnston County Courthouse, making the following statement:  “Martin, what would have to be done to get the Russett School back like it was?” My reply was, “The whole Tishomingo district would have to vote on it.”  His answer to me was, “That’s all I wanted to know” and he was out of there.

Before anything was done about the election, I called a meeting at Ravia and Mannsville to see if anything could be done about perhaps a middle school at one place and maybe an elementary school at another.  They both wanted the high schools and transportation would be a problem. Russett would not be able to annex to Tishomingo had the two districts not joined – East of Russett, Randolph and Teller Bottom – West of Tishomingo.

I remember people moving in and out of the Russett community. One particular incident was when my sister Serena was a teenager, some of her girlfriends were visiting our home. They were talking about a nice looking young man who was visiting the Wilcox family.  I remember them saying how cute he was and that his name was Lynn Webber. We found out that he was Merle Wilcox’s brother.

Another family that moved to Russett was the Poindexter family.  They moved from Pontotoc, OK in the fall of 1940. They had five sons and one daughter named Martha Lee.  The first day of school, she didn’t have her books.  Mr. Ed Gill, our superintendent was our Oklahoma History teacher.  He said, “Don, this young lady, Martha, doesn’t have a book and I would like you to move over and let her sit by you.” Boys and girls did NOT sit together.  W-O-W! What a break that was! I was permitted to sit with this pretty girl.  I later told her that I really didn’t notice how pretty she was at that time, but she sure did smell good!  I found out she had been using “bought” soap, not the home-made lye soap that I had been using.

In 1945, after three years in the U.S. Army Air Force, with a tour in the South Pacific, New Guinea and the Philippine Islands, I came back to the U.S.A.  It was the same day that President Roosevelt died.

Martha was attending East Central State College in Ada, Oklahoma.  We were married July 1, 1945.  We both graduated from East Central in 1949.  Our first two children were born while we were in college there; Donna Hudson and Sue Young. Later, our last two children Randy Martin and Patti Bonar were born.  In July of 2007, Martha and I have been married 62 years. Presently our tribe has increased from 4 children to 12 grandchildren and 15 great-grandchildren.

I can say that one person that had a great influence on me as a child was my Junior and Intermediate Sunday School teacher, Carrie Jester.  I often thank God for her and this good influence on my life.

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Wyatt Martin

Wyatt and Minnie Martin are buried in the Russett Cemetery along with my brother Hilrey, sister Ola Dry and her family.

Addendum by Skipper Martin son of Jack Martin.
Wyatt Martin was a Mason and a member of the Russett Masonic lodge. My dad's first girlfriend was Ida May Faller.  I read dad the material that his brother wrote for the website and he enjoyed it very much. For many years dad was the only Martin to live east of the Mississippi.  Then Don's daughter and son-in-law moved to Dayton Ohio.  But, dad is the only child of Wyatt and Minnie to live in the "east".  Dad joined the Army Air Corp and wanted to be a pilot, but failed the color blind test and reached the rank of Sergeant 1st class when the war ended.  He was stationed at Bowman field in Louisville, Kentucky where he met my mother Ester Egelhoff.  They have three children, eight grandchildren and two great grandchildren.


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Last modified: 05/27/07