The Andrews Family
By: Wendyle Andrews
The Willis Andrews family moved to Russett a few days before Christmas in 1950. We moved into the house that the Dorie Benge family had just moved out of. This house was about 200 yards North of where Mrs. Carrie O’Steen and her boys lived. This house was old, completely void of paint and in need of much repair. There were no rugs on the floors, just wood planks. We had moved several times before we got to Russett and it usually took Momma some time to get the house cleaned. More than once I heard her remark about the cleanness of this house. She said Mrs. Benge must have taken a stiff brush and lie water to scrub the floors. She said the floors were so clean they almost looked like they had been sanded. Mrs. Benge would have had to do this after all fixtures were moved from the house. My Momma was quite impressed. We had never met the Benges prior to moving to Russett.
We moved to Russett in time to go to the annual “Christmas Tree” at the school, but we did not go because we were not there to participate in the pie supper that financed this event. Daddy and Momma thought it would be in bad taste for us to go and partake of the occasion, since we did not contribute. The next morning after the “Christmas Tree,” here came Mrs. Carrie O’Steen and one of her boys (I believe it was Dale) bringing six sacks of Christmas Treats. This was a just a token of welcome and a testimony of the character of the community. These were big brown paper sacks almost full to the top with goodies. Fruit, Nuts and lots of candy. Though I only really lived at Russett until the fall of 1956 when I went off to College, I still call Russett home.
During this five year period, another thing that stands vivid in my memory is going to the Cellar in the spring when the thunderstorms came. At this time you only knew a storm was coming when they got there. There was no weather channel with a radar unit to let us know when a storm was on the way. Every time it thundered, Momma was of the opinion there was a tornado on the ground just out of sight and we needed to get into the cellar ASAP.
The storms came out of the North West during these years and; sometimes, late in the evening you could tell it was going to be a stormy night. On these nights there might be three or four families gathered at T-Bone and Vera Taylor’s place to wait out the storms. They were usually over about midnight. They had a big basement that would hold several people. The women and kids would all get in the cellar and the men would stand around outside and watch the storms come in. Between storms, Tommy Taylor would go up to the kitchen and bake about a bushel of Oatmeal Cookies. We had a log cellar that Daddy & C.B. Forguson built at our place. There is nothing more thrilling than realizing you are looking into the eyes of a big chicken snake behind the logs of the cellar. That was usually about the time I cleared out of the cellar. Storm or no storm, I do not do snakes.
During the years 1951 through 1955 the Washita River flooded its banks every year. Most of time it flooded the area north of the river and a couple of times came over on the south side and coursed through a low spot in the road. When the river was out of its banks, the State of Okalahoma would send a crew and blockade the road. It was usually so wet at the time that we could not work in the fields, so Wayne, the dogs and I spent most of our time at the South Blockade. Almost everyone in the community would come to the river at one time or other just to look. There were usually up to a dozen or so standing around watching the river. Lots of good stories were swapped there. One story in particular that I remember was the one the “Old Timers” would tell about how, in 1918, the river got from the “Hill to Hill”. I did not believe this even a little bit, but in the spring of 1957 the river was out of its banks from “Hill to Hill”. It has got from “Hill to Hill” several times after 1957. I believe the last time it got this big was in the spring of 1993. Winford and I drove a railroad spike in the middle of the old highway at the South high water mark. You can go there today and see how big the river was at the time. The “Old Timers” at Mannsville said this was the highest the river ever got. They based this on the fact that this was the first time water ever covered the top of the bolt threads that fastened the Norton Bridge to the concrete. This was on the south side of the river. In August of 1956 the Washita went completely dry. You could walk in the bed of the river as far as you wanted in any direction. I think this is the only time in history that the river went dry.
The Andrews migrated from Virginia to Louisiana about 1770 and lived there for several generations. Benjamin Andrews received a Spanish Land Grant that included the town of Jennings, Louisiana. It was here the English spelling of the name Andrews was Gallicized to the French spelling Andrus. The current Jennings phone book is full of Andrus’s. This spelling was used until my Great Grandfather, Miner Andrews, changed the name back to the original spelling. He was born as Andrus and died as Andrews. This little trick caused no small amount of trouble for this country boy as he tried to bring the Andrews genealogy up to date. I can not identify any French blood in my linage but I bet by now the Andrus’s in and around Jennings are almost pure blood Cajun/Coon Ass. The Andrews migrated to South Texas in about 1860. My Grandfather, Jesse Andrews, came to Willis/Fobb area in the early 1900’s. His family were all born and raised there and he died there in 1982.
Willis Andrews was born in the Fobb Community on 9/30/17. Winnie Dewberry was born on 2/18/19 in the Shay Community. Willis and Winnie were married on 5/8/37. Daddy worked as farmer all his life. He loved the farm. I don’t think he every thought about doing anything other than farm. I also loved the farm and would have probably followed in his footsteps if it had not been for pulling cotton. This was a job that I considered pure torture and I vowed as a small child that I would never do it if I could survive youth. I never pulled 400 lbs in my life. I got 396 one day and could have gone back to the field and pulled 4 more lbs but then I did not consider this as a goal I really cared to attain, so I did not do it. I pulled cotton from the time I was eight years old until I was eighteen years old and here I stand flat footed and declare John Grissom does not know near as much about cotton as he says he does in his book, “The Painted House” Call me and I will send you my critique of the same. 580/226-0961
Willis & Winnie had four children. Wendyle born at Fobb on 6/28/38, Wayne born at Fobb on 11/26/39, Wanda Sue born at Chickasha on 4/26/46 and Winford born at Chickasha on 12/31/47. At this time, Wendyle lives in Ardmore, Wayne lives at Ravia, Wanda Sue lives South of Sulphur and Winford lives in Frisco, TX.
My mother’s parents also came to Oklahoma via Texas. The Dewberry’s migrated to the Van Alstyne, Texas area about 1850 from Georgia. My Grandfather, John Dewberry, and his brother came to Oklahoma before statehood. Poppa and Uncle Billy were evidently men of a degree of stature and importance in Texas. When they decided to come to Oklahoma there were folks there who did not want them to leave; however, they were able to cross the Red River into Indian Territory before these folks could catch and restrain them.
I read the article about the Os Brown family that Mona Jo posted to the Russett Website and I remember back to the summer of 1951 (I think) when Os had to have surgery. I believe he had chest surgery to remove a tumor. As I remember he was laid up sick for a considerable period of time. At the time I remember listening to my Dad and some others discussing the seriousness of the situation. I believe it was T-Bone Taylor who expressed his opinion that Oz did not have long to live. Oz lived another fifty years and as far as I know outlived the head of the every family living in the Russett Community in 1951, with the exception of Harold O’steen.
I remember and cherish the fond memories I have of the people who lived there. Any time there was a community gathering I would always get close to Roland Cumbie. He was always good for a good time although on several occasions he told of the time his car broke down close to our house. This was shortly after we moved into the community. He walked up the hill to the house to see if he could borrow some tools. He said my siblings and I were playing in the yard when he came up and asked my mother if she owned a monkey wrench. The way he told it, she became real indignant and told him that she did not own a monkey ranch, that these were her dear children. Terry told me some years ago that Roland did not spare his own children from these antics. Terry said he was always scared to death to gather corn up on his Grandparents place because Roland had convinced him the place was infested with Hoop Snakes.
In this period of time I was acquainted with every single person who lived in the community. We worked together, we played together and we grieved when one in the community grieved. I have lived in the same place here in Ardmore for 36 years and I don’t know some of the people who live within shouting distance. Not every thing has been progress since these days at Russett.
Thank you for providing us the opportunity to do this.