The O’Steen Family
By Jim (Dale) O'Steen
The O’Steen family moved to Russett in January 1946. There were 8 boys and 5 girls in the O’Steen family. The O’Steens had lived in Albion, OK; Hope, AR; and Chattanooga, OK before settling Near Kingston, OK and Southern Marshall County. Their children were born at the various places they lived. In the 1920’s and 1930’s it was difficult to earn a living and the family went where they thought they could earn a living. Farming was their primary source of income. They always rented and shared the harvest with the owner. All the children helped on the farm and as the children got old enough to get married or get jobs they would go out on their own. Mr. O’Steen died in 1941 and World War II was just beginning.
In January 1946 the war had just ended and Harold had just been discharged from the Navy when the family moved to a farm near Russett. The farm was owned by Mr. Stafford and after his death the heirs could not agree as to how it was to be handled. Mr. Marvin Bryant of Madill was the supervisor and the farm did not sell for several years. It was bought by Mr. Warren Jones and finally by Mr. Fred Chapman, Sr.
Harold and Earl were the oldest children at home and helped with the farm work. Clifford was a senior at Kingston high school and stayed at Kingston to complete his graduation. The other younger children enrolled at Russett and continued their education there until each graduated. In 1946 Roy was in 9th grade graduating in 1949, Beth was in 8th grade graduating in 1950, Dale was in 6th grade graduating in 1952 and Arlie was in 3rd grade graduating in 1955. After gradation each would find a job and/or get married and go somewhere else. Harold stayed at Russett for many years and raised his family there. Harold also served on the school board and worked as a vote counter when elections were held.
All the children participated in basketball and baseball/softball while in school. Also the summers were taken up with farm chores. It was common for most families in the community to farm and the Russett school administration tried to accommodate the families by starting summer school in July, then letting out for a period of time when harvest time came around. School would start up again in late fall just in time to finish the school year by mid May.
George, Jessie Lou, and Harold served during WW II. Earl served after WW II when the US occupied Japan. Clifford and Roy served during the Korean conflict and Dale served in Korea after the peace agreement had been reached.
All the children worked on the farm and it was common for several families to work together during peanut harvest. The harvest crew would go from field to field threshing peanuts. Sometimes this would last from August 'til December. Because the children were needed during the harvesting operation they would have to miss school for quite some time. This was common among most families in the community. The cooperative effort was also common among families in other endeavors. Some time in the 1950’s the Russett Baptist church was torn down and replaced with a newer larger one that still stands today. Most of the work was done by volunteers in the community. It was a very lengthy process since families had to continue their farming operations and when things got slowed down on the farm they would go work on the church building. It was common for a neighbor to help a neighbor in such cases as killing hogs, cutting wood, handling cattle, etc. It was quite common for several boys to hitch hike to Tishomingo on Saturday night and stay until the preview was over. We hoped there would be someone going back toward Russett after the preview. Unfortunately on one occasion we did not catch a ride and by that time of morning there weren’t many cars so we had to walk all the way from Tishomingo to Russett. We can now look back and say “Those were the good old days!”.
The school was the central focus for just about everything in the community. In addition to class studies, the school was used for Sunday baseball games, turkey shoots, etc. Sometimes while on dates, 2 or 3 cars might come to the school just to hang out. There were the basketball, baseball, and softball games. There were the jr/sr plays. There were the alumni banquets each year. And for awhile, while the church building was being rebuilt, it was used for church. Mr. Smith was the superintendent in 1946, but he had some kind of health problems and Mr. Mitchell finished the year. Mr. Mitcheson was superintendent for 46-47. Mr. Portman was superintendent starting in 47 for several years. Mr. Murk was superintendent when the school lost its high school. There was a grade school there for sometime after that but eventually the grade school closed. On a recent trip to Russett I stopped at the school and Bill Chapman just happened to be there. We visited for a while and it looking around you could see trees coming out the top and many of the windows were broken out. It was kinda sad.
We all remember and cherish our days at Russett. We enjoy attending the Russett reunion and visiting with old friends. At one time or other all the O’Steens “DRANK FROM THE WELL”.