Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma

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Bohanan, Lillie A.

by Joy Marie Houston Rinehart Lilie A. Bohanan

Submitted by: Joy Marie Houston Rinehart, daughter

Lilie A. Bohanan was born 9-19-1896 near Shoals, Indian Territory. One brother, James Bohanan born in 1888. Her father was Harmon Bohanan born in 1868 or 69. Her grandfather was Joshua Bohanan (according to records of an interview with Emma Jane Bohanan Wilson). He was full blood Choctaw. The mother of Lilie and James was Julia Ann (Wood) Bohanan. Lilie’s mother died when Lilie was barely 5 years old. Lilie attended school at Wheelock Academy and said she stayed there as an orphan, the length of time unknown. She spoke often of Aunt Emma Wilson. She spoke of Granny Wilson (Emma Jane Wilson’s mother-in-law). She met our father, Charles Orise Houston, full blood Irish, son of James and Kizar Sales Houston. He and his parents came from Tennessee. She said she and our father had known each other less than a month when they were married 9-6-1911. She was 14 and said she had to lie and say she was 16. She told the following story. Orise was dating her cousin, a Wood girl, who was white. He had been talking about her to his mother. When they got married in Woodstown, Indian Territory, he took her home and his mother said, “So this is the Wood girl. You didn’t say she was Indian.” My mother had long, very black hair, very brown eyes and Indian skin. She said she was very shy and wanted to run away. She was allotted land and said she never saw it, then soon after she married, it was sold. In 1950 or 1951, she received some royalty money from some kind of mineral in it. She said she didn’t receive it because she was underage when she signed the papers. They lived around Valliant and Hugo. There were 12 children, 6 boys and 6 girls. I was born at Frogville, OK. Eairless was the oldest, born 11-13-1912 when mother was barely 16; Edith, born 10-11-1914; Delbert (Sam), born 6-13-1917; When Sam was almost 5, he went with our father to the grist mill to have some corn ground for meal. He stuck his left hand in the grinder and the hand had to be amputated. Loftis was born 5-4-1920; Rudolph Dick was born 9-19-1922, her father was shot and killed. The story she told follows: He had been drinking when he arrived home. Lilies’s stepmother, Lula, had been in a dispute with a man over her daughters. She nagged her father to go out and confront the man. He was standing outside the gate to the yard. The man came to the porch and her father reached in his breast pocket for a tin of tobacco. The man shot him, thinking he was reaching for a gun. Her father had nothing but the tobacco tin in his hand. My mother always blamed Lula for her father’s death. We never called her grandma and I only saw her briefly once. All of my grandparents were dead before I was born so I felt I missed a lot. I was born 5-25-1925 and was the last to be born in Choctaw County. We moved to Kenefic in 1926 and my parents said everything was a failure, crops, garden, chickens and not much livestock. In late 1927 or 28, we moved about 3 miles east of Kemp, OK. My brother, Sam, said we almost starved that winter. He said that Papa, Eairless and himself cut wood and sold it to buy some food. Norma Wanda was born 1-30-1929 and we called her Tine Sis. I remember our father made her a swing from an old orange crate and hung it from the rafters. I would push her and she would laugh. On 10-26-1930, my sister Edith eloped in the night with Clarence Sitton. They were married by a Justice of the peace on the banks of the Red River. She was barely 16 and in the eight grade. I’m not sure if my mother ever forgave Clarence or not. They were married 56 years before her death in 1986. They lived near Liberty with his father. Some time they would come to our house on Saturday night and stay all night. Edith had a beautiful singing voice. Some times, the neighbors would come and we would make ice cream, then she would sing. In 1940, they moved to Binger. Little sister (Tine Sis) died of pneumonia 1-24-1930. The house we lived in was four rooms and I remember the cracks were stuffed with paper or rags to keep out the cold. On 12-23-1930, Sister Vivian was born. I remember I didn’t like her very well because it was Christmas. Although we never got much, we would hang up our socks and Christmas morning there would be a few nuts, an orange and a piece or two of candy before they could afford to buy me a rag doll. That Christmas morning, I got up and Mama was in bed with a new baby sister. However, my good brother, Eairless had walked all the way to Hendrix and got me a little box of toy knives, forks and spoons. He had it hanging on the wall. Now, I call that brotherly love. I love my sister, Vivian, very much. When I was suppose to start to school, our parents couldn’t afford to buy me shoes. After it got cold enough to wear them, I didn’t get to go. For something to wear at home, Mama made me some moccasins out of old felt hats. Then, I got whooping cough and couldn’t stop coughing. An old black lady, named Carrie, who with her husband John lived in one of the houses on the place Papa had rented. She would come and visit and I loved to see her come. She would play with me. Anyway, she told my parents to feed me some Crow Soup for my cough. I can’t remember if they did or not. When I did get to start to school, my coat was a hand-me-down. At that time, Kemp School did not have a school bus so we had to walk. It was very cold and my coat had a big hole in the left side of it so I would pull the right side over to cover the hole. I think it was my sister Edith’s old coat. Any way, Mama took some old pants and sewed a false pocket over the hole. She made me some gloves out of old socks and for Christmas that year, I got a red stocking cap. Mama sewed all our clothes, including Papa and the boy’s shirts. The girl’s dresses were made from flour sacks, which were saved until there was enough alike for a dress. Sometimes, she made them from feed sacks. They could buy them cheaper than cloth. Besides what she saved, she could dye them and we would have a brightly colored dress. She made our under skirts and bloomers as they were called then from flour sacks or feed sacks. She would wash and boil them and get them as white in the sun as she could. She had an old Singer treadle type sewing machine, which was handed down from Papa’s family. She would sew well into the night by the light of the coal oil lamp. In 1931 she said she was tired of trying to sew and put up with her long hair. She was 5 foot tall and it hung almost to the floor. It was thick and black which she would have to brush and brush. Sometimes, she wore it in two braids and sometimes in a bun. One day while Papa was gone to the filed or some place, she took the sewing scissors and cut it off to shoulder length. When Papa came in, there was a big fuss. He was so mad and I remember her saying that her hair was so heavy that it hurt her neck sitting there sewing. My sister, Edith, kept that ream of black hair wrapped in cellophane in a trunk for years and years. My little sister, Vivian, slept in the same room as Mama and Papa. One night I hadn’t gone to sleep and she was sewing baby clothes. The clothes were passed down from one to the other but, as they were born, they got something new. I asked her who she was making baby clothes for and she said; “Now you go to sleep. They are for one of our neighbors.” In those days we were not told there was a new one expected. Before long, my brothers were moved out of their bed to a pallet on the floor in another room. Vivian and I were put in their bed. Next morning there was Maud Hall, Mahala Williams and a new baby sister, Mahala, born 1-29-1933. When she was old enough to walk, she would hide behind the wood-burning cook stove sitting across the corner in the kitchen and suck her fingers. James was born 6-23-1935 and was the last one born at Kemp. As I previously mentioned, Mama was 5 foot tall and James weighed 13 pounds. We would start canning as soon as the Poke Salad greens started coming up and ready. It was fun to go hunt for it. I usually watched the little ones while Mama picked. We always had a big garden and grew and canned most everything we ate. We butchered hogs in the fall and rendered the lard. The cracklins were really good but we made soap from most of them. We picked wild berries, plums, and usually had a seedling peach tree and a pear tree. We picked wild grapes and made jelly. A lot of the time Mama would just can the juice and make jelly in the winter. Us kids would take some of the juice and put a little soda in it and make a ‘soda pop’. We took peanut butter and crackers, usually we would make some of the peanut butter, for our school lunch. Also, friend pies, baked sweet potatoes and biscuits with ham or sausage if we had it. We took our lunch in a lard bucket and 2 or 3 of us kids would have to share the same bucket. Sometimes we would wrap it in newspaper if we had it and tie a string around it. They made lye soap and when the floors needed scrubbing (they were wood floors—no linoleum), we would save the cleanest wash water and scrub with it. One year we had a big cucumber patch and sold cucumbers to the pickle factory in Denison. One time Papa let us all go and see the big vats with the pickles floating in the brine. We always were so glad when Papa would start taking the cotton to the gin at Colbert. He would bring back a big, long stick of bologna and Mama would slice it off and fry it for breakfast and make gravy. We thought biscuits, bologna, and gravy was a treat. While we had gravy and biscuits just about every morning for breakfast, it was better with fried bologna. Sometimes he would bring us a whole stalk of bananas. He seldom went to town, which wasn’t very often, but what he would bring us was peanuts, stick candy, or banana caramels. Before we left Kemp, brother Eairless married Margie Sinor. They eloped, also. She was barely 16 and they lived with us for a while. I was happy because I had gained a new big sister and a good helpmate. She has since been like a sister to me. I remember one time Mama was making hominy and I was drawing the water as she rinsed and rinsed it. I kept eating it and she kept telling me that I was going to get sick, and I did. For years I couldn’t stand hominy. In late 1935 or early 1936 we moved to Mead. Even though we were closer to Platter, our address was Mead. Papa had rented several hundred acres of land, which is now under Lake Texoma. He and my brothers built a fence and had a huge corner post and for a long time the post was visible in the lake. The land was pretty in the Washita River bottom and ran to the edge of the river. Papa had bought his first tractor, a John Deere. My brother Eairless had always plowed with mules. He was learning to use the tractor and was plowing near the river. Papa and my brother Sam laughed for years because Eairless was getting too close to the river and forgot how to stop the tractor. While there, we raised cotton, corn, peanuts and hy-gear. Papa had a contract with G.C. Atkins for popcorn. My brother, C.O., was born 10-14-1932 and when he was about 14 months old, he got diphtheria. He was very small and one time, Papa and Mama went to town and left me with the kids. C.O. crawled inside a big milk can. I couldn’t get him out, but finally (to this day I don’t know how I did it), I picked up the milk can and kept shaking it until he fell out on his head. I was about 14. Sister Vivian still laughs about it. Wynette was born 5-12-1941 and was the last of the twelve children. But before the last of the twelve children was born Mama got her first washing machine, a Maytag. It sat on the back porch and had a big, long exhaust pipe with a ball on the end and would pop when the washer was running. One day a black man came down the road and she had it running. He was so fascinated that he stood there and asked my mother what the goozel sticking out was for. We milked about 20 head of cows, separated the milk and washed the separator disc, then every disc had to be put back in its right place or it wouldn’t work. When we first moved there we went to school at Mead, then we transferred to Platter. The bus came by the house and the road was a dead end. The bus would go down and pick up 3 or 4 kids there and we would catch it on the way back. We had to get up at four o’clock every morning. I had to help Mama fix breakfast and fix our lunches before the bus came. We just had oil-burning lamps. I remember one morning I was running late or something and Mama made us wear the same dress for at least two days before we could change. I was on the bus and when it was light enough to see, one of my classmates said, “Did you know you had your dress on wrong side out?” When I was ready to start to high school we all transferred back to Mead. The Platter and Mead school districts were in a dispute over who should get us. Platter district wouldn’t let the Mead bus come and pick us up. We had to walk about two and one half miles to catch the bus. When the creek wasn’t high we could cut across and cut off quite a distance. It was so cold on the bus corner and there was a very kind old man that lived alone and when it was very cold he would have us come in by the heater until the bus came. At the end of school n 1942 I was promoted to a junior. Every body had moved out and work was in full progress on the Texoma dam. I never knew how he managed to do it, but Papa leased everybody’s land that had already left. There were several hundred acres, which he put into corn, popcorn, cotton, hy-gear, and most of it into peanuts. That fall when harvest time came, my brothers, Dick and Loftis had gone into the service and Sam had gone to Tulsa to work in the aircraft plant. Eairless remained to help Papa. There was a family who had several children, girls my age. So it was all of us who worked long hours to get the crops in. I didn’t get to start my junior year until 1943 when we moved to Bokchito. I really hated leaving the place by the Washita. I loved living there better than any place I can remember in Oklahoma. We worked very hard during the week but usually took Sundays off. For Papa and some friends it was a day for squirrel hunting. For Mama, myself, and women visitors, we cooked fried chicken and all the trimmings. Sunday afternoons my girl friend would visit or I would go visit her. Our favorite thing to do was go walking along the Washita and swing on grape vines, also look for different plants and flowers. We still lived there when work was being done on the construction of the bridge that crosses the lake west of Mead. The planes from Perrin Field would fly over and some would fly between the grinders, for training we thought. But one day a plane came over and knocked the top off the haystack. In the fall we moved to Bokchito after the crops were out and Papa bought 320 acres 2 miles south. He bought another large John Deere tractor. It was there they bought their first gas-burning refrigerator, but we still had to buy ice because it didn’t keep up with our needs. We still had our old 37 Ford pickup so when Mama had to cook for the thrasher crew and needed extra ice, we would take the pickup to Bokchito. I knew how to steer, work the gas pedal, brake and clutch, and she would shift it to the right gear. We would laugh all the way to town and back. In September of 1971 our father had to have his leg amputated. It was hard to think of this man who had been so strong, endured so many hardships and provided for all of us, to be with just one leg. He died in February of 1972. Our mother suffered a stroke after the death of our father. She seemed restless and had lost part of her vision from diabetes. She couldn’t do the beautiful handwork she loved so much. She went from one child to the other, visiting her children in Idaho, California, Utah, besides the children in Oklahoma. Each of us tried to keep her and made special arrangements for her comfort, but she was like a soul wondering from place to place. She was living in a rest home in Durant and died in the hospital there 11-4-1980 at the age of 84. She was very proud of her Indian blood but was never sure of how much she was. Since she was orphaned at such a young age, losing her mother when she was 5 and then her father being killed, I don’t suppose she was told a lot. Our mother was such a remarkable woman, starting her family at such a young and innocent age. Yet, she shouldered the responsibilities day after day with very little complaining from her. She was a beautiful seamstress, self-taught, and was a wonderful cook. All twelve of her children were born at home, some with no doctor in attendance. All were breast fed except Wynette, which was #12, and she was put on a bottle. Mama was almost 45 years old when Wynette was born. I consider our Indian blood a great gift passed on down to me and my children. This is a poem written by our mother, which is very, very old.

“My Dream” Written by: Lilie A Bohanan Houston

One night as I slept, I dreamed of another world it seemed. There were meadows so green and still and in the distance, a tree covered hill.

There were beautiful wild flowers that covered the ground. The world seemed good and peaceful all around.

Little children with smiles so bright made all the world seem pure and right, then suddenly I awoke from my wonderful dream. I went to my window and saw the same lovely scene.

The meadows, the hills, the children so gay, at once I knew it was the first spring day. The flowers were in bloom and everything was new. At once I knew, my dream had come true.

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