Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma

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Wyley Ernest E. Crabtree
Submitted by: Anne-Lynne Keplar, granddaughter

Wyley Ernest E. Crabtree was the oldest son of Choctaw Georgia Ann Barnett Crabtree and Whiteman David Carlton Crabtree. Their first child died at birth. Ernest was born north of Black Rock in the Chickasaw Nation, Indian Territory, March 10, 1893. His mother applied for enrollment with the Dawes Commission when Ernest was six years old. When approved he was assigned a roll number. When the lands were allotted, March 25, 1907, Ernest received land patents at the commissioner to the Five Civilized Tribes. He received 260 acres at a value of $1,037.50. This land had no improvements. It was all public domain.

In 1906 when he was 13 years old, Ernest’s mother died following complications of the birth of her seventh child. As a result, Ernest stayed out of school to care for four of the five other children: Early, Edna, Elmer and Edgar. The baby Elvin, was raised by his grandparents grew too old to care for him. In the meantime, Ernest’s father married Minnie Ora Branstetter in 1908. They had five children: Elbert, Dale, Jewell, Oleta, and Juanita. All the children were treated as one family and quite fond of one another. Ernest was never allowed to say “half-brother or stepbrother or stepsister”. Ernest was needed to help with the smaller children. While the other children went to school in Stonewall, Ernest studied at home. He still graduated with his class.

Like his mother, Ernest loved music. He played the violin. His father didn’t like the people he was exposed to when he played. So, when Ernest’s mother was dying, she asked him to quit playing. He promised her he would never play the violin again. He had to express his music talent with his voice as a fine tenor singer. When it came time for college, Ernest sold his land allotment to pay for law school. There at East Central University he met Mabel Alice Riddle and swept as a baritone singer. He married to Madeline Lamoine Blake and they had four children: Tom, Frank Jr., Frances, and Agnes. Frank owns three Coca-Cola bottling operations and ranches over 4,600 acres. The oldest daughter, Margaret Anita Crabtree graduated from East Central College and took postgraduate work in drama, voice, and art at the Oklahoma College for women in Chickasha. She was a marvelous artist, poet, and sculpture. While in Chickasha she met a tall, handsome Air Force aviation cadet, Lt. Kenneth W. Keplar, who was stationed there for training. They fell in love and married after World War II. They had five children: Kathy, Anne-Lynne, Lisa, Susan, and Ken. Kenneth’s career with IBM led them from Lexington, Kentucky to Cincinnati, Ohio and eventually to Raleigh, North Carolina.

Margaret remained an artist and teacher; teaching piano and voice while raising her children. Helen Lou Crabtree, the fourth child, was described by her sister, Margaret, as a beautiful woman with a beautiful voice. She graduated from Juilliard School and married Robert Lee Pace. She received his MA from Teachers College, Columbia University, New York. Helen began her career as vocal soloist with the Oklahoma Sinfonetta. She appeared in solo recitals, radio concerts and participated in the presentation of the N.B.C. operas under the direction of Arturo Toscanini. She wrote a set of music books for very young children. Helen worked with her husband in their company, Lee Roberts Music Publications, Inc., while raising four children: Cindy, Laurie, Kevin, and Jim.

David William Crabtree was a handsome, talented man who studied music at the University of Oklahoma and the University of Washington. He had perfect pitch and played the piano beautifully. He served in WWII as a tail gunner on a prop plane and then during the Korean War he was trained as a jet fighter pilot. He married Gay Nell Gardenhire and they had three children: Dana, Laurie, and David. They lived in Texas, New York, and finally Raleigh, North Carolina where David was an inventor and businessman. Donald Martin Crabtree spent much of his youth rough necking in the oil fields and riding broncos in the rodeo competition. The flip side of his personality was dominated by his interest in music and acting. It was this part of his nature that led him to develop those talents and aim for the Broadway stage. He graduated with a master’s degree in music from the University of Oklahoma. He then joined the Army. When out of the army and in New York, he took over the lead in “Destry Rides Again”. Other roles in musicals on Broadway included “Golden Boy” with Sammy Davis, Jr., “The Happiest Girl in the World”, “The Unsinkable Molly Brown”, “Best Little Whore House in Texas”, and “42nd Street”. His many television appearances included “The Ed Sullivan Show’, “The Bell Telephone Hour” and “The Red Skelton Show”. Also “Another World”, “Texas”, and “The Equalizer”.

He starred in the continuing role of the wandering folk singer Lloyd Hubbard on the CBS television show “The Edge of Night”. He had roles in the movies, “A Man called Adam” with Frank Sinatra, Jr., and “The Hustler” with Paul Newman. He married to Billie Jean Gardenhire (the sister of brother David’s wife, Gay). They had four children: Debra, Cheryl, Laura, and Susan. The youngest child, Ruth Elizabeth Crabtree is an artist and inventor. Her artistic works are post impressionistic oil painting portraiture and landscapes. She is internationally known with her work included in the collections of ballerina, Yunone Chowteau, Counselate of Saint Exupery, Vallobra of Brussels, Belgium; Grand Palais, Paris, France and Rmofler of Paris, France. Her awards include Prix de Paris of 1970, Artists of USA by Raymond Duncan, Paris, France; Portrait Painting Award of 1968, by Louis Sicard of the Royal Society of Art, London, England; Diploma (award) of the Bronze Medal, from the Society of the Encouragement of Progress, Paris, France. Her works are filed in the Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institute; Washington, D.C. Ruth married a dentist Bruce Frye. They lived in Lindsay, Oklahoma and had three children: Bruce, Lisa, and Lance. Ernest’s Choctaw heritage is proudly carried on by his children, grandchildren and now great grandchildren.

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