Submitted by: Marie Tekubie, Oakland California, February 1997
Silsainey Jones, born in 1883 or 1886, was an original enrollee of the Choctaw Nation. She was one of six children born to Nancy McClure (also an original enrollee) and Logan Jones, both full blood Choctaws. She had four sisters, Artimissa, Rennis, Silway, and Roseanna, and one brother, Robinson Jones. A census card in 1896 shows her as being 13 years old at that time and married with a five-month-old son, Ellis Taylor. Her husband was Battice Taylor; he was 19 years old. Silsainey was married four more times after she and Battice Taylor divorced. Her second marriage to Vinson Going produced five children: Lodie, Freeman, Robinson, Eden, and Florence; this marriage also ended in divorce. With husband #3 Silas Watson, she had two more children. They were Walter Jesse and Edna, who married James Levi Tekubie sometime in the mid 1930’s. Edna and James had four children: Faye Tekubie Roman, twins Ronald and Donald Tekubie, and myself, Wanonda Marie Tekubie. Silas Watson, also an original enrollee, died in 1918 while he and Silsainey were married. Silsainey married two more times after that. Five children were born of her fourth marriage to Wilburn Johnson. They were Joe, Leo, Nathan, Edith, and Wilburn. Her fifth and last marriage to Reed Ward lasted until her death in 1954; they adopted a daughter, Bertha Mae Ward Tonihka. As of this date, February 1997. Leo Johnson is Silsainey’s only surviving child. Grandma and her family moved from Smithville to Idabel, Oklahoma sometime around 1920 into a house on property she bought in the southeastern part of town. When my mother Edna married James Tekubie, Silsainey bought them a home two houses from hers and there we lived until our mother died at the age of 24 after giving birth to the twins in 1941. Although we lived only two houses away, my sister, brothers and I went to live with our grandma Silsainey in the “big house” as it was called. Father moved away and later remarried and our house was rented out from then on. The house we moved into was not the original one that grandma had purchased; that house had been torn down (for some reason of which I have no knowledge) and a new brick one built in its place. The new house had four bedrooms, two tiled bathrooms, a living room with a fireplace, formal dining room with French doors, a kitchen with an enclosed fireplace used only for burning trash, a pantry (between the kitchen and dining room), and a kitchenette. There were seven entrances into the house, four of them in front, one in back and one on each side of the house. The main front entrance had a foyer leading into the living room; a hallway led from there to the bedrooms, the dining room, kitchen, and to a side entrance. A sidewalk led up to the front porch and all the way around the house.
Grandma liked flowers so they were planted along the sidewalk and on both sides of the house. In the basement were five rooms; a boiler-room, a coal room, a laundry room, a small room for storing grandma’s canned goods and a larger main room with a table along one side of its wall which was used probably just for storing things. The chute from upstairs to the laundry room was fascination to us kids because it resembled a slide. Once one of the boys (I don’t remember just who) decided it would be fun to slide down the chute. Halfway down his shirt caught on something and he was stuck there! He finally got out, with or without help I’m not sure, and never tried that again. I was always tempted to try it myself, but never had the never to actually do it. For years Silsainey had a full time cook and other help but by the end of the 40’s all her own children except the adopted daughter were grown, married, and living in their own homes (which she provided) so us grandchildren, and any nieces and nephews who came to stay began to do most of the chores. Grandmother also began doing a lot of the cooking herself with help from the older kids. She prepared a lot of the traditional Choctaw dishes and her vegetable garden provided us with lots of good things to eat; she canned many of the vegetables too. My favorites were beets and canned peaches, which I mispronounced as “pinches”. Near the chicken yard was a fig tree that produced really sweet figs. Grandma also sewed, embroidered, knitted, crocheted and made quilts.
We younger girls were responsible for most of the house cleaning. On Saturday’s Grandpa would take down the chandeliers in the living room, dining room, and grandma’s bedroom and under his supervision we would wash each piece by hand. We would wash all the blinds in the house too, and that house had windows! On school days we vacuumed the living room and hallway, washed the breakfast dishes, swept and mopped the kitchen, dining room and pantry before grandpa took us to school. Grandma went hunting with Grandpa during deer season and went fishing at least once a week. We ate a lot of fish back then. I remember going fishing with her just twice in my life. Once she took my sister Faye and me with her and Grandpa. I was in hog heaven because we seldom went anywhere without the whole family along. Grandma took Fay and me out on the river with her in her boat; just offshore she told us to row to where she wanted to fish. We did or tired to and shortly were back on land because we had rowed us right into a big bush! The other time we went fishing with her everyone went. Some of us went in Grandma’s car and some in Grandpa’s car. We stayed all day at the river (maybe Mt. Fork) and I caught the biggest fish that day. I was happy. Grandma understood and spoke very little English but I wasn’t aware of that until much later in life because I never had any problem understanding her. She always had someone with her to interpret whenever she needed to communicate with anyone in English; and I think signing her name was the extent of her writing ability. Nevertheless, she was the head of the family. Her older children spoke or at least understood Choctaw, but for whatever reason us younger ones did not learn to speak or understand our Choctaw language. She couldn’t drive either but then she didn’t need to because there was always someone to drive for her. She and Grandpa Reed each had their own are, and every year would trade their cars in for new ones. Grandmother provided her own children with cars and homes when they married and once she bought six cars in one day! This was told to me by the car salesman himself many years after Grandmother had died and I had moved away and returned. I was working as a waitress in a restaurant then (around 1965-66) when this car salesman came in and learned who my grandmother was, he told me about the cars. He said one day word came to the car dealership where he was a salesman that Silsainey wanted to buy a car so six cars were taken to her house and lined up on the lawn for her to look over. He was beside himself when she bought all six. I imagine that was the talk of the town for some time. It certainly made a lasting impression on him. There wasn’t a telephone or television in the home despite her wealth, perhaps because she didn’t consider them as necessary things to have (movies were in this class too), but there was a piano, a Victrola, and a radio. Uncle Jesse was the piano player in the family although my sister Faye could play some too, and aunt Bert (Bertha Mae Ward Tonihka) took piano lesson for a while but never did learn to play well. Sometimes when people came to visit, Grandma would call someone to the piano and gather up four of the many kids who were around and make us sing one of her favorite Christian hymns for them. Grandma had been taking the family to Dallas for sometime during the summer to a gospel singing school there so I imagine she thought we could sing. She always looked pleased though so perhaps we did well enough to not embarrass her.
When we went to Dallas we stayed at a motel that had housekeeping cabins and a large house with a yard. Grandma always rented the house and two of the cabins for the family. Grandma invited a well-known gospel-singing quartet to her home in Idabel when she learned they would be in the area and they accepted. When they came to Idabel Grandma made a big fire outside and roasted corn in the ashes and they all ate outdoors. I don’t remember what else they had. I just remember the men standing around eating roasted corn while Grandma was seated next to a table. Once we spent a summer in Hot Springs, Arkansas so she cold take the hot mineral baths for her health. We stayed at a motel then too. I don’t recall much of that summer but I do recall getting sick from drinking to much apple cider and eating too many sweets. Grandma seldom let us eat store bought sweets. She preferred to bake those things herself and she was good at that too. To this day, I have not tasted strawberry short cake as good as she made. She would also bake king size cookies for us, sometimes that weren’t too sweet but were so good. In Hot Springs though, one of her nephews, Perry Jones, would talk her into letting him take us kids sightseeing and he would fill us up on apple cider and candy, which Grandma had instructed him not to do. When we got sick from all the sweets and apple cider that was the end of our sight seeing trips with him. I think she sent him back home to Idabel. Grandma did not take kindly to anyone who did not follow her instructions.
Even though Grandma was a wealthy woman (reportedly the wealthiest Indian woman in McCurtain County) her sisters and brother were not. They lived in rural areas (Smithville and Eagletown) in homes without electricity, running water, and indoor bathrooms. They did not own cars either. Instead they used horses and wagons like most Indians still did back then. Grandma may not have shared her wealth with them, but she visited them often and raised some of their children in her own home during her lifetime. I always looked forward to visiting Aunt Rena (her sister Rennie) in Eagletown because she had a big peach orchard and a water well in the front yard. The front yard was dirt but Aunt Rena was always sweeping it clean of loose dirt so that it was as hard as a regular floor. Sometimes we would get a ride in her wagon but this was usually after we had been climbing all over it and generally making a nuisances of ourselves until someone would hitch it up to the horse and take us for a ride down the road and back. These are just a few of memories I have of my Grandma, Silsainey Jones Ward. After her death in 1954 I finished my education in a boarding school (Chilocco Indian School) and moved away from Idabel in 1958. Though she was a strict disciplinarian Silsainey was, in my eyes then and now, a strong, kind, generous, loving human being. She did the best she could for us in the best way she knew how.