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Oklahoma Family Tree Stories

This beautiful sculpture of three redbud trees with gold and silver leaves by artist Robin Starke is located just outside the Eleanor & John Kirkpatrick Research Center in the Oklahoma History Center. Each leaf of the "Oklahoma Family Tree" memorializes an Oklahoma family with the family surname, first name(s), and the town or county where they lived. In addition, a short family history will be preserved in the digital family history book at the base of the tree. This is a great way for your family to make history and benefit future generations at the same time. To find out how to honor your own family with a leaf visit the Oklahoma Family Tree Project page.

Dyer, William Family

William Harrison Dyer, also known as Willie or Uncle Bill, was the eighth child born to James, Sr., and Malinda Labor on May 1, 1893, in Eagletown, Indian Territory. He died September 13, 1976. His Choctaw by Blood roll number was 1155. William's wife, Amanda Barnett, also known as Aunt Mandy, was born to Alexander Barnett, Sr. and Sillen Leflore in Stigler, Indian Territory, on December 10, 1894. She died on January 4, 1964. Her Choctaw by Blood roll number was 7184.

The couple met when Amanda arrived by train from DeQueen, Arkansas, circa 1915. She had come to care for her older sister, Sarah, who lived in Eagletown. Sarah was 21 years old when she married 22-year-old Stile Mambi of Eagletown on July 12, 1909. When she became seriously ill, Amanda helped care for her and her two young children. Willie's father sent Willie to meet Amanda at the train to bring her to the Dyer home before taking her to her sister. Willie and Amanda were married by Justice of the Peace Peter Williams of Idabel on September 6, 1916, and subsequently raised Sarah's children.

Although Willie and Amanda had seven children, they invited other children to live in their home. Their generosity extended to day laborers who knocked on their door in search of food and shelter. Willie, who provided for his family by farming, cleared nine acres and built his home with lumber that he planed. He tended a large orchard, established a garden, and raised a variety of crops, including peanuts, cotton, and corn. According to family stories, he supplemented his income by cutting four railroad ties a day for less than a dollar each. In the mid-1950s, Willie worked as a custodian at the Eagletown schools. He sang in a quartet with his children at Choctaw singings.

In addition to milking, making butter, and canning produce from her garden, Amanda was an expert quilter and was a mainstay of the Mountain Fork Presbyterian Church near Eagletown, which belonged to the Indian Presbytery. She and Willie maintained a camp house at the Mountain Fork Church where they housed and fed people who came for dinners-on-the-grounds and all-night singings. Amanda was an active member of the Home Demonstration Club. Her quilts typically won prizes at the county fair. Her children recalled how she would join them in ball games and Red Rover.

The Dyer home was full of laughter and love. Thanks to their encouragement, two sons graduated from Southeastern State College, two daughters attended Oklahoma Presbyterian College for Women, and one daughter became a registered nurse.

William and Amanda Dyer were buried at the Eagletown Cemetery. They were survived by 28 grandchildren and many great grandchildren.

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