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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.

Eager Family

Sherman Wesley Eager was born to Millard and Leota Eager on January 28, 1888, in Knox County, Indiana, on the White River. In the fall of 1892 Sherman and his sister, Pearl, began their education in a country school. In 1896 the family moved by covered wagon to Stoddard County near the town of Idelia in southwestern Missouri.

The Eager family's new home was in a swampy area of Missouri. Pearl and Sherman contracted malaria twice, and Leota and a younger child, Bertha, suffered from tuberculosis. As Leota's condition worsened, Millard took her on a three-week journey to her brother's home in Greene County, Indiana. Two weeks later, Leota died.

Now living in Indiana, Sherman repeated the fifth and sixth grades. He later entered Linton High School in the small, coal-mining town of Linton. Sherman was one of nineteen students to graduate in 1908. He attended a teaching institute in the summer, taught school in the fall and winter, and attended Indiana University.

While Sherman was enrolled at the University, students were recruited to teach in the Philippines. Sherman volunteered and, in June 1911 arrived in Manila as a teacher. He later became superintendent of schools in the rural province of Tarlac. During his stay in the Philippines, he and a friend from Indiana University, Weeden Koontz, visited other islands in the Philippines, China, and Japan. In 1913 he and Weeden left for Sydney, Australia to manage a motion picture theater. They bought films and rented them to other theater owners. When World War I erupted, Sherman and Weeden returned to Indiana, where the superintendent of Greene County schools offered Sherman a position at Switz City High School.

After Congress declared war on Germany in 1917, Sherman applied for officer training camp. Disqualified because of his age, Sherman packed his bags and moved to Akron, Ohio to work for Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company. After two months on the job, the U.S. Army issued a call for applications to the Second Officer Training Camp. Sherman was accepted and became a second lieutenant.

Graduates were asked to join the 92nd Division, an African-American unit known as the Buffalo Division. Sherman joined the Buffalo Division, rose in the ranks to become the regimental intelligence officer, and landed in France in June 1918. He served with the 92nd Division in France until he was transferred to the 77th Division. The 77th Division consisted of New Yorkers until replacements from the Midwest arrived. Midwesterners eventually accounted for half of the division's strength.

After the armistice, Sherman was transferred to the 16th Regiment as part of the army of occupation. After serving four months in Coblenz, Germany, he returned to the United States. He was awarded the Victory Medal for his participation in the Meuse-Argonne campaign. He also received the Defense Sector Clasps (a citation for gallantry in action), two Oversees Service Chevrons, the Wound Chevron, and the Silver Star Medal and Citation.

After his career in the Army, Sherman worked as an efficiency engineer for Goodyear in Akron. When the company downsized in 1920, Sherman took a teaching position at the consolidated school in Matthews, Indiana. He later became the school's principal and met Ernestine Mary Foerster.

Ernestine was born in Tell City, Indiana on February 28, 1897. Erna spoke German at home and did not learn English until she started school. She later attended Indiana Normal School at Terre Haute, where she earned her teaching certificate. She taught in several country schools and was hired by the high school at Mathews in 1920 to teach history and home economics. During the second semester, the school decided that girls should learn "the facts of life," and Erna was assigned to teach the course.

Ernestine and Sherman married in Tell City, Indiana on May 10, 1922. They moved to Bloomington, Indiana so that Sherman could finish his bachelor's degree. Equipped with a degree in physics, Sherman was hired by Oklahoma Agricultural and Mechanical College (later, Oklahoma State University). He arrived in Stillwater on August 1, 1923. As Ernestine was expecting their first child in early September, she returned to Tell City until the baby was born. Sherman, Ernestine, and their baby, Ruth, were reunited in Stillwater on October 27, 1923. Thus did three Hoosiers begin their lives together as Oklahomans.

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