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Oklahoma Family Tree Stories

This beautiful sculpture of three redbud trees is located just outside the Eleanor and 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 is preserved in the digital family history book at the base of the tree. Sponsoring a leaf is a special way to recognize your family 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.

Luton Family

Family Tree Leaf
Luton, James Polk
Lindsay, Indian Territory

James Polk Luton, M.D. was born into a pioneering Oklahoma family in 1907. Throughout his life, he was regarded as a visionary, and he became one of the state's greatest supporters in the field of medicine. When the million-dollar James P. Luton Chair in Ophthalmology was funded in 1997, Stanton L. Young praised Dr. Luton's early support and leadership in the creation of the Dean McGee Eye Institute and the Presbyterian Health Foundation. He wrote, "Without you, there would not be a Presbyterian Hospital in the Oklahoma Health Center, nor would there be a Presbyterian Health Foundation. We thank you for the role you have played in bringing the dream of many into reality."

Late in life, Dr. Luton penned a series of journal entries regarding his adventures growing up in Lindsay, Garvin County, in the immediate post-statehood period. In his journal, he wrote:

Papa lived in middle Tennessee and Married Mary Lou Willis about 1889. They produced their first son, Benjamin Milam, in 1889. When Milam was about one year old Papa became disturbed one day while plowing and hitting rocks. He sold his farm, loaded everything into a boxcar and landed in Lindsay…where he bought an 80 acre farm at the southwest margin of Lindsay…and built a two bedroom house.

A second son, Alton Miller, was born in 1905 and became his Mother's favorite. They now tried again for a girl. Imagine Mother's disappointment when James Polk came along in 1907. Fifteen months later the only girl, Marion Frances, was born and later another brother, Kirby King, was born.

The boys' room rested on a concrete dugout covered with large timbers. It was used for cyclone protection and for keeping certain foods cool, particularly canned fruits and vegetables. The bedroom was for the four boys…feather beds and feather pillows furnished plenty of entertainment and not a little trouble.

Papa's best way of keeping us in line was to see that we performed chores properly…it was my chore to bring in the kindling and have it ready to build a fire for us to dress by on cold mornings.

When we were small kids, Mother read us things like Mother Goose, Little Red Riding Hood, and the like. When we were able to read on our own, we enjoyed Boy's Life (then Youth's Companion), and stories like Robinson Crusoe, Tom Sawyer with Jibby Jones, and others.

We always had our meals together…Papa asked the blessing which was short and always the same, so much so that we could hardly understand his words. Then fun would begin. There was a lot of conversation during the meal.

Mother decided to take us to Tennessee to see the folks…on the Rock Island train. It had a single passenger car and a baggage car and carried no freight...We rode to Chickasha, then to El Reno, and finally after dark to Oklahoma City. We passed very close to a live steam engine…rode through the hills and forest forever and dismounted in Memphis, Tennessee.

Back home in Lindsay, we were a town of 1,200 people. A custom, or law which you may not understand, was that no black person could remain in town after sundown; therefore, no one could hire a black person. The custom came from treatment of black people in the South following the loss of the Civil War. We did not travel in cars at that time so I did not know what a black person was like.

Christmas in Lindsay in 1910 and 1911 was exciting for the Luton children. Dr. Luton continued:

We had no electricity, except batteries for the telephone. Even then, you had to crank to ring it. There was no running water and it had to be carried in from the pump and windmill about 20 yards from the back door. There was only the outside 3-holer for service on a cold dark night. During winter nights the house was so cold because there was no heat in the bedrooms. We also had to go to church to practice the carols and plays given there in honor of Christ.

I can't recall much about trying to keep cool in the little wooden school without air conditioning in September, but I can remember trying to help the teacher add coal to the stove on the cold winter days. During the really cold weather you couldn't remove your coat and your feet never got warm.

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