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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.

Rudd Family

At age twelve, Charley Lee Rudd left Paducah, Kentucky, with his family to homestead in Colorado. Living in cramped and unsanitary conditions, two brothers, a brother-in-law, and a baby died, all most likely from cholera. Charley later insisted that he, and perhaps his unfortunate family members, suffered from Rocky Mountain spotted fever.

A severe drought in the early 1890s convinced the Rudds to return to Kentucky. On their way through Indian Territory, Charley's mother died. Nevertheless, all but two of Charley's siblings decided to stay put. His siblings continued on to Kentucky.

A year or so after the Rudds put down roots, Mary Metts arrived in Indian Territory. Previously, her father's ill health had compelled the family to move from Montgomery County, Texas, to the community of Streeter in West Texas. When the change in climate failed to alleviate his suffering, he moved with his extended family to Indian Territory.

Nearly 19 years old, Mary drove the camping wagon while her brother, Austin, drove the oxen. The first night on the trail, Zachariah Taylor Metts died, and the party returned to Streeter to bury him. Unable to make a living in Texas, the women decided to travel to Indian Territory. Braving harsh winter conditions, they survived the month-long, three-hundred-mile journey.

The large Metts family found a cabin about seven miles southwest of Overbrook near Marsden in Pickens County, Chickasaw Nation, where Mary found work in a hotel in Overbrook. Walking home one night, she became lost and stopped at a cabin to ask directions. Charley Rudd answered the door. Their first encounter apparently went well and Charley and Mary were married in 1895 at Greenville. Early on, they lived with Charley's widowed father. Their first child was born in 1896. Charley spent the winter helping a neighbor build a log house. Later, Charley bought the little house and moved in with his growing family.

Charley and Mary had five more children and did not move until 1907. Charley was a good farmer, and he took advantage of high cotton prices to improve his family's financial situation. Eventually, he and Mary rented the four-room Daube house near the present-day Dolese rock quarry on the outskirts of Overbrook. Charley raised corn and cotton while Mary tended a large garden, canned fruit and vegetables, milked cows for butter and sweet cream, and raised pigs for meat. They sold surplus meat and produce in nearby Ardmore. They supplemented their income by picking and selling pecans from trees that grew by a creek. Each fall, they sold hundreds of pounds of pecans.

In the late 1930s, the Rudds' daughter, Annis, bought a 110-acre farm northwest of Ardmore at Prairie Valley. Charley and Mary moved their stock and equipment to the farm and formed a partnership with Annis. A granddaughter lived with them during her senior year in high school and returned home on weekends to help her parents.

During World War II, the Rudd house became the go-to place for anyone who needed a place to live. Charley's daughter, Jessie, and her two children lived with them from 1939 to 1942. Annis spent time with her sister, Stella, and helped her large family. Lovell, who lived in town, helped Charley and Mary with transportation, as they did not owned a car. Emma bought property just east of the farm. Fred stayed near the old home place in the Criner Mountains with his large family. Claude migrated to the oil fields.

In January 1945, the family gathered to celebrate Charley's 72nd birthday. A few days after the celebration, southern Oklahoma was hit by an ice storm. Charley hitched his team of mules to a sled to haul hay to his cows in the north pasture. When he did not return to the house, Mary went looking for him and discovered the team in the middle of the road near the house. She was shocked to discover that Charley had suffered a stroke. He was taken to a hospital in Ardmore. As there was no hope of recovery, Mary took him home, where he died in April. He was buried near his mother in McAlester Cemetery.

At the age of 92, Mary passed away in the company of her family. Mary always enjoyed being outside and feeding her small flock of chickens, reading, or resting with Charley under the shade of a pecan tree in the back yard. She stayed in touch with her siblings by mail throughout her long life. She was a voracious reader and never stopped caring about her grandchildren.

Charley and Mary Rudd came to present-day southern Oklahoma in about 1893, married in 1895, raised children in a log cabin, and stayed active in the Overbrook community. They cared for their parents, siblings, and children. They read, talked politics, and helped their neighbors. They paid every debt, and everyone knew that Charley Rudd's handshake was sufficient to seal a deal. He and Mary worked side by side for fifty years, and he always wanted the best he could afford for her. They were good, honest, hard working, plain folks. Charley and Mary Rudd epitomized pioneers in Indian Territory.

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