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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.

Bynum Family

James H. Bynum was born on January 7, 1870, in Jackson County, Alabama. His family surname has its historical roots in the early seventeenth century and the settlement of Jamestown, Virginia. John Bynum was first listed in 1662 in the records of Surrey County, Virginia.

John Bynum's descendants lived in Virginia until 1752. Like many families whose younger sons longed for frontier adventure, John's son, William, moved to North Carolina and then South Carolina, where he settled in 1791. William's son and James H. Bynum's great grandson, Isaac, moved to Alabama, where his son, Isaac Newton, was born in 1842. Isaac Newton Bynum later married Cynthia Potter.

In the fall of 1889, their son, James Bynum, moved to Indian Territory and began a farming operation. In 1890 James started a small general merchandise business with an Alabama friend, Albert S. Cornelison, in the newly settled town of Indianola. Initially, Indianola's four businesses included two general merchandise and dry goods stores, a combined wagon yard and blacksmith shop, and a cotton gin. By 1874 James's uncle was living in the area. On July 2, 1893, James married Anna Decker, the daughter of Anderson and Margaret Decker.

In 1901 the Fort Smith and Western Railroad opened a line a mile north of the old town. The town moved to the new location, and James's merchandise business continued to expand. James served as Indianola's first postmaster and president of the Valley State Bank. He also operated a large general merchandise store and cotton gin and owned extensive farmland. He built a house in the new town in 1903. His mother-in-law lived with James and Anna until 1912, as her husband had died in 1902.

James's and Anna's first son, Fred, was born on March 23, 1894. He married Pearl McKnight and had one son, James, who died in 1934. Their second son, Elmer, was born on January 9, 1896. Elmer married Grace Dunagan and had one daughter, Anita Bynum, who married Robert Smith (a descendant of the Cherokee Watie-Boudinot family).  Anita and Robert had one daughter, Suzanne, who married Marc Hirrel. James's and Anna's third son, Roy V., Sr., was born on June 26, 1903. He married Ola Dixon, and they had one daughter, Gwendolyn, who married Robert T. Hurst. Robert's father, Thurman, was a Chief Justice of the Oklahoma Supreme Court. Gwendolyn and Robert had one daughter, Sharon, who married Brad Nelson. Roy had one son, Roy V., Jr. After the death of their father in 1922, Fred ran the general merchandise store, Elmer operated the cotton gin, and Roy managed the farm.

The Bynum family home, along with related out-buildings, including a smoke house, washhouse, carriage house, pump house, cellar (circa 1903), and a barn built in 1923, are part of the Bynum-Choate Museum. The Choate House, built in 1867, was moved from Choate Prairie. In 1854 the Choate Family moved from Mississippi.  George Washington Choate, who built the house, was sheriff of Tobucksy County in the Choctaw Nation. He also served as a judge and was the last president of the Choctaw Senate. The Choate House was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. One of its rooms is furnished as it would have been in 1887; another room contains furnishings from about 1907. The barn houses a turn-of-the-century classroom, post office, telephone switchboard, railroad station bench, and items from a general store. An upstairs room is furnished to resemble an early Masonic temple.

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