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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.

Hunter Family

George Virgil Hunter was born on April 9, 1886, in Newport, Clay County, Texas, and moved with his family to Ardmore, Indian Territory, in 1894. Belle Zora Daniel was born in a dug-out on October 27, 1883, in Crystal Falls, Stephens County, Texas. A severe thunderstorm was raging at the time. She moved with her family to the Ardmore area in 1900.

After a street car system was installed in Ardmore, Virgil became a "motorman" on the Ardmore Electric Railway in 1905. In the evenings, he labored as a stage hand at the Robinson Opera House. He later worked for the Santa Fe Railroad, which went past his home.

Virgil and Belle, who he described as "no bigger than a bar of soap after a hard day's washing," were married on February 18, 1907, and had four children. During the Great Depression, the couple lived in a house with a huge yard and raised green beans, onions, okra, corn, lettuce, radishes, and strawberries. They also tended peach, pear, plum, and pecan trees. Many years later, the Hunters' famed backyard fruit tree flourished with cherries that the grandchildren picked for Belle to make her wonderful pies and jellies.

Belle loved to write poetry. She was also a serious homemaker. No matter the weather, she faithfully delivered meals across town to her mother-in-law, Esther Virgil, or her children for twenty-five years. When one her oldest son was very ill, Belle stood over his bed day and night for an entire week without combing her hair. When she finally took it down, her formerly dark hair had turned gray.

Virgil studied to be an electrician. While working for Johnson Service Company of Kansas City, he installed thermostats and clocks in the Carter County Courthouse. During his five-year tenure with the company, Virgil installed thermostat, heating, and steam boiler systems across Missouri, Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Texas.

In 1915 a railroad tank car filled with gasoline exploded three blocks from the Hunters' home. At the time, Virgil was working in Texas and was unable to reach his family. So he traveled to Ardmore on a "train of mercy" that delivered medical help from Texas.

Tired of working away from home, Virgil left Johnson Service Company and launched Hunter Electric Company in Ardmore. His company earned a reputation for hiring the best electricians in the city. Hunter Electric Company was the contractor for the Consumer Light and Power Company's project to install power lines down alleys. Early on, when porcelain knobs and tubes held electrical wire, Virgil ordered barrels of them unassembled. His oldest son was in charge of assembling the knobs and tubes.

As the city flourished, so did electricians. Virgil once had forty-five jobs simultaneously. He could have had two hundred jobs if he could have handled them all!

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