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Rebecca Ward Conrad McDonald
shares memories
of growing up Choctaw in the Spiro area

   Choctaw elder Rebecca Ward Conrad McDonald was born on Feb. 25, 1918, to Mary Eunice Fox Ward and Sampson Sumler Ward. Mary gave birth to Rebecca in Sampson's mother's house, where they lived at the time, just south of Spiro. They called this their home until Rebecca was seven years old. Sampson's mother Lula Mae Bateman Ward, or "Granny Ward" as Rebecca called her, shared her home with Rebecca, her mother and father and Rebecca's Aunt Becky, Sampson's sister. Rebecca was the first born of Sampson and Mary.

   Rebecca grew up listening to her great-granny speak only the Choctaw language. "Great-Granny (Ward) couldn't speak English, they had to speak Choctaw to her," remembered Rebecca.

   "She was raised as a Choctaw." Rebecca's Grandpa Ward was a full-blood Choctaw, making her father half and she a fourth. She didn't learn the Choctaw language as well as her great-granny, but she learned how to count to ten.

   Rebecca's Aunt Becky took a special liking to her. She took her everywhere in her one-horse buggy, including to school. Rebecca's school was a two-room schoolhouse. "We played jacks a lot, and we played ball."

   Aunt Becky was devoted to her family. She and her sister Laura were both engaged to be married when Laura developed crippling arthritis. They broke their engagements and Becky took care of Laura while living with Granny Ward.

   Three years after Rebecca was born, her parents gave her a baby sister, Anna Geneva.

   Rebecca and Anna's mother would take them to Ft Smith on the train. One trip, Rebecca was wearing a pink dress and bonnet her mother had made for her. A man on the train tried to purchase Rebecca from her mother offering her $300. Mary held onto Rebecca tight the rest of the ride, worried the man might try to take her.

   Rebecca attended school at Murry Spur School where she was taught by Mr. Chester Noblet. When she and her family moved into their own house and out of Granny Ward's, she would walk the mile and a half to two miles to school. She was able to enjoy the walk with several other kids. Her special friend at Murry Spur was Ruby King, who played jacks and softball with her.

   Rebecca's father Sam was known around town for his dances he held at the Ward household. He had plenty of cousins, the Caseys, who always wanted to dance on Friday or Saturday nights. Sam would have them cut enough wood to burn in the fireplace and took the heater and bed down to have enough room to dance. If you mentioned the name "Sam Ward" people would know that's where dances happened, both square dances and round dances. Sam played the fiddle and Aunt Becky called the square dances. Rebecca still has her father's fiddle today.

   Rebecca was 17 years old when she married Koots Farmer Conrad on Oct. 24, 1932. Koots was born in Mulberry, Ark. He had just come back from California. His first wife had died during childbirth, as well as the child. Rebecca met Koots in the road close to the Poteau River. She was going to her Uncle Bill's house and Koots was going the other way. He must have noticed her, because he came to her house soon after.

   Rebecca and Koots made their home just down the road from her parents' house. Sam had 210 acres in his Choctaw allotment and had given Rebecca 10 when she got married, which she and Koots built a house on. Unfortunately, later this house burned down, but Rebecca still owns the 10 acres and she won't part with them. They're all that's left of her daddy's allotment.

   By the time Rebecca was 21 she had three children: K.F., Sampson Sumler and Billy Kenneth. She then had a girl, Mary, and another son, Roger.

   In 1957, when her youngest child Roger was five years old, Koots had a tractor accident and passed away.

   The Draft Board called K.F. to come to serve, but Mr. Conn, Rebecca's banker in Spiro, was able to make an exception since he was the oldest son at home.

   On the third day of Roger's first week attending school, he ran back home. Rebecca was hanging clothes on the line when she saw his little blond head running up to the house. She stopped hanging her clothes, put him right back in the car, and drove him back to school. Mr. Noblet told her she might as well keep him at home, but she refused saying he can't grow up ignorant. All five of Rebecca's children ended up graduating from Spiro.

   Rebecca had lived next to Robert McDonald for years and their parents got acquainted. Robert would always bring Rebecca's mother a turkey, since they raised them, and the family would have him over for Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner. Rebecca and Robert were married on June 7, 1965. She was 47 and Robert was 53. They had dated for two or three years and thought they would never get married, but one day, after a Sunday drive, they went to the Justice of the Peace and were married. 

  Their children have been successful. K.F. is a retired chemist of Pine Bluff Arsenal and schoolteacher at Spiro High School and Bigsby. Sampson worked at a scissor factory and retired from Reams. Kenneth worked at the school in Hodgen. Mary retired from Whirlpool in Ft Smith. Roger retired from the Air Force having worked for the 188th at Ft Smith.

This article and others came from the Choctaw Nation Biskinik. To see more history please refer to the following sites.
www.choctawnation.com
www.choctawnationculture.com
 
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