Marriage and Family (1919 - 1932)

Hawk and Josie Houston Luther and Eugenia (Gene) settled into married life after his military service in early 1919. He was 26 and she was 19. They lived with her parents, Hawk and Josie Houston, at Old Hickory. By July 1919 they had contracts to teach at Sunnyside School for the 1919 - 1920 school term, but when they learned that she was pregnant, they had to get out of the contract. Pregnant women could not teach back then. People didn't even talk about pregnancy in public and various euphemisms were used even in private conversation. When this job didn't work out, Luther got the following contract to teach the 1919 - 1920 term at Old Hickory where his brother-in-law was on the school board. The pay of $3.00/day was very good pay for the time.

TEACHER'S CONTRACT (State of Arkansas, County of Conway)
This agreement, between Cleve Massingill and John H. Houston, Jr. as Directors of the School District No. 36 in the County of Conway State of Arkansas, and Luther A. Maxwell a teacher who holds a license of the First grade, and who agrees to teach a common school in said District, is as follows:
The said Directors agree, upon their part, in consideration of the covenants of said teacher, hereinafter contained, to employ the said Luther A. Maxwell to teach a common school in said District the term of Four (4) months, commencing on the 24th day of November A. D. 1919 to pay therefor [.] manner, and out of the funds [.], the sum of Ninety ($90 00/xx) [.] each school month.

The remainder was too chewed up to read but it said that the school would be kept open six hours a day and a register would be maintained as required by law. The teacher would preserve from injury to the utmost of his power (the students); give said school his entire time and best efforts . . . his utmost influence with parents to secure full attendance . . .
Luther filled out the form in his distinctive penmanship. It was signed by John H. Houston and G. C. Massingill. Luther signed as teacher. It appears to have been dated the first day of school. The "Place" (of the signing) was not identified.

Luther and Gene's first child, my mother, Eva Louise Maxwell, was born February 17, 1920. They were probably still living with Gene's parents because Louise was born there in Old Hickory. Luther was 27 and Gene was 20. His parents, Alvus and Mary Ann, were 49 and 51 and her parents, Hawk and Josie, were 60 and 58. My mother used only her middle name and until her dying day my sister and I thought that her first name was pronounced with a long 'E' as in 'even' but the younger children said it was pronounced as the 'e' in 'ever' the same as Eugenia's sister, Eva, pronounced her name.

Luther taught the 1920 summer term at Round Mountain three years after my Grandfather Skipper and his family had moved from Round Mountain to England, Arkansas. Ira Skipper, one of my Grandfather Skipper's cousins, taught the Round Mountain school in the mid-teens.

Luther was back at Old Hickory for the 1920 - 1921 school term. He probably taught the 1921 - 1922 and the 1922 - 1923 terms at Hattieville where Paul Turner, one of my father's cousins, was one of his pupils.

Luther bought property near his parent's farm on the top of Bull Mountain and built the family home at its present location around 1922. He was 30 years old.

The House in the Snow The Architecture
The house was a square, wood frame house with 104 style wood siding and a wood shingle roof with a 45 degree pitch. The porch had a gable roof that was integral with the house roof. I remember that Grandpa told me the house was made of cyprus. The exterior siding certainly has withstood the vicissitudes of time very well. The house is supported on columns of flat rocks laid without morter. The northwest corner was only on rock high, but the southeast was about eight rocks high.

The Interior
The house was divided in quarters to produce roughly equal square rooms. The living room was in the southeast corner; the kitchen in the southwest. The northeast and northwest rooms were the bedrooms. The interior walls and ceilings (except the front bedroom ceiling) were of rough 1x12 boards. The floors were smooth tongue and groove lumber. The ceiling of the front bedroom was beaded tongue and grove finished lumber. Baseboards and door and window frames were cut from plain lumber.

A chimney was at the center of the house where the walls joined. There was a flue opening into the interior corner of each room near the ceiling, but only the kitchen and living room flues were used. There were no closets or built-in cabinets. Each room had an exterior door for ventilation or quick access to the outdoors at night. The two front doors opened onto the porch. There were four interior doors; one in each of the four interior walls. The living room interior doors were located near the exterior walls; the back bedroom doors were in the center of the walls. There were windows in the exterior walls of each room. The living room had a double window on the south wall.

A wood cook stove was used for cooking and a freestanding wood heat stove in the living room provided additional heat. The stoves were connected to the flues with stovepipe.

In the kitchen, in addition to the stove, there was freestanding cabinet that had a work surface, a pull-out dough rolling board, two large pull-out bins for corn meal and flour, and a three-door shelf unit for general storage. The Old Farmer's Almanac hung from a hook on the side of the cabinet. They eventually got an icebox for storing milk and butter and other food items that needed to be kept cool. Dishpans were placed on tables for washing dishes. Water was heated on the stove. Dirty water was dumped out the back door.

Water from the 'drilled' well had some kind of iron compound in it that caused a funny taste and stained everything with a rusty red stain. A pole framework supported the pulley for the well chain. The water level was about 20 feet below ground level so a lot of chain pulling was required to get a bucket of water out of the well. A nail in one of the frame posts held the loops of chain as it was pulled out of the well.

They sometimes collected rainwater for washing clothes and hair.They usually washed clothes in a black washpot of water heated over a wood fire in the yard. Flakes of homemade lye soap were chipped into the hot water. They kept an ash barrel for making the lye for the soap. A stick was used to adgitate the clothes. The wet soapy clothes were then rubbed over the ribs of a rub-board to work the dirt out.

There was no bathroom and they didn't even have an outhouse. Luther simply went outdoors or to the barn and Gene and Louise used a 'slop-jar' (or pot) that Luther dumped out behind the smokehouse. I don't know why they didn't have a commode stand with a nice contoured seat to hold the slop-jar with a lid to cover it when not in use. At least I don't remember one when I lived there in the 1940s. Toilet tissue was a luxury and they probably used something else most of the time. Louise said that she used twigs for toothbrushes. She chewed the end into fibers and then brushed her teeth. 'Sponge bathing' probably supplemented the traditional Saturday night bath in a tub on the kitchen floor.

Luther used a 'straight' razor for shaving most of his life even though 'safety razors' became available about the time he started shaving. He had a leather strop to sharpen the razor. The strop, or strap, consisted of two strips of leather, one smooth and one coarse, about 3" wide by 24" long held together by a metal fitting at one end. A metal loop connected to the fitting allowed it to be hung on a hook. Strops were usually handy for applying corporeal punishment to misbehaving children.

The Maxwell Clock A mantel clock sat on a little shelf on the south wall of the living room near the southwest corner of the room. The clock is still running eighty years later. The striking spring has been replaced and some bushings were 'retrofitted' at a cost of about 30 times the clock's original purchase price.

There were one or two wood rocking chairs and a couch that folded out to make a bed. The arms and back of the couch were made of wood with sharp edges and the seat and back cushions were very firm and had a slick finished 'leather look' canvas type covering.

The walls and ceiling of the rooms were covered with wallpaper with decorative paper borders and the floors were covered with linoleum rugs. The wood of the exposed floor between the rug and the walls was varnished a dark brown color.

Kerosene lamps were used for light. They even had two of the modern Aladdin Lamps that had ceramic mesh mantles that created a brilliant light in the flame of the burning kerosene wick.

There were beds with metal frames in the bedrooms. There was a homemade quilt press in the back bedroom. A shelf unit had been built against the south wall of the back bedroom between the door to the kitchen and the exterior wall. The shelves also served as a ladder for access to the attic.


View East

Round Mountain is barely visible through the haze at the horizon in the center of the photograph taken from Luther's front yard.

Luther's father owned a place on the north ridge of Bull Mountain about 1/2 mile east-northeast of State Highway 95. Highway 95 is at an elevation of 700 feet where it goes over the mountain. The land north of the mountain is about 540 feet in elevation but continues to rise into the mountains of the Ozark National Forest further north. The ridge drops to about 660 feet at Alvus' place. Luther's 160 acres adjoined his father's on the east and his house was about half a mile to the southeast of his father's house. The elevation there is about 595 feet. The land continues a gradual drop for about 2 1/2 miles toward the east-southeast until it reaches East Point Remove Creek at a level of 360 feet above sea-level. Round Mountain is a prominent geological feature of the area. It is about two miles east-southeast of Luther's place and rises in a hemi-spherical dome 220 feet above the surrounding area to a height of 650 feet above sea-level, just slightly higher than Luther's place.

There was a water spring on Alvus' place near his house and water from it flowed across Luther's place. Since they were at the top of the ridge, the only other water they had was what fell as rain on their property and what could be drawn from the man-made wells.

Lanty School 1923

School at Lanty, Arkansas, November 23, 1923

Headmaster Maxwell Luther taught the 1923 - 1924 school term at Lanty. This school photo was taken November 14, 1923. The schoolhouse was not far from the location of the little log cabin the family had lived in when Luther was born 31 years earlier. It is obvious from the close shot of the school photo that Luther had aged. In those days the teacher was allowed to be a member of the basketball team. Luther and his Lanty team played Howard Bradford and his Cleveland team one time. Luther didn't like the way Howard and his team played so he wrote a letter to Howard with his complaint. Howard wrote a scathing reply which Luther kept for many years. Howard became a prominent citizen of Cleveland. His wife Sybil directed the Vacation Bible School when I was a child. They were customers on my Grit route. Howard died a few years ago at the age of 101. I visited him in a rest home right after his 100th birthday.

Luther and Gene had another daughter on May 9, 1924. They named her Katherine Grace, but she died at or soon after birth. That same month Luther's sister Kate left her husband and moved back in with her parents. Kate had a daughter in February of the next year.

Around 1925 the family was living in Cleveland where Luther was teaching. He probably had the 1925 - 1926 term. Louise and Lyonell Halbrook, her future husband, were five years old. Lyonell remembers that he would watch Louise from the barn loft as she walked between his house and the gin to meet her father after school. Luther had a 1925 Model 'T' at that time. It was the only gasoline-powered machine that he ever owned as far as I can tell. Lyonell's big brother, Clyde, was at least 20 years old, but he was still in school and played on the basketball team. He was allowed to drive Luther's Model 'T' to the games.

Luther began to lose his hearing during his 30's and eventually stopped teaching. There were no electronic hearing aids in the late '20s and he felt that he could not maintain discipline or teach properly if he couldn't hear the students. This may have been after the 1925 term at Cleveland was completed. He would have been 33 that August. By 1927 Custer and Hettie Poteet had the Cleveland School and they were active in the school system for thirty or forty more years.

It must have been at about that time that Luther, Gene, and Louise made a trip to New Mexico to visit Luther's brother, Virgil, and Virgil's wife, Mattie. Louise was about eight years old when they made the trip. Travel by automobile for a trip of that distance in the 1920s must have been a big challenge. A program to improve and pave a system of national roads had just been approved but not much had been completed. At an average speed of 20 miles per hour, it would have taken three or four difficult days to make the trip. I think Virgil and Mattie joined them as they went on to Colorado and visited the Royal Gorge. I asked Grandpa if he drove the T-Model up Pike's Peak and he said they took the cog train. I drove a 1966 Barracuda up Pike's Peak before Luther died and that's what brought up the subject. When they got back home, Luther parked the Model 'T' in the shed on the north side of the barn. Wendell, Dove's son, remembers having seen it there when he was a boy. Luther eventually sold it to some neighbors.

Alvus and Mary Ann with Louise Luther's father, Alvus, died of an apparent heart attack on a trip to Morrilton on May 8, 1929. He had asked Luther to go with him, but Luther didn't want to. Of course, he regretted that decision after his father died. This photograph of Alvus and Mary Ann with their granddaughter Louise was made about 1926 when Louise was six, Alvus was 56 and Mary Ann was 57.

Luther's older brother, Marvin, died April 2, 1930, of tuberculoses.

Family on Luther's Porch

Luther-38; Noah's wife, Nettie-32; Gene-32; Virgil's wife, Mattie-31; Luther's mother, Mollie-63
Noah-37; Noah's sons,Carl-10 and Billy-7; Dove's son,Wendell-8; Dove-33; Dove's husband, Pearl-34
Noah's son, Bobby-2; Louise-11; Dove's son, George-1 1/2; Kate's daughter, Marvine-6; Dove's daughter, Hattie Pearl-5

This photo of the family on Luther's front porch was probably made in the spring of 1931 and it was probably during a visit by Virgil and Mattie. Virgil probably took the photograph. Kate was out on a date. Agatha, Noah and Nettie's oldest child, would have been 14 and she may have been out with friends.

Luther and Gene - circa 1940 The family settled down in the house on the farm. The house was ten years old. Momma said that Grandpa never repainted it.

Luther lived on his farm for another 30 years and was a respected member of the community. He had a reputation for wisdom and honesty. Many in the community came to him for advice about their business and legal affairs. On one occasion he was said to have walked a quarter mile to return two cents he owed a neighbor because of an arithmetic error. He served on the board of the new Wonderview Consolidated School District and was secretary of the Lanty Masonic lodge and treasurer of the Lanty Medthodist Church for many years. He was a Notary Public from the mid-30s to the late 40s.

Soon after his beloved wife, Gene, died August 7, 1963, at the age of 64, Luther moved to Cleveland to live with his daughter and her family. A large room had been added to their home to provide a place for him. He lived there until his death on April 22, 1973, at the age of 80 years and 8 months.


Family and Final Teaching Career


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