|Cora Lee Bell|
Cora Lee Bell was born on 13 August 1896 in Indian Territory, the daughter of Thomas Jefferson and Cornelia (Roberts) Bell. She was listed on the 1900 census in Township 2 South, Range 5 East, Chickasaw Nation, Indian Territory, with her father shown as Jefferson Bell, age 27, born in Mississippi, and her mother as Cornelia, age 35, born in Tennessee. Her parents stated they had been married 7 years. Cora was 3, and her siblings were Clara E., age 5, and James A., age 1.
|1900 Indian Territory Census|
Thomas Jefferson Bell & family
In 1910 the Bells were living in Johnson County, Texas, probably in the home of Thomas’s Aunt Lydia Powell Ray, who was living with her sister Bennie in Briscoe County, Texas. Cora is 13, James is 11, and another sister has been born—Cornelia M., age 6. Living in the same household is sister Clara E., age 15, and her husband, John A. (Angus) Guest, and their son, Stanley (transcribed as Uriel E.), age 8 months.
|1910 Johnson County, TX Census|
Thomas Jefferson Bell & family
On 28 January 1917 Cora Bell, age 20, who resided in Dustin, Oklahoma, married John W. Wheat, age 37, in Carson, Hughes County, Oklahoma. In September 1918 they were living in Oklahoma City, according to John’s World War I draft registration. In 1920 the Wheats were living back in Dustin with their first child, Leona, age 2. Son William Powell was born in 1920, followed by daughter Iona Marie in 1922 and daughter Ida Belle in 1925. John Wheat died in 1927 and on the 1930 census Cora and her children are living with her father, Thomas J. Bell, in Dustin.
|Bell-Wheat marriage license|
Cora married Henry Paul Alstatt, a widower, on 18 June 1938 in Dustin. On the 1940 census the blended family included Henry’s children Bonnie, Jack, and Betty Joe, and Cora’s children, Powell, Marie, and Ida Belle.
|Granny and Henry|
Cora Altstatt was Granny to me, and Henry was Papa Henry. My dad and paternal grandparents took my brother and me to Dustin to see Granny often when we were kids. I think my grandmother Smith must have felt she had something to prove to Granny about how she was taking care of us; I remember that within a few miles of Dustin, Tim and I climbed in the back seat and changed clothes so we’d be fresh and presentable when we got to Granny’s house. Dustin was so different than our home in Tulsa. Granny had a big garden, and raised hogs and chickens, and we walked a dirt road down to visit Aunt Clara.
|My two grandmothers and me|
|Aunt Clara and Granny in Granny's front yard|
Granny was a good cook and a wonderful seamstress, and she was scared to death of storms. I can’t say that I know much more about her; for one, of course, we didn’t live with her, but for another, she was very quiet and always seemed unhappy to me. Even before Henry’s death in 1970, Granny went to a nursing home in Wetumka where she was basically unresponsive for years before she died in 1981. Later, when I was old enough to understand, I wondered if losing her two girls, Leona and my mother, so young, was just too much for her to bear. Now that I know more about her mother, I also think she must have had a difficult childhood, and she probably had a difficult marriage with John Wheat. I found this picture of her recently and realized, among all the other photos I have of her, this is the only one in which she is smiling.
Granny and me