Correspondence of the Story and Justus families
The collection provides a detailed picture of rural American life in the first half of the 20th century, with a large number of correspondents from various locations commenting on local matters, and occasionally on national ones. The earliest letters are between members of the Argenbright and Justus families, and deal primarily with topics relating to rural life, such as the weather, crops, business ventures, and family events such as illnesses, marriages, and births.
Deaths figure prominently among the subjects of the letters, and the threat of illness is ever-present in an area that had been frontier only a few decades before. In one letter from May, 1899, Effie Argenbright of Malakoff, Texas informs her Uncle Mark [Justus] of the death of her mother. “… sickness is about all we have known here… I have never witnessed so much sickness and Deaths in all my life.”
Money is also a concern for the families. In September, 1906, Mark Justus writes from Hattie, Arkansas to his brother S. Justus about his attempt to start a wood-cutting business after quitting a railroad job. “I kept hoping… that I would be able to send you at least a portion of what I owe you.” Nevertheless, Mark is aware of the progress being made locally: “I guess the county would look rather odd to you… since the road has been built.”
Other communities in the region pose multiple challenges. Lillie Story receives a letter dated January 26, 1917 from her cousin Pearl Wallerson of Chattanooga, Oklahoma. Sickness afflicts family members, rain is scarce, and “… we have to buy everything we eat except meat…” Pearl concludes that as soon as possible, the family must relocate to a place more amenable to farming.
The fortunes of the Story family, at least, appear to steadily improve over the years, and by 1925 Lillie’s eldest son Lloyd Story (1903-1974) appears to have graduated from college. By 1931, daughter Faye marries Prexy Anderson, who works for a succession of newspapers over the years, and Faye’s horizons expand with her social class. Stanley marries a woman named Ruth.
During the Second World War Vaughan and Stanley Story enter the service, Vaughan in the Navy and Stanley in the Army. Stanley is promoted to sergeant and spends the war at Fort Lewis, Washington, in charge of the “Heating Detail,” keeping the boilers running in the post’s buildings. Vaughan serves in the South Pacific, and later the Central Pacific, assigned as an Aviation Ordnance Man First Class (AOM 1/C) to Fleet Air Wing 2. Most of the letters from the brothers while they are in the service covers the quotidian activities of service life. Vaughan’s letters had to pass the censors, and Stanley remained stateside.
Stanley often writes about his duties (“We sure have been busy during this cold spell…”). Vaughan writes more frequently, and his letters reveal that his family, and his future, are never far from his mind. In April, 1944, Vaughan seeks advice about buying a plot of land near his parents’ farm: “What does papa think…? I imagine there is probably a lot of back taxes…”
Vaughan may not have purchased the plot; we find him in school, probably college, in 1946. There are few letters to Lillie from her sons after the war, so they probably lived close to her. In the late 1940s, most of the letters are from Faye, who travels around the country as her husband Prexy takes a succession of jobs in other regions. Faye describes New England and New York, among other places.
The last letters in the collection are of N.C. Justus writing from Paris, Texas to his sister Lillie Story. These letters detail the daily life of the Justus family – work, church, and as always, health. “I am thankful that we are still stirring about…” he writes. In another letter enclosed in the same envelope he writes, “We should live a life void of of (sic) offence toward God and man… We caught a squirrel this morning about the size of a rat and took it back to its den.”
- 1899 - 1963
- Majority of material found within 1925 - 1944
Conditions Governing Access
Conditions Governing Use
1.5 Linear Feet : Approximately 150 handwritten and typed letters and postcards; documents.
Language of Materials
- Justus, Mark M.
- Justus, Mellie
- Justus, S. E.
- Oklahoma -- Rural conditions
- Story, Arthur Lee, 1871-1961
- Story, Clarence
- Story, Lillie Justus, 1879-1972 (Correspondent)
- Story, Stanley, 1915-1981 (Correspondent)
- Story, Vaughan, 1919-2007 (Correspondent)
- Story-Anderson, Faye
- Texas -- Rural conditions
- United States. Navy
- World War, 1939-1945 -- Correspondence.
- Correspondence of the Story and Justus families
- Milissa Burkart
- Description rules
- Describing Archives: A Content Standard
- Language of description
- Script of description
- Language of description note
Part of the The University of Tulsa, McFarlin Library, Department of Special Collections & University Archives Repository
University of Tulsa
2933 E. 6th St
Tulsa 74104-3123 US US