Timepiece: A Man of Integrity

Curtis Varnell
Paris Express

On June 19, 1865, slaves in Texas were told about the emancipation and the fact they were free. Many did not know where to turn or what to do; some just headed out from the plantations intent on finding a new home.

Willis Wise, a 16-year-old former slave from Boston, Texas, for whatever reason headed through Arkansas and ended up in the area that was to become Logan County. In 1870, he married Mary (Christopher), a former slave from Clarksville, AR. They settled on a plot of land on Shoal Creek, near the current day Methodist Youth Camp.

Willis was a farmer and found the land along the creek rich but prone to flooding and covered by creek boulders. Clearing the land and plowing, but Willis was obviously successful. He also was a craftsman, making and peddling baskets throughout the region.

He also had a great helpmate in Mary. She began working with Dr. B.M. Miller in 1890 and for 40 years, she accompanied him. He taught her the use of herbs and medicine and, even more importantly, how to deliver babies. Sometimes she would remain in the homes of both black and white patients, tending to their needs and nursing them back to health. Bad weather, illness, or impassable roads never stopped her. When her driver, grandson Sellars Newton begged her to stay home, she would say, “Get ready, son, it’s my duty.” She never refused assistance from anyone.

Over the years, they accumulated enough wealth to raise a family, start a school, and hold a week-long yearly revival paying the best visiting ministers possible from Memphis to Oklahoma City to conduct services.

Daughter Clara (Wise) Lewis became a school teacher and taught several generations of students at Shoal Creek and later at Gray Rock public schools. Grandson Alfred Lewis was a close friend of my uncles and was raised in the Midway community. Willis passed away in 1933; Mary lived to be 107 years old. When she passed away, the funeral was conducted at the Midway Assembly of God by the Reverend P.W. Wright and she and several family members are buried in the May Cemetery at the Methodist Youth camp.

A family to be admired and respected. In history, we always teach hard work, plus integrity leads to success. Mr. and Mrs. Wise are a testament to the truth of that statement.