Luster Lovic and Stella Mae Liles Keathley
by Phil Keathley
Keathley ancestor sailed from England in 1727 and settled in Duplin
County, N. C. Great grandson Daniel, born 1800, moved with his family to
Rutherford (Gibson County) Tennessee in 1835. Daniel's grandson, Jesse,
married Jemima Cowan, a one-quarter Cherokee, whose father, Isaac Cowan,
was a friend of Davy Crockett whose widow settled in Hood County, Texas,
after Davy's death at the Alamo. Jesse and Jemima settled in Lampasas,
Texas, and their first child, Thomas Jefferson Keathley, was born in 1869
but Jemima died in childbirth. T. J. would marry Melissa Axley and they
would settle in Danville, Arkansas. Their second child, Luster, was born
October 22, 1893 in Danville. Melissa died in 1899 so T. J. married
Melissa's cousin, Julia Bass, and they moved to Oklahoma in 1900,
eventually settling in a house five miles south of Lamar. T. J. was a
farmer but also had a business in Lamar.
Stella Mae Liles was the second child of William Marion
Washington (Bud) Liles, a Methodist preacher, and Lucy Emily Proctor Liles
who settled in Winnsboro, Wood County, Texas. Stella was born August 19,
1900, in Winnsboro. In the spring of 1909, Bud Liles moved his family to
Oklahoma and settled near Horntown. He farmed a piece of land just north
and east of Horntown. A pear tree he planted is still there today. Bud
also had some cows. One fall day in 1909, he went back to the woods east
of U.S. 75 and was pelted by a rain squall. He was badly chilled and
received the premonition he would die. The family returned to Winnsboro
and he died January 1, 1910. Later that year, Stella's grandfather
Proctor would move the family back to the Horntown area and would
eventually settle in Lamar.
Luster and Stella met in the spring of 1916 at the
Shady Grove School five miles south of Lamar which served as an
interdenominational church. Luster was a regular attendee of the church
although he was not a Christian at the time. Luster and Stella were
united in marriage on December 16, 1917, at the home of Mrs. Lucy Emily
Liles, mother of the bride, by Rev. J. H. Savage, Church of God minister.
Luster became a Christian in the Spring of 1921 out in the field he was
farming. He got to the end of the row and accepted Jesus as his personal
Stella and Luster were married at the home of mother
Liles 4 1/5 miles south of Lamar. They lived for a time with mother
Liles. They moved to their first house of their own two miles northeast
of the Liles house where Luster was farming. Four months later, Stella
moved back to her mother's home so she could be the midwife for the birth
of their first child, Mack, on December 14, 1918. Stella and Luster moved
to Dustin where he bought out a shoe repair business from his uncle Oscar
Keathley. Oscar moved down the street and opened another shoe repair
place and kept his customers. In April, Luster and Stella moved back to
Lamar to his father's, T. J.'s, house, two miles east of Shady Grove.
Soon after that, T. J. was squatting in the barnyard where son Charlie's
bull was also being kept. The bull saw the diminutive being and charged,
getting T. J. up on his large horns. T. J. was seriously injured as
Luster came out of the house with his 410 shotgun and leveled it at the
bull. He fired and the bull fell dead. T. J., who was already at age 50
was getting arthritis, would never be the same and would spend the last 25
years of his life in a wheelchair frozen stiff in the sitting position
with severe arthritis.
A year later, Luster and Stella moved to their own
house, 1 ½ miles southeast of mother Liles house. Their second child, Neil
Albert, was born there on March 3, 1920. They lived in that house for two
years. In May of 1920, Luster's grandfather, Jesse, came for a visit.
While walking next to the South Canadian River, Jesse thought he
recognized the site where 40 years earlier he had been captured by Jesse
and Frank James and a large amount of money was buried. Jesse Keathley
had gone to Lamar to fetch a doctor for a gang member that was wounded.
Jesse James bartered to trade his lame horse for Jesse Keathley's sleek
white horse. While trying to move a stone or uncover where he remembered
the money being buried, Jesse Keathley's hernia, which he had already had
trouble with for a long time, came out and he could not get it back in.
That night Jesse Keathley died a horrible death as Luster sat up with him
during the night of May 7. Neil had the whooping cough so Stella could
not go to the funeral. Jesse was buried in a pauper's grave approximately
200 feet south of where Stella and Luster would be buried. Two
grandchildren would eventually be buried next to Jesse's grave which today
has no marker.
Luster and Stella moved to a house three miles south,
one mile east, ¼ mile south, and ¾ mile west of Lamar in January of 1922.
Thomas Paul, their third child, was born there on April 22. They stayed
there for two more years before moving ¾ miles east to a house that had
been occupied by Luster's brother, Charlie, who was three years older and
who had decided to move to California. Luster and Stella stayed there 16
years. It was a square house with four large rooms. The foundation of
that house can still be found for the one who is willing to hike into a
virtual wilderness. Seven children were born in this house: Lucia,
Marguerite, Len, Louis Lee, Alvin and James.
Luster was farming cotton and corn on his own when he
and Stella were married. Stella hand-seeded while Luster laid out the
rows. Their oldest son, Mack, age 5, took over this task in 1923. Stella
miscarried due to the mumps in 1930. Marguerite, their fifth child, was
chopping corn when she chopped off her little finger at the distal joint
so that it was just hanging by the skin. Luster used a cornstalk splint
and healing oil to bandage the finger, and it grew back normally. She
never went to the doctor.
Paul, the third child, almost died of malaria in 1934.
Luster was measuring cotton over the county and stopped to take Paul to
the doctor in Dustin. But there was not doctor available so the got some
yellow tablets and Paul got well. Paul also had a hernia in1926 but got
that fixed in December of 1941.
Len, the sixth child, had asthma very badly and
had trouble getting his breath from the age of four until he left home
after high school. He could never participate in sports because of the
asthma. Louis Lee, the seventh child, developed polio in the fall of
1936. On October 23, Luster took Louis to Oklahoma City to the Veteran's
Hospital hoping they would have an iron lung for the very sick Louis. No
iron lungs were available so the doctor simple laid little Louis on the
bed and there was no hope. Luster created a storm of activity among the
nurses and hospital personnel when he gathered little Louis up, took him
to the car, and they drove through the night back to Lamar. Louis was
highly contagious and that apparently was the major concern of the
hospital people. He died during the night and was buried at the Lamar
Cemetery in the family plot.
All the children attended Shady Grove School until it
closed in 1933. Marguerite, the fifth child, only went one year at Shady
Grove. They all transferred to Lamar High. Melba, the eighth child, was
so small, she was called "Tiny" by her brothers and sisters. The school
would turn out when the weather was stormy. Luster would meet the children
at the creek and keep the kids from getting wet when they got off the
school bus. He brought raincoats to cover the children. Luster leased
some 600 acres, part of which he farmed with a team of mules and a plow,
the rest he pastured. On July 4 every year, the children would work a
half day hoeing and get the afternoon off as Luster would bring home a
case of 24 bottles of pop, iced them down in a wash tub, and all enjoyed
During the years 1933 to 1935, Luster went to
Holdenville to serve on the jury panel. He put on his black suit and
stayed for a week each time. It was always during the early spring or
late fall, a non-crop time in Lamar.
Stella and Luster moved eight miles north of Lamar to
Dustin on December 27, 1939. Phillip was born here in the farmhouse on
March 22, 1942. He was the only child not to receive the services of his
grandmother midwife, so a doctor was called from Dustin to officiate the
birth. The family lived in that house for nine years.
Luster had fallen into on open fire on his first
birthday, October 22, 1894, in Danville, Arkansas. He had not been
expected to live. But he did survive and was plagued by skin cancer all
his life as scar tissue because a seeding ground for carcinomas. In the
fall of 1948, Luster rode the bus to Oklahoma City where he received
treatment for the cancer in his deformed left hand. He returned home with
several charged radium needles sticking out of his hand. On December 7,
1948, Luster moved his family to Dewar, just two houses from Stella's
sister, Thelma, her husband Buster Durbin (a relative of Larry Durbin of
Moss) and their three children. Luster was preparing for the day when he
would leave this earth. Two months later, Luster's health improved. On
February 17, 1949, Luster and Stella made the final move to the farm of
Telford Hunter, five miles south of Wetumka on U.S. 75 highway. Luster
acquired land totaling 80 acres which he farmed until his death in 1974.
Stella would live until her death on June 13, 1995.
Luster wrote the following letter on April 9, 1974,
just 12 days before his death: "I was glad to have your letter and the
large amount of data on the family tree. It must have taken you hours to
compile it all. I've been taking treatments for my lungs (infected with a
fungus after 80 years of cleaning out chicken houses and breathing the
dust) for two weeks and the doctor says we are making progress. I'm
waiting to get my corn planted but guess I can't yet. You wanted to know
about grandfather Jesse Keathley. He had very little formal education but
a man with many natural talents. As wood worker, he made almost anything
he wanted including houses, Georgia stock, plows, wagon wheels, bellows
for the forge, chairs, baby cribs, tables and almost anything he wanted.
And in iron and metal he qualified as a blacksmith shoeing horses,
welding, and making various things of metal and scrap iron. He was also a
good and faithful member of San Bois Free Will Baptist Church near
"Melissa Axley (my late mother), was born January 17,
1869, and died September 17, 1899. And she was a living saint and an
angel according to the best of my knowledge. And now I'm very tired and I
will address this letter and get it in the mail in the morning. With love
and prayers from Dad."
Today, 10 children born to Luster and Stella Keathley
are still alive and well with more than 50 grandchildren, great
grandchildren, great great grandchildren and great great great
grandchildren. Their lives were marked by their deep faith in God and a
reverence for the Holy Bible. Their legacy is a family of believers who
follow and obey the Word.