Sunday, March 15, 2009

A Tribute to My Great-Grandmother, Hassie Cora (Proffitt) Mertena

I've decided at the last minute to get in a posting for the 68th Edition of the Carnival of Genealogy, "A Tribute to Women." My tribute is to my paternal grandmother's mother, Hassie Cora (Proffitt) Mertena. I've previously blogged about Hassie and my great-grandfather, Merlen Paris Mertena here. I've always admired my great-grandmother because she is the only one of my great-grandmothers who had a career before she was married and who has a college degree. I had the pleasure of getting to know her a little before she died when I was 5 years old. I think her death is actually the first time I had ever experienced anyone I knew dying. I remember playing with paper dolls at her house with my sister, and begging my mom to take me down to the little creek at the end of her dead end street.

Hassie was born on 26 Feb 1908 in Crescent, Logan, Oklahoma, to William Harmon Proffitt and Emmer Link Baker. She was the sixth of seven children. William was a minister with the Methodist Episcopal Church, so the family moved around quite often. In fact, William and Emmer had moved to Oklahoma around 1898-1899 from Tennessee in order to minister to the Native American population in Oklahoma.

Hassie is found with her parents at age 2 in 1910 in Harrison, Kingfisher, Oklahoma, in the U.S. census. Kingfisher County is just one county west of Logan County where Hassie was born and where she later married, in north central Oklahoma.

Below is a picture of Hassie with her parents and siblings taken at Fort Supply, Woodward, Oklahoma, in the northwest part of the state. Hassie is the second child standing on the left. This picture appears to have been taken about 1915-1916.

She is next found in 1920 at age 11 with her parents in Rock, Ellis, Oklahoma. Ellis County is in northwest Oklahoma on the border with northwest Texas.

By 1922, the family had moved to Buffalo, Harper, Oklahoma, near the border with Kansas. Hassie graduated from the 8th grade at Buffalo High School in May 1922.

In 1925, Hassie graduated from Ingersoll High School in Ingersoll, Alfalfa, Oklahoma. Alfalfa is two counties east of Harper County, also on the Kansas border.

Below are pictures of Hassie and her friend Ramona Madison, Hassie and the Ingersoll High girls' basketball team, and the graduating class of 1925 from Ingersoll.

UPDATE: I posted this pic on a message board for Alfalfa County and received a message from Marty Myers who said she would love to pass on the pictures to a lady named Ila Wessells, who had written a book on Ingersoll. This is what Ila had to say about the pic:
The basketball team was coached by my father Elbert Marlatt. He was also princpal. Reading left to right-Ethel, Edna or Elnora Appleton, Lillie Gerrels, Fannie Gerrels, Helen Haas, Pearl Wheeler, Hassie Proffitt, Viola Easterling, Lucille Tullis and Hazel Easterling. Lillie and Fannie was my husband's aunts. Viola was my aunt.

UPDATE: After poking around in census records, it looks like this pic was likely taken after the family moved to Logan County in the late 1920s. I've found Ramona Madison in Mulhall for several census years. This photo appears to have been taken on the same day as some other photos I have with names actually written on the back (yay!), which are not posted here. Those names have also been found in Logan County for several census years.

The guy in the Ingersoll class picture must be Carl Weigand, the only guy mentioned in the graduation program. Hassie is the one on the far left. It's funny that the program only mentions 5 graduates, but there are 6 people here.

In 1925, Hassie started college at the Northwestern State Teacher's College in Alva, Woods, Oklahoma, the county between Harper and Alfalfa Counties. This was a 4-year teacher's college founded in 1919 that is now Northwestern Oklahoma State University. She transferred around 1928 to Central State Teacher's College in Edmond, Oklahoma, Oklahoma. Central State Teacher's College was founded in 1890 as the Territorial Normal School. It became a 4-year college in 1919 and is now the University of Central Oklahoma. I have a suspicion the transfer was due to her father being transferred from northwest Oklahoma to Crescent in Logan County, returning to where Hassie was born. Logan is just one county north of Oklahoma County. Below are some of Hassie's report cards from college, as well as a picture that we think is her with her classmates at one of the colleges, perhaps her graduating class at Central. Hassie is the third one from the left in the front row.

After only attending school one year, it appears that Hassie received a teaching position in Pawnee County, Oklahoma, from 1926-1927. Pawnee County is two counties northeast of Logan County. Her teaching contract stated that she held a "certificate of the 2 year state grade." She made only $85 per month!! It appears from her report cards that she returned to college after teaching here. Perhaps this was something like a student teaching experience??

Below are pictures of Hassie with the family she boarded with in Pawnee County and her class.

In July 1928, Hassie was issued her teaching certificate from Oklahoma Department of Education.

Hassie taught at Lone Star School in Crescent, Logan, Oklahoma, from 1928 to 1930. Her parents were living in Crescent at the time. This is also where Hassie was born. Below are her teaching contract for the 1930-31 school year and one of her classes.

While she was teaching here, she met my great-grandfather, Merlen, who lived in nearby Mulhall. I believe Hassie's younger sister, Bessie, went to high school with Merlen. Merlen was two years younger than Hassie. They married on 14 Feb 1931, the topic of my previous post on them. They married at the Methodist church in Mulhall. My great-uncle, their oldest child, William John "Bill" Mertena, was born on 20 Aug 1931 in Frederick, Tillman, Oklahoma, where Hassie's parents were living. Tillman County is in southwest Oklahoma on the border with Texas. Below is a picture of Hassie with Bill at the house of her in-laws', John Henry Mertena and Blanche Welden, in Mulhall.

Like many women of her time, Hassie quit her teaching job once she married and had children, though the newspaper announcement of her marriage states that she finished out her school term. She and Merlen had three other children: Merlene Golda (my grandmother) in 1935, Joseph Henry "Tony" in 1941, and Jill Darlene in 1946.

Below are pictures of Hassie in later years. The one of her at the table with the Life magazine was taken by Bill around 1955-1960. The other was taken at daughter Merlene's house at Christmas time in 1981, the year I was born.


  1. Thanks for sharing Hassie's story with us, Jennifer.

  2. Lillie is my grandmother and Ila is a cousin! Love the photos!

  3. Thank you for sharing your link with me. This is awesome. My mom followed a very similar path 20 years later. She would leave us in Pawnee for a week to attend Tonkawa's Northern College and come home on weekends. We then moved to Edmond to go to Central State College, I even attended Central State. Great blogpost.