, Muskogee, OK

Fort Gibson

June 10, 2014

Witnessing growth: Man sees area expand in his 80-plus years

By Cathy Spaulding

Phoenix Staff Writer

Through more than 80 years, Ruben Sallis has seen a lot of growth on his home place northeast of Fort Gibson.

It hasn’t been population growth, however.

Instead, the growth Sallis has seen along Four Mile Road includes cotton, sorghum, cattle and chickens.

He also has watched his three brothers, four sisters and four sons grow.

He watched the love grow between him and his wife, Viola.

“I worked hard to keep from working hard,” Sallis said, chuckling at the memories.

Sallis said his family came to the area from Mississippi. He said his father, Henry Sallis, was a farmer.

“My dad was really nice, treated his kids nice, as far as I know,” he recalled.

He said his mother, Sarah Sallis, “took good care of us.”

“She made us mind pretty good, too,” he said, adding that when he or his siblings got in trouble, “she’d get out the switch, a peach tree switch.

“It didn’t feel too good, I’ll tell you that.”

Sallis said he attended school at Perkins, a segregated school “out on the highway.”

He recalled some of his teachers.

“Fanny Chase was one of them,” he said. “Clem Shepherd was one of them. He was a man teacher. He was real nice. He taught everything, first one thing, then another.”

Sallis had to drop out of school to help work on the family farm.

He later was called to fight in World War II.

In April 1942, he was drafted into the Army as a material warrant officer, according to the website

He said he served at Guadalcanal, one of the first Allied victories in the Pacific.

“They had me doing most everything,” he said, adding that his job included loading supply silos.

He said he served in a segregated unit but sometimes had a white commanding officer.

Sallis returned to the farm after the war.

He married Viola Mayfield on Sept. 11, 1948. They had four sons, but lost the youngest one, Danny.

Sallis worked for the VA as a custodian before retiring in the early 1970s.

Sallis said his sons helped out at the farm.

“We grew mostly hay and livestock,” he said. “Cows, pigs, horses, chickens, occasionally goats.”

Sallis said he and his family attended Four Mile Branch Baptist Church, where he was a deacon and his wife was a deaconess. Viola Sallis died in 2011.

Reach Cathy Spaulding at (918) 684-2928 or cspaulding@

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