Sometime in the past I posted these two items:
September 29, 1922
At the home of the bride near Pleasant Hill, Sunday morning, Rev. F. Naylor united in marriage Mrs. Belle Haney Smith and Mr. G. W. Cross of Ardmore. The bride is 78 years of age and is the mother of Leroy and Noah Arrington, prominent farmers of the Pleasant Hill community. The groom is seventy years old. They will make their home at Pleasant Hill. Their friends wish them many years of wedded bliss. (I originally typed her age as 73, but have since reexamined the paper with a magnifying glass and I believe it is 78.)
Durant Weekly News
Mrs. Belle Haney Airington, age 112, and Oklahoma's oldest resident, died at a local hospital on Thursday. Mrs. Airington was born April 3, 1830 in Polk County, Arkansas. Funeral services will be Friday at the First Baptist Church with burial in Pleasant Hill Cemetery.
Yesterday someone sent my an email with copies of the 1850 and 1860 censuses for Polk County, Arkansas which shows that Belle’s birth date was most likely 1847 or a little later. Her father was William Labor and her mother was Preacy (maiden name unknown). I don’t know what to say, except that people lie, people make mistakes, and in Belle’s case, people get kicked in the head. According to her statements in an interview for the Indian Pioneer Papers she says:
“I’ve never bobbed my hair nor had a permanent wave. My head hurts enough without having my hair pulled out by the roots. It has hurt ever since a wild cow that I was milking kicked me in the head and knocked me over, and nearly put my eye out. I finished milking and started to the house with the bucket of milk on my head when I couldn’t see my way and fell down. I spilled that milk all over me and after a while I got up and went to the house. I don’t know how long I lay there, but my head has hurt ever since. I guess that has been fifty years ago. It was long after my man died and all my children were gone. Some married and some dead.” The interviewer stated “her eyesight as been pretty bad ever since she got a bad bump on her head about twenty years ago”. Obviously someone wasn’t taking very good notes!
I don’t know if that affected Belle’s mind in any way, but I can tell you that my great uncle got kicked in the head by a mule, and after that, according to my grandfather, he was “never right in the head”.
Belle never went to school and never learned to read or write. According to the interviewer her birth date of April 3, 1830 was on file in the welfare office in Idabel. It stated also that she was born in Cove, Arkansas. Other newspaper interviews list her place of birth as Kentucky and state that she later moved to Arkansas.
When asked the age of her only living son, Leroy Airington, she stated that she did not know.
Belle usually refused to give the names of her husbands, other than Bill Airington. But the item from the Caddo Herald calls her Mrs. Smith (another husband or an alias?) and says she married Mr. G. W. Cross. Her obituary named her first husband as John Haney. So that makes her Belle Labor Haney Airington Smith Cross. She is listed on the 1860 census as Barthina Labor (7), 1900 as Belhana Airington (53, married 30 years) married to Wiliam Airington, born in Indian Territory; 1910 census as Belle H. Airington (60), married to Wiliam Airington, born in Oklahoma, and married for forty years. In the 1920 census she is Belle Airington (76, widow), born in Mississippi; 1930 census as Belle Cross (100, married), born in Arkansas; 1940 Census as Belle Airington (109, widow), born in Mississippi. There is definitely a pattern of lies or mistakes here. And anyone who does genealogy can tell you that it is most likely a combination of both!
So, this may not clear up anything at all…but it is certainly interesting. If you have any more information, especially about Mr. Haney or Mr. Smith or Mr. Cross, I would love to hear it.