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Family Histories - The Marzett Family

Source:  Orbit Magazine,
June 15, 1975, by Debby Baxter

A Half-Century of Midwiving

Okfuskee County people who have money drive down U. S. 62 to Okemah's new hospital to have their babies.

Those who don't drop by midwife Clara Marzett's home in Boley.

Clara is one of a dying breed. She's a midwife - not a nurse-midwife, just a woman with a God-given talent for bringing babies alive and kicking into the world.

Clara turned 88 after St. Patrick's Day. She's delivered "most likely 2,000 babies - black and white and Indian" - from her frame home 1 1/2 miles southwest of Boley.

The last baby came in November.

"It was a Creek County girl coming through town, a welfare mother. There wasn't no father." Clara shows no embarrassment. "That's the way it happens."

The mother couldn't afford a hospital room. "You-have to put up so-much money. to have a baby these days," she pronounces.

As she talks, a Bible-rooted philosophy becomes clear.

"The Bible says go forth an' replenish the earth. Bear children, the Bible says, an' be fruitful an' multiply." Clara believes. She's got11 children of her own.

"If ya trust in God He'll take care of you."

Laugh lines crackle around Clara's strong face. She's not a sober-sided Christian. She's a happy one. But it makes her no less devout.

"I pray with my girls before they have their babies. God delivers 'em safe."

Most of them, anyway. Faith in God doesn't always guarantee safe delivery.

"I had a couple babies born still. I gave 'em to their mothers; they're buried proper. They was already dead inside when the mothers came to me."

The babies, squawling and whimpering, were delivered mostly in Clara's frame house.

A "Last Supper" print, gilt-frame pictures of great-grandchildren and wood and rhinestone tiki figures keep visitors in the living room, which acts as a makeshift waiting room.

"I used to have a hospital bed that could go up 'n down, make a woman feel com'table when it was her time."

That was in the old house - the "big house."

"It burned up in back in the fifties, wasn't it? I always had: a clean bed ready."

Some babies delivered on those Lysol-clean bedsbeets weren't well enough to travel home. "I've kep babies two, three days at my home, carried them home if they was sickly. I always had a doctor look into them."

"Givin birth's as easv as breathin' if ya put your faith in the Lord. Almighty God does it."

All Clara's births are natural. She passes up painkillers, even aspirin, in favor of her own kind of medicine - faith in the Lord.

"God gives relief. Doctors can get in the way as much as they help." The high-pitched voice cracks into a cackle. "They try an' hold a baby with spinal blocks an' drugs. Let Nature take her course"

Doctors have their place, Clara knows. "I've run many a baby to a doctor if it's sickly. I don't let them go without care." Mamas, bellies swollen with breech babies, get a brief eyeing by Clara, then are marched off to a "real doctor who's got the tools to help 'em."

Clara never had much formal training. She learned by doing.

"I delivered my first baby . . . It was a neighbor's an' it was an emergency. God helped me." Clara was 2O. "Doctor Lucas, a white doctor, dead 'n gone, he started me off. I didn't have no previous training. I learned fast. It's a gift God gave."

Doctor Lucas saw to it she got a black medical bag with scissors, bandages, silver nitrate for just-opened eyes. She also got a supply of birth certificates from the Okfuskee County clerk. "I fill 'em in, send 'em off to the city."

Dr. Noel Miller, Okemah, knows Clara. He says as long as she doesn't try to hang out a shingle saying she's medically trained, she can deliver babies day and night Oklahoma law says.

She can t solicit money for her servi either. "But I've been paid with beans, a sack of coffee. I got $12, deliverin' a baby once."

Sari Holcomb, Okfuskee County public health nurse, says Clara is "most cooperative. She's a most cautious person, good with her folk. I wish we had a program for her - she could be competent with more training." What Clara can't handle, Mrs. Holcomb says, she "refers to an M.D. She's very reliable.

To Clara, birth boils down to a matter of faith.

Clara's daughter, Clara Bell Sykes, had her mother deliver her babies. "I've got plenty of faith her" she says.

Clara once gave her daughter a chance for a new life. California physicians had told Mrs. Sykes she shouldn't have her fifth child. "They said it'd kill it or me," the daughter said. "They sent me before the abortion board."

Clara took things in her own hands, though. "Mama told me to have that baby and I did. I even had one more after that, and they're both fine."

Clara sat propped up in a creaky double bed, surrounded by daughters and sons. She'd had a touch of winter flu, enough to send her to the hospital for a week. Being off her feet gave her more time to sit back and remember.

"Once," she recalled, "the high-way patrol called me out an' I delivered the baby right there in the car. I made 'em come back for the birth certificate. I don't forget the forgotten."

Age-faded blue-black eyes roll heavenward as Clara remembers her favorite story.

"I went to deliver a baby once, got a ride with a businessman in an old model car. He was tryin' to get the car movin' in the snow an' I said, 'Look, I'm gonna make my way on. You can wait.'

"I walked myself there. They didn't have a fire or nothin'. I had to make a fire to warm the baby," Clara says, shaking her head with disbelief.

None of Clara's seven daughters followed her footsteps. "I wish one would - but if there's an emergency each one of them knows to help."

Flu and age keep Clara home more and more. "But I don' want no help," she declares. "I do what I can myself."

And if a mother needs help, Clara won't turn her away. It's her "duty;" her "callin'."

"I've got a gift I can't lose," she says. "I've got to keep hold on it."
 

Submitted by Stella Sykes, grandaughter of Clara Marzett, 6/5/1999.


Wiley and Laura Marzett

Wiley and Laura Marzett married in the year of 1875 in Magnolia, Alabama. Wiley Marzett was one-third Indian and part Irish. He was 5'6" tall, had curly hair, smoked a pipe, and chewed tobacco. He was a farmer and a very industrious man.

Laura Marzett was one-half Indian. She was an intelligent, proud, spry lady. She wore fine clothes - bonnets and skirts starched. She switched when she walked. She had long curly hair. She smoked a pipe, liked to fish, piece quilts, cook and enjoy her children.

To them nine children were born - eight sons and one daughter. George, Perry, Jordan, June, Roy, Lonnie, Clifford, Claud, Cora, Maud.

June and Clara (Wesson) Marzett

In 1905, June Marzett and Clara Wesson were joined in holy wedlock in Magnolia, Alabama. This union was blessed with thirteen children - five sons and eight daughters.

In 1912, June and Clara, along with his parents Wiley and Laura Marzett and a host of other relatives and friends, left Magnolia, Alabama by train. They journeyed to the settlement of Boley. It is here they made their home.

The homesite of June and Clara Marzett is two miles west and one mile south of the city of Boley. On this site the family farmed for a living. And a good living it was too. Their farm yielded them food for the table, food for sale, and food for friends. The farm also yielded them a rewarding way of life.

In addition to helping her husband as every good wife does, Clara used her talents in the gentle art of healing. She was a licensed Midwife. She is credited with the delivery of more than 2,000 babies, many on them in the township of Boley, and Okfuskee County as well as California, and Alabama.

June and Clara gave of their time, their talents, and their means to help those causes that they believed to be right or just; a church, a school, a neighbor in distress, whatever... they were willing to help.

From this beginning the Marzett family has continued to increase in numbers. Children include:  Florence, Eulah, Millard (Buster), Rebecca, Inez, Dovell, Alice Jean, Robert (Bob), Euphene, Dorise Mae, Bennie, Clara Bell, and June (Junior).
 

Submitted by Stella Sykes, 6/5/1999.


12-1999