Chester
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A HISTORY OF THE MARVIN DEWITT "DEE" CHESTER FAMILY

By Mrs. Eileen Newman

Marvin Dewitt "Dee" Chester was born in Grannis, Arkansas, on May 8, 1893, to J. H. and Mary Johnson Chester. They were the parents of nine children, six boys and three girls. "Dee's" first experience with "book learning" was under a brush roof. Whenever it rained, school was continued in a nearby barn. His first education in a school house occurred when a private school teacher built a log school house on Rock Creek.

His family migrated from Arkansas to Oklahoma, then known as the Indian Territory, when he was eight years old. They traveled in two covered wagons, driving from fifteen to twenty cattle along the trail with them. His mother passed away in 1905 from measles, and his father died of a heart attack in 1907, leaving him an orphan at the age of fourteen.

In his early youth, 'Dee' Chester met a man named W. A. James, that helped him mould that peculiar character that placed him in good stead throughout his turbulent years. He drove livery stable rigs and hauled passengers and freight over the dirt roads of Oklahoma. The Choctaw, Chickasaw, and Cherokee Indians were his customers. They were the best customers of the livery stable, because in some areas they were the only people with money. As luck would have it, some of the nation's richest oil fields were discovered on the Indian lands all over Oklahoma between 1906 and 1910, and tales of wealthy, pig-tailed, barefoot Indians being chauffeured about in Cadillacs became plentiful.

'Dee' Chester's education came from his work in the early days. One of his customers was Crockett Lee, United States Marshal for the District of Eastern Oklahoma. 'Dee' drove him through the hills of eastern Oklahoma on dirt roads and through canyons for a month at a time, sleeping out in the open under the stars. Lots of great conversation came from his association with Lee. Another man who figured significantly in his youthful days was Judge L. M. Crump, a well-known criminal lawyer, who aided 'Dee' Chester immensely by helping to mould his determined character. Chester found Crump to be an entertaining person as well, a man who knew the world and its people, and Crump's talks were to become another educational influence on the young man.

One of the oil booms drew Dee Chester to Cushing, Oklahoma, an oil town on the Cimarron between Oklahoma City and Tulsa, where he joined the Petroleum Iron Works. In 1915, he came to Port Arthur, Texas, to work on the Kansas City Southern docks as a material expediter for imported steel being rushed to all points in the United States. With the aid of friends, Dee traveled to Orange, Texas, where he met, courted, and married Ioma Enola Butchee, daughter of Jim and Josie Butchee, who is a descendant of Absalom Jett, a Texas veteran with a Texas State historical marker mounted on his grave. As a 12-year-old boy, Jett arrived in present-day Orange County, then a part of the Mexican province of Texas-Coahuila, in 1824. In 1836, Jett joined Captain B. J. Harper's company of volunteers at Beaumont and served a ninety-day enlistment in the Texas army, helping to escort General Santa Ana's Mexican armies back to the Rio Grande River.

Dee Chester often said that the best thing he ever did was to marry the girl from Orange. They moved to Nederland, Texas, in 1923 and established their home at the intersection of Twin City Highway and Helena Avenue, across from the Kansas City Southern railroad. Moving to Nederland was a good choice for the family, he often said, because Nederland had the potential to become a good city to raise a family in.

Dee and Ioma Chester were the parents of four children, as follows: three daughters, Eileen Enola Chester Newman and Muriel Dee Chester, both of Nederland, and Evelyn Marie Chester Thompson of Lake Charles; and one son, James Dewitt Chester of Nederland.

Marvin Dewitt 'Dee' Chester devoted seven years of his life, four as mayor and three as city councilman, toward bringing better city government to Nederland, Texas. A photograph of Mayor Chester and his city council appears adjacent to page 43, of Volume III, of "The Chronicles of The Early Families of Nederland, Texas," which is in the Henson Public Library. During those four years, he helped develop an extensive program for physical expansion and civic improvement, which was carried out as planned. During those years around 1950, his program included installation of two-way, radio-equipped patrol cars and the concrete paving of Boston Avenue from Ninth to Seventeenth Streets, which, along with Nederland Avenue, has become Nederland's most important thoroughfare.

Dee Chester was never one to claim that his was a great success story. He only said that he merely tried to earn his own way and pay at whatever he was doing, and to make every effort to do it right. He also said that the world may not owe any man a living, but it does owe him an education, and that a man could get it just as he did - the hard way. Being an expert in the steel construction of oil tanks, the craft he learned at the Petroleum Iron Works, in the oil refining areas of Texas, Oklahoma, and other southern states, he earned the reputation of a civil engineer, who trained many engineering students from Texas A and M University. When James Dewitt Chester graduated from Baylor University, he joined his father in the D. Chester and Company construction business, that has long served Sun Oil Company and southeast Texas.

Dee and Ioma Chester raised their family of four during some of the most turbulent history in America, the Great Depression, when one was lucky to have any kind of work at all, and World War II, when 10,000 outsiders moved into Midcounty to help build the rubber plants.

Everyone knew Marvin Dewitt Chester only as "Dee." He loved his family, but he also loved his City of Nederland, taking great pride in knowing that in some little ways he had helped out in that city's improvement.

Dee Chester died on January 25, 1954 at the age of sixty-two years. His wife Ioma died on March 3, 1990, at the age of eighty-nine years. They are both buried in Oak Bluff Memorial Cemetery in Port Neches, Texas. They are fondly recalled and sorely missed by their children, grandchildren, and a large host of friends whose lived they touched.

The Dee Chester family was genuinely proud to have contributed and been a part of the growing city of Nederland, Texas. In retrospect, the city of Nederland can consider itself as fortunate to have had this man and his family as a part of its growing future and past heritage.

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