A visit to Buffalo Trace — the oldest continously producing U.S. distillery

Shown is Buffalo Trace White Mash. This is the product before it is aged in wooden barrels and takes on an amber hue and flavor imparted by the barrels. Photo by Roseanne McKee

Reprinted with permission of the Bartlesville Examiner-Enterprise

By Roseanne McKee

Oklahoma is inextricably linked to bison, or buffalo as they are often called. Bartlesville uses buffalo statuary as symbols throughout the city. With Oklahoma’s connection in mind, my husband and I recently visited the Buffalo Trace Distillery in Frankfort, Kentucky — the oldest continuously producing distillery in the United States — started in 1887.

First, a bit of history. According to an article “Castle & Key Distillery Rising fom Ruins after Old Taylor Distillery Narrowly Escaped Wrecking Ball,” dated July 27, 2016 on the Distillery Trail blog, Taylor started in the distillery business in 1869 with the purchase of the Old Fire Copper Distillery and the Carlisle Distillery.

The article said, “Taylor later ran into financial troubles and in 1878 was forced to sell the distillery to George T. Stagg. Stagg then turned around and hired Taylor to run the distillery. On a quick side note, in 1904 the O.F.C. was renamed the George T. Stagg Distillery and years later in 1992, that distillery was renamed again to what we now know as Buffalo Trace Distillery.”

On a tour of the Buffalo Trace Distillery recently, provided free of charge with about six liquor samples included, I learned that the land where Buffalo Trace is located was once on the path of migrating herds of buffalo who fertilized as they traveled, leaving the soil optimal for planting corn. Since corn it the starting ingredient in whiskey, it only made sense to open a distillery near the crop location.

That is exactly what Buffalo Trace did.

The land was originally a part of Virginia, which was then governed by Thomas Jefferson. He decided to define the area where Buffalo Trace is located as Bourbon County in honor of a French family that had helped the United States in the Revolutionary War. That is how the whiskey produced in the region came to be called bourbon whiskey. Later, the area became part of a new state — Kentucky in a new county — Franklin.
During Prohibition, many distilleries closed entirely, but not Buffalo Trace. Why? Because people could still get prescriptions for small quantities of whiskey for medicinal purposes. In this way, Buffalo Trace survived the Prohibition years.

The whiskey begins as corn, water and starch. There is an enzyme that converts the starch to sugar and produces a slurry called sweet mash.
“Our fermentation vats are 92,000 gallons and two stories tall,” the tour guide said. “They’re big enough that if you put them on their side, you could drive a semi truck through them.”

They add yeast to the sweet mash, which consumes the sugars, gives off carbon dioxide bubbles and alcohol. That makes distiller’s beer, the tour guide said. The fermentation vats give off the scent of bread — that hangs in the air of the distillery campus.

The beer moves to a still where, at some point, it reaches 173 degrees — the temperature at which ethanol evaporates.

“Then it goes into a vapor. We let that vapor condense by cooling it and we’ll have 110 proof clear alcohol. We need higher proof than that, so we put it in a still called a doubler. The temperature goes to 140-150 degrees, add some water to it, and take it to 125 proof and put it into a barrel. That process take about a week to a week and a half,” he said.

There is an interesting story about how whiskey came into existence. It was really by accident, he said. Distilleries in Bourbon County had a market for their clear alcohol in Louisiana and so they hauled it there in oak barrels. When the alcohol arrived, it had an amber hue and had taken on the flavors of the oak barrels. That is how bourbon whiskey was born, the tour guide said.

A byproduct of the distillation process are corn solids, which are extracted, dried and sold as [livestock] feed, he said.

In a video about Buffalo Trace, the narrator said Bourbon whiskey is a distinctive product of the United States that has won recognition and acceptance around the world.

“Here, and here alone, is a place where it has been crafted without interruption for more than 200 years,” the narrator said. Historically, the distillery has operated under several different names, including the George T. Stagg Distillery and the Old Fire Copper (O.F.C.) Distillery. Today Buffalo Trace is owned by the Sazerac Company.

“It takes its name from the buffalo traces that frontiersmen followed in the years before the Revolutionary War. Near where the buffalo had long crossed the Kentucky River, distillers found rich soil, perfect for growing corn and the naturally filtered limestone water was ideal for distilling that native grain into whiskey,” the video narrator said.

In the late 1700, the Old Taylor House was built on the distillery property. It is not only the oldest structure at the distillery, but the oldest residential building in Franklin County, Ky. Soon others built homes in the region and began distilleries, and the legend of Kentucky bourbon began.

According to a Buffalo Trace Distillery press release, the one-story house was originally built for Commodore Richard Taylor who served as superintendent of navigation on the Kentucky River and who was great-grandfather to Colonel Edmund Haynes. Taylor, Jr., a grand nephew of U.S. President Zachary Taylor.

Later a second story was added. Since its inception, the two-story house has held many different roles, including being a residence, first aid clinic, and even a laboratory for the distillery. The house underwent extensive restoration and renovation in 2015.

“The renovated house features beautiful hardwood floors and fresh paint throughout, and is lit by hanging Edison bulbs. The second floor lab displays old beakers and artifacts once used in the house,” the press release stated.

“Taylor’s great-grandson, Colonel E.H. Taylor, Jr., founded the bourbon industry as we know it — introducing techniques and standards that still endure.” His successors, Swigert and Kenner Taylor, [who organized E. H. Taylor, Jr. & Sons in 1894], would bring the business into the 20th century.”

In 1919 their business was threatened when Prohibition was enacted.

“This distillery was among the very few allowed to continue producing whiskey, strictly for medicinal purposes,” the narrator said.

After Prohibition, the business expanded. Today, Buffalo Trace makes a variety of acclaimed spirits. Among their brands are: Buffalo Trace Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey, White Dog, Bourbon Cream, Stagg Jr., Single Oak Project and W.L. Weller, a wheated bourbon, Wheatley Vodka and McAfee’s Benchmark.

“Buffalo Trace claims to have won more official honors and accolades on our brands than any other distillery. Repeatedly named distillery of the year, in 2013 Buffalo Trace earned its most cherished designation — as a national historical landmark,” the narrator said. “Generations of visionaries, builders, preservers and protectors have sustained this unique enterprise through adversity, past historic milestones to worldwide acclaim. … They seek to both honor tradition and embrace change.”

As one of the few distilleries that offers free tours, it is definitely worth the stop, but bring your wallet because the tour finishes in the gift shop after samples of many of the products, including their chocolates, have been offered. If you’re not careful, you’ll leave with several bags goodies from Buffalo Trace.

To learn more about Buffalo Trace, visit their website at https://buffalotracedistillery.com/.

Osage marriage customs of the past

By: Roseanne McKee

Republished with permission of the Bartlesville Examiner-Enterprise

Historically, Osage people had a very different approach to marriage than they do today. Marriages were arranged through a formal, negotiation process between the families over four days.

Author Robert Liebert describes the process in his book “Osage Life & Legends.”
He states that young men could not interact with young women. Instead, “young men could only express their love and frustration as they sat at some distant point on moonlit nights and played a melancholy tune on a flute made of cedar,” Liebert said.

According to author Francis La Flesche, marriageable age was reached shortly after puberty.

“If a boy was interested in a certain maiden, his maternal uncle went to the girl’s side of the village and spoke with her uncle; uncles took a special interest in the care of their nephews and nieces. If the girl’s uncle did not refuse the offer, it showed that he was open to the arrangement. The boy’s relatives prepared a great feast of buffalo, elk, deer, turkey, fish, corn, nuts and other delicacies, and came in a procession to the girl’s lodge. After the feast, the girl’s relations would wash the utensils and return them, showing that they accepted the boy as a suitable husband. On the next day a number of horses and other gifts were sent to the girl’s relatives, and if the gifts were thought worthy of the bride, there would be another feast, and the utensils would once more be washed and returned.”

The University of Oklahoma’s Western History Library has historic photos showing this negotiation process during the early 20th century.

Dr. Daniel Swan, a University of Oklahoma professor, collected over 100 Osage wedding photos over five years for an exhibit at the Osage Nation Museum in 2015. At a presentation for the exhibit’s opening, he said, “[o]ne of the things we learned was that each day the family would eat the food and put the dishes out at the end of the driveway and if those dishes were put back out washed, that meant that the negotiations were still open and they would expect for food to be brought again the next day. If those dishes were put out at the end of the driveway and they weren’t cleaned, it was over. Everybody packed up and went home. The negotiations had broken down.”

If the negotiation process proceeded with clean dishes on all three days, the couple would finally get to see one another and marry on the fourth day, Liebert wrote.

“The girl and her bridesmaids then stepped out of the lodge and her relatives would place piles of gifts at their feet. The boy relatives would line up, and at a signal would race toward the gifts. … the girl’s relatives would apportion out the gifts to the winners … until everyone had received something. There was a large wedding feast, and the groom was finally called to take his place beside the bride. The boy went back to his lodge, where his bride was carried to him on a robe, and they were left alone.”

The groom presented the bride with a sacred burden strap — something used by women to carry wood and items for hunting, Liebert said.

The sacred burden strap was made by the groom and his relatives for the bride and represented the groom’s respect for his bride and all of the hard work she would do as his wife. This one was not used, but was hung in the lodge above the doorway.

The formalities seemed to have changed over time. The Osage wedding exhibit shown in 2015 indicates slightly different customs, which are described in an article by the Osage News published on their website Feb. 20, 2015 by Shannon Shaw-Duty entitled, “Museum collaboration to showcase Osage weddings in exhibition.”

In her article Shaw-Duty describes a transfer of clothing worn by the women in the wedding party to the women in the groom’s family. This was followed by a gathering under the arbor or a tent with food and the marriage ceremony. Once the marriage had taken place a new family was formed.

By the 20th century, the clothing worn by brides had become military jackets and hats, originally given to the Osage by U.S. dignitaries from Washington, D.C.
Swan shared that Romaine Shackelford, had conducted research of government documents on microfilm at the Osage Nation Museum, and made a significant discovery.

“Low and behold, he turns up a letter from the Commissioner of Indian Affairs writing the Superintendent of the Osage Nation, the agency, in which he said, ‘we received your letter requesting a chief’s coat for 17 Osage chiefs. We’ve received their measurements and on our next visit, we’ll bring them.’ This shows this continuous process of using these coats as symbols of authority and respect — that there was this continual supply coming in to them,” Swan explained.

“It’s clear that eventually that supply of old military coats exceeded the demands of the community and that people up here started to make these coats. These are stories that we’re working on right now — the different mechanisms that Osage people have employed to build their inventory of coats.

“Lastly, we’ve undertaken a series of interviews about more modern times and the construction of coats and their use in paying for the drum,” Swan said.
Osage military-style wedding regalia are on display at both the Osage Nation Museum and the Osage County Historical Society Museum in Pawhuska.

Recordings of interviews of Osages interviewing other Osages about the wedding arrangement process are at the Osage Nation’s Wahzhazhe Cultural Center in Pawhuska.

USPS releases Kiowa mural stamp with Anadarko celebration

Based on a press release by the USPS

The Postal Service is celebrating one of its lobby government-commissioned artworks featuring one of the Anadarko, OK, Post Office murals, named “Kiowas Moving Camp.”

In the 1930s, President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s administration commissioned artwork in Post Offices across the nation to provide jobs to artists and illustrate the history and culture of local communities across America. These murals brought a touch of beauty to post offices across the United States and helped boost the morale of Americans during the Great Depression.

Anadarko PO Mural

The Anadarko Post Office mural is one of five Murals Stamps featured on the recently released pane of 10 stamps.

On the stamp art, the town or city and state in which the work of art is located is printed underneath each mural. The murals included are: “Kiowas Moving Camp” (1936), Anadarko, Okla.; “Mountains and Yucca” (1937), Deming, N.M; “Antelope” (1939), Florence, CO; “Sugarloaf Mountain” (1940), Rockville, M.D.; and “Air Mail” (1941), Piggott, Ark.

The Postal Service is committed to the upkeep of these classic paintings and has a federal preservation officer and historian to both help maintain the beauty of the murals and also educate the public about their place in postal lore. Today, many of these works have been restored and remain on display for the public to enjoy.

Art Director Antonio Alcalá designed the stamps.

The Post Office Murals stamps are being issued as Forever stamps and will always be equal in value to the current First-Class Mail 1-ounce price.

The Postal Service receives no tax dollars for operating expenses and relies on the sale of postage, products and services to fund its operations.

What: Special Dedication Ceremony of the Anadarko Post Office Mural Stamp
Who: Oklahoma District Manager Julie Gosdin
When: Tuesday, April 30, 2019 at 11:00 AM
Where: Anadarko, Okla., Post Office
120 S. 1st Street
Anadarko, OK 73005

The event is free and open to the public. News of the stamp is being shared with the hashtags #PostOfficeMurals and #MuralStamps


Osage mark months with moon references

By: Roseanne McKee

Republished with permission of the Bartlesville Examiner-Enterprise

Calendar months for the Osage were marked by references to the moon. For example, the month of February was “Light of Day Returns Moon,” according to the book “Osage Life & Legends” by Robert Liebert.

After the winter, in February Osage people resumed food gathering. The men when to hunt deer, elk and bear, whose fur was sleeker at this time, Liebert said.
March was the “Whimsical Moon,” when women gathered new greens to add to soups and stews, he said. Wild onions are still gathered in the spring and are served with scrambled eggs and ham at wild onion dinners held by the Osage and other tribes.

April, when the Osage began their new year, was referred to as “Deer Giving Birth Moon” and “Planting Moon,” said Liebert.

Sweat baths were taken at the year’s start — to purify the mind and body, he said. Also at this time the two grand chiefs would go to “the lodge of a man who owned a shrine” to pray for peace and health in the tribe.

April was a time of planting seeds. Corn, a staple crop, was planted in a very particular way.

Liebert wrote, “it was the planting of corn that kept them anchored to their villages rather than being continual nomads, as were some of their relatives out in the plains.”

The planting was done by women, but men could help under their direction, because it was the women who were considered wise to the ways of earth and in tune with Grandmother Earth, Liebert said.

“There was a class of men who, usually in response to a potent dream or vision, … excelled at gardening. … They were called mi-xu-ga, which translates “instructed by the moon,” said Liebert.

Family gardens were located in bottomlands along rivers and were about one-half acre in size, he said.

When they planted, the women would paint the part of their hair red, something the women did when they came of age, and painted blue lines down their faces to signify the sun and the rain, Liebert explained.

Corn, saved from special, sacred ears of corn, was planted in seven hills. As the women planted they sang and kept time with their planting sticks. The song told of the sacred act of planting and the significance of her tamping the soil.
“Poking a hole into the south side of the hill, she planted a seed and tamped the earth with her foot. She then placed two kernels in the second hill, three in the third and so on,” Liebert wrote.

After the sacred corn was planted, the women went on to plant the rest of the field with hills for squash between the corn hills. They also planted beans, which climbed the corn stalks. Later, pumpkins, gourds, sunflowers and melons were planted, Liebert said.

This planting method reminds me of the method being used by Osage tribal member Scott Lohah who grows Osage corn specially for the In Lonshka Dances held each June in all three Osage Villages — Hominy, Grayhorse and Pawhuska. Lohah is from Hominy.

Lohah plants more than one seed in one hole. This is called clump farming. He shared an article with me from the Sept. 2011 issue of Progressive Farmer Magazine, which bears out the advantages of this planting method.

Although the article doesn’t credit the Osage, this is the way they have planted the corn for generations, Lohah said. The article states that experiments conducted in 2003 at the USDA ARS conservation and Production Research Laboratory in Bushland, Texas, showed that the grain yields for both corn and sorghum were 70 percent, to more than 100 percent greater, when clump-seeding was used compared to the single-seed planting method.

Liebert’s account seems to agree — “Osage corn was famous among many tribes, for it often grew ten feet tall and could have as many as eight or nine ears to the hill.”

After planting, the focus shifted to bison hunting.

The month of May was referred to by the Osage as “Little Flower-Killer Moon,” because this is when “little flowers that poked up from the forest floor and brightened the prairies disappeared as the trees leafed out and the grasses grew,” Liebert wrote.

This Osage reference to the month of May became the inspiration for the title of David Grann’s bestselling book about the Osage Murders entitled “Killers of the Flower Moon.”

Next week’s column will focus on Osage courting and arranged marriage customs.

A Rare Look at Osage Before First Contact


Nicholas with an elder at Archie Mason’s camp during In’Lonshka at Grayhorse Village. Photo by Roseanne McKee

By Roseanne McKee

Republished with permission of the Bartlesville Examiner-Enterprise

Before Europeans arrived in North America, the Osage people were organized into a complex society with well-formed traditions. However, the Osage elders decided not to speak of the time before first contact and that is why little is known about it.

The former Osage Nation Museum Director, Hallie Winter, told me during an interview that the journey of the Osage to Oklahoma greatly diminished their numbers, and the Osage elders decided it was best not to speak of the way things had been because they could no longer be.

Osage Ballet Director Randy Tinker Smith, who consulted with elders when creating her ballet about the Osage people, said in traditional Osage society every clan had a specific role, but once the once the population diminished, there were not enough people to maintain their previous way of life.

The population decreased when the Osage left Kansas to move to the Oklahoma territory. There were about 8,000 Osage at the start of their journey, said former Osage Nation Museum Interim Director Lou Brock.

In the 1850s “sickness hit the Osage and everybody that was in the area and probably scattered throughout [with] scrofula, black measles, and just everything under the sun,” Brock explained. When the Osage finalized the deal to purchase land from the Cherokee, their population had dwindled to just 2,229.

A book once sold at the Osage County Historical Society Museum, “Osage Life and Legends,” written by Robert Liebert, published by Naturegraph Publishers (1987) provides a window into the little-known world before first contact. In the next few columns, I will share some of what the book said about Osage life before first contact.

The Osage refer to themselves as “the Little Ones” to show humility toward the Great Spirit, Wah-Kon-Dah. They also have a name for Mother Earth, the Sacred One, HunKah, according to Liebert.

The tribe is organized into two groups the sky people, called Tzizho, and the earth people, called HunKah.

Having interviewed several Osages, I have been told that traditionally Osages only married into the other group, not their own group, and marriages were arranged.

There were grand chiefs for both groups, Liebert said, and the Osage lived in one main village with smaller villages nearby.
In the layout of the main village, the Osage sought to echo the natural order of the universe, as they did in all aspects of their lives, he said. The Tzizho occupied the north part and the HunKah lived in the south part of the village.

Dwellings were in groups of seven with broad streets between them. At the center of the village were the homes of the Tzizho chief and the HunKah chief. Their doors opened to the east and west and a fire always burned inside each home.

The Osage homes, called lodges, were “built by setting center poles in the ground with a ridge pole laid across and long hickory poles bent over. Wall posts were set along the sides, and cross-poles attached to the framework,” Liebert wrote.

The homes were covered in woven rush mats overlapped to prevent water leaks. The slender rush (probably horsetail or spikerush) were a vital part of Osage homes. The mats were also used as beds, which were covered in bison hides. These sleeping mats were arranged around the fireplace in cold weather and along the walls in warmer weather.

“The fireplace was always at the center of the lodge, the symbolic center of the universe of which the lodge was a microcosm. The fireplace served as light, warmth, and was used to cook their meals,” Liebert said. “The fire was symbolic of the divine spark of life and the power that resided within the Sun. At any important council and in all ceremonies the sacred fire was lit. … Before every meal, the Little Ones spoke a prayer of thanksgiving and a portion of food was placed in the fire as an offering.”

Inside the homes there were small fire pits, covered with deer and bison hides to dry and smoke food.

Storage places were dug into the floor of the homes to store food and hides.

The walls had mats, utensils, bows, quivers, strings of dried roots, ears of corn and medicine bags.

Each person had one wooden bowl from which to eat. Hands and a knife were used to eat food.

Wooden spoons were used to serve the food. Cooking pots “were made of clay tempered with shell and fired in pits.”

During the winter, the Osage visited and feasted, Liebert said. A crier would invite guests to someone’s home. When guests arrived, they would smoke, eat and play guessing gambling games. “Sometimes the betting would be quite heavy, and spectators would place robes and other valuables beside their favorite player,” Liebert wrote.

The way the author described the game, it sounded similar what I know as Osage Hand Games, which involve guessing the location of a small object.

There is an article on the Osage News website dated Feb. 18, 2015, by the late Charles Red Corn, which describes Hand Games in detail.

According to Liebert, sometimes the host would have an elder storyteller attend to entertain the guests. Storytelling happened in winter when snakes were asleep. It was considered unwise to tell stories in the warmer seasons because snakes were considered by the Osage as guardians of the truth — taking revenge if an untrue tale were told, the author said. Kathryn Red Corn, retired former Osage Nation Museum director, and her daughter have also told me this. There is actually a word in Osage for women to tell tales out of season —something considered very unwise.

At these gatherings in old times guests, invited or not, were given the seat of honor and given food, a smoke and could remain as long as they wished, Liebert said.

My son and I were invited to visit the camp of Osage Congressman Archie Mason at Grayhorse Village, near Fairfax, during the InLonshka Dances in June 2012, and we were indeed honored.
We dressed in church attire for the occasion as had been recommended to us because the InLonshka Dances are not like a powwow, rather they are more spiritual in nature.

Following the prayer, we were instructed to go through the food line first. We were welcomed and had a great day at their camp watching the women cook over an open fire in the traditional way and visiting with Moira Red Corn as she did meticulous beadwork for an eagle fan.

My son, Nicholas, who was about seven at the time, played at the feet of one female elder in the kitchen and got to know the children at the camp. I was very humbled by the experience, and it is a cherished memory.

The Osage Nation, based in Pawhuska, Okla., continues the traditions by having two regular sessions of the Osage Congress — Hunkah Session in the spring (late March) and Tzizho Session in early September, as per the 2006 Osage Constitution. And, every Congressional session, committee meeting and every meal still begins with a prayer spoken in Osage, if an Osage speaker is present, and in English.

American Indian Style Show – Part I

By Roseanne McKee

Republished with permission of the Bartlesville Examiner-Enterprise


Princess dress worn for tribal princess competitions. Margaret Bird is behind the model narrating the style show.

“There’s no museum in the world that has all the Indian clothes. I have 50. The collection is stored in Tulsa and is insured,” said Osage elder Margaret Bird as she prepared her models for a style show at the Community Center in Pawhuska for 20 Tulsa tourists.

“I’ve been working on these since I was a fifth-grader. … I used to dance. I always hung around the elderly people and they would tell me the real deal. … You don’t just do things about traditions without asking.”

As an adult Bird went to the elders of each tribe and asked for detailed information about their regalia and for permission to reconstruct and show them.
“I’ve had only one tribe that said I couldn’t show their clothes. They made me a dress, but I don’t ever show it.

At this style show 13 models wore tribal regalia as Bird narrated and answered questions.

Several male and female models wore Osage regalia and one wore a traditional Osage wedding coat. Additional details will be in next week’s column.

After the style show, the models were transported to Indian Camp for an Osage lunch of fry bread, corn soup, chicken and noodles.

In an interview at Wakon Iron, the community center building in Pawhuska Indian Camp, Bird said, “I really want to stress that I don’t think people should get things out of a book. They should ask permission.

Bird’s accuracy has given her credibility with the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C.

“The Smithsonian came to Caney, Kan., at my home and come to me to make Delaware clothes and they have them there [at the National Museum of the American Indian, Smithsonian Institution].”

Although she is not Delaware because of her expertise, Bird was asked by the Delaware Tribe, also called Lenape, living in Canada to teach them how to construct their regalia.

There are three groups of Delaware, Bird said, concentrated in Anadarko, Bartlesville and Canada, Bird said.

“They’d been dressing like other tribes from up there, and they were Lenape. But, they didn’t know how to dress. So, they commissioned me to go up there to show them how to do the men’s clothes and the women’s clothes,” Bird said.
“I drove up there with my sewing machine and my ribbons and I taught them. … That whole gymnasium was full of Indians — men and women. Well, they all wanted to learn to sew their Indian clothes. We showed them a film of the Delaware down here. Then we got our materials. … We worked two to three weeks every evening. … People brought their sewing machines. We stayed on a bed and breakfast on the res. We taught them everything they needed to know.”

A year later the Delaware Chief invited her to attend their dances in Canada.
“I was amazed at that powwow. All those people had their Native clothes on. I was just shocked. I cried. In two years they wanted it so bad and I asked ‘how many years have you been dressing like these other tribes,’ and they said, ‘we didn’t know.’”

“I had a good mentor, Nora Thompson Dean. Her Indian name was Touching Leaf,” Bird said.

Upon retirement “I’d like to get someone younger to hand this off to,” she said.
To learn more about having a style show hosted by Margaret Bird, contact Danette Daniels, owner of The Water Bird Gallery in Pawhuska at 918-287-9129.

Part II and III of the style show will follow on Sundays Jan. 13 and 20.

December is a great time to visit regional historic homes

By: Roseanne McKee

Republished with permission of the Bartlesville Examiner-Enterprise

December is a wonderful time to see area historic homes, and we have three impressive ones having special open houses and tour times for the Christmas season.

The Frank Phillips Home at 1107 Cherokee Ave. in Bartlesville will offer special evening tours of the home at the reduced admission rate of $5 on Dec. 11 and 13 from 6:30-8:30 p.m.

“There are seven decorated trees in the house — living room, library, sun room, Frank’s bedroom, the girls’ room and the two guest bedrooms,” said Rhonda Starr, a staff docent.

“We have some of their ornaments, but they’re not on the trees because they’re too fragile.

“In the dining room Jane Phillips’ original centerpiece will be on the table. It’s a sleigh with reindeer and Santa and packages and ribbons that go to the place settings. At the end of the meal guests could pull the ribbon and open a package,” she explained.

Another special event hosted by Frank and Jane Phillips was a Christmas party for the community held at the Community Center, Starr said.

“At the end of the party Jane would give the children a bag with fruit and nuts and Frank would give them a silver dollar,” she said.

“On the third floor we have a play size log home and stable with animals that belonged to the girls,” Starr added. For information call 918 336-2491.

The Drummond Home at 305 N. Price Ave. in Hominy will hold its annual Scottish Christmas Open House from 1-4 p.m. on Dec. 8 with live music by guitarist Jim Garling and violinist Susanne Woolley, the great granddaughter of Fred Drummond and granddaughter of Gentner Drummond.

Santa Claus will be present to greet the children and hear their wish lists.
Diane Fallis of Bartlesville will be there to tell stories and tours will be offered.

Authentic Scottish shortbread, cookies and punch will be served.

For the open house two special photos of Fred and Addie Drummond will be on display in the parlor, said Drummond Home Manager Beverly Whitcomb. In the photos Addie is about 20 and Fred, who was six years older, was about 26, Whitcomb said.
Admission is $7 for adults, $5 for seniors (62+), children under six are admitted free. Veterans and active duty military are admitted free with an I.D. Children 6-17 are admitted for $4. There is a special rate for families of up to six, $18. Call 918-885-2374 for more information.

The Glass Mansion at 324 W. Delaware in Nowata is open from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. Saturday and from 1 – 4 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 9. Admission is free, but donations are appreciated. The home is decorated for Christmas with Hallmark Keepsake ornaments donated from the extensive collection of the late Jan Edwards. There are seven trees, said Carroll Craun president of the Nowata County Historical Society. The living room tree has ornaments from the Maxine cartoon collection. Matriarch Eva Glass’s bedroom tree has ornaments of homes. The tree in daughter Earnest Frances’s room has a movie theme. The foyer and upstairs hallway trees feature miniature ornaments.

“We have a little holiday shop in the sun room with Christmas wreaths, table centerpieces, handwork, baked goods and gift items by historical society members,” Craun said.

The Glass Mansion does not have regular hours of operation, so this is a special opportunity to see this stately, well-appointed home.
Cookies and cider will be served in the dining room. Call 918-273-1191 for information.

Grandma Pawhuska

By Roseanne McKee

Republished with permission of the Bartlesville Examiner-Enterprise


Virgie Elizabeth Steward, also known as Grandma Pawhuska

Hominy resident Carl Blue’s family is full of interesting characters and in this column, I’ll introduce you to several of them. The first is Virgie Elizabeth Stewart, Blue’s grandmother, who lived in the historic blacksmith’s house in Pawhuska where the Chamber of Commerce is now located.

Known to many as Grandma Pawhuska, Stewart, who was four foot eight inches tall, was an avid gardener with a gift for hospitality. She entertained many guests, starting in the 1930s, including outlaws who gathered in a secret room, located off Stewart’s bedroom under the steps, to drink and play cards, Blue said.

Stewart, who was born in about 1898, acquired the blacksmith’s house in the early 1930s, which needed some restoration at the time, Blue said. Stewart completed the needed repairs and lived there for many years.

Blue is proud of his family’s connection to the historic blacksmith’s house, one of the first built in Pawhuska.

“The Indians built it for their blacksmith,” Blue said.

A single mother of three, Stewart worked hard at a canvas tent factory and Dr. Pepper bottling company, Blue said.

To feed her family and bring in extra income, “grandma planted five acres of garden by herself. One year she grew a 110-pound white and black squash in the fork of an old cottonwood tree. She was in the paper for this with pictures of us lowering it out of the tree. We had to use two ropes to get it out of the tree,” he explained. Stewart continued gardening until her death at the age of 104.

“Back then, the grocery stores bought all of her vegetables. She was blessed with a green thumb, but she also used a lot of the natural herbs [she grew] for healing. Peach tree bark in one direction scraped and boiled makes you puke, but scraped in the other direction and boiled cures diarrhea,” Blue said.

“Grandma had so many varieties of plants. We’d pick handfuls of grapes. She grew green seedless, purple Concord and did everything by hand,” Blue said with pride. “We found the old root cellar five steps out the back door to the right … back in the early 1900s, people had to use a root cellar.

“Back in the late 1960s, the house caught on fire and, [Stewart’s son], Uncle Bill about burned to death, but he got out and saved the house. Inside was all natural with natural gas lights and the old electrical cloth-coated wires with insulators on it,” he explained. In those days, the house had a natural gas stove with oven, a refrigerator and a wood-burning stove, he said.
“Up the stairs at the top there was a room filled with books from the 1920s in there. Also upstairs was Uncle Bill’s bedroom. … When he came back from California, he lived [on the property] until his death in 1991.” After the fire, “he lived in an old Air stream camper in the back yard.”

Across the alley was the carriage house where the wagons were and the blacksmith worked on the wagons and carriages.

While his grandmother was still alive in 1992, Blue’s mother sold the home and auctioned everything. The city of Pawhuska bought the home and modernized it, removing the gas light fixtures and closing off the secret room in the process, Blue said with a note of sadness. The kitchen became an office and Uncle Bill’s bedroom upstairs became a conference room.

Since Stewart was not from Pawhuska, I wondered about her life before she arrived here. Blue filled in some of the gaps.

“She was raised by her grandparents, who were an Indian medicine man and woman. She was raised in the Kiamichi Mountains in southeast Oklahoma. She told me years ago that the last year of the sign in on the Cherokee rolls they had a flood … and they couldn’t get there. The last day of the sign in there were hers and a couple of other families that didn’t get to sign in. Her dad’s name was Ed Tice. Her mom died at her birth, but her father walked away,” Blue said.
“We’ve found information about her being in Rock Spring, Wyoming, in the early 1900s … and her three kids. We also found that she was in Canada in the 1930s and 40s census. It shows her at El Reno, Okla., and other parts, but she came to Pawhuska in the early 1900s by horse and buggy, or wagons, with the three kids — Augusta, William and Virginia.” Later, Betty Jo, Carl Blue’s mother, came along.

“Some say grandma was married to a Stewart out of Stewart, Okla., and that’s how she acquired the blacksmith’s house,” Blue said.

Blue’s uncle Bill, William Emanuel Stewart, who lived the second part of his life in Pawhuska at the blacksmith’s house, had worked as a movie actor in Hollywood. “He was Humphrey Bogart’s stand in until he got into drinking and divorced,” Blue explained.

Blue mentioned another interesting ancestor, his great grandfather, George Washington Blue, who served as a U.S. Marshall. He was killed at the corner of Price and Main in Hominy in 1932 by bootleggers, Blue said.

“He had arrested some bootleggers and busted their still. Two to three days later, they ran him over in a Model T Ford,” Blue said.

Carl’s own father, also named George Washington Blue, had been a boxer, who was the 1941 Golden Gloves Champion, Blue said.

Carl Blue, who is an electrician in Hominy has served in the National Guard and in the Army Reserves. He is active in the American Legion post in Hominy. Blue is married to Vivian Blue, and they have a son named Lewis Blue.

His wife’s great grandfather was Bill Doolin, who became a member of the Dalton Gang of outlaws in the 1890s, but that’s a story for another day!


Carl Blue

Groundbreaking for Osage Veterans Park set for 9 a.m. on June 6th


Pawhuska, Okla., (Friday, June 1, 2018)

By: Geneva Horsechief-Hamilton, ON Communications

The Osage Nation has been developing plans for a memorial to honor Osage U.S. military veterans since 2011. Those plans will be another huge step closer to becoming a reality when builders break ground for the memorial on Tuesday, June 6, at 9 am in Pawhuska, beautifully situated on the lawn near the Osage Nation Museum.

“The Commission has been working diligently on the design, the process, and the execution of the final phases for this very important recognition and honoring of our Osage veterans,” said Maria DeRoin (Osage), Osage Nation Veterans Memorial Commission (OVMC) Consultant and Central Communications Coordinator and a 20-year U.S. Navy veteran.

The OVMC is responsible for the development and construction of the memorial. OVMC members are Franklin McKinley, Commission Chair; Richard Luttrell, Member; Francis West-Williams, Member; John Henry Mashunkashey, Member; and Richard Perrier, Member.
According to the OVMC’s webpage, “The purpose of the Commission is to follow the Osage Nation tradition of honoring Osage veterans…[and] to provide a physical reminder for present and future generations of the contributions and sacrifices of Osage veterans and their families.”

This event is free and open to the public.

Nutcracker Ballet coming to Pawhuska this Christmas Season

By: Roseanne McKee

The Dance Maker Performing Arts Academy will host an elegant evening of hor d’oeuvres and dessert at 7 p.m. on Oct. 21, at the Elks Lodge in Pawhuska to preview plans to produce the Nutcracker Ballet at Pawhuska’s Constantine Theatre on Dec. 9 at 7 p.m. For reservations to the catered event, at no charge, call 918-607-3044. After-five attire is requested.

“The evening will be an opportunity for the community to learn more about the Academy and its partnership with the Osage Ballet to train the next generation of dancers in the tradition of the late Maria Tallchief, America’s first prima ballerina, an Osage member, who was born in nearby Farifax, Okla.,” said Osage Ballet Director Randy Tinker Smith.

The evening will include a short presentation by award-winning journalist, author and former manager of the Tulsa Ballet Theater, Connie Cronley. Catering will be provided by highly-esteemed chef, Brian Lookout of Ah Tha Tse Catering.

Although the evening is at no cost, attendees are encouraged to make their best donations to help support the Nutcracker Ballet production by Dance Maker Performing Arts Academy at the evening’s conclusion.

Another opportunity to support the Academy will be attendance at the Nutcracker Tea Party to be held Dec. 3 at the Short Community Center in Pawhuska from 2 – 4 p.m. This is a ticketed event costing $10 each. For reservations to this elegant afternoon of high tea and an opportunity for photos with the Nutcracker characters, call 918-607-3044. Tea sandwiches, a selection of teas and sweet treats will be served. “This is a wonderful event for the children your family,” said Dance Maker Academy Director, Jenna Smith.

The community may also support the upcoming Nutcracker performance by shopping at the Nutcracker Boutique at the Old Firehouse #1 Art Center on Main St. in Pawhuska. The gift boutique will be open from 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. Mon. – Sat. Nov. 1 – Dec. 23.

Tickets for the Nutcracker Ballet at the Constantine Dec. 9, will be $8 for students and $15 for adults.

“We thank our sponsors, Osage Casinos, Pawhuska Community Foundation, Osage Foundation, Blue Sky Bank, Jerry and Marlene Mosley, for helping us to continue the legacy of ballet in the Osage, and look forward to others joining our efforts,” Smith said.