Monday, July 27, 2009

Pawhuska, Oklahoma

The Tallgrass Prairie is located just north of the community of Pawhuska. The town began in 1872 when Osage Agent Isaac T. Gibson established the Osage Agency on Bird Creek in what was then the Osage Nation, Indian Territory. Pawhuska was the scene of public lease auctions during the Osage oil boom of the 1910s and 1920s. The auctions were attended by oilmen, including Frank Phillips, Lee E. Phillips, Waite Phillips, William G. Skelly, and Ernest W. Marland.

In 1920, near the peak of Osage oil-field production, Pawhuska had a population of 6,414. The Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway was extended from Owen in Washington County, Oklahoma, to Pawhuska in 1923. In these early days when the oil boom was in full swing and the great depression a decade in the future the city was expected to grow rapidly and the downtown area was built to accomodate that expectation. This was to be the peak of the city's population. The population was 3,629 at the 2000 census.

There is a detailed and very interesting history of Pawhuska and Osage County from which I borrowed a few items. It was written by Jenkin Lloyd Jones whose family owns the Tulsa newspaper. It is too long to include here but is well worth reading. You can find it HERE. As an example here is the origin of the name Pawhuska.

Pawhuska - The name means White Hair; it was given to Osage Chief Paw-hiu-Skah (spellings vary) after he took part in a battle in Ohio against American troops during the Washington administration. He tried to scalp a fallen officer, only to have the officer's white hair (a powdered wig) come off in the chief's hand. Aided by the diversion, the officer escaped. The chief thought the hair had great power - it had helped protect its wearer - and kept the wig with him for the rest of his life, taking the name White Hair as a result of his experience.

Speaking of information, look at the Osage Nation section of the Oklahoma Byways site, found HERE.

In the town center is a handsome 5 story triangular building which resembles the famous Flatiron building located in Times Square in New York City. As early buildings in Pawhuska were constructed, a triangle-shaped piece of land was left in the middle of town. It was a park with a two-story bandstand in the center. In 1915, this five-story, "flat-iron" building was completed. In the Oil Boom days, the building housed over 100 lawyers.

One of the main doors of the Triangle Building showing the early influence of Art Deco ornamentation that would become so popular in Tulsa. Unfortunately the building is vacant as is much of downtown Pawhuska. Perhaps better days will come.

The City Hall is located in the building which was the first Osage Tribal Council House. The present stone building, built in 1894, is the second building, as the original was destroyed by fire. The bell in the tower was used to call councilmen to meetings.

Also of interest in Pawhuska is the Osage Tribal Museum. It is the oldest, continually operated tribal museum in North America.

The Immaculate Conception Catholic Church in Pawhuska, Oklahoma is known by many as "The Cathedral of the Osage." Perhaps it has been given this title not only because of its large cathedral-like appearance, but also because of its importance in the life and history of the Osage. This historic church will be the subject of a separate post.

America's first Boy Scout troop was organized in Pawhuska. The troop is still active and just celebrated it's 100th anniversary. The first boy scout troop in America was organized in Pawhuska, in May, 1909, by Reverend John F. Mitchell, a missionary priest from England sent to St. Thomas Episcopal Church, by the Church of England. Rev. Mitchell, who had been associated in scout work with Lord Baden-Powell in England, organized the troop of Boy Scouts under English charter, and equipped them with English uniforms and manuals.

I have always liked Pawhuska. It has a rich history. It is a community which was not able to live up to its earlier expectations.


Anonymous said... [Reply to comment]

The town looks so... empty!

Anonymous said... [Reply to comment]

Well observed Zhu, I was so busy reading Bill's Pawhuska history that I failed to notice. You're right, it looks like a ghost town.

Fascinating historical detail Bill. I think I've heard the story about White Hair before but thought it was apocryphal, coming from the old cowboy films of the 1940s or something!


Anonymous said... [Reply to comment]

It looks like a ghost town in those pics, but it isn't. There is a lot going on in Pawhuska throughout the year. There are two big bike rallys, The Ben Johnson Steer roping, The Cavalcade Rodeo, The osage County fair, The Osage Indian Dances. Like all small towns, it is a struggle to survive, but Pawhuska is doing it best. It'sa a pretty little town, the Osage county museum is located there, as well as the Osage tribal musuem. There are numerous bronze statues around town, with more planned. With the Tallgrass Preserve nearby, and Osage Hills st. park nearby also, it's easy to spend a day in the area. And no, I don't live in Pawhuska, but I do think it's a neat little town, full of history.

Ayia Napa Cyprus said... [Reply to comment]

A little town with great history!!