Members of the Philomathea Club, the oldest women's club on record in Oklahoma, unearthed their portion of a “century chest” on a recent Friday at a lunch meeting at the Oklahoma History Center.
The Century Chest, buried 100 years ago at First Lutheran Church in downtown Oklahoma City, was opened this past April, revealing all sorts of Indian relics, documents, letters, newspapers, audio recordings and many photos.
The Philomathea Club was founded in 1891 for “mutual improvement through general education and literary work,” as stated in the club's constitution.
Philomathea, derived from the Greek language, meaning love of learning, was evident in the faces of the women around the conference table as they anticipated hearing and seeing what the women of early 1900s had to share with them.
Bob Blackburn, executive director of the Oklahoma Historical Society, and Chad Williams, the society's director of research, revealed the letters and photos using an overhead projector.
One item shared was the women's club constitution from 1913 that looked remarkably similar in shape and content to the one of 2013.
All artifacts found were perfectly maintained and in pristine condition, including a letter from the wife of Capt. D.F. Stiles, commander of the U.S. Army Operation in Oklahoma, dated April 19, 1913.
A letter from Mrs. Russell Gordon Lowe included wishes for her great granddaughter to have a “contented spirit, ministering hands, willing feet, that her presence may radiate joy wherever she may be ...” More personal letters were included as well as photographs of all the women who were members in 1913.
The Oklahoma City Philomathea Club has 35 active members as decreed by the club's constitution, and many have been in the club more than 20 years.
These artifacts along with items from other community groups and businesses will slowly become available for viewing once they have been archived and preserved. The Oklahoma History Center plans to make the entire collection available for viewing in April 2014.