Visitors often enjoy Oklahoma's well-preserved, historic homes such as the George M. Murrell Home in Park Hill, Marshall McCully's Sod House near Aline, the Fred Drummond Home in Hominy, the Henry Overholser Mansion in Oklahoma City and the Frank Phillips Home in Bartlesville.
However, it is the families that built these unique homes and preserved them for generations that made remarkable accomplishments in the history and development of Oklahoma as a pioneer territory and then as the 46th state.
“George Murrell, Marshall McCully, Fred Drummond, Henry Overholser and Frank Phillips led tremendous efforts to produce significant historic eras in their various parts of Oklahoma,” said Bob Blackburn, director of the Oklahoma Historical Society. “Their families continued the development of our state.”
George Murrell, who was born to a prominent family in Lynchburg, Va., in 1808, moved to Athens, Tenn. In 1834, he married Minerva Ross, the oldest daughter of Lewis and Fannie Ross, members of wealthy and influential Cherokee family. When the Cherokees were forced to leave their homes, George moved with Minerva's family to Park Hill in Indian Territory, said David Fowler, director of the Murrell Home for the Historical Society.
Murrell built a plantation and a large frame home that he called the “Hunter's Home” for hunting foxes. Murrell and Lewis Ross also established a mercantile business and moved it to Tahlequah.
Jennie Fields (Ross) Cobb was born in 1883 as the great granddaughter of Chief John Ross, Lewis Ross's brother. Her parents, Robert and Fannie Ross, moved into the Murrell Home in 1895. After the state of Oklahoma purchased the home in 1948, Jennie was appointed the first curator in 1952 and led efforts to restore the home until her death in 1959.
Marshall McCully staked his claim in the Cherokee Outlet in 1893. He increased his farm to 240 acres and built his house of sod bricks, which were commonly used in that area. Norma Jean, granddaughter of Marshall McCully, lived next door and volunteered to present the history for 33 years, said Renee Trindle, Sod House director for the Historical Society.
Norma Jean told the story of how sheets were tacked to the ceiling to prevent dirt and bugs from falling on the family. She often said: “I remember grandmother talking about snakes that slithered across the sheets at night.”
In 2010, when the Historical Society faced a budget cut, volunteers helped move interior artifacts and repainted display cases. The Sod House Friends Association was formed to continue in raising funds.
Frederick Drummond, who came from Scotland in 1884, moved to Pawhuska on the Osage Indian Reservation in 1886 to work for the Osage Mercantile as a government licensed trader. He married Adeline Gentner, of Coffeyville, Kan., in 1890.
Drummond bought a partnership in the company in 1895, and he formed the Hominy Trading Co. in 1904, said Beverly Whitcomb, director of the home for the Historical Society. The Drummonds completed their substantial Victorian style home in Hominy in 1905. The house was deeded to the Historical Society in 1981.
Henry Overholser, who developed wealth through business successes in Indiana, Colorado and Wisconsin, came to Oklahoma City after the Land Run of 1889.
He erected six buildings on Grand (Now Sheridan) Ave. and was elected president of the new Board of Trade (now Chamber of Commerce). He was elected to the Oklahoma County Commission in 1894. He and C.G. Jones organized the Oklahoma City and St. Louis Railroad in 1895. Overholser built the Grand Hotel, the Overholser Opera House and Overholser Theater.
Within six months of arriving in Oklahoma City, he married Anna Ione Murphy. They had a daughter, Henry Ione, in 1904.
In 1902, the Overholsers acquired three lots in Classen's Highland Park Addition, now known as Heritage Hills. He built a 20-room Victorian mansion at 405 NW 15. The Overholser Mansion is now owned by the Historical Society. Overholser died in 1915.
Frank Phillips was born on Nov. 28, 1873, in Scotia, Neb. He learned to become a barber in Creston, Iowa, purchased two barbershops and developed a tonic of perfumes and rainwater. He married Jane Gibson, daughter of a banker, in 1898 and became an officer the Chicago Coliseum Co.
In 1903, while visiting in St. Louis, he encountered a Creston friend who had returned from Indian Territory and told him of oil and business opportunities there. In 1905, Phillips and his family moved to Bartlesville. He and his brother, Lee Eldas, began buying oil leases. They organized a Bartlesville bank.
In 1917, their crews brought in productive wells in Osage County. They merged their interests and incorporated the Phillips Petroleum Co. Five years later, their assets totaled more than $50 million. The firm grew rapidly, marketing Phillips 66 gasoline, chemicals, aviation fuel and liquefied petroleum gas.
Frank Phillips resigned from the company in 1949 and died in 1950. The Frank Phillips House in Bartlesville is listed on the National Register of Historic Places along with the Murrell Home, the Drummond Home and the Overholser Mansion.
Max Nichols writes a monthly column for the Oklahoma Historical Society.