Oklahoma preserving homes and the stories of the families who lived in them

If you enjoy some of Oklahoma's historic homes, the families that built them have even more interesting stories.
BY MAX NICHOLS Published: December 29, 2012
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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.