Oklahoma's historic homes offer glimpse into history

Max Nichols explains the history of some of Oklahoma's most notable preserved homes.
BY Max Nichols Published: December 29, 2013

Starting in 1824, Sequoyah, the creator of the Cherokee syllabary, and his family moved from Alabama to northwest Arkansas and finally, in 1829, to Skin Bayou near Fort Gibson in what is now Oklahoma. The final move followed an 1828 treaty that led to the removal of 600 Cherokee families from Arkansas.

“Originally, Sequoyah was to settle on Lee's Creek, but instead he relocated his family nine miles further south on Skin Bayou,” said Jerry Dobbs, who manages Sequoyah's Cabin near Sallisaw for the Oklahoma Historical Society. The reason Sequoyah moved to Skin Bayou is not known, but Dobbs said it is suspected that “hostility over the removal forced him to withdraw to a secluded location until tempers abated.” He lived there until +his death in 1843.

“Sequoyah was one of the first immigrants to settle in historic homes preserved in Oklahoma,” said Dr. Bob Blackburn, Historical Society director. “Visitors can enjoy these homes and learn how families often survived the difficulties of pioneer immigration to play dramatic roles in the development of Oklahoma.”

Other 19th-century preserved homes include the George M. Murrell Home, a National Historic Landmark that was built in 1845 in Park Hill and called the “Hunter's Home” for Murrell's interest in fox hunting; and the Sod House Museum, built with sod bricks in 1894 by Marshall McCully near what is now Aline in Alfalfa County. It is operated by the Historical Society.

Preserved early 20th-century Oklahoma homes open to visitors include the Henry Overholser Mansion in Oklahoma City, completed in 1903 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1970; the Fred Drummond Home in Hominy, built in 1905, purchased by OHS in 1980 and placed on the National Register in 1980; and Frank Phillips' 26-room neoclassical home in Bartlesville, completed in 1909 and donated to OHS in 1973.

George Murrell was born to a prominent Lynchburg, Va., family in 1808. He moved to Athens, Tenn., where he pursued mercantile interests and married Minerva Ross, of a wealthy and influential Cherokee family, in 1834, said David Fowler of the Historical Society staff. Her father, Lewis Ross, was the brother of John Ross, principal chief of the Cherokee Nation from 1828 to his death in 1866.

When the Cherokees were forced to move west on the “Trail of Tears” in 1838-39, George Murrell and his family came to Indian Territory. Murrell and his father-in-law established a mercantile business in Park Hill and later moved it to Tahlequah, the capital of the Cherokee Nation.

McCully, a Scottish immigrant, staked his claim in the Cherokee Outlet Land Run of 1893. He built his two-room “soddy” and increased his homestead from 160 to 240 acres. The McCully family lived in the sod house until 1909, when he built a two-room house. He used the “soddy” for storage until 1963.

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