Editor’s Note: This is the sixth in a series of 12 monthly articles on Marland’s Grand Home. Some, but not all, of the information was taken from past articles by The Ponca City News.
In the late 1960s the Garden Clubs of Ponca City began a movement to purchase the Paris property, not only for their headquarters, but primarily to provide space for the Indian Museum artifacts which had out-grown their library location and needed to be moved. A letter dated Dec. 1, 1966 to the Oklahoma State Historical Society from Ponca City citizen, Della Castor, stated that it was the hope of many in Ponca City to purchase the Paris home to expand the current Indian Museum and include both oil history and Marland materials. In addition to creating more space for the museum, the purchase would also provide a public place for receptions, dance and music recitals, workshops, painting classes, theater activities, art exhibitions and flower shows. Some even suggested opening the basement pool and dressing stalls to create a spa-like setting close to downtown where visitors could exercise. In 1967 Mrs. Jessie Paris sold her 22-room mansion to the City of Ponca City for $85,000. At the time the site was still known as the original Marland Mansion. Robert Clark, former employee of Marland Oil, H.A. Mertz, Commissioner of Public Property, Harry Hayman, Commissioner of Finance, and Mayor C.D. Hull were instrumental in the City’s acquisition of the property. Going forward, the City Commission chose to name the property the “Ponca City Cultural Center and Indian Museum.” “It is the plan of the commissioners and other groups to develop the Jessie Paris property into a cultural center for the greatest benefit to the citizens of Ponca City and as a tourist attraction in our community,” stated Mayor C.D. Hull.
Maxine Luntz was hired as the manager, and Delia Castor was hired as the curator. The Cultural Center, which would soon house four separate museums, two libraries, and meeting space for clubs and social events, was dedicated on May 26, 1968. It was determined that since the citizens helped to purchase the property through tax dollars, there would be no entrance fees for Ponca City citizens into the museum spaces.
During the ceremony great tribute was paid to E.W. Marland for his many contributions to the betterment of the community. The citizens took note of the many things that Marland brought to the Ponca City and left for posterity such as: two golf courses, horseback riding, fox hunting, polo, the Pioneer Woman Statue, the hospital, the Marland Industrial Institute, the Big House located at 901 Monument Drive, the American Legion Children’s Home, as well as being the first president of the Lion’s Club.
Wesley I. Nunn gave the open address. Nunn, a former Marland Oil and then CONOCO employee and personal friend of E.W. Marland, stated, “You are here today to pay tribute to an outstanding citizen and to dedicate his first fine Ponca City home to a future of greatness as your Indian Museum and Cultural Center.” Nunn went on to say, ”E.W. Marland was at least 25 years ahead of his time…especially in employee relations and community relations.
The prosperity of the 1920s, thought then to be perpetual, made that a decade of ten wonderful years! Oh, how all of us then would have liked to just go on that way forever!” In closing Nunn stated, “I hope the value of this wonderful new Cultural Center and Indian Museum will continue to increase. This is one of the very finest things the people of Ponca City have ever done. Congratulations!”
The first collector of Indian artifacts was E.W. Marland himself. His findings began in 1926 with the excavation of a French trading site, known then as the Deer Creek site, which was located north of Ponca City along the Arkansas River. Marland had planned for a local museum and also commissioned Henry Balink to do paintings of Indian chiefs to hang on its walls. In 1938, the E.E. Thompson collection was added to the Marland items. Thompson was an honorary chief of the Kaw Tribe.
The Indian Museum (as it was called at the time) was originally opened at the Ponca City Library in 1939. Over the years, other artifacts were donated by the Bartram, Burkhart, Hoefer, Baker, Brett and Milde families as well as others. Generous gifts from Fred Bartram, a one-time Indian agent and teacher, included Northwestern and Southwestern baskets and pottery. Lillie Morrill Burkhart added fine Osage clothing and articles. John Hofer of Kaw City gave moccasins gathered by Hoefer’s brother, then an officer at Fort Sill. Baker donated projectile points and ancient Indian tools.
After thirty years of being housed in the basement of the Ponca City Library, the Indian Museum was moved to the second floor of the new Cultural Center. The rooms to be used for the displays had been two large bedrooms and the swimming pool dressing area of the home.
Sherman-Lawton was president of the Oklahoma Anthropological Society for many years. At his death his personal collection was given to the Kay Country Anthropological Society, which in turn placed some of the items in the Indian Museum. These pre-Columbian artifacts and Indian tools and projectiles points were put on display along with items from the 1926 Marland excavation. Dr. Joseph Thoburn of the University of Oklahoma and the Oklahoma Anthropological Survey led the Marland excavation with help from his college crew. One third of the dig items went to the Ponca City Indian Museum, one-third to Chilocco Indian School in Northern Oklahoma, and one-third the Oklahoma Historical Society.
The Ponca City Garden Center was located within the Cultural Center and housed a library and office in two small adjoining rooms on the second floor.
This area was furnished by the sixteen garden clubs in town, and the library contained over two hundred volumes relating to horticulture, landscaping, and flower arraigning. An educational librarian assisted visitors with book loans. Historic photos of Marland’s original gardens lined the walls in tribute to his contributions to the early day Ponca City. The Garden Center was open every afternoon from 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m., with a hostess available to the public.
The library was the area where guests were greeted as they entered the home. Mrs. E.W. (Virginia) Marland was a charter member of the Music Club and held many meetings in this home during the early 1920s. A portion of the downstairs library room was dedicated to the Music Club, and it displayed pictures and other items of Frances Smith Catron, “Ponca City’s First Lady of Music.”
Catron taught music in the Ponca City School System for thirty-seven years and directed many plays and musical activities. She was also a member of the Twentieth Century Club and the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR), both which continued to meet in the home on a regular basis.
Through the years, the site added artifacts and items as they pertained to the resident exhibits. Monthly meetings of the DAR, Music Club, Twentieth Century Club, American Association of University Women, and bridge groups were held, as well as musical recitals, showers, coffees, receptions, reunions, and workshops groups. The Cultural Center was ready for growth and expansion into the second half of the twentieth century in order to help support and provide service to the community.
|1940-1960 Part II||HISTORY INDEX||1970|