By RENEE FITE
It could be a winter Saturday afternoon in 1848 Indian Territory: People were making crafts in one room, women in hoop skirts moved from room to room, Christmas carols were played on an organ, and the tune carried throughout home.
For many, the Murrell Home Christmas Open House is one of the best times of the year to visit Oklahoma’s only antebellum plantation home. This year’s event took place Saturday, and was the 13th annual observance.
Justine Foster, of Tulsa, braved the winter weather, and brought her four children to enjoy the festivities. Lilly, 10, was learning to fold a Moravian star, and brother Alden, 13, hovered over her, watching and making suggestions. Tim, 13 and Joy, 3, wandered throughout the home, admiring the holiday decorations and furnishings.
“Alden is involved with living history, he’s in the Fort Gibson Fife and Drum [Corps] at the Fort Gibson Stockade, so I wanted the children to come over and experience this,” Foster said. “It’s beautiful here, and so pretty to see it decorated for Christmas.”
It is vital to preserving history, Foster said.
“If we can’t see where we’ve been, we get caught up in the present and the future and lose the perspective,” she said. “It’s amazing what this house has seen. It’s a real treasure.”
The Foster family planned to cut down a Christmas tree when they returned to Tulsa Saturday evening.
In a room next to the dining room, three visitors were learning the art of folding Moravian stars. It was an enjoyable experience for cousins Sally Briggs and Jennifer Hall.
“We’re Friends of the Murrell Home volunteers, so we love to come here,” said Briggs. “Making this star is almost as fun as basket-weaving.”
The home was in their family many years ago, Briggs added.
“Our great aunt was born here, Murrell Ross. Her father, Rufus Ross, was John Ross’ great-grandson,” she said. “He sold it to his sister for $1, because he had more land than was allowed for the allotment, but it never came back to the family like it was supposed to.”
The annual Christmas Open House is the favorite of all events held on site for historic interpreter Amanda Pritchett, who rested from singing carols while Beth Herrington played the organ.
“This is my 11th one since I’ve been here. It’s a fun day, an opportunity to come out in the winter time and see the traditional Victorian decorations, the greenery and ribbons,” Pritchett said. “People love to come out this time of year; it’s a good excuse to enjoy the house.”
The staff say it’s their favorite event because they get to enjoy it, instead of being busy doing programs. Pritchett has a decoration and room she likes the most.
“I always like the parlor with the table-top Christmas tree,” Pritchett said. “Queen Victoria introduced the Christmas tree in 1848 in England, and it was quick to catch on in America. That’s our time period here in the home. We have two tabletop trees.”
Two Friends of the Murrell Home volunteers, dressed in their hoop skirts, put finishing touches on a table top Christmas tree in the parlor. Shirley Pettengill and Gengy Edwards swished as they walked.
It’s fun to wear the period dress now and then, Pettengill said.
“It took 30 minutes to get into this dress and you have to start with a corset,” Pettengill said. “Wearing the dresses helps set the mood. They let people see how men and women dressed in the day.”