Tahlequah Daily Press

Local News

December 15, 2010

Murrell Home goes merry

Murrell Home volunteers say Christmas is their favorite time of year, and last weekend’s visitors agreed.

TAHLEQUAH — Flute and piano music beckoned visitors into the George M. Murrell home Sunday during its 10th annual Christmas open house.

The traditional Victorian decor shined, as did the women in their hoop skirts and men in period costume, who gave the illusion of walking through the double antebellum doors and into the past.

Living history is one of the most fun ways to learn about one’s ancestors and the times in which they lived. Knowledgeable volunteers describing events with real people brings the historic home to life.

“The clothing, the way they were dressed – it was nice,” said Gloria Williford. “When I came years ago, they had mannequins.”

The old photographs intrigued Williford’s daughter, Ann Reneau, while granddaughter Hannah, 5, found a different attraction.

“I find them fascinating,” Reneau said of the upstairs wall display. “Hannah liked the soldier. She kept wanting to talk to him. He was really nice.”

Megan Morton said the rooms were pretty, and the people were nice.

“We’re looking forward to coming back. We love it here,” she said.

Greeter Judy Gamble also loves being at the Murrell Home. The first thing she did when she retired was join the Friends group.

“I absolutely love history and Cherokee history. This is the only plantation home left in Oklahoma.” Gamble said.

She’s traveled extensively with her daughter, touring old mansions in communities across the South, even going to Natchez four or five times.

First-time visitors Tom and Julie Kittell, of Broken Arrow, enjoy looking at old houses. After they saw the Murrell Home featured on the news, they said they knew they had to see it.

“I appreciate the architecture. It’s cool how the rooms have a cutaway in the wall so you can see how it was built,” he said. “The re-enacting people are very informed.”

Historical objects and places appeal to Julie.

“I like how they’re getting all the belongings back, and that relatives saved things and are sending them,” she said.

The couple is already making plans to visit again for the Lawn Social, the first Saturday in June.

When Melissa Lay, of Tulsa, saw the Murrell Home on TV, she knew her daughter would want to come.

“I saw the story on Channel 6 and when I told my daughter, she insisted we come,” Lay said. “We like old houses. So we hopped in the car.”

Looking for Christmas presents in the gift shop, daughter Holly Lay was chatting with her mom.

“I love the decorations of everything, and the wall paper and furniture,” she said as they moved toward the next room with refreshments from the era. “I love the decor, the old wood and rugs.”

In one corner of a room where refreshments were served is a display cabinet with a recently completed exhibit that features the actual hat worn by George Murrell and other vestments from the archives, which Northeastern State University student Elaina Ross created during an internship at the site.

Upstairs, surrounded by vintage photographs of the home and former family displayed on the walls, Veronica Gaston demonstrated a variety of fiber arts, including work on a spinning wheel.

“I enjoy the history, I like the style and the period of time,” said James Beach of Westville, who brought his family. “It’s been several years since I was here. I like that picture of Spring Hill where they were uprooted from.”

They came to Tahlequah to celebrate their granddaughter’s birthday, wife Ella May Beach said.

“We’ve kept up with the improvements at the Murrell Home since the house was purchased by the state in the late ‘60s. It’s really pretty now,” Beach said. “I love the Christmas decorations they use. The Christmas tree is an example of how they used to light the trees with candles. The ladies and men in costumes really add a lot.”

Since retiring as site director, Shirley Pettengill has continued to volunteer, doing what she enjoys most: the newsletter, and dressing up for special events and school tours.

“There’s a dedicated handful of volunteers here, and we can always use help,” Pettengill said.

Since the inception of Friends of the Murrell Home, Gengy Edwards has been one of those volunteers.

“The home is beautiful. I enjoy sharing it with people and getting the word out,” she said.

Belinda Burnett likes to support the place.

“We just love doing this. It’s a wonderful place,” Burnett said. “It’s the only pre-Civil War plantation home in the state of Oklahoma. There were a lot like it around, but they were burned down. In the South, there are a lot of homes like this. Not in Oklahoma.”

Her daughter, Amanda Pritchett, is on staff, and said this is her favorite event of the year.

“I have to work, but I really enjoy seeing the old house decorated, the music, atmosphere; I think it’s the best time to visit,” Pritchett said.

This is also the favorite event for David Fowler, site director.

“The house always looks great and everyone has a good time,” he said.


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