Before the Murrell Home existed, the land was pasture and woods, with a creek running through it.
After George and Minerva Murrell bought it, trees were cleared for a Cherokee family plantation home. Theirs is a love story.
And there are tales of action and adventure, tragedy and triumph.
“A lot of visitors don’t understand this place was a fully operating plantation, what they did here, the plantation economy,” said historical Interpreter Amanda Pritchett.
The antebellum period in Indian Territory was the golden age of the Cherokees, Pritchett said.
The social and economic institutions were being rebuilt after the Trail of Tears.
The staff is letting visitors know that Park Hill was the important social community of the time, Pritchett said.
“We’re ready to make it one of the premier sites in this area. It’s so unique; there’s no place in the country that has the history of this place,” she said. “All the ethnic groups, the socio-economic groups and different elements, social institutions, seminaries, the fact the chief lived here. All these different subjects you can study in one place.”
“We get to talk to interesting people and do research about things history geeks like me love,” Pritchett said. “People come here because they want to learn about Cherokees and the history of this area. People don’t realize we have this history here.”
And they didn’t realize Indians had houses like the Murrell Home, added Jennifer Frazee, the new historical Interpreter at the Murrell Home.
“They thought they were living in teepees,” Frazee said.
The staff members are developing a new site plan, based on their interpretive plan. Recently they completed a new interpretive plan, which looks at the overall themes and the story they want to tell about the house.
“The story we want visitors to learn while here are the site – how we can interpret that story for the visitor, where we are now and where we want to be,” said Pritchett.
The interpretive plan includes how they address static displays, programming and special events, publications and online context.
The last one was done in the 1990s, Pritchett said: “It’s something we’ve been needing to do for a long time.”
Four new outdoor fiberglass exhibit panels, funded by a grant from the National Park Service, will be in place before the end of the year, Pritchett said. The smokehouse, spring house, barn and corral area and basic history will each be featured on a panel.
When an archaeology survey was conducted in March, researchers found the foundation of the barn. They already knew what it looked like because photos exist.
“When we’re doing interpretive events, we’ll remove the panels and return them, for when people are walking around and can see them to understand more of the history,” Pritchett said.
After completing the text for three of the exhibit panels, Pritchett is now working on the fourth. The information will be sent to Oklahoma City for the Oklahoma Historical Society graphic artist to put it all together with photos.
“We expect to have them in place in the next few months, maybe by the end of summer,” Pritchett said.
They’re working on rebuilding all the exhibits in the house and new descriptive panels for each room.
“They’ll be updated, easier to read and lower profile,” she said.
With 11 years at the Murrell Home, Pritchett has seen improvements all along.
“I love the history of this place,” she said. “When Shirley Pettengill was here, she kicked it up a notch. She did all the research and physical restoration. We’re building on what she did with the interpretive plan.”
The staff has gone through the house and outside areas, and made goals and objectives to help them tell the story better.
“All the rooms and those areas will get upgrades in the next five years,” Pritchett said. “George and Minerva’s bedroom, where she was sick with malaria, will display medicine bottles, and there will be information about the illness and treatment for the disease.”
It will be one of the temporary projects they’ll make into a program and exhibit.
“We have some of the entries of the doctors who treated Minerva, like Dr. Jonathan Brown, an Army doctor,” she said. ”Jennifer [Frazee] has been researching that.”
Since January, Frazee has been the second historical interpreter at the Murrell Home. She’s completing a master’s in American Studies at Northeastern State University and interned through NSU as an undergraduate. Last summer, she was the cabin interpreter.
“This place has a way of getting under your skin,” Frazee said. “I like history. This property has changed since George and Minerva came here. Then it was owned by an ‘old settler’ and the Murrells transformed the area.”
The Murrells were young when they eloped, and the house tells a story of action and adventure, tragedy and triumph.
“Anybody could come here and find something they love,” Frazee said.
Pritchett has been reading second wife Amanda Murrell’s diary from 1850.
One afternoon, they’d just gotten out of their dresses and were in their chemises when Dr. Wood called unexpectedly.
“It took them two hours to redress to visit with him,” said Pritchett.
Frazee was surprised and pleased to see their sense of humor.
“Now I understand that everything, people, are just the way they are today,” she said. “They were well-educated and spent time together, with no television or cell phones.”
This summer, a new cabin interpreter, Travis Wolfe, joined the staff. He’s a graduate student at NSU.
Other changes are in the works. This spring, the Lawn Social was moved from June to the first weekend in May, due to the heat with which the women, in particular, have to cope in such heavy and layered clothing.
“And this year, it was snowy the first weekend in May and it rained a little,” Pritchett said, “but it was cooler.”
The Historical Society schedules all its events in the spring and fall, she said.
“Nothing was going on that weekend in the community here or for the Historical Society, so that’s when it will be from now on,” Pritchett said.
Upcoming events through the end of the year include the Cherokee National Holiday on Labor Day weekend; Ghost Stories Oct. 26-26; and the Christmas Open House Dec. 8.
“The [Cherokee] Holiday weekend is always special for us; we’re one of the many places you can go during the weekend,” Pritchett said.
Before the Murrell Home existed, the land was pasture and woods, with a creek running through it.
- Local News
Twins again for 018
Cherokee County’s twinning cow has done it again.
The cow, known as 018, has become a bit of a local celebrity as a frequent bearer of twins, a rare happening in the bovine world.
“Her last two births have been singles,” said Chester Bailey, a farmer and owner of 018. “But over her lifespan - she is about 12 years old - she has given birth to eight sets of twins.”
A cow with a propensity for twinning possesses an inherited trait. Bailey said he has not yet examined the calves closely to determine their genders.
KPS could build new band room
Some hurdles still remain to be jumped, but Keys Public Schools could have a new room for the band program as early as the start of the 2014-’15 academic year.
If constructed, the room would also serve as a shelter during tornados or other natural disasters.
“We’re in discussions with the architect and the funding needs to be worked out,” said Billie Jordan, KPS superintendent. “We also need to present our plan to the school board and receive approval. Our goal is to have it ready by the start of the school year, but we will be cutting it close.”
Shooter of hunter still unidentified
Cherokee County sheriff’s investigators continue to seek leads in the shooting of a Coweta hunter last Friday near Welling.
Undersheriff Jason Chennault on Wednesday said investigators had received no new leads after publicly asking for information that would help identify who shot 27-year-old John Mason on Nov. 29.
Impending bad weather spurs caution warning from TPWA, LREC
With wintry weather expected to move in to Cherokee County on Thursday, the Tahlequah Public Works Authority and Lake Region Electric Cooperative are preparing for reports of outages.
To report outages, call the TPWA at (918) 456-2564 or at the after-hours emergency line at (918) 456-3591. The LREC can be reached at (918) 772-2526 or (800) 364-5732.
Season of sparkle
Continuing a tradition dating back 20 years, officials for the city of Tahlequah and Northeastern State University jointly flipped the switch Tuesday for Lights On at Seminary Hall.
Held at dusk in front of the venerable campus building, Lights On was hosted by Tahlequah Mayor Jason Nichols, and Penny Turner, wife of NSU President Steve Turner.
Rooming house closes
Operators of The Stepping Stone Rooming House closed the facility doors Tuesday evening, three days ahead of a city-imposed deadline requiring residents to vacate the property if the building wasn’t brought up to code.
Emma Presley and Robert Clark have run the day-to-day operations of the facility for about six years. Now, the two are gathering their own belongings and cleaning up the building so they can be out by Friday.
“I’m ready to move on,” Clark said Tuesday afternoon.
Local authors are gaining popularity
As self-publishing gains popularity, more and more local residents have added the title “published author” to their resumes.
Northeastern State University graduate and Tahlequah resident Dustin Mitchell recently released her children’s book, “Alivia’s Angels,” and has met with success during book signings at NSU, the Cherokee County Community Building and Stage.
RAD courses available by arrangement
When a woman is being physically threatened, a bit of knowledge can provide the margin she needs to defend herself and escape danger.
Such is the reasoning behind the Rape Aggression Defense program, which is offered locally by law enforcement officers and deputy marshals.
“Fortunately for our community, we have several RAD instructors prepared to teach the classes,” said James Flores, investigator for the Northeastern State University Police. “There are four instructors at the NSU Police Department, five at the Cherokee Nation Marshal Service, and one at the Tahlequah Police Department. We frequently work together when we teach courses.”
Accused child killer dies of cancer
A man accused of killing a 3-year-old child in Tahlequah last month died Tuesday morning, according to officials at the Cherokee County Detention Center.
Buford Ellison had been hospitalized in Tahlequah since early last week. Administrators at CCDC worked with District 27 prosecutors to have Ellison moved from the jail to the hospital when Ellison’s health conditions began to deteriorate.
According to police, Ellison was suffering from the late stages of cancer.
He and his common-law wife, Jeri Danyce Sanders, were arrested last month at the Stepping Stone Rooming House and accused of murder in the death of Sanders’ child, Dakota. Detectives claim a baby sitter realized Dakota had died several hours after Sanders left the boy’s “lifeless body” in her room.
City council extends Dumpster regulation compliance date
Tahlequah city councilors have given local businesses an extra year to comply with new Dumpster regulations.
Local businessman Bryce Felts has been asking the council to exclude businesses that existed as of June 3, 2013, from following the ordinance. He insisted the new regulations would cost businesses and the city too much money and wouldn’t solve the problem of containing and hiding trash.
- More Local News Headlines
- Twins again for 018