When Gideon Morgan left Tahlequah, Rosamund House remained in his extended family. By 1900, his first cousin, Ellen Morris; her son, Hugh M. Morris; and other relatives, were living there. That branch of the family remained in the home long enough that it became known as the “Morris House.”
On March 4, 1904, the secretary of the interior approved the Tahlequah plat and appraisal of town lots, which allowed real property to pass from the Cherokee Nation to individuals. On May 15, 1908, for $239, Hugh Morris acquired title to Lots 2-10 in Block 22, which included his home, Rosamund.
Morris was listed as a farmer in the 1900 Census, but his economic interests extended beyond agriculture. Involved in multiple commercial ventures, he was a prominent city businessman whose name appeared frequently in the legal columns of the city’s newspapers.
In 1916, when Tahlequah’s growing population strained its water supply, Morris offered to sell “Morris’ Spring,” behind his home, which he claimed produced 250,000 gallons of sparkling water each day. City leaders were interested in the spring, but rejected his $6,000 price. His brown pointer, Jack, received a better reception in 1910, when newspapers throughout the nation reported his prowess as a fisherdog. Few minnows or crawfish escaped Jack, who trolled the spring-fed creek just back of Rosamund House.
By 1920, Morris had moved to Cookson, leaving his home to serve another crucial function in a town that had grown beyond its pioneering era and was acquiring the institutions of a modern city.
Dr. John Starr Allison, an 1895 graduate of Vanderbilt Medical School, moved to Tahlequah in 1910. He established the first hospital in the city, initially in his office, but about 1919, he moved it to Rosamund. Allison probably rented the building, for Morris retained its title.
Known as the Allison Hospital, the facility’s narrow stairwell made it difficult to move non-ambulatory patients to rooms on the second floor, but Gideon Morgan’s home served as Tahlequah’s only hospital for several years. It attracted patients from throughout the region for surgical procedures and recuperation.
On May 2, 1920, the facility was overwhelmed by residents of Peggs, a village of about 250, 12 miles northwest of Tahlequah. A devastating tornado had swept through the community, killing more than 70 people and injuring at least 100 others. The growing medical needs of the city soon outstripped the capacity of Rosamund House.
In October 1922, Morris and his wife, Pearl, transferred the property to Snowden Parlette, a successful Oklahoma City businessman and Harvard graduate, who had married Mary Trimble Morris in 1898 in Tahlequah. A member of the extended Morgan/Morris family, she was the subject of a biographical sketch of prominent members of the nation in Emmett Starr’s classic “History of the Cherokee Indians.”
The Parlettes never lived in Rosamund and sold it the following January to John M. Hackler, one of the original 1909 faculty of Northeastern State Normal School. Hackler was head of the college’s Training School, which provided practical experience for the school’s intern teachers and education for many of the city’s children. In the mid-1930s, Hackler served a year as the college’s interim president.
Until Hackler purchased it, Rosamund had been transferred within the Morgan/Morris family for nominal sums. In 1923, the Northeastern department head paid $3,000 for the house and the adjoining property. Why Hackler purchased the property is unclear, but if he planned to make it his residence, his goal was unrealized, for he sold it within a year. Perhaps the purchase was for speculative purposes.
In 1921, Robert K. McIntosh, former superintendent of schools in Bryan County, accepted the position of registrar at Northeastern. By 1926, he became the school’s first dean of instruction, a position he held until his death in 1945.
In January 1924, McIntosh obtained a $1,600 loan that allowed him and his wife, Dora, to purchase Rosamund. He, Dora, and their 10-year-old son were the first family to occupy the house not related to Gideon Morgan. Rosamund remained in the McIntosh family until Dora’s death in 1984.
By that time, the building was approaching its century mark and was in deteriorating condition. When Northeastern State University purchased the property in 1985, it was an eyesore across Seminary Street from the home of the university’s president. Demolition would have been the most efficient course of action.
W. Roger Webb, who became president of the school in 1978, had inherited an institution burdened with overwhelming bonded indebtedness, declining enrollment, a tarnished public image, and low morale. He never considered demolition, and when the university acquired Rosamund, that option was rejected.
The house was virtually reconstructed. Since almost nothing was square or plumb, the renovation of the historic home cost more than demolition and new construction. Bob Patrick, Physical Plant director when Rosamund was renovated, claimed the building was a “rotted shell when NSU acquired the house ... the general construction of the house was poor. You could stand on the second floor and rock back and forth and make the house rock.”
Webb, who recognized that Rosamund was an integral part of the city’s past and the heritage of the university, approved the expenditure of funds to preserve it. He also gave it a new mission as the administrative office of the vice president of University Relations and as luxury accommodation for special guests to the university.
Dr. Don Betz, then-vice president of University Relations and later president of NSU, was housed in the building, but the special guests were responsible for adding a new chapter to the Rosamund’s history.
Beginning in 1986, Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Edward Albee was the first celebrity to stay in the house during his visit to the NSU campus. Former President Gerald Ford lodged there in 1987, and his successor, Jimmy Carter, spent a night in the house two years later. Other guests included journalists Cokie Roberts and Helen Thomas, and “Roots” author Alex Haley.
President Ford’s visit was probably the most memorable. A drunk looking for a place to sleep it off during the night alarmed the former president’s Secret Service detail. After determining he was not a threat, the agents found him a place in the city jail to sober up.
Webb’s evaluation of the historic importance of Rosamund was confirmed on Sept. 6, 2007, when Gideon Morgan’s home was selected for inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places.
Victoria Sheffler, then university archivist, said placement on the National Register affirmed Rosamund’s role in the development of Tahlequah. as well as NSU. “This is another link to our past. Our Seminary Hall is also on the National Register of Historic Places, and it was built around the same time as Rosamund,” she said. “They both are part of the history of Tahlequah, the Cherokees and Northeastern.”