Filming About to Begin For Killers of the Flower Moon Project

Welcome back and with the movie having such a huge impact on the local economy, I thought my continued report on it being shot in Pawhuska deserved to be first up. Several dozen equipment trucks parked side by side, some pulling large restroom trailers, out of town caterers serving meals to well over one hundred people and dozens of cars with tags from just about every state.   Yes, my friends I’ve covered a lot of high-profile murder trials around the country along with the grand opening of shows in New York City and travels with celebrities so I can speak from experience when I say this major film shoot is special. I’ve seen entire warehouses filled with 1920s cars, milk trucks from back in the day when milk was delivered to your door, you name it. If Pawhuska’s Main Street doesn’t offer something that is needed to recreate the 1920s era, the movie people are bringing it in. Millions of dollars are being spent on period items and setts which includes everything from clothing to the construction of a replica train station downtown and an Indian village out on the prairie. You can mark my words that the year 2021 will be remembered and talked about long after you and I are gone.

Another story which comes from the Osage that many people find just as enthralling as the Killers of the Flower Moon is the Mullendore saga. If you read last week week’s column I wrote about the beginning of their story, now in the 1960s where I left off the empire is growing. The patriarch of the family Gene Mullendore is running the operation with the help of his son E.C.  Gene’s daughter Katsy Kay and her husband John Mecom have just bought the New Orleans Saints professional football team. The Mecom oil business is also growing and both of Gene’s kids are having children of their own. Life is good.  All that changed on September 26, 1970 when E.C. was brutally beaten and shot between the eyes in his own home on the ranch. His murder was still unsolved three years later when Gene died of gangrene after burning his feet in the scalding water of a hot springs spa in Arkansas. Although she was living in Houston Gene’s daughter Katsy took over the running of the ranch but the land buying stopped and in order to save the main homestead she was forced to hold two huge land auctions which whittled the once massive spread down to well under 100,000 acres. Nevertheless, Katsy remained committed to her  heritage and the Cross Bell persevered as one of Oklahoma’s great historic ranches.

Then on December 6, 2016 Katsy’s second husband and the man she called the loved of her life, James Andrew “Jimmie’ Whittenburg died and just two months later Katsy herself passed away on February 21, 2017. Jimmie had been an extremely successful businessman in his own right and together the pair had traveled the world. Their deaths set in motion what looks like the end of an empire with the possibility that the ranch has been sold outside of the family. Of course there is much more to this story but maybe it’s best left to rumor.

As for me, Pawhuska is going to be my home till the end of July so I hope to see ya there or till next time I’ll see ya down the road…      


Killers of the Flower Moon: Film Shoot Prepatations Continue

Welcome back once again to your unofficial report on the events happening right now in Pawhuska, Oklahoma along with Part Two of the history of the Mullendore Cross Bell Ranch. Ree Drummond’s Mercantile has drawn a crowd since day one about five years ago and now with several hundred film crew folks in town every day for the upcoming two months I can tell you the line to get in to eat at her place hasn’t gotten any shorter but again I have heard no complaints. Many may ask just what is the story of Osage women being killed by white men to take the land and income from oil that their headrights entitled them to and I can tell you this is the theme for the movie so here’s the scoop.

It was a ruthless band of killers who terrorized the Osage from the 1890s through the 1920s led by a man who enjoyed being called the “king of the Osage Hills”. His real name was William Hale and by all accounts he had no scruples when it came to his desire to acquire riches and power.  A man standing 5’8”, weighing 165 pounds and always neatly dressed, his domineering personality drew men of similar values to follow him.

In just a few years after arriving in the Osage Hills Hale rose from nothing to becoming a multi-millionaire buying land, cattle and horses and wielding enormous political influence. How did this uneducated drifter from Texas who lived in a tent in Fairfax, Oklahoma gain all these assets in such a short time?  By murder is your answer and friends for twenty years his band of ex-cons, fugitives from the law and downright killers for hire threatened the Osage people.

A commission as a deputy sheriff gave Hale access to the jail where if a prisoner was to his liking for a job, he would post the man’s bond and get him a lawyer in exchange for a killing. Many times after the deed was done the killer himself would also be murdered. Hale’s main army of cutthroats consisted of loyal family members who were willing to perform any act he ordered. Another ally and close friend was the mayor of Fairfax, Oklahoma who most local people knew was the head of the Klu Klux Klan in the area. The mayor kept Hale informed about any investigations into his activities and also set up wealthy Indian women as targets for him whichusually resulted in their death.

There is much more to report on the extent of Hale’s criminal behavior but my space is limited. Hopefully you can tell from this brief summary why this tragic story needs to be told.  The film will be called Grayhorse after a real-life Indian village near Fairfax and look for the king of the Osage Hills to play a big role in it.

Up next, another king of the Osage but this time a law abiding one.

It was December 26, 1926 when Gene, the hard driving son of Erd Mullendore, married Kathleen Boren. Two years later with a two-million-dollar advance on his inheritance he purchased Kathleen’s father’s ranch in northeast Osage County beginning what would eventually become the four-hundred -thousand-acre Cross Bell Ranch. The ranch was run first by Gene and then later by his son E.C. who was born in 1932. While Gene acquired several properties on his own, by all accounts the real land buying started in the 1950s when E.C. was helping him with operations. Their land acquisitions continued until September 26, 1970 when tragedy struck.

Next week: murder and bankruptcy stopped the growth of their ranch and I’ll answer your questions about just what happened to the 1920s murderer Bill Hale.

Till next time I’ll see ya down the road…………….

Killers of the Flower Moon Filming in Pawhuska, OK

Welcome back to the unofficial report on the status of the filming of Killers of the Flower Moon. Although it looks like most of the actual filming will take place in Pawhuska, the majority of the journeymen working on the project are calling Bartlesville home.     Local hotels are housing most of these workers but come May 1st, a date you heard right here first, several hotels will be completely reserved for additional workers coming in for the project. Yes, friends only in the Examiner you are learning that from May1st   through July 9th it looks like the actual filming will begin. From the corner of Kihikah and Sixth street going east the street will be transformed into a scene from the 1920s. As businesses along that section of Kihikah will be closed, business owners are already being compensated for lost income and changes to their buildings. Awnings and signage are being removed and replaced with awnings and signage that is appropriate for the 1920s. A couple of blocks down the street on the other end of Kihikah a railroad station is being constructed across the street from Allen Brothers Feed and rail is being laid down to make it look authentic.

All the available storage space in Pawhuska has been filled so the old Siemen’s building in Bartlesville is being used for storing stuff as well and I’m told they may also be buildings sets inside. 

The major stars in the movie have been seen around Pawhuska and my sources tell me that Leonardo de Caprio has been staying at a bed and breakfast called The Oilman’s Daughter. I checked out this lovely place which is probably the nicest in town and found some interesting history about it. If you are considering an overnight stay here this b&b might turn out to be a bit famous when the film is released.

In addition, I have learned that De Caprio has also visited several local attractions including taking a tour of Woolaroc.

As for the economy in the area several million dollars have already been spent on production costs and May 1st is still more than a month away.   With all this activity I was surprised to find that not everyone coming to Ree Drummond’s Mercantile was aware of the filming but when word gets out the wait for lunch there is liable to be five or six hours and it’s not far from that now on some days. I must say that not one of the hundreds of people I have sold books to in Pawhuska had any complaints about the food and with so many stores nearby for shopping most didn’t mind the wait.

Pawhuska, Oklahoma, it’s the story of a town that has seen both good times and bad times and now with the success of the Mercantile along with the filming of a big-time movie the fortunes of this small town can go nowhere but up. I plan to be there more and more often as the start of filming approaches in May, autographing books at Lorec Ranch next door to the Mercantile.  

Meanwhile if you find yourself in Pawhuska come by and say hello.                

Till next time I’ll see ya down the road…………….

Welcome back.  During the next few weeks while filming starts up on Killers of the Flower Moon on weekdays, I plan to be hanging out in Pawhuska to bring you, my readers, the most up to date information on the progress of the movie. Starting with this week. I hope you find this interesting.

The Hometown Appliance store on Kihekah which sits just a stone’s throw from Ree’s Mercantile has been a family run business forever.  I discovered that they have moved temporarily to another location and their big building has all its large windows papered over so you can’t see inside where out of town production people have been preparing the building as a shooting location for the film. Large trucks loaded with props have been parked around town and sightings of Robert De Niro and Martin Scorsese along with many other actors continue to be big news in town. Apparently, most of the actors involved with the film have rented homes in town but the journeymen working on the project are staying in Bartlesville.

Lots of people who are interested in both the film and Ree Drummond have been coming to town and although there hasn’t been a line for breakfast at the Mercantile you will still have to wait at lunch time. But if you read last week’s column you know that new stores continue to open so shopping while you wait is no problem.

With Oklahoma’s spring weather coming what better way to spend a day than taking a drive to Pawhuska which the Ben Johnson Museum calls home and where stores like the Krazy Cow and Lorec Ranch  Western Furniture are also located. If it’s cowboy you can find it in Pawhuska.

So back to that road trip. Depending on which direction you’re coming from another stop along the way would be a place I know you’ve been to before but  maybe not recently and that is Woolaroc. Along the drive to the museum at this time of year all the animals are out having fun including lots of babies. With the rotating exhibits at the museum I can guarantee you will see something new Leaving the parking those of you who know Bob Fraser the CEO of Woolaroc who is retiring might want to stop by his office and thank him for the great job he has done keeping this much loved institution alive and well.

Till next time I’ll see ya down the road…………….