History in the Making

Welcome back.   I often write about towns like Coffeyville, Kansas whose history, including the famous shoot-out with the Dalton Gang, has made the community a popular place for tourists. Dewey, Oklahoma is another place that draws tourists who come to see the Tom Mix Museum and the Dewey Hotel with all its memorabilia which I personally enjoy. The replica frontier town out at Prairie Song is also a great spot to visit if you’re interested in the old west.

Bartlesville has its own share of historic places that make you feel you are stepping back in time. The Phillips Petroleum Company Museum downtown is one place I often recommend along with the Bartlesville History Museum next door and of course the Frank Phillips Home and Woolaroc which are favorites of both locals and tourists.

Now there is another piece of history in the making that we may not live to see become a tourist destination but which will definitely become one over time so here’s the scoop. A multi-million-dollar upgrade to Highway 60 between Bartlesville and Pawhuska not only opened up beautiful scenic views of Osage County but also made this part of the county more accessible for businesses. Several weeks ago, I told you about the new Osage Casino and Hotel being built two miles outside of Bartlesville on Highway 60 west. Sitting on top of a hill overlooking the town, it will be a draw from the opening day.

The Osage Tribe has also broken ground on another big casino and hotel along Highway 60 just about one mile east of Pawhuska in an area where you will also find a new bank next to a new dentist’s office near Sonic, McDonald’s and a Dollar General.

Yes Highway 60 will never be the same and there’s more. In downtown Pawhuska new out of town money has bought up several vacant buildings which are being renovated. It’s all good but for you older locals who may remember that sleepy little county road called Highway 60 winding its way up and down through the hills of the Osage, well it’s gone! Driving around Bartlesville and Pawhuska you will see many cars with out-of-town plates and you will find these people buying gas, eating out and filling the hotels. Again, it’s all good but this growth has especially transformed Pawhuska bringing as you well know much needed tourist dollars.           

This week I’ll end with a profile of one more new business I just discovered along Highway 60 that is benefiting from this economic development. It’s called the Dam Place General Store and Campground and their buildings are on the highway going toward Ponca City just a block north of Kihekah Street. The store is in a new metal building and it is filled with food and snacks for travelers.  They have very clean restrooms and across the street there is an RV campground complete with three cute little cabins which overlook the valley below. I am giving the Dam Place General Store and Campground this plug because this is not your everyday enterprise. No friend, the organization behind this business is Helpwork, Inc. a not-for-profit that helps adults with disabilities in Pawhuska. They are currently assisting thirty-five people some of whom work in the store and at the campground. I’ve also seen these folks picking up trash on streets and sidewalks downtown. This is a great new organization giving a helping hand to those that need it so I hope you will check them out the next time you’re in town.  Bartlesville has a similar program called AbilityWorks of Oklahoma which offers quite a bit more in training, employment and housing for folks with disabilities. They also run a giant resale store and shredding service at 501 S. Virginia that is well worth a visit.

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

Woolaroc’s Cow Thieves and Outlaws Reunion

Welcome back.   Last week I told you about the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum’s annual Western Heritage Awards which is always one of my favorite events during the year. If you missed the article, the E/E still has papers available or check out my website  www.originalbuffalodale.com.

This past weekend I had the opportunity to attend another big gathering a little closer to home out at Woolaroc when they held their own annual fundraiser . Frank Phillips started this gathering back in 1926 as a thank you to the many local people who frequently helped out on the ranch. Grit Graham, a former sheriff who had become the ranch manager, put everything together for the event, even offering invitations to known outlaws with the promise that they would not be arrested while they were there. As a precaution, guns had to be left at the entrance gate and no fighting would be allowed.

Frank invited lawyers and bankers as well as close personal friends such as Will Rogers and Gordon Lillie (aka Pawnee Bill) who ran a famous wild west show with Buffalo Bill. Leaders of the Osage tribe who had made Frank an honorary member also attended bringing a group of ceremonial dancers with them. With this diverse group of guests, the party was immediately a big success and became an annual event at Woolaroc.

Known as the Cow Thieves and Outlaws Reunion, the gathering grew from three hundred to over one thousand guests with many politicians and industrialists coming from as far away as New York City to attend. Workers would start at sun-up grilling buffalo down at Clyde Lake which lies below Frank’s Lodge. Trick ropers and riders from the 101 Ranch and Pawnee Bill’s Wild West Show would also start showing up along with Osage Indian dancers all of whom were part of the entertainment that Frank and Grit had arranged for.

I couldn’t find the exact date but after many years it appears that the Cow Thieves and Outlaws Reunion came to an end sometime after Jane died in 1948 or with Frank’s death in 1950  Moving ahead in time 47 years, when planning began for Bartlesville’s Centennial Celebration in 1997 several of the committee members including Bill Creel and Tom Sears remembered Frank’s party and decided to revive it just for that year. With a generous grant from Dorothy Glynn Adams, they were able to recreate the fun and excitement of the earlier events complete with a wonderful barbeque dinner and live music from Michael Martin Murphy all held at Clyde Lake.

The Centennial event was so popular that the Board of the Frank Phillips Foundation, led by Bob Kane who was the Board President at the time, decided to continue the party as a fundraiser for Woolaroc. Ever since then it has become one of the best parties of the year, usually attended by around nine hundred people. Last Saturday was no exception as there was a big crowd on hand to enjoy good food, live entertainment and best of all a wonderful setting out at Clyde Lake.  I can tell you Frank Phillips would have been happy and if you missed it don’t worry planninghas already begun for next year.

Before I close, I want to mention the OSU Dental Hygiene Clinic is open again at Tri County Tech and folks this is great news for anyone without dental insurance. The clinic provides cleaning and x-ray services at a fraction of the usual cost and will also refer you to area dentists if you need additional work. I recently went to the clinic myself and the only drawback is that it may take a bit longer. However, with a licensed dentist supervising I felt comfortable and safe throughout the process so if you’re due for a check-up or know of someone this could help give them a call.

Another wonderful community resource is the OLLI (Osher Lifelong Learning Institute) program offered in Bartlesville by Oklahoma State University. Through this program you can take classes in everything from cake decorating to American history. Courses are offered both in person and online at little or no cost so this is an easy and affordable way to expand your horizons. The Bartlesville Library has all the scoop.

Till next time I’ll see ya down the road………………… P.S. If you want to learn more about Woolaroc Gale Kane’s t book Frank’s Fancy which has been sold out is being reprinted and will be available in the Woolaroc gift sho