The Drummond Family and Pawhuska Oklahoma History

Welcome back Over the past three weeks I have been writing about local history for the enjoyment of not only you  my loyal readers but also the new hires moving to town and the dozens of film crew employees who are here temporarily. These stories include Bill Hale who was otherwise known as the “king of the Osage Hills” back in the 1920s,and  a profile of the Mullendore family, the ranching empire they built and the tragic murder which remained the most famous unsolved mystery in the southwest for over four decades.

This week I’m bringing you another story about a family which now has many members but back in 1887 there was only one in Pawhuska and his name was Fred Drummond. This Scottish born boy emigrated to America at the age of 16 after his father died. With three thousand dollars from his mother he first went to Texas where he purchased a herd of cattle but a drought wiped out most of his herd and his money. Seeking a new opportunity Fred moved to Pawhuska when Oklahoma was still known as Indian territory and got a job as a store clerk. Many of his customers were Osage Indians and Fred learned their language earning their trust and loyalty. After several years of long hours and hard work he was able to buy the store which was called  the Osage Mercantile Company. A few years later he sold that store and bought out the Price Mercantile Company in Hominy, Oklahoma which was also very successful. Income from the store allowed him to invest in several banks and eventually Fred even became president of Farmers State Bank.  When Hominy was incorporated in 1908 he became the town’s first mayor in recognition of his importance in the community.

While he was still working in Pawhuska Fred had met Adeline Gentner who was from Coffeyville, Kansas and on July 6, 1890 the two were married. Over time Fred and Adeline had six children and for twenty-three years all the research I have done indicates that Fred was a happy man, enjoying his family, expanding his business interests and developing a reputation as an extremely honorable man “ with absolute integrity.”  The Osage tribe  went so far as to give him an Osage name and he was equally trusted by the white settlers moving to the area.

Fred insisted that his children receive a college education and instilled them with his code of honor, setting them on a path to success in their own right. As they married and established families the Drummond name grew and then grew again with the following generations. The history of Oklahoma would not be complete without mention of their accomplishments.

Today the Drummonds are recognized by the Land Report which ranked them as 17th of the 100 largest land owners in the country with several branches of the family operating ranches in Oklahoma and Kansas.

On another note from Leonardo Di Caprio eating pizza at Ree Drummond’s place to Martin Scorcese’s wife shopping at Lorec Ranch for custom western furniture and décor, my sources tell me the movie people are here in full force and already filming scenes in several locations. It has been reported that the cost of the project could be over two hundred million dollars before it wraps up.

I’ll bring you more next week and until then I’ll see ya down the road…

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…      

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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…………….

Mermaid Sitings

Welcome back. Traveling along the Gulf of Mexico around the Corpus Christi area for the last four months I’ve brought you stories about Boots Adams and Phillips 66, museums and all the different species of birds among many other subjects I hope you found interesting. Though my time here is done before I go, I’ll leave you with a follow-up to my story about my sighting of two mermaids a couple of months ago which many of you commented on. Whether this was due to lack of water, too much sun, excitement upon meeting billionaire Tom Benson’s only surviving daughter or even me being nuts, it’s documented that Christopher Columbus saw them and so did I.

After some research on the subject, I learned that mermaids were first spotted in the Philippines way before Columbus so this week I’m taking you back thousands of years to when legend has it that the king of the Philippines married a creature from the sea whose beauty was unmatched. From their union seven daughters were born and after the king’s death these daughters departed going to different places around the world. Now these seven daughters weren’t normal people. Like their mother from head to waist they were human and also very beautiful with long hair stretching below their waists. But from the waist down these girls had the body of a fish. They also shared another characteristic that their mother didn’t have; they were able to take on human form, changing the fish like part of their bodies into legs. Of course, over the years with the writing of many book about mermaids these stories have grown and turned into legends.

In Rockport where the mermaid legend is strong most stores carry books about what mermaids are like and how to capture one. Towels, clocks, glass bowls and clothes, you name it stores like The Mermaid Ranch and Treasure Island have everything you can think of with a mermaid theme. At the Rockport Daily Grind coffee shop owner Michelle McMahon tells me she wouldn’t be surprised if mermaids in human form have been in her store.

Yes friends, these mythical creatures are well known down here so before you make a decision think about it. You too may have met a mermaid or as history calls them, a siren when in human form. But beware, the history books also say that if you see a mermaid a shipwreck may lay ahead in your future.

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

The Loss of Another Legend

Welcome back.  Legends and heroes. Yes, my friends, with the passing of sheriff, war hero, cowboy and plain good guy, George Wayman fit the bill when he was inducted into the Osage County Hall of Fame. Born August 5, 1923 George started off working as a cowboy and as a roughneck in the oil field. He joined the army during World War II, becoming a tank commander under General Patton. He earned a bronze star for valor and more awards would follow for his service in the Korean War where he fought in the famous Pork Chop Hill battle.

After leaving the military he began a twenty-four-year career in law enforcement. I visited with the sheriff at his home in Fairfax, Oklahoma many times over a sixteen-year period up until his death, capturing interviews about many of his most famous cases on film. There where good stories about times when he and his staff broke a case and bad ones

 when murder was involved. One case that stuck out was the murders of Buck and Maudie Cheshewalla in 1988. The pair were killed on Osage land for just a couple of dollars and although that area was out of his jurisdiction the sheriff helped solve the case.

The Dixie Mafia in Tulsa was also dumping bodies in Osage County on a regular basis and George’s role in investigating these cases was so critical that his office was recognized as the best Sheriff’s Department in the state by both the Professional Policeman’s Association and the State Legislature. This honor even drew the attention of President Jimmy Carter who invited George to come to the White House for a day.

During our visits George also told me about the cases he couldn’t forget, the ones that were never solved. The disappearance of Cindy Kinney was one of these. A good student, a cheerleader and beloved by her family, when the sheriff was called to the crime scene all he found was a half-eaten sandwich and her purse. Although a new bank was under construction right across the street from the laundromat where she was last seen, there were no witnesses. All of the leads that came into the sheriff’s office were pursued but still nothing he told me. She had vanished right on Main Street in Pawhuska in broad daylight with dozens of people around and I could tell by talking with him that George was still replaying the scene in his mind.

Of course, another unsolved murder I’ve written about is the shooting of prominent rancher E.C. Mullendore III on September 26, 1970. The sheriff and I talked about that case along with his relationship with Jonathan Kwitney who wrote the first book about the shooting, The Mullendore Murder Case.

When he came to Bartlesville back in 1974 Kwitney was a reporter for the Wall Street Journal covering mostly organized crime stories. He had convinced his bosses in New York that the story of the murder would make a great book but George told me Kwitney had not interviewed many of the local people involved with the case. Not Dale Kuhrt, the ranch manager and the first on the scene. Not Mike Burkhardt or his wife Rubyanne who lived on the ranch and were the last people to talk to E.C. before his death. George said he had spoken briefly with Kwitney but knew of few others who had.

I have put my interviews with George into a film and when we are all safe from the coronavirus, I hope to show the film at several locations including the Bartlesville library so stay tuned for that.

As for George, his funeral was held last Thursday in Fairfax and unfortunately, I was still on the road so I missed it.  I must say it was a true honor to have known him.

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

Exploring the Padre Island National Seashore

Welcome back. Over the years I’ve highlighted the places to see not only in Bartlesville but in all the surrounding towns. I’ve also taken you to New York City to the east and L.A. to the west.

You regular readers have also followed me north to Helena, Montana and south to Tucson, Arizona. This week I’m taking you to a new place where around 380 bird species live along with

5 different species of sea turtles. Coyotes, white-tailed deer, black-tailed rabbits, lizards and diamond backed snakes all call this place home as well. Along the 70 miles of shoreline dangerous currents and undertow have swept many a man into the sea where Portuguese men of war and stingrays await. This place is called Laguna Madre and it’s one of only six hypersaline lagoons in the world where the ocean water is extremely salty.

So where is this place I hope you’re wondering. Well friends, it lies about six miles off the south coast of Texas and it is part of the Padre Island National Seashore which by the way is one of over 400 parks in the National Park system. Something else I didn’t know is that Padre Island is one in a string of islands that stretch from Maine down here to Texas known as barrier islands. These land masses protect the mainland from the brunt of ocean storms and because they lose a lot of sand in the process, they change shape with the weather.

The history of Padre Island goes back to Native Americans who fished and hunted in the area and includes Spanish explorers who landed here. Even today remnants of their shipwrecked boats sometimes wash ashore. Cattle ranching came next when settlers arrived and then during WWII the Navy used part of the island as a bombing range. Today Padre Island is explored by millions of visitors from across the country and throughout the world. Park rangers told me it’s bumper to bumper for miles along the beach during the summer season but with year around camping and mild temperatures I saw plenty of campers.

If camping out is not your thing don’t worry, nearby Port Aransas and Mustang Island offer hundreds of condo rentals, motels and R.V. parks with full-service hook-ups, all just a few miles from the park’s entrance.

Of course, seafood restaurants line the streets there and traffic on the streets is about fifty percent cars and fifty percent golf carts. Legal on the town streets and beaches, I’m telling you these fancy carts are everywhere and it seems like rental places are on every street corner. So, if you’re looking to fish, go beach combing or just enjoy the tranquility of nature, I guarantee a trip to Padre Island will make memories for a lifetime.

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

Rest in Peace George Wayman

I just learned that former Osage County Sheriff George Wayman died yesterday. He was a great guy and also a great help to me when I was writing Footprints in the Dew. He was one of the last people still around who worked on the Mullendore murder case and was very generous in sharing his thoughts with me. Look for his life story in my next column.

The Bass Brothers’ Private Island

Welcome back. With lots of ground to cover first up will be the fabulously wealthy Bass family of Fort Worth.  In 2020 Forbes Magazine ranked the Bass brothers as the 30th wealthiest people in the United States and provided the following biographic information:

  • The four Bass brothers, Sid, Edward, Robert and Lee, each inherited $2.8 million from their oil tycoon uncle Sid Richardson after his death in 1959.
  • The brothers have built on that wealth ever since, partnering with investing legends including David Bonderman and the late Richard Rainwater.
  • In January 2017, the Bass brothers sold oil and gas interests in Texas’ Permian basin to Exxon Mobil for $5.6 billion in stock.
  • Most of their holdings are private, ranging from hedge fund investments to stakes in aerospace firm Aerion and ice cream maker Blue Bell.
  • The brothers are also active philanthropists, giving millions of dollars to universities including Yale, Stanford and Duke.

In addition, they own San Jose Island, a twenty mile long, sometimes five-mile-wide piece of land that takes two boat rides from the mainland to get there and it’s just about as remote as it gets in this part of the Gulf of Mexico. For fishermen, bird watchers, folks looking for shells or just wanting to relax this place is it. No restaurants, bathrooms or other services are available on the island, the Jetty Boat as it’s called will take you there and if you miss the last boat back at 6:30 PM you’re in trouble because this is private property and no camping is allowed.

On my way there I discovered that the Jetty Boat service was started in 1968 after the federal government declared that beach land in the United States belonged to the general public. This proclamation opened up properties along the sea shore from the water’s edge to what they call the vegetation line and gave the American people millions of acres to explore. An amazing place San Jose Island is one of those treasures where dolphins swim right alongside you and birds eat from your hand.

On nearby Mustang Island I found communities of thousands of so-called snowbirds spending the winter. Snowbirds are northern folks looking for warmer weather and often staying in travel trailer cities that are everywhere along the 18-mile sandy beach there. This is also the home of Port Aransas, a shipping port that locals tell me is rapidly becoming just as important as Houston’s big port. From San Jose Island you can see the big ships coming and going, it’s quite a sight. My tip of the week is to go in the off-season which is October-February when only the snowbirds are here. If summer weather and lots of people is your thing, you’ll find them at Port Aransas and Mustang Island during the rest of the year.

Moving on to another subject I want to thank all the folks who have been sending me leads on the unsolved mystery of the cheerleader who went missing in Pawhuska back in 76. Although many of them don’t pan out, it’s tips like these from ordinary citizens that help cops solve crimes and they appreciate them. A recent tip was about a man who kidnapped a 16-year-old girl in Bartlesville in 1976 and then raped her both physically and mentally. Before he was caught, he went on a wild kidnapping spree. After he was convicted, the man managed to escape and embarked on another kidnapping reign of terror until he was captured in Sapulpa where he took more hostages while trying to get away. Answers from him about the missing cheerleader would be hard to come by because while he was in county jail the suspect managed to set fire to his clothing, mattress and anything else that would burn in his cell. He was transferred to Hillcrest Hospital with burns covering most of his body and the hospital examination revealed that he had swallowed a lightbulb, toilet bowl cleaner and paper clips, anything to try and escape from jail. But the burns did him in and when he died, he took any possible knowledge of the Cindy Kinney case with him. Thanks again for all the tips and I’ll follow them up.

I’m also following a story about a local boy who through hard work and with the support of his family became a top staffer at the very important House Armed Services Committee. Jason Schmid has served in one of the top spots in our government for the past four and a half years but that all came to an end last week when he abruptly resigned after watching the horrible events on January 6th. Google Jason Schmid for more information.

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

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