According to Greek mythology, a phoenix is a long-lived bird that is cyclically reborn. Associated with the sun, a phoenix obtains new life by rising from the ashes of its predecessor.
The legend of the phoenix parallels the rebirth of the Osage County Historical Society Museum as its rises from the early morning fire of Jan. 9.
OCHS members and guests were provided exclusive never-before-seen photos of the museum’s interior immediately following the fire as well as a chronological tour of recovery efforts. OCHS Director Frederick Drummond and President Jack Shoemate expressed appreciation for the quick response of Pawhuska’s Fire Department and EMT personnel.
"Their actions reduced the amount of damage the fire produced and saved hundreds of irreplaceable artifacts," said Shoemate.
Contractor Jerry Loftis of J&L Associates revealed the museum’s new, open-concept which will include upgrades and a much-needed 1,920 sq. ft. annex.
The Historical Society recognized three main entities for their outpouring of support and whose contributions are enabling the Museum to truly rise from the ashes.
"The OCHS Directors are so appreciative of efforts by the City of Pawhuska, Osage Nation and Pawhuska Business Development Center for coming to our rescue," said Shoemate. "You have no idea how much we appreciate your generosity. What you did was a labor of love for a lot of people."
Plaques honoring their efforts were presented to Mayor Roger Taylor on behalf of the City, Principal Chief John D. Red Eagle on behalf of the Osage Nation and PDBC Coordinator Cindy Helmer and Strategy Center President Larry Thrash for Pawhuska’s Business Development Center.
Shoemate told the audience the museum has come a long way thanks to the collective efforts of many individuals. While impossible to recognize everyone directly or indirectly involved with the museum’s resurrection, special certificates of appreciation were awarded to City Manager Paul McAlexander, Pawhuska Fire, Police, EMT, Electric and Water Departments, Steve Tolson, Jerry Loftis, Lloyd Smith, Commissioner Bob Jackson, Larry Taylor, Jim Swan, Rhonda and Scott Kohnle and the Prue School.
Shoemate explained how Prue School students meticulously cleaned and restored the museum’s computers, enabling valuable documents to be retrieved. American Legion Auxiliary Post #198 received the President’s Award. Accepting the award was Auxiliary President Joyce Allen.
"This remarkable organization spent the past year volunteering to dust, sweep and mop the historical depot," said Shoemate. "Graduate students from Tulsa University’s Museum of Natural Arts, along with Gilcrease Museum representatives, are offering invaluable advice in restoration efforts of smoke-affected paintings. Most importantly is the outpouring of support from the public"
According to Loftis, the 1920s-era railroad depot has been structurally repaired, traces of the fire removed and rotten wood replaced. The next phase will target electrical wiring along with new plumbing and three separate heating and cooling units. The new annex will include storage and a work room for preparation of artifacts.
"When the Osage County Historical Society Museum is completed, it’s going to be a shining jewel," said Shoemate.
Auctioneer Jim Taylor, assisted by wife Debbie, conducted the live auction which included a limited edition Boy Scout sculpture by the late Jim Hamilton, "What It’s All About"; an autographed Tracy Letts’ playbill and book from "August: Osage County"; framed movie poster for the 1943 black and white western short "Oklahoma Outlaws"; custom-framed poster of Wahzhazhe ballet shoes by Joe Don Brave, hand-painted Native American gourd by Dr. Robert Chesbro, hand-painted horned skull by Jim Siggins, silver plated cowboy hat chip ‘n dip set, and an autographed copy of the fresh-off the press book, "American Bison." In addition, Osage County cooks Debbie Reed, Judy Thomas, and Paula Elliott offered delectable treats of a home-made pie, apple dumplings, and a dozen meat pies.
OCHS Directors Garrett Hartness and Tennie Sloan coordinated the silent auction which featured more than 50 items.
New Historical Society directors are Jerry Franks, Ann Leatherman, Frank Maher and Linda Simms. Incumbent directors include Frederick Drummond, Rauk Friend, Patty Gambill, Garrett Hartness, Lu King, Roger Lloyd, Frank Lorenzo, Mark Simms, Shirley Roberts, Jack Shoemate, Tennie Sloan, Kathy Swan, George Weston, Julia Wilson, Nancy Woodyard and Member Emeritus, Judy Taylor.
Museum staff members include Paula Elliott and Manager Barbara Pease. As Pease was presented a bouquet of flowers by OCHS Director Shirley Roberts, the audience affirmed their support of her outstanding leadership with a standing ovation.
Sherry Williams won the Pendleton blanket door prize. Jo Johnson was delighted to hold the winning raffle ticket for the Pendleton Diamond Ranch quilt.
Troop 43 prepared and helped served the steak dinner with assistance from members of Wah-Sha-She Masonic Lodge #110. Gordon Johnston provided outstanding dinner music.