Boy Scout sculpture holds special memories for former Pawhuskan

Kathryn SwanJ-C Correspondent
Boy Scout sculpture holds special memories for former Pawhuskan

The 5-foot-tall Boy Scout sculpture standing sentinel in front of the Osage County Historical Society Museum holds special memories for former Pawhuskan Marvanette Sowell who now resides in Espanola, N.M. It was created by her late husband Bill to recognize the first Boy Scout Troop in America and the only troop to be formed under a British Charter. The statute was the brainchild of late Kiwanis leader Joe McGuire and was dedicated on July 5, 1976. Bill Sowell also created the Oklahoma Veteran’s Memorial in Oklahoma City.

The Sowells moved to Pawhuska from Lubbock, Texas, in 1972.

“Bill and I met in art school at Texas Tech. We graduated in 1967 and were married a year later,” said Marvanette. “Bill did his sculpture and casting in the back yard and began selling his work to the same gallery where Jim Hamilton and John Free had their work. They saw how well Bill’s work was cast and wanted to see if he would begin casting for them.

“Jim was the first one to approach Bill. As it turns out, the wax they used came from Barnsdall. Bill wanted to visit the Barnsdall plant so he could purchase some of this wax. Not familiar with the area, Jim and Dorothy (Hamilton) served as hosts. Bill fell in love with Pawhuska. As he and Jim were making their way back through Nelagoney, Bill spotted an empty building that eventually became the Turkey Track Bronze Works.”

Marvanette explained that Bill’s sloppy signature was the catalyst for the company’s name.

“He would write ‘Sow,’ then draw a slanted vertical line through the ‘w’. Once completed, his signature resembled a turkey track.

“We looked like a family from the Grapes of Wrath when we loaded up our little trailer and brought baby daughter Sabra to Pawhuska. A few years later Jimalee was born.”

The couple quickly immersed themselves in the Pawhuska community and became active members of the Methodist Church where Bill became a Sunday School teacher. They became life-long friends of Raymond and Betty Russell who were also Texas transplants.

“Because we had no family here,” explained Marvanette, “we became an extended family, especially for holidays. Our children were about the same age, so it was a natural thing to do.”

Marvanette said for a number of years, the foundry was a good operation, providing employment for several locals. Eventually, the company was sold to a Tulsa investor.

“Bill did some consulting work for him, but it wasn’t the same and the foundry closed. Many of Bill’s clients were oilmen along with several cattlemen. When the economy crashed, so did our business.”

After 17 years in Pawhuska, the Sowells moved to an art community in Santa Fe, N.M., where they set up a gallery. The sluggish economy also affected New Mexico so the Sowells branched out and sought work where they could find it. Bill worked as a petunia specialist at Latigo Lights in Santa Fe from 1991 to 2004. Marvanette began designing and selling appliqued apparel. The couple eventually settled in Espanola, N.M.

Bill’s health began to fail after countless exposure to chemicals associated with bronze castings. Undaunted, he continued his art by utilizing his computer. On Aug. 27, 2013, at the age of 73, Bill’s valiant battle with COPD ended.

Marvanette said they considered Pawhuska their true home.