Talking to the Dead

I had gone to the Tulsa County Court House to try to find out more about my grandfather’s killer. Instead at an annex, I found probate records of my grandfather’s estate. I was surprised by the size of my grandfather’s estate, (over $200,000, a sizable fortune in 1925) and that he had disinherited his first born child, my father.

Disappointed that I hadn’t been able to find out more about my grandfather’s killer, my next stop was nearby – the Roseville Cemetery.

Through online records I found out that my father had been buried at the Roseville Cemetery. I got there while the cemetery was open, but the office was closed. In the very extensive grounds, I could not find my family’s burial plot. There was no guiding information posted. It would have to wait for the next day.

Hutchison plot, Roseville Cemetery, Tulsa, Oklahoma

The next morning, the office was open and I got directions to my family’s burial plot. With some difficulty, I eventually found the Hutchison family plot. The Hutchison plot was  right next to the Purdy family plot, which was the surname of my grandfather’s killer.

I avoid cemeteries and have never attended a funeral, but I stayed awhile, talking out loud with everyone who is buried there, including my dad. There were gravestones for my grandfather, grandmother, great uncle, uncle, aunt and my father.

Gravestone of my grandfather, the murdered “Love Pirate”

I went from grave to grave, greeting each person. I spoke with each of them and shared what I was doing. I told them I was researching my father’s history to understand the man I didn’t know and that I was writing a novel, Tracking the Human, based on events in his life. I explained to them that my project was a work in progress for reconciliation for all of us.

Gravestone of my father

Driving out of the Rosehill Cemetery, I noticed a gun shop and firing range directly across the street.

Gun shop across the street from Roseville Cemetery

My next stop would be Krebs, Oklahoma, a very small town just outside McAlester Oklahoma, where my father was born in 1907. I had no particular leads, but thought I would go and take a look at his birthplace.

In the wrong place?

 At the archives of the Tulsa Public Library, I found the shocking news that my grandfather E. S. Hutchison had his brains blown out by a jealous husband in front of the post office in down town Tulsa Oklahoma in 1925. Then a few days later in a speech at the Tulsa City Club, his brother, L.L. Hutchison denounced my grandfather as a womanizer and said he got what he deserved. As Ye Sow So Shall You Reap.

I wanted to try to find out more about my grandfather and his murderer, so I drove downtown to the Tulsa County Court house.

At the County Court house, I tried to trace what happened to the shooter, Charles Eugene Purdy, who killed my grandfather. I couldn’t find out if he was convicted or not. Perhaps I went to the wrong department.

In a very big thick black book, that was too heavy to lift, I searched and did find handwritten references to probate records for 1925. But the records were not kept at the county court house.

To see the probate records, I was sent to an annex in a temporary building in an industrial area. Thanks to the GPS, I found it on the outskirts of Tulsa. The annex was a nondescript building with a small parking area. There were no clear signs indicating what was in the building. I knocked on a few doors and finally found the probate records annex.

After writing a request for the probate records following my grandfather’s murder, I sat down on a metal folding chair and waited. I felt isolated and alienated in the bare surroundings with no signs indicating where I was or what was the purpose of the space I was in. I controlled a feeling of hopelessness telling me to get out of there.

Just as I was wondering if I was in the wrong place or if the files no longer existed, a clerk came into the room carrying a thick book of records. Glancing quickly through the files, I shouted out in a very loud voice, What? The startled clerk opened the door to the adjoining room to ask if I was okay. I reassured him that I was.

What caused me to shout out loud and startle the clerk?

Find out in the next blog.

Family betrayal

Having gone to Tulsa Oklahoma to find out about the death of my grandfather, I was shocked to learn how he had died. On January 14, 1925, in downtown Tulsa, Oklahoma, my grandfather, E.S. Hutchison, age 43, had his brains blown out by a jealous husband ( Love Pirate blog).

Sitting in the Tulsa Public Library archives, I continued reading about the ongoing family saga on microfiche in the Tulsa Daily World newspaper.

To help the reader go back in time to events of 1925, here’s what was happening in the world four days after my grandfather was shot and killed in Tulsa Oklahoma.

On the inside of the Tulsa Daily World, the article on Mussolini goes on to say that Mussolini and his Black Shirts saved  Italy from a “Red Overthrowal” and that Mussolini had no “Napoleonic ambitions” and was eager to return to “Constitutional Government”.

And if you were wealthy, here’s the car you could buy.

 

 

 

 

On the same day, 18 January 1925, my grandfather’s murder is back on page one of the Tulsa Daily World Sunday final edition.

Also on page one were excerpts from a speech by my grandfather’s brother. Five days after his brother was shot and killed, L.L. Hutchison made a speech at the Tulsa City Club, as retiring president. His speech was headlined on the front page of the Tulsa Daily World , “As Ye Sow So Shall Ye Also Reap”.

L.L. Hutchison said that the sorrow his family felt most bitterly (about the death of his brother, my grandfather), was due “entirely to a wrong philosophy of life”. He went on to say, “You can’t sin and get away with it”. He claimed that his brother E. S. Hutchison got what he deserved for chasing other men’s wives. He reminded his audience that the wages of sin are death.

My great uncle denounced his own brother at a public meeting and on the front page of the Tulsa Daily World. My great aunt Jessie Hutchison (wife of L.L.) had my father committed to an Oklahoma state insane asylum. Lon Lewis Hutchison denounced his own brother saying he deserved a violent death because he was a womanizer.

How much more rejection would I uncover in this family? The more  information I found on my USA road trip, the more urgent became the necessity of working towards family reconciliation. Generation upon generation of vengeance had to be stopped.

What have you found out in your family research? Can we write our way to family reconciliation?

Please share your thoughts.  Thank you.

Searching for an obituary, Tulsa Oklahoma

The shock of finding out that my father W. Lon Hutchison had been committed to the Eastern Oklahoma State Hospital at Vinita by his own aunt in 1934 was somewhat softened with time and travel. I had never been to Oklahoma and was learning to use the GPS on my iPhone for the first time.

I drove to Tulsa from Vinita. I had an appointment with a research librarian made by email. Tulsa is the second largest city in Oklahoma. For most of the 20th century, the city called itself the “Oil Capital of the World”.

Tulsa has an exceedingly complex maze of overlapping freeways. I made a few wrong turns. I was thankful that the GPS on my phone redirected me. I found my way to the annex where the Tulsa Public Library archives were stored.

I had sent emails to the librarian that I was looking for information about my grandfather, E.S. Hutchison. Through cemetery records online, I found out that he had died in Tulsa in 1925. Although I was focusing on my father’s life, I thought that finding information about my grandfather might help me understand what happened to my father and why he never talked about his birth family.

The librarian opened up the microfiche of the Tulsa Daily World  newspaper to the year 1925 to look for my grandfather’s obituary. The librarian advised me to be patient, that it might take some time before I would find anything about him.

I sat down at the microfiche machine, rolling past the first days of the headlines of January 1925. I prepared myself for a long, patient search for information about my grandfather. What I found, within a few minutes, was shocking to me and to the research librarian assisting me.

Read about what I found in my next blog.

Please share any moments of research shock you may have had.

Thanks. See you in my next blog about the Love Pirate.

Eastern Trails Museum

I had found my way to Vinita, Oklahoma, to search for  more information about my father W. Lon Hutchison who had been committed in 1934 to the Eastern Oklahoma State Mental Hospital by his aunt. In search of family reconciliation, long after his death, I am writing a novel Tracking the Human: nobody’s a long time, about events in my father’s life.

I had gone to the public library in Vinita to find out more information and searched through a file of clippings about the Eastern Oklahoma State Mental Hospital.

Next to the library was the Eastern Trails Museum. The Museum is made up of memorabilia, organized into sections, including kitchen, general store, post office, media, Civil War, ranching, Native Americans.

I have no idea why a museum in Oklahoma would be called “Eastern Trails”. Perhaps because it is located in Eastern Oklahoma?

Samples of exhibits at the Eastern Trails Museum:

Cowboy and ranching gear, including collection  of barbed wire

 

 

 

Exhibit of Native American crafts

 

 

 

 

There was no display of the Eastern Oklahoma State Mental Hospital, although it had been the largest employer in the county from the opening in 1913 until its closure in the late 1990’s. Perhaps not surprising. What community would want to publicize a state mental hospital?  Volunteers who run the Eastern Trails Museum said that they would like to help but could come up with nothing but a sketch of the buildings at the Eastern Oklahoma State Mental Hospital.

Drawing of the Eastern Oklahoma State Mental Hospital complex

The people in Vinita were friendly, but it was mostly a cold trail. Onward.

Next stop? Tulsa Oklahoma, the second largest city in Oklahoma. I had contacted the Tulsa Public Library by email to ask for help from the research librarians.

Get your kicks on Route 66

I had driven from Lawrence, Kansas, straight south to the town of Vinita, Oklahoma.

Vinita was the home of the Eastern Oklahoma State Mental Hospital, where in 1934, my great aunt Jessie Hutchison had her nephew, my father W. Lon Hutchison, committed. I had only discovered this disturbing fact a few days before, while searching online at the Lawrence, Kansas public library. I drove from Lawrence to Vinita to find out more.

On its website, Vinita, Oklahoma describes itself:

With a population of nearly 5,700 friendly and 2 awfully ornery residents, Vinita is a wonderful city that is deeply dedicated to merging a very proud pioneer and Native American heritage with modern conveniences and amenities. . . it is nestled in northeast Oklahoma between Joplin, Missouri and Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Main Street, Vinita, Oklahoma

Vinita is proud of being on Route 66 known as the Main Street of America or the Mother Road, established in 1926, which was one of the original highways within the USA highway system. Children, growing up in the Mid West in the 1950’s like me, all had heard the song Get Your Kicks on Route 66.

I went to the local public library. The librarian gave me a file of newspaper clippings about the Eastern Oklahoma State Mental Hospital. Here’s the first paragraph from the Vinita Daily Chieftain January 29, 1913 about the opening of the Eastern Oklahoma State Mental Hospital in 1913.

Newspaper clipping from the Vinita Daily Chieftain, January 29, 1913

“Three hundred persons, bereft of their mind, arrived in this city yesterday afternoon from Norman (Oklahoma) to become inmates and patients in the state’s new home and hospital for such unfortunates. An effort was made to bring them to their new home quietly… but the news of the arrival spread rapidly and the special train was barely away from the station before the ever morbidly curious crowds were on their way at break neck paces, afoot, in buggies, automobiles and horseback to the spur east of town where they were unloaded.”

Have you ever traveled on Route 66?

Have you been to Vinita, Oklahoma?

Were any of your relatives ever in the Eastern Oklahoma State Mental Hospital?

Your comments are most welcome.  Thank you!

 

 

Jammed

Researching about my father’s life for my novel Tracking the Human: nobody’s a long time, I was shocked to discover he had been committed by his aunt to the Eastern Oklahoma State Mental Hospital.

I drove to Vinita, Oklahoma and found the abandoned mental hospital. With no intention to trespass, I parked near the entrance gate to take photos. Within minutes, a man drove up and told me photos were not allowed. I asked why but got no answer. I explained that my dad had been a patient at the mental hospital. The man suggested I go to the Forensic Center, a small concrete block building near by, to ask if they had any information about my father.

At the Forensic Center, I waited, standing in a cold stark entry hall with no chairs. The receptionist called a clerk, who asked why I was there. She seemed somewhat surprised to meet anyone asking for information. I explained I was looking for records about my father who had been a patient of the Eastern Oklahoma State Mental Hospital. She wrote down his name, W. Lon Hutchison, when he was at the hospital (1934-1937), and disappeared behind a closed door.

I paced the floor in the grey, cold, empty hall. I was all alone. The receptionist had disappeared. The clerk returned to the lobby telling me she had found something about my father on microfiche. I was very excited and eager to hear whatever she had found. She hesitated and then said the machine had jammed and she couldn’t read the record. She said it might take several days to get the machine fixed. Although frustrated that I had come so close to finding something, there was nothing I could do but thank her and say I would return in a few days.

Now that I was in Vinita, I decided to look around and see if I could find any information related to my father.