Oklahoma OK

Previous to this trip researching about my father’s life for my novel, Tracking the Human: nobody’s a long time, I had never spent time in Oklahoma. Whenever I heard the word “Oklahoma”, I thought of the musical.

Oklahoma! is the first musical written by the well-known team of composer Richard Rodgers and librettist Oscar Hammerstein II. The musical is set in Oklahoma Indian Territory outside the town of Claremore in 1906. The original Broadway production of Oklahoma! opened on March 31, 1943 and was a box-office smash. (source: Wikipedia).

One summer during my childhood in Kansas City, Missouri, my parents bought season tickets to the Starlight Theatre in Swope Park. Starlight Theatre has an outdoor stage and seating. It has operated continuously since 1951. Having been renovated several times over the decades, Starlight currently has a capacity of about 8,000 people.  I saw Oklahoma!  at the Starlight Theatre.

https://www.kcstarlight.com

I consider myself tone deaf and have a poor memory for music. But somehow, even after many decades, I can still hear the lyrics of Oklahoma! somewhere inside my head.

The lyrics come bouncing back, instantaneously when anyone mentions the word Oklahoma.

Ohhhklahoma,
where the wind comes sweepin’ down the plain
And the wavin’ wheat can sure smell sweet

When the wind comes right behind the rain.

But I only remember the opening lines (above) and the ending

You’re doin’ fine, Oklahoma!
Oklahoma O.K.

As a child, I never thought much about Oklahoma as being the birthplace of my father, W. Lon Hutchison, and the home of my grandmother, Letha Yates. She was occasionally mentioned and even visited us once in Kansas City. There was never any mention of any grandfather, aunts or uncles.

For me, Oklahoma was a mythic place, based on the musical, much as Kansas is considered by some to be mythical based on the book, The Wizard of Oz.

Having visited a small corner of northeast Oklahoma looking for information about my father and his family, do I think I “know” Oklahoma? Of course not. The words of the musical are indelibly linked in my mind and have not been erased or subsumed by my visit.

 

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.

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.

Love Pirate plans South Sea Honeymoon

In search of information about my father W. Lon Hutchison and his family, for my novel, Tracking the Human, I went to the archives of the Tulsa Oklahoma Public Library.

Shocking discovery: my grandfather E.S. Hutchison was shot and killed by a jealous husband on 14 January 1925 in front of the Tulsa Oklahoma post office.

The Love Pirate story (my grandfather’s nickname assigned by the newspaper) continues three days later on the front page of the Tulsa Daily World on January 18, 1925.

Headline: South Sea Honeymoon New Life in New Land Denied to Mrs Purdy.   “She and Hutchison had planned to marry in St Louis and sail in a few days for South America to start life anew….A silver honeymoon upon blue southern seas. Eternal romance. In the fragrant balm of the tropics. Forgotten troubles. New friends of a new world. These were lost to Mrs. Helen Paul Purdy Tuesday night. In their stead the whisperings of a thousand gossips and the shouts of a thousand newsboys in a hundred cities came to mock her. ”

In the news story, according to Mrs. Purdy, she and my grandfather were planning to get married in two weeks and then relocate to somewhere in South America.

The events surrounding the shooting of my grandfather E. S. Hutchison in front of the post office in Tulsa, Oklahoma, would be almost unbelievable in a television soap opera.

The next blog will share more about the aftermath of his murder.

Your comments are most welcome!  Thanks for reading my blog.

Love Pirate

Searching for my grandfather E.S. Hutchison’s obituary in the 1925 edition of the Tulsa Daily World on the microfiche machine in the Tulsa Public Library archives, I almost fell out of my chair.

Bold headlines blasted out Love Pirate Killed by Jealous Husband. On 14 January 1925, while sitting in his car in front of the post office in downtown Tulsa Oklahoma in the afternoon, my grandfather, E.S. Hutchison, age 43, had his brains blown out by a jealous husband.

The next day January 15, 1925 there were three stories related to the murder of my grandfather on the front page of the Tulsa Daily World.

Both the librarian and myself were stunned to read these headlines. I almost couldn’t breathe but was captivated by the headlined story. The tale of the “Love Pirate’s” murder went on and on in the Tulsa Daily World newspaper. I couldn’t stop reading.

The Love Pirate story continued on the front page of the Tulsa Daily World for a week and several days more on the back pages.

The photos on the front page are of Charles Eugene Purdy, upper left, who shot and killed my grandfather. The man on the lower left is my grandfather, E.S Hutchison. The photo on the right is of Helen Purdy. The photos in the middle are the two children of Helen and Charles Purdy.

The text underneath the photos reads “Pure love, illicit love, hate, jealousy, despair, murder insanity and sorrow. All of these things and more in the respectable appearing pictures in this group. What a story there is in them. Think of the people in these pictures six months ago. … They seemed just ordinary people with the trials and troubles of ordinary people. ..”

The story on the right says Purdy will claim innocence due to temporary insanity. In the story below the photos Mrs. Purdy explains how she lost affection for her husband.

Shocking story!  The more I research the more outrageous  information I uncover about my family.

Still MORE on the “Love Pirate” story in my next blog.

Comments welcome! Have you discovered shocking information about your own family?

 

 

 

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!