A metro OKC news weekly carried a story last week that has me more and more angered. Normally I would not get so worked up, but this has got me wondering about Oklahoma "history" and "preservation" efforts.
This issue involves a mound of dirt alongside I-35 in Norman, Oklahoma that has a cute little name of Mount Williams. During WWII it was part of a military installation and was used for target practice. The issue has been brought up now because developers wish to remove the mound of dirt and build on the site. This has caused the subject of historic preservation to come up.
Here's the part that gets to me: "...the memory of Mount Williams, and the naval presence, will be preserved, even if the hill is razed....OU Foundation has pledged $100,000 for keeping the memory alive....the site will be totally documented....with historic and contemporary photographs, archeological excavation of Mount Williams, an archival collection and lastly a historical marker near the site of the old gunnery range."
Will someone take a Reality Check please! ONE HUNDRED THOUSAND DOLLARS to preserve the memory of a mound of dirt?
The Battle of Ingalls was the biggest shootout there ever was in the old west, yet the only marker present there is one erected by local folks. There is an OHS historical marker nearby on hiway 51. Three Oklahoma lawmen were killed in that shootout with the Doolin gang. Just think of all the other gunfights around the state, lives lost, history of significance!
Oklahombres was organized for the preservation of lawman and outlaw history in Oklahoma. We have been active since 1989. Over the years we have met people in person, and have heard from others by email, etc. These people are often the children or grandchildren of Oklahoma lawmen who served for years and years, and some who were killed in the line of duty. Some of these people witnessed crimes by notorious bandits. At Oklahombres we do our best to preserve that history by telling their stories.
It just seems unbelievable to me that $100,000 is being made available to preserve the memory of a mound of dirt. Is it really historic preservation? Or is it something else? Lets hear what you think.
When I was a kid my father was always working on one of the three Master's degrees he finally earned and every summer was spent in Norman. I remember the Naval presence, both the south and north bases. I still recall the chatter of the machine guns firing into that mound. The thing is probably solid lead. Anyway, after I-35 was built, and even to this day, I, amongst others, have had to tell tourists and even Oklahoma residents, including Normanites, why the hill was there, including telling them a naval base had once been at Norman. The point I'm trying to make is that the mound of dirt may not have any great significance to you; it certainly does to many around Norman and to the families of those who served there. And, the shame of the thing is that there has not been a historical marker at that site or any effort to have it registered on the National Historical Register.
And, before you get your dander up, you are absolutely right about the State's total lack of effort to preserve, protect, or even recognize sites like Ingalls. You're also right that the $100,000 effort to preserve the couple of tons of bullets the archeological dig will uncover is a total waste of money; money which could be used by volunteer groups actually doing something. For instance, the Murray-Lindsey mansion south of present Lindsey, dating to the mid-1870's, is probably the oldest dwelling still standing between the Cherokee Nation and Fort Sill, and is the only reminder of what was an important community in Central Indian Territory, is in bad need of repair. Over the years, the house passed from the family to the Oklahoma Historical Society, and then because of budget cuts, the Society gave it to the City of Lindsey. The City lacks the funds for repairing the structure so the Lindsey Historical Society has undertaken the task. LHS is without funds and relies on donations, but guess what, the Chickasaw Nation can't see that the home is part of its heritage either and refuses to help even though the home belonged to a prominent Indian Territory family. A hundred grand would fix that baby for another hundred years, but the state will never assist because it does not lie along an interstate or in a developer's way and the Chickasaw Nation will not because they don't believe there will be sufficient traffic to support a casino.
This State has no clue to the number of tourist dollars it is losing because its political leaders are too dumb to assist local folk, and organizations such as we, in preserving and promoting the state's history. Right now, Oklahoma is gigantic truck stop"”a bed and breakfast stop for the nation. Hardly a person driving through has any idea of the richness of Oklahoma's history, particularly the 19th century history. If they knew, say through information at stopping points, or other means of advertising, and if the site was pointed out and accessible, a whole host of people, and their dollars would be filtering into the byway communities of this State.
Those are my thoughts, and if it don't suit you, don't ask.
Well, I did ask, and your thoughts do suit me. I understand and appreciate the heritage of the naval station at Norman during WWII. When my father was discharged from the Navy the naval station in Norman was where his father picked him up to return home.
I couldn't agree with you more about the lack of understanding about what many people refer to as "heritage tourism," which is the fastest growing segment of the tourism industry. Oklahoma just does nto seem to get it.
For researchers in particular, the OKC metro vicinity is on the verge of becoming a heritage tourism corridor. Begining in Guthrie, the Territorial museum offers a small but excellent research library. UCO in Edmond has what they call the "Oklahoma Collection." The Natl Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum on 63rd in OKC has a research center and has plans to build a large new building for an expanded research center. And soon, OHS will be in it's new History Center, which will include the research archives, etc. And in Norman at OU is the Western History Collection.
There are many other resources around the state for both researchers and visitors. But as you very clearly point out, to most travelers through our state, Oklahoma is just a truck stop or an Indian casino.
Thanks for your input.
My husband (from PA) was stationed in Norman for his Electronics school in the early 50's. He said people did not believe him when he told them he was stationed there.
I am not an Oklahoma tax payer but I do agree there are other things more important that should be preserved. I am a Native Oklahoman though and hope to be again one day.When I was a child daddy used to tell us stories of the old days as we walked through the woods, searching for arrow heads and artifacts from the "old days". We are living in NM at present.
100,000 seems like a lot for memorializing the site, because it will probably consist of a monument or marker. This is falling in line with the newly enacted law that private enterprise can buy you out if they decide they want your land (eminent domain). There are lots of places that could be recognized, but Oklahoma will need to provide decent highways and roads to get there first. Several years ago, OU did an excavation in Seminole county, found lots of artifacts, there was a civil war battle there, but there was never any mention of publicly acknowledging that area. I guess it is up to individuals and organizations to fund, or everything will be based in OKC and that is your gov. handling it.
Another case of human enroachment upon our very own natural resources..
This distruction of Mout Williams disgust me..
It was a monument, as well as a natural masterpiece.
I lived in central Oklahoma as a child, and have passed by that dirt mound many times..
I just don't know what to say, other than Oklahoma is not Wyoming, and in our state of Wyoming, we have a different meaning to the word "Historic Preservation"...
There is a famous rock, about 150 miles from where I live, known as Indepenedence Rock, a small mound the same size of mount Williams, that has the carvings of all the immigrants that were passing through the rockies on the Organ trail. In our state, we don't even let developers go near that site and build. Keeping the history of that area is of supreme importance, and that's what historic preservation should really mean!!
The other thing is the enroachment upon our natural resources, Why do we think that tornadoes occur all the time there, and not many in the mountains??
In Wyoming, We don't remove a bunch of mountains to make way for development! The mountains serve as a barrier, decreasing the MPH of the winds, and therefore, preventing the lifespan of tornadoes. Oklahomans in Norman should be concerned about this, because the more of these features are removed, the more likely the town will be hit hard by tornadoes, especially the larger ones.
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