Indian Territory 1879
It was winter of the year 1879 in Indian Territory. The Federal Government was in a time where assimilation of the Native Americans was in force. Southeast Kansas and Northeast Indian Territory was still recovering from the 1875 Plague of grasshoppers or Rocky Mountain Locust which removed every spear of wheat, potato and vegetable leaving the people knocking at starvation’s door. Oklahoma Territory was cattlemen, railroaders, soldiers and settlers who lived within Indian Territory borders before settlement was legally permitted. Elias C. Boudinot was petitioning the government for the lands of the central part of Territory to be opened for settlement. Railroads were being built across the Indian Lands and the Five Civilized Tribes were working on the reconstruction for the Native Americans.
In a small settlement named Oolagah within Indian Territory on the fourth day of November there was born a young man named William Penn Adair Rogers affectionately called “Will.” Will was born into a prominate Cherokee Nation family. That young man grew up to be known as “Oklahoma’s favorite son.”
Indian Territory and Oklahoma
Around Will’s twenty-first birthday he and a friend headed to Argentina to be gauchos. He returned to the states and joined the circus, then found his way to Vaudeville.
When Will was twenty-eight years old Indian Territory became the forty-sixth state to join the Union. On November 16, 1907 it became known as Oklahoma which means “red people.” Will was on the road swinging his ropes and saying things like; “It’s a great country but you can’t live in it for nothing,” “A man that don’t love a horse, there is something the matter with him,” and “No man is great if he thinks he is.”
Then on a cool 25th day of November in 1908 he married Betty Blake of Rogers, Arkansas promising to settle down on a ranch in Oklahoma, after the last tour. It wasn’t long till Betty had changed her mind and he was on Vaudeville again, along with making movies, lecturing, writing newspaper and magazine articles, on the radio and eventually into politics. Betty was his manager and his greatest encourager.
Land and museum
In 1911 Will and Betty purchased the land in what is now called Claremore, Oklahoma. Perhaps it was to be that once promised ranch or maybe it was just a good investment, but that land now holds the Will Rogers Memorial Museums. The museum is located at 1720 West Will Roger Boulevard. The museum made from the native limestone opened in 1938.
The museum is made up of several rooms; West Gallery, Will Rogers Heritage Gallery, Charles Banks Wilson Gallery, Rotunda, Radio Gallery, Will’s Study, Mini Theatre, Diorama Gallery, South Gallery, Vista Room, Theatre, Children’s museum, Ropin’ Fool Gallery and the final journey.
Will Roger Museum Contents
There are works by Fredrick Remington, Wayne Cooper, Jo Davidson, Fred Stone, Charles M. Russell and Charles Banks Wilson, who first met and drew Will Rogers at the age of thirteen, throughout the museum.
Jo Moro makes use of the Diorama which was invented by Dauguerra and Charles Marie Bouton in 1823 to tell the life of Will Rogers in miniature.
Will’s study is an exact replica of his Pacific Palisades, California study with the desk, map, globe, typewriter and hearth. The original typewriter used by Mr. Rogers is also located in the museum along with sculptures of him typing away holding the typewriter on his knees.
There are videos of his time on Vaudeville, poster prints of his movies, certificates of events, comic strips and so much more to see in this well rounded museum.
There is a museum store that has an abundance of books on Will Rogers and the era that he represents.
More on Will Rogers
In 1935 Will Rogers and Wiley Post were in an airplane piloted by Wiley Post that went down in Barrow, Alaska Territory. Both Will Rogers and Wiley Post were killed.
In 1952 the famed “Route 66” was unofficially named “The Will Roger’s Highway” in honor of Will Rogers because he touted the road. There have been many other landmarks named for Will Rogers which can be too numerous to name.
Around Oklahoma territory you will hear quite often Mr. Roger’s quote on the weather; “If you don’t like the weather in Oklahoma, wait a minute, and it’ll change.”
The quote he is most remembered for it “I never met a man I didn’t like.”
Will Rogers Memorial Museum - Claremore, Oklahoma
Will Rogers Museum is located just off the toll road 44 in Claremore, Oklahoma. It cost $7.00 for adults. Phone number is 918-341-0719. Check out more information and directions at www.willrogers.com. It is a great stop when traveling from Tulsa, Oklahoma to Joplin, Missouri. It will take about an hour for the quick visit, longer is you read your way through and be sure to take the Scavenger Hunt.