My husband and I went on a road trip to Osage County, Oklahoma Friday – such is the life of retirees. If you’ve never been in that area of the country, it is the rolling hills in northeast Oklahoma near Pawhuska. We were on a quest.
Recently we both read the book Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI by David Grann. https://www.amazon.com/Killers-Flower-Moon-Osage-Murders-ebook/dp/B01CWZFBZ4/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1529854292&sr=8-1&keywords=killers+of+the+flower+moon+by+david+grann The Stillwater Library invited Mr. Grann to speak at several of their workshops and I was pleased to have attended one. Mr. Grann is a New York Times Best Selling author with several titles to his name. After reading the book it became an obsession to find out all I could about this part of Oklahoma history that was not taught in the classes I took in school.
After the Trail of Tears, the Native Americans were moved from their homes and placed on reservations in Oklahoma before it became a state. The rolling Osage Hills were considered land unwanted by farmers – until oil was discovered there.
In the 1920s the Osage tribe became some of the richest people in the world due to the oil beneath their feet and soon members of the tribe were cheated out of their headrights to the oil. Many were murdered or just disappeared. The FBI was in its infancy before J. Edgar Hoover came into power and his agency was put in charge of finding out what happened to the Osage members.
Osage County is the largest county in Oklahoma. It is northwest of Tulsa, green, hilly and picturesque. It can be one of the hottest areas in the country when real summer hits. When we were there on Friday it was lovely. The weather in the 80s, the grass was green, and the hills rolled as we traveled down two-lane highways getting the flavor of the countryside. There were oil wells around every corner – many still operating – others idle with parts missing. Horses roamed the hills and small towns dotted the landscape. We drove to Gray Horse, Oklahoma and found the cemetery where many Osage are buried and found several headstones with the date of 1923 etched into their surface. It was a bad year for the Osage and that date populated the tiny cemetery. The cemetery was peaceful, and we spent a lot of time roaming around reading names and dates.
The weather was beautiful as we trekked across northwest Oklahoma that day. The sun shone, and the winds were light. The cemetery was well taken care of by the people proud to call this place their own. I thought it ironic that an oil well lay idle just up the hill from the cemetery.
We enjoyed some time in the Osage Tribal Museum in Pawhuska before heading to Gray Horse. It is just up the road from the stately Osage County Courthouse. Check it out sometime.
Our history, like many others, is not always as accurate as it should be, but the people are resilient. It was a beautiful day in the state I call home even if some of its history is lacking.