|Me in front of our house on Bigheart.|
I moved to Pawhuska when I was in the fifth grade, and lived there until I graduated from college. It was a town of about five thousand people then, although it's smaller now. Current population is about 3500 (Citi-data.com). It was one of those places that people describe as "good places to raise kids." As a teenager, I wasn't so sure about that. There never seemed to be anything to do, and everyone knew you, so you couldn't get away with anything. As an adult, I know it actually was a good place to grow up in. I was safe there, there was almost no crime, and there was always someone around to help out if I got into trouble. We never bothered to fix the broken lock on our front door, and we left our car unlocked on the street. That seems quaint to me now.
Pawhuska is the county seat of Osage County, and but no longer the largest town (Skiatook, a Tulsa suburb, is now larger). Osage County was once the Osage Indian Reservation, land they were allotted in the Indian Territory. Their home had been in the plains of Kansas and Missouri, where they were noted for their hunting skill and their physical beauty. The land they were given in Indian Territory was inferior to their homeland, but it had a hidden asset: oil! Underneath the surface of the land lay one of the largest pools of oil in the country. When it was discovered, the Osages became the wealthiest people in the world.
It was a mixed blessing. They got a lot of money for the oil that was produced, but such quick wealth is hard for anyone to handle. They were also descended upon by speculators and crooks of every kind, all intent on separating them from their money. Many whites got rich off the Osages. There was even a series of killings for the headright money, which led to an FBI investigation.
Pawhuska has been suffering the fate of many small towns around the country: it's losing population and trade to the cities around it. Jobs are fewer in towns like Pawhuska, and the people who remain do much of their shopping in the larger towns. The last time I was there, half the stores in the downtown area were closed and boarded up. It had the look of a ghost town.
However, there are signs of rejuvination. A look at the links below show that the people of Pawhuska are celebrating their past, and looking to the future. I expect to see positive changes from my last visit the next time I'm there.
If you're interested in finding our more about the Osages and Pawhuska, I recommend the book The Osages: Children of the Middle Waters, by John Joseph Mathews. It's a very good and complete telling of the story of these people and what they went through.
For further information about my stay in Pawhuska, read about the boy scout troop I belonged to, and about my friends, the Longstreets
Links to related sites:
Google Map of Pawhuska:
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This file was last updated on 5/6/2009.