Sitting on a 460-acre plot of land in
Gilcrease Museum houses one of the world's most extensive and renowned
American and Western art and artifacts. It is also said to be home to
several resident ghosts.
Once owned by oilman, art
collector and philanthropist, William Thomas Gilcrease, the estate was
preserved for the public after his death in 1962.
William Thomas Gilcrease was born in
Robeline, Louisiana on February 8, 1890 to William Lee and Mary Elizabeth
(Vowell). His mother was of Creek Indian ancestry and shortly
after his birth, the family moved to
where they lived on Creek Nation tribal lands.
father built a log home near Eufaula and ran a cotton gin in the
nearby community of Mounds. Thomas received his education in a
one-room school house under the tutelage of Creek poet Alex Posey. Under Posey’s guidance, Thomas was given a fine education that would
fire his imagination for the rest of his days.
At the turn of the century, the federal
government dissolved the Indian Nations land, distributing the 160
acre parcels into private ownership. Just nine years old at the time,
Thomas, being of 1/8 Creek heritage received his acreage, which was
located about twenty miles southwest of
Tulsa. Appearing to be little more than a dry dusty area of the Osage Hills
that would dramatically change in 1905 when drillers struck oil in the
His land, sitting
astride the huge Glenn Pool Reserve, made Gilcrease a
multi-millionaire by the time he was twenty. Though struggling
in the beginning, in the cut-throat business of oil tycoons, he soon
proved to be an astute businessman.
On August 22, 1908,
Gilcrease married Belle Harlow, a member of the Osage tribe, and the
couple had two sons – Thomas, Jr. in 1909 and Barton Eugene in 1911.
By 1913, Thomas was
looking for a place for his growing family when he noticed a new stone
house northwest of the boomtown of
Tulsa. The property was owned by Flowers Nelson, a
lawyer, and his wife, Carrie, who had acquired the property in 1909
and built the house of native sandstone which was perched atop a hill
overlooking the booming town of
Tulsa. Gilcrease liked the stone house, with its large wrap around porch,
so much, he soon made an offer on the property and on December 26,
1913, the offer was accepted. The house, along with some 80
acres, soon became known as "Toms Place" and "The Little Stone House
on the Hill." Also sitting on the property were a garage and a
After purchasing the house, Gilcrease
began to travel extensively, especially to Europe. While there,
he was so inspired by the art in the historical museums, he vowed to
start his own collection. When 1922 rolled around, it was to be
a year of significant events in his life, when he officially founded
the Gilcrease Oil Company to manage his holdings, purchased his first
oil painting, and was sued for divorce by his wife of 14 years.
Two years later, in
February, 1924, Gilcrease entered an agreement with W.O. Ligon and his
wife to sell 13 acres of his land. The deal was made under a
"contract for deed” and Thomas allowed them to live in the rock house
while he traveled abroad. But the Ligons defaulted on the payments
and the land defaulted back to Gilcrease in 1928.