Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Tulsa before the railroad: Taylor Postoak Home

One of my original ideas in setting up this is blog is that I would talk about Tulsa's architectural history. So far I have done nothing on that. Here is a start. I want to examine some of the evidence for buildings in the Tulsa area prior to the arrival of the railroad. The pictures below were taken from the Beryl Ford Collection, provided online courtesy of the Tulsa City County Library.

Modern Tulsa got its start with the arrival of the railroad in 1882. Tulsa was initially the terminus of the railroad and loading point for cattle driven up from Texas. A small town quickly grew up around the rail station.

Tulsa's history, however, did not begin then. Plains Indians had, particularly the Osage and Wichita lived in the area for centuries before 1882. Folsom points have been found in the area. The areas architectural history started with the arrival of the Creeks in the 1830s. The Lochapoka Creek set up a traditional Creek village centered around a square near present day 18th and Cincinnati. The American Civil War was disastrous for the Creek tribe, as it became a Creek Civil War as well. The Lochapoka village was burned and the inhabitants were driven away, into Kansas. After the war ended, the villagers returned, but they did not rebuild the village. Instead they built scattered cabins and houses. Very little remains from this period.

Below is one of the photographs of buildings from this period in and around Tulsa.

According to the Beryl Ford collection, this is the Taylor Postoak home in about 1865. It was located about 1 mile south of the current site of Rader Juvenile Detention Center, on the south side of the Arkansas River. According to an interview with his son, Lincoln Postoak, Taylor was a full blood Creek who was removed to Oklahoma from the East and who fought for the Union during the Civil War. Lincoln was born in 1868, so the if the date on the picture is correct, he is not one of the children in this picture. The children are identified as great granddaughters Bessie and Amy Fife with their father Soda Fife. I, however, have doubts about the date of the picture. Most of the homes in the area were burned during the Civil War. This is an awfully substantial house to have been built in the few months after the war ended. Note that the leaves are still on the trees so this was taken in the summer or very early fall. This photo is surely from at least few years later. The problem is according to Lincoln, by 1868 the family had moved to the vicinity of Coweta.

Regardless of date and identity, this a well built house with clapboard siding of at least two rooms. It is built on a cut stone foundation. The shingle covered roof incorporates the large front porch. The tree and the horse in the foreground block what appears to be a smaller log cabin with a stone chimney. Foliage is visible between and behind the two houses, so these two buildings are not connected. You can't tell what is behind the clapboard, but the Will Rogers Birthplace has similar clapboard siding on a log cabin (see image below). According to the Beryl Ford collection, the Postoak home later burned.

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