Founder, Gilcrease Museum in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
The founder of the Thomas Gilcrease Museum in Tulsa, Oklahoma, was Thomas Gilcrease.
Thomas Gilcrease was born on February 8, 1890, son of William Lee Gilcrease and Mary Elizabeth Vowell. The children were one-quarter Creek Indian. He was the eldest of fourteen children. As a part of the American Indian resettlement program, the family was moved from Louisiana to Bixby, Oklahoma.
1894 was the year that the Creek Indians closed their Indian roll, so only the parents and the first four children were included on the roll with head rights. The remaining children could not be enrolled and therefore did not qualify for headrights for themselves.
William L. Gilcrease was a storekeeper and was murdered during a robbery of his store November 23, 1913. Thomas Gilcrease was the eldest son and so he became the head of the household. He entered the oil business, buying and selling leases, and started making money. Thomas moved his mother, Mrs. W. L. -Mary Elizabeth- Gilcrease, his sisters Florence and Lena, and several members of the family to 920 Ann street in Winfield during 1915. This was so they could and would further their education. He had hoped they would follow the example he had tried to instill by his own experience in attending the country schools. He was an avid reader and read every book he could find in the school library.
The Winfield City Directory for 1919 shows that they had moved to 705 East 16th street. The Gilcrease family continued to live there thru the 1935 directory which shows that the daughter Jewell was living there alone while working as a clerk for County Relief. The city directories show, at various times, all of the children except four boys, Thomas, Ben, Connie, and Perry living in Winfield. City directories of that period do not list children under the age of 21.
Thomas Gilcrease bought his first home in Tulsa in 1914. He engaged in the oil business. He moved to Long Beach, California, and continued in the oil business. He participated in the Signal Hill development where he made a lot of money. In 1926 he moved back to Tulsa. He had married and divorced twice. He loved Indian and American History and collected it all his life. He founded and endowed the Gilcrease Museum and Foundation in Tulsa, Oklahoma with his collections. He died May 6, 1962, at Tulsa, Oklahoma.
The other Gilcrease children were:
Edward, born 1892, who married Jennie Myles and moved to La Mesa, Calif., and had a daughter born there Feb. 22, 1927.
Ben, born 1894, who married Grace Covert.
Wade, born 1894, twin of Ben, who died in infancy.
Lena, born 1896, who married Burton Logan.
Florence, born 1898. She graduated from Winfield High School in 1918 and married her high school sweetheart, Emmett C. Pugh. They lived in Winfield, where he was a successful plumber. Florence and Emmett C. Pugh were buried in Union Cemetery.
May, who died in infancy;
Elmer, who married Mary McCartney, divorced her, and later married Frona Williams.
Mabel, twin of Elmer, was a student at W. H. S. in 1919. She married James Milton Craven.
Bessie, who married Hugh Hawkins.
Marabel, who remained single.
Connie, who married Euna Ione Key.
Perry, who married Mary Ellen Lane.
Jewell Gilcrease, born January 13, 1913, married James Page. They had two children, Jerry and Jeffrey Page. She later divorced James Page. She then married Alva L. Willard.
Jewell Gilcrease Willard died at Muscatine, Iowa, on March 18, 1967, and was buried in Winfield, Kansas.
Two sisters and four brothers were still living at the time of Jewell's death in 1967.
They were Mrs. Burton (Lena) Logan, Bangor, Maine; Mrs. Emmett (Florence) Pugh, Winfield, Kansas; Ben Gilcrease, New Gulf, Texas; Elmer Gilcrease, Corpus Christi, Texas; Connie Gilcrease, Freeport, Texas; and Perry Gilcrease, Fort Worth, Texas.
Thomas Gilcrease’s mother last appeared in the 1929 Winfield City Directory. We assume that she had become ill and Thomas moved her back to Tulsa for treatment. Thomas Gilcrease’s mother died on June 12, 1935, in Tulsa, Oklahoma. She was buried beside her husband at Bixby, Oklahoma. In 1967 their bodies were moved to the Gilcrease Mausoleum on the grounds of the Gilcrease museum in Tulsa.
Notes made by RKW:
1/19/1994 - spoke to Public Relations department of the Gilcrease Museum in Tulsa.
Phone: 1-918-596-2752. Gilcrease was one-quarter Creek Indian. They will send me further information.
1/26/1994 - Spoke to Jeff Kauffman at the Tulsa historical society. 1-918-585-5520. He will seek further information and be in touch.
1/26/1994 - Called museum shop and ordered Milsten's book.
Compiled by Richard K. Wortman, 1400 North Third street, Arkansas City, Kansas.
January 21, 1994
Mr. David R. Milsten
3905 South Florence Place
Tulsa, OK 74105
The Arkansas City Historical Society is writing a history of Cowley County, Kansas. This includes the town of Winfield.
My mother graduated from Winfield High School in 1920. I spoke to her about visiting the Gilcrease Museum. She commented that Thomas Gilcrease had lived on a farm north of Winfield. I had no interest at that time and did not pursue the subject while she was alive.
Since then I ran across the two following items from the Winfield Courier newspaper. "Mabel Gilcrease was a student at Winfield High School in 1919." Winfield Courier 3/7/1927. "Mr. and Mrs. Ed Gilcrease of La Mesa, Calif., are the parents of a daughter born February 22, 1927. The baby is a Grand-daughter of Mrs. L. Gilcrease of this city."
I called Michelle Spencer-Powell at the Museum. She forwarded some information which included a few pages of your book "Thomas Gilcrease."
Did you develop more material concerning the period after his father's death that you did not use in your book. This would be the time, mentioned on page 20 of your book, when he moved some of the family to Winfield for further education. We are interested in those who moved here and what happened to them.
If you have more information and would share it with us, it will save research time.
Richard K. Wortman
President, Arkansas City Historical Society.
1400 North Third Street
Arkansas City, KS 67005