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Church of the Osage

When you’re a history buff, visiting historical sites is just part of any well-rounded getaway!

My sister and I just got back from a trip to Oklahoma, where we spent part of every one of our childhood summers. My grandparents’ farm was built on my grandfather’s Indian land grant (he was a Cherokee, born in 1899…but I’ll share more about him later).

On our way to find the farm again, we decided to go to Pawhuska to visit the Pioneer Woman Mercantile and the ranch where Ree Drummond films her Food Network show.

In addition to that, I had heard of an amazing Catholic church in town built by the Osage Indians. The stunning stained glass windows are the feature that draws most visitors to this historic church.

Before we left on our trip, I called the Immaculate Conception Catholic Church, and confirmed that we would be able to take a tour on the day we planned to be in town. The lovely lady who answered the phone assured me that she would be there. If you plan to go, you can also check their Facebook page for details.

 

 

 

 

 

Pulling into the parking lot, there is nothing particularly grand about the exterior appearance of the structure, but the moment we stepped inside it took our breath away.

 

The 22 windows in the sanctuary are considered to be among the most unusual stained glass of any church in the United States. Traditional Catholic windows feature biblical scenes, and twenty of those found in this church do as well.

The other two, however, depict images of people who were alive at the time the church was erected – which is strictly against Catholic guidelines. The Pope gave special dispensation for these to be created as an acknowledgement of the special relationship between the Osage and the Catholic missionaries.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. First I’d like to share just a bit about the history of the church itself, which is as interesting as its details.

The church is known in the Pawhuska area as the Cathedral of the Osage.

Knowing that the Osage in the area may have been the richest people per capita in the world at the time may come as a surprise to many, but definitely explains the exquisite cathedral and its rich details.

In the beginning of the 20th century when oil was struck on Osage land, the tribe suddenly went from one of the poorest tribes to the richest.

Photo courtesy of the Osage Wedding Project website

 

 

The men are said to have driven the finest cars and simply replaced them if they broke down or got a flat tire. The women of the tribe walked the streets of town with diamonds on their shoes.

Their parish priest at the time was Father Edward Van Waesberghe, who laid out plans and designs for the church around 1910. The priest even did much of the brickwork himself, aided by Osage members.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Inside the church, the ceiling is a series of cross-ribbed arches, painted with a pattern that mimics traditional Osage ribbon work.

Ribbon work patterns also appear as details in many of the stained glass windows.

The altar, draped with an Indian blanket, and statues were made by the same craftsmen who supplied them to the famous Loretto Chapel in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Osage oil money built the church, and enabled the tribe to afford exquisite stained glass ordered from the Bavarian Art Glass Company in Munich Germany.

 

 

 

 

Being created in a country in the midst of  World War I held dangers for such fragile masterpieces however, and for a while the German artisans buried the almost completed windows in a local sandy river bank in Munich to protect them from possible shelling.

The artisans themselves traveled to Oklahoma with the 36 foot tall windows, which were shipped in sections to Pawhuska and placed in the church prior to its completion in 1916.

Each of the windows is a stunning masterpiece, with the brilliant red panes achieved through the addition of gold dust.

The two most unique windows in the cathedral feature the images of Native Americans.

The ‘Columbus Window’ in the south transept depicts the Pentecost scene on the upper panels, and Christopher Columbus’ first encounter with Native Americans in the New World on the lower panels. It was donated by the William S. Mathews family.

Opposite this window, on the north side of the building though, is the exceptional work of art that many travel from around the country (and world) to see in person.

The ‘Osage Window’ portrays the scene of Jsesuit missionary Father John Shoenmakers, known as ‘Black Robe,’  bringing Catholicism to the Osage Nation, at a time when the tribe lived in Kansas before they were moved to Indian Territory. Shoenmakers was held in such high regard by members of the tribe that his name, as Sho-Mink-Ah, is now used as the Osage word for priest.

In addition to the clergyman, the window depicts the images of actual people in traditional Osage dress surrounding the priest, intently listening to the word of God. Many of the tribal members were still alive at the time it was created. They include Osage Chief Bacon Rind, his wife Julia, Chief Saucy Calf, and interpreter Arthur Bonnecastle and his wife. Photographs of those included were sent to Germany along with the order for the windows. This window was donated by Rose Hill, Angie Bonniecastle and T. J. Leahy.

 

 

Two adorable little girls stand out from the rest of those pictured, partly due to their stance of staring directly out from the window. They are actual portraits of two young girls who died tragically young from the devastating smallpox disease. They represent the eternal saving power of God’s words to their souls.

Father Shoenmakers worked for 36 years among the Osage until his death in 1883.

 

 

 

A very small room off the vestibule holds the original baptismal font, as well as a partial view of the ‘Expulsion’ window depicting the banishment of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden, and the ‘Revelation of St. John.’

 

 

 

Only the lower half of the Eden window is visible however, until one climbs to the organ loft to view the upper half, where musical instruments appear in the design.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The same can be said of the ‘Annunciation’ window in the vestibule on the opposite side, which is partially obscured by the tightly winding steps to the loft. The roses at the feet of Mary glow impressively in the late afternoon sun.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My sister spotted the name ‘Juanita Scott’ on the donor section of one of the window, which made us smile because…although we knew it wasn’t the same person…it was our grandmother’s name.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The remaining windows at Immaculate Conception depict traditional Biblical scenes in a highly detailed and theologically symbolic manner, including ‘The Child Jesus Teaching in the Temple,’ ‘Wisdom, Age and Grace,’ ‘The Wedding Feast,’ and other classic biblical portrayals. Each one is beautifully detailed and worthy of study.

 

When we asked how many people attended mass there now, the guide responded about 80 to 100 people. For a cathedral of this size, that took us aback. But generations of families have been attending since the church was built, and about 80-90 percent of the parish remains a part of the Osage.

This treasure trove of glass masterworks is definitely worth a detour from any nearby trip route.

 

 

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Circus Train Wreck Victim and Other Circus Folk

Showmen’s Rest – Part 2
Circus Train Wreck Victim
Ted Svertesky
1954 – 1994

DSC_9523Just after 9:00 in the morning on January 14, 1994, a 53-car Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus train headed northbound from St. Petersburg to Orlando for their next show. Rolling along at 38 mph, many of the 150 performers inside were still asleep or just waking up after the previous night’s show when a wheel on one of the passenger cars broke, sending 13 passenger coaches and three flat cars off the tracks. Five of the cars were thrown on their sides.

As the survivors wandered out of the wreckage into the morning fog, they discovered that two of their own had lost their lives in the accident, and fifteen more were injured.Ted
Ringling officials called the train accident their worst in more than 100 years.

Theodore ”Ted” Svertesky, a 39-year-old elephant trainer was found dead in a sleeper car.

Ceslee Conkling, a 28-year-old clown from Fort Worth, Texas, was also killed. She was missing for four hours before her body was found.

None of the 60 circus animals, including lions, tigers and elephants, was hurt. They were traveling in cages at the front and rear of the 53-car train, which broke in the middle.

Ironically, a news helicopter crashed while covering the accident. A photographer received minor injuries, and the pilot was admitted to a hospital with neck and back injuries.

Born in Connecticut, Theodore H. Svertesky was fascinated with the circus and elephants from an early age. As a child he would talk about it, dream about it and build circus models. When he was only 13, Ted ran away from home to join a circus only to be returned the following day by his parents. Four year later at 17 he joined a circus again and this time stayed.

Ted started off doing odd jobs with the elephants, and took every chance to learn about the creatures from the best trainers in the business.

By 1994 Ted headed the Ringling Elephant Farm, a research and breeding facility and oversaw the breeding of Romeo and Juliette, two yearling Asian elephants that were headlining the show. This was Ted’s first road trip with the circus as the presenter of the elephant act in the show.

“It’s kind of a way of life more than a job,” said the 39-year-old trainer from Bridgeport in an interview the week before he died.trainwrecklarge

Ted’s wife Patty Zerbini, who helped oversee the 10 elephants – including babies Romeo and Juliette, stayed with the show after the accident. She and her two sons, Anthony and Christopher, travel from town to town in their mobile home.

Terry Fenne
(1959 – 2006)

terryTerry Fenne always told people that if they ever stopped by Showmen’s Rest to “Stop by and have a seat on me.” True to his word, his marker is a beautiful bench, engraved with his signature, photo and the logos of some of the circuses he worked for through the years.
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I apologize that, due to the fact that it was raining quite hard when I took these photos the engraving on top of the bench doesn’t appear clear.

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Fenne literally ran away from his home in Madison, Wisconsin to join the circus at age 14. He worked for six different circuses including: Fisher Brothers Circus, Circus Genoa, Clyde Beatty-Cole Brothers Circus, Roberts Brothers Circus, Kelly-Miller Circus and Carson & Barnes Circus.

terry4Known as the “Mud Show Elephant Man” he trained elephants and drove the elephant truck across the country for many years.

The last few years of his life, he operated an umbrella hot dog pushcart in downtown Paris, Texas, and became a fixture of the town.

SAVE1070
Dudley Warner Hamilton
(1929 – still living)

dudleyHamilton grew up in west Texas, the youngest of eight children. He served in the U. S. Air Froce and worked for the Texas Highway Patrol.

Avid circus fan, and a longstanding member of the Circus Fans Association of America. His attendance at the CFA annual conventions led him to Hugo, where he me the Geneneral Manager of Carson & Barnes. He took early retirement at age 54 and joined Carson & Barnes as a booking agent. He became so successful that for the next 20 years he trained other booking agents

He was also press agent and ran the pie car when needed

He moved over to Kelly Miller, and eventually became Winterquarters Manager. He was know for volunteering his time to help others, especially young circus people. He gave tours of Showmen’s Rest and served on the Circus City Museum and Park Board.

DUDLEY WARNER HAMILTON
JAN 12, 1929
STILL LIVING

Dudley Hamilton is currently the winter quarters superintendent of the Kelly Miller Circus. He was an agent for both the Carson & Barnes Circus and the Kelly Miller Circus.

Dudley’s monument features an impressive elephant long mount which was taken from a Carson & Barnes Circus poster with four showgirls. The monument also has a large shade tree which Dudley said he thought would add to the scene and the words
MAY ALL YOUR DAYS BE CIRCUS DAYS
on the front of the gravestone and the logos of Kelly Miller Circus and Carson & Barnes Circus on the back of the monument.

Joe Wallace Cooper
(1937 – 2000)

p.txt-3Joe Cooper was a circus agent who worked for Allen Bros. Circus, Culpepper – Merriweather Circus, Carson & Barnes Circus and “was on the road” contracting for the Kelly Miller Circus when he passed away. He was the nephew of circus agent Dudley Hamilton, whose stone is featured above this one.

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On the front of the monument are the words: “Big Top Circus Agent,” and the sentiment “He gave with world a smile each day is engraved on the base. The back of this colorful stone features the logos of all four circuses with whom he associated.

Next week I’ll wrap up with a few amazing markers from Showmen’s Rest before moving on to share some beautiful stones from one of Texas’ most historic cemeteries. I hope you’ll join me!

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Showmen’s Rest – Part 1: Even Their Final Resting Place is Entertaining

Mount Olivet Cemetery

Hugo, OklahomacircusG

Recently I was thrilled to be able to visit one of the famous cemeteries on my “visit one day” list: the Showman’s Rest section of Mount Olivet in Hugo, OklahocircusFma.

Hugo has been the winter home of traveling circuses since the 1930’s and the retirement place of many performers and others associated with the circus/carnival profession. It’s known as “Circus City, USA.” Hugo is also home to “The Endangered Ark Foundation,” the nation’s second largest herd of Asian elephants.

It’s fitting that many who have moved on to the big top in the sky find their final resting place in the local cemetery, in a special section bordered by elephant statues on granite pedestals.

The day I visited the cemetery it was raining quite hard, but I refused to be deterred. (Thank heaven for rain ponchos!) The water did affect some of the photos and the clarity of some lettering on stones. It also prevented me from gently cleaning some stones as I normally would, since I was concentrating more on protecting my camera from the rain.
Conditions aside, it was an exciting visit filled with imagery I had never seen on gravitons elsewhere. The statues and photos bring back fond memories of carnivals from childhood.

I’ll share some of my favorites with you in my next few blogs, and hope yo enjoy them as much as I did.

Jack B. Moore
1919 – 1969

circusDOne of the first headstones visible as you enter Showmen’s Rest is a three-dimensional replica of a circus tent. Moore was born in Marshall, Texas and served in the U.S. Navy during World War II. dimensional replica of a circus tent.

circusEAfter the war’s end he launched a small show conducted under a canvas tent. The Clyde Beatty motion picture show was enjoyed along with a trained chimp, wrestling bear, pony show, a singing and dancing number by his daughter Wanda, and Happy Hanks hillbilly Show. It must have been amazing to many of the small towns they visitedCarsonBarnesRoute.

As the years passed, the show evolved to include larger and more exciting acts. The name changed as well, to Banner Bros., Jack Moore’s Tex Carson Jamboree and eventually to the Carson & Barnes Circus.
By 1961 the show needed 20 trucks to move the show that included 5 elephants, a moderate sized menagerie, and a Big Top that was 100 ft. round with three 40 ft. middles.

Herbert Weber
“The Great Huberto”
1914 – 1991

circusB Huberto-1-819x1024When Herbie, the son of a Czech-German family in Ohio, saw a wire act at the age of eight, he immediately knew what he wanted to do with the rest of his life.

As the “Great Huberto” he performed his thrilling wire act around the world with slicked back hair, distinctive South American theme wardrobe and dramatic Latin music.huberto2

He also performed with his wife as “Los Latinos”(which is engraved on the back of his grahubertove marker) – first with Chatita (Chata) Escalante (1911-1985) then his second wife Maricela Sanchez Hernandez.

circusCHe spent a few years working for Hollywood movie studios, performing his tightwire stunts to circus-theme movies and working as a stunt double for the stars.

Thomas Edward Sink
1940-2012

DSC_9413Popcorn
If the Thomas Edward Sink I found in my research is the correct one, he had a bit of a troubled life in his earlier years. Regardless, he reinvented his life into a beloved figure who brought joy and laughter to crowds as Popcorn the Clown.

DSC_9414It’s impossible not to smile when you see this clever marker, isn’t it?

These are only a handful of the amazing markers in this cemetery. I’m looking forward to sharing more with you in the days to come.