Pawhuska Means “White Hair” – A Mysterious Setting

Actually, the town’s name is not White Hair, that is the English translation for this town of Pawhuska in Osage County, north central, Oklahoma. This town is the setting for my first mystery, Cobwebs – A Suspense Novel, published in November 2013.

The town is not old by most standards. Founded in 1872, when the Osage tribal government opened offices there, the town has remained the tribal seat ever since. The town was named for Paw-Hiu-Skah, a 19th century Osage chief. Oklahoma became a state in 1907, and about that same time, crude oil and natural gas were found in the rolling hills of Osage County.

Why would anyone set a book in the small town of Pawhuska? There could be several reasons.

*Pawhuska is the gateway to The Nature Conservancy’s fabulous Tallgrass Prairie Preserve, an opportunity to see thousands of acres of rolling prairie, complete with bison, just as our pioneer ancestors would have seen it 150 plus years ago.

*The first Boy Scout Troop was organized here in 1909, just two years after statehood.

*Tracy Letts’ Pulitzer Prize winning play was set in a country house northeast of town, “August: Osage County.”

*Famous people come from here: Ben Johnson, actor; John Joseph Mathews, historian and author; Larry Sellers, actor; and Clarence L. Tinker, USAF general and namesake of Tinker Air Force Base near Oklahoma City, OK.

*Ree Drummond, famous for her cookbooks, The Pioneer Woman Cooks, lives on a ranch which has been owned by her husband’s family for decades, and is creating a studio for her television show in downtown Pawhuska.

Here’s my personal reason for choosing Pawhuska for the setting of my book. This area is rich in tradition and history. Most intriguing is an episode in Osage History known as The Reign of Terror. The 1920s was a frightening decade for the Osage Nation. Its members were likely to disappear or be killed, the victims of unscrupulous persons seeking to profit from the newfound oil wealth of the Tribe.

When the Oil Boom began, all the royalties from oil and gas production in Osage County belonged to the Osage Tribe as a unit because of savvy Osage leaders who worded the Treaty of 1872 so that the tribe retained mineral rights of the reservation lands. The 1906 Tribal Role was used to assign one headright to each Osage, and these members received their percentage of the income from the incredibly lucrative Osage County Oil and Gas fields.

The first full-blood Osage woman found murdered during the terror was Anna Kyle Brown, found shot in the head in 1921. At the Tribal Council’s request, the U.S. government responded with the launch of a major investigation, and the creation of a new department, the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Interesting history for a small Oklahoma town, which once boasted the most Rolls Royce automobiles on its streets of any town west of the Mississippi River.

Hope you will visit Pawhuska soon, in my book, Cobwebs – A Suspense Novel, and learn even more about the Reign of Terror!

Stop back next Monday for more Cobwebs reboot and learn about the character named Trudy.


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