Code Talker

A number of Cherokees served as military “Code Talkers” in WWI and WWII.
One such soldier was Nowata resident and Cherokee Nation citizen George Adair. Born in Braggs, Okla., May 24, 1887. He was married in Nowata, OK in 1907 to Edna F., daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Adolphus McCoy. Adair enlisted in the U.S. Army in September of 1917. After his basic training, Adair was assigned to the 36th Division and sent to the line in France in World War I. Adair, along with other Cherokees, was put in the telephone service. It was those Cherokee soldiers’ responsibility to receive and transmit crucial orders in their native language. Cherokee and other tribal languages were alien to the enemies of the Central Powers, rendering them unable to decipher the American communications spoken in those languages. Unfortunately only Adair’s name remains known among the Cherokee who performed code talking services. The Cherokee Nation is seeking information from relatives of any other Cherokees who may have served in this capacity. Historians say it is impossible to know how many Allies’ lives were saved thanks to the Cherokee and other Native code talkers in both World War I and World War II. Learn more about our veterans by visiting the Museum (Re-opening this summer).GeorgeAdair - Version 2


The renovation of the new Nowata Museum building (formerly the Landers Grocery) is essentially complete. We want to give the public a chance to view the improvements before beginning to construct exhibits, etc. An open house is planned for Monday, February 29th, from 1:00 to 3:00 PM. The building is located across the street from the Depot Cafe.
This will be the most modern museum in this part of the state and will be a fantastic addition to the culture in Nowata. The Nowata Historical Society invites you to come have refreshments with us and see the progress that has been made so far.
The work of inventory, cataloging, and packing the museum items is ongoing, and we expect to have our Grand Opening in July of 2016.


We value all the contractors that made the renovation such a success.

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Pauline Nesbitt…

Nowata County resident Pauline Nesbitt thrilled audiences in the 1920’s and 1930’s with her horsemanship and trick riding. She was born Jane Slovensky in 1907 and was raised on a Wisconsin farm. After taking up bronc riding and trick riding she settled on to a ranch west of Nowata. In 1938 Nesbitt won the World Champion Trick and Fancy Rider title.

Visit the Nowata County Historical Society Museum for much more information and photos of Pauline Nesbitt.

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The following article by the Justin Boots Co. highlights her career:

Cowgirl Spotlight – Pauline Nesbitt

May 16, 2012

On October 26, 2011, eight amazing women were inducted into the National Cowgirl Hall of Fame. These women are an inspiration to not only those that have a Western heritage, but to women everywhere. Justin Boots feels that these women and their stories should never be forgotten. Throughout the next eight months, we will feature one new inductee every month. We hope you enjoy their biographies and are as inspired as we were. The women who shaped the West truly changed the world.

Pauline Nesbitt

An exciting trick rider, known for her flair and split second timing, Pauline Nesbitt was one of the most thrilling rodeo performers of her era. Born Pauline Slovensky in 1907, she and her twelve siblings grew up on a farm in Stanley, Wisconsin. At age thirteen she first rode a bronc while visiting friends in Gonzales, Texas, and from that moment, she was intrigued.

Her admiration for Tad Lucas’ daring trick riding performances led to a shift in her rodeo career and she, too, flourished as a trick rider. From Melbourne, Australia to Oklahoma City, St. Louis to Fort Worth, Texas and all points in between, Pauline’s shoulder stands, under-the-belly stunts, and spectacular quadrille routines were world renowned.

In 1929 she married rodeo clown Jimmie Nesbitt, who she met on the circuit. He convinced her to quit bronc riding and concentrate on the trick riding that made her famous. The couple toured the major rodeos throughout the 1930’s and 40’s. The twosome made a top-notch team. He wowed crowds as a bullfighting rodeo clown while she won their hearts as a trick rider. The couple even did a stint with the Ringling Brothers Circus. Pauline finished fourth in the trick riding at Madison Square Garden in 1934, and performed there throughout the late thirties. It was during that era that she achieved her greatest fame. Pauline won her first trick riding championship at the 1937 Fort Worth Rodeo, where she successfully defended her title in 1938.

The Nesbitts lived in Fort Worth for a while but eventually made Nowata, Oklahoma their home base, on a ranch where they raised cattle and horses. During rodeo season, however, their time together was spent on the road in their car, pulling a trailer with Jimmy’s mule and Pauline’s pinto, and a lap dog named “Tiny.” Pauline continued into the 1930’s to rodeo and maintain her ranch. She even appeared at some of the World War II All-Girl Rodeos.

In addition to training all of her own horses, Pauline, like most of her peers, made all of her own costumes. Her love for Western fashion was highlighted in several articles, and she modeled women’s Western wear for the Sears Roebuck Catalog. She named one of her favorite horses “Moray” (a phonetic spelling for moire) because of the patterns of his spots reminded her of watermarks on silk.

For her athleticism and horsemanship, and her notable contributions to the sport of rodeo, we are so pleased to honor Pauline Nesbitt with induction the National Cowgirl Museum’s Hall of Fame.

Thanks to the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame for much of the above information.

Some Flag Waving…

Not many people know that Nowata has an official City Flag. In 1976, for the USA Bicentennial Celebration, the city held a contest for a city flag to be designed. The entry of  W.W. “Spike” Radcliff was chosen and the design is a combination of Indian symbols and colors, described as follows with their meanings (click on the flag for a larger view):

Printing:             Indian Ribbon

Rainbow:            Prosperity

Nowata:             Delaware for “Welcome”

Green:               Growth

Oklahoma:         Choctaw for “Home of the Red Man”

Sun:                  Happiness

Red:                  Valor

Running Water:   Constant Life

White:                Purity

Feathers:            Our Brothers

Blue:                  Loyal

Black:                 Foe

Nowata Flag

If you are interested in seeing a Nowata City flag, there is one on display at the Museum; also there is one in the City Hall conference room.  Radcliff was the owner/operator of Personality Barber Shop and later Spike’s Shop in Nowata.  Over the years Spike has cut the hair of thousands of Nowata men and boys. He was the originator of Spike Railroad Park, a contributor of many drawings and murals to the community and school.  He was a talented artist and there are many of his paintings in Nowata homes.  “Spike” Radcliff passed away August 1, 1998, at the age of 81.  His wife, Laverne Radcliff, was one of the faithful Docents at the museum.

These flags are available for purchase at the Museum Gift Shop for $125.00.

Power to the People…

1910 was the year that electric service first was introduced in Nowata. The Nowata Electric Light and Power Company was formed by W.D. Dodge, Roy Dodge, D. W. Lovett and B. L. Brookins. The company was purchased in 1911 by the Crystal Ice and Power Company. There was a generator housed in a metal building just south of the present day Nowata Filtration plant at the corner of Elm St. and E. Choctaw Ave.

In 1916 the newly formed Public Service Co. of Oklahoma purchased the company and remains Nowata’s provider today. PSO’s roots can be traced back to 1889, when the Vinita Electric Light, Ice and Power Company was chartered in Indian Territory to provide electric service to that community. PSO was incorporated May 29, 1913 in Oklahoma City, by consolidating that company with electric companies and related businesses in Tulsa, Guthrie, Coalgate, Lehigh and Atoka.

PSO’s founder and first president was Frederick William “Fred” Insull, who moved PSO’s headquarters to Tulsa in 1916. Insull was the nephew of Samuel Insull, a former secretary to Thomas Edison, who later became one of the most prominent figures in the electric utility industry.

In the Nowata Museum you will find an electric stove made in 1916. It was owned by Dick Graham who was an employee of the electric company for many years. The stove has the outward appearance of a wood burning stove, but had some interesting features…such as a drop-in stew pot, which functioned much like the crock pots of today.

1916 Electric Stove

1916 Electric Stove

Family Feud…


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The two articles below appeared in the August 12th, 1895 edition of the Nowata Advertiser.  The articles and photograph were donated to the museum by Cleone (Moreland) Birdsell, granddaughter of W.R. Moreland (see photo).

BLOODY TRAGEDY August 12-1895 Nowata the Scene of a Terrible Fight ONE MAN IS DEAD And Three More Dangerously Wounded as a Result of the Encounter.—Walker and McGurl Brothers the Participants

Monday afternoon a fearful conflict with revolvers and rocks in this city resulted in the death of James McGurl, the serious wounding of Bud McGurl and Jeff Walker and, probably the wounding of Fayette Walker. About 2 p.m. a party of serven or eight men, including James, Charles and Bud McGurl, all of Lenapah and vicinity, rode into town and ordered dinner at the Exchange Restaurant. The party, or nearly all of them were heavily armed with revolvers, some of which were left at the city drug store. They claimed to be hunting cattle and were stopped for dinner. Other reports had them here to attend a big horse race which was matched for the afternoon. However some of the citizens feared trouble and advised City Marshal Fulsom to put on a strong guard. This he had just started to do when the first shot was fired. At the time James McGurl stood leaning against a post of the porch in front of the Exchange Restaurant while the rest of the party were within awaiting dinner. Jeff Walker approached from the west, wearing a coat and holding his right hand undercover of it. As Walker stepped upon the porch Turner, the barber, jokingly remarked the way he carried his arm and was answered in the same manner. Almost instantly and without warning, as explosives ignite from heat, the fight was on. Who uttered the first word, who struck the first blow, who fired the first shot, are matters of diversity of opinions. James and Jeff grappled and Bud and Charles McGurl rushed from the restaurant to the assistance of their brother with Bud in the lead. He at once wrenched a revolver from Walker’s hand, which revolver had been removed from under the coat and clubbed by Walker. Fayette Walker then came running across the street from the livery barn with revolver in hand. Bud ceased beating Jeff upon the head with revolver and prepared for the new comer. Only an instant did the two infuriated men glare at each other, then revolvers spoke almost instantaneously, other guns flashed upon the scene and for several moments the air was filled with flying lead. When the smoke cleared away Jim lay dying, having been struck by a ball in the right chest which ranged entirely through, coming out in the region of the vertebra, another struck Bud in the groin dangerously if not fatally wounding him, while Fayette is thought to have received a ball in the right arm. The cartridges of some becoming exhausted the guns were abandoned and huge rocks were buried with the zest of madmen. Fayette Walker rushed to Ringo’s hardware and forcibly secured ammunition. He was taken in charge by several men and led to the barn from whence he soon mounted a horse and made his escape.

In the meantime Jeff’s skull had been crushed by a revolver and his jaw broke by a rock. City Marshall Fulsom, M. M. Couch, Will Ross and others did excellent work in quieting the disturbance and finally succeeded. The terrible affair is the result of a fued between the two factions which dates back to July 4th, 1894, when Marshall Walker, the youngest of the brothers, engaged in a fight with McGurl’s hired hand at a celebration near Lenapah. This quarrel was taken up by friends and relations on both sides, and numerous caustic encounters have followed, the most recent being the one between Fayette and Charles at Goose Neck. It is said that Walkers were anxious to have this settle the trouble, and Jim who was the most peacable and best liked McGurl agreed, but Bud and Charles were not willing, and sent word for the Walkers “to prepare to die for we are coming down to kill you, or if we fail to burn the town.” Walkers returned the message, “We have avoided all the trouble we could and now we will not avoid any trouble we can have.” Prior to this Chas. McGurl came down from Kansas City, the former home of the McGurls and where he had recently been employed on the police force. He thought ot take a hand in the difficulty. He had just been discharged from the *** of the A. P. A. element because of his Catholic proclivities. James McGurl died Tuesday at 2 a.m. He was the only married man in the fray, the rest being old bachelors. His wife was visiting in Kansas City, to which place he was taken Tuesday evening for interment. We learn from parties at Lenapah where James had many friends, that he was not a bad man and this was the first fight in which they had every known him to participate. They gave the other boys a bad name. Bud was taken to Kansas City for medical treatment. Jeff Walker is recovering, still his wounds are painful and somewhat dangerous. Marshal Lawson of Ft. Smith is in the city securing witnesses. The parties engaged in the fight as well as those coming down with the McGurls are under arrest. The whereabouts of Fayette Walker are not known. This is a very sad affair and one which we trust will never again tarnish the escutcheon of our fair city’s history.

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In the photo, from left to right: W.R. Moreland, Jim McGurl, Fayette Walker, Jefferson Walker, Mr. Chinn, Charles Dodge, Mr. Craft, and Will Atkinson. The two stores were in the 100 block of East Cherokee Ave. This photo was taken November 12th, 1891. The Shootout occurred in front of the Exchange Restaurant, 100 block of East Delaware Ave. in 1895. (Click the image for a larger view)

FATAL SHOOTING Aug 12-1895 One Man Killed and two Wounded

Last Monday afternoon at about 2 o’clock the quiet and peace of our little city was rudely broken by a quick succession of pistol shots, on Delaware street, and people rushing to the scene of the shooting found three men badly hurt. The shooting, as we understand it, was the outcome of an old grudge existing between the Walker Bros., of this place, and the McGurls, of near Lenapah. These two factions had met and fought several times previously and each time they met the fued was intensified and it continued to grow worse so last Monday when the McGurl boys happed in here for dinner from a cow hunt, the old quarrel was in some manner renewed and the shooting was done as above stated. When the firing *** and the smoke had cleared away it was found that Jim McGurl was fatally wounded and Bud McGurl seriously, he being shot in the groin. The McGurl boys were taken to the Carey hotel and Jeff Walker, who had his head badly cut and his face bone broken, was taken into the Pioneer Drug Store where his wounds were dressed by Doctors Strother and McCormick. Jim McGurl died between the hours of 2 and 3 o’clock Tuesday morning. Bud McGurl was taken on Wednesday evening to the hospital at Kansas City. Jeff Walker is confined to his room at the residence of his brother, Tyne Walker. Fayette Walker is gone and officers are seeking him to effect his arrest. *** prisoner, but owing to the humanity of the officers who had him in charge he was allowed to accompany his dead and wounded brothers to Kansas City. There are so many versions of this affair that we will not attempt to give any at the present time, but will wait for reliable developments as will be brought out by a legal investigation of this sad affair, and then we will not be blamed by any for doing either faction an injustice.

Old and The New…

The Nowata County Historical Society Museum has been in it’s present location nearly 50 years. With the generous support of the Harmon Foundation, we are well into a year long project of renovating and moving into our new facility (The old Landers Grocery Building). This will double our exhibit space as well as adding meeting rooms, etc.

Nowata County Historical Society -  Museum

Nowata County Historical Society –

Nowata County Historical Society Future home of the Museum

Nowata County Historical Society
Future home of the Museum