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Pawnee Bill Museum - Wild West Icon

We visit the Pawnee Bill Ranch & Museum to remember a piece of our western heritage history.
Pawnee Bill Museum - Wild West Icon

Pawnee Bill Museum

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Pawnee Bill Museum Ranch

Show Dates

Show 1206: Pawnee Bill Museum - Wild West Icon

Air date: February 5, 2012

 

Transcript

ROB MCCLENDON:  WELL PROBABLY THE FIRST PERSON TO REALLY START PUBLICIZING OKLAHOMA’S WESTERN HERITAGE WAS A GENTLEMAN BY THE NAME OF GORDON WILLIAM LILLIE; A PERSON YOU MAY RECOGNIZE MORE BY HIS STAGE NAME, OF PAWNEE BILL.  WITH MORE, HERE’S OUR COURTENAY DEHOFF.

COURTENAY:  A HALF A MILE WEST OF PAWNEE, OKLAHOMA, ATOP A HILL SITS A LITTLE, OR RATHER A LARGE, PIECE OF HISTORY.

THE SCENE IS SOMEWHAT SERENE.  THE RESIDENCE SEEMS FIT FOR A CELEBRITY, WITH ALL THE FINE EMBELLISHINGS TO GO WITH IT.  AND A LITTLE OVER A 100 YEARS AGO, A STAR OF THE AGES CALLED THIS PAWNEE, OKLAHOMA, RANCH, HOME.

RONNY BROWN:  PAWNEE BILL, AS A CHILD READ THE DIME NOVELS AND, YOU KNOW, IDOLIZED BUFFALO BILL.  YOU KNOW, ALL HE WANTED TO DO WAS GO OUT WEST TO SEE THE WEST BEFORE IT WAS GONE; THE REAL WEST.

COURTENAY:  TRUE TO HIS SHOWMAN WAYS, GORDON WILLIAM LILLIE, BETTER KNOWN AS PAWNEE BILL, LIVED IN THIS 14 ROOM MANSION WITH HIS WIFE MAY.  THE 500 ACRES BOASTS A BLACKSMITH SHOP, A 1903 LOG CABIN, AND HIS LARGE BARN.  RONNIE BROWN AND HIS WIFE ERIN LIVE RIGHT HERE ON THE RANCH AND HELP PEOPLE DISCOVER ALL THINGS PAWNEE BILL.

RONNY:  HE JOINED THE BUFFALO BILL SHOW IN 1883 AND THEN MET HIS WIFE MAY UP IN PHILADELPHIA AS THE BUFFALO BILL SHOW WAS TOURING.  AND THEN HIS FAMILY AND MAY’S FAMILY DECIDED, HEY YOU KNOW, YOU COULD DO THIS, YOU COULD HAVE A WILD WEST SHOW.

ERIN BROWN:  SO THEY HAD PEOPLE FROM ASIA AND AFRICA AND THE MIDDLE EAST.

COURTENAY:  AND THE REST IS TRULY HISTORY.  AFTER YEARS OF PRODUCING HIS OWN SHOW, THE TWO LEGENDS JOINED TOGETHER.

ERIN:  NOW PAWNEE BILL AND BUFFALO BILL WERE PARTNERS AND HAD THE LARGEST WILD WEST SHOW IN THE WORLD FOR 5 YEARS FROM 1908 TO 1913.  THEY HAD WHAT WAS REFERRED TO AS THE TWO BILL SHOW, AND THE ACTUAL NAME WAS BUFFALO BILL’S WILD WEST AND PAWNEE BILL’S GREAT FAR EAST.

COURTENAY:  THE ONLY THING TODAY THAT MAY BE MORE IMPRESSIVE THAN HIS ENORMOUS ONE DAY WILD WEST SHOW, A SHOW SO POPULAR IT WOULD DRAW CROWDS IN THE TENS OF THOUSANDS, IS THE ORIGIONAL MEMORABILIA, PHOTOGRAPHS, AND PERSONAL EFFECTS SCATTERED THROUGHOUT THE RANCH.

ERIN:  THIS WAS HIS HOME AND HE LOVED IT, HE LOVED TO ENTERTAIN.  HE WAS A BORN SHOWMAN AND SO HE AND HIS WIFE MAY LOVED TO HAVE DINNER PARTIES AND HAVE PEOPLE OVER IN THE HOUSE AND THEY BUILT IT TO KIND OF REFLECT THEIR PERSONALITIES AND I THINK IT REALLY DOES THAT.  ONE OF THE MOST SPECIAL THINGS ABOUT THIS HOUSE MUSEUM IS THAT VIRTUALLY EVERYTHING THAT YOU SEE IS ORIGINAL TO PAWNEE BILL AND MAY.  WE DON’T HAVE REPRODUCTIONS; SO WE REALLY FEEL LIKE THE HOUSE GIVES AN AUTHENTIC EXPERIENCE IN TERMS OF WHAT PEOPLE LIKE PAWNEE BILL AND MAY WOULD HAVE LIVED LIKE AND WHAT THEY WOULD HAVE CHOSEN TO SURROUND THEMSELVES WITH.  THERE WASN’T ELECTRICITY IN PAWNEE, BUT THE LILLIES’ GENERATED THEIR OWN POWER THROUGH WINDMILLS, THROUGH WIND CHARGERS, AND SO THEY HAD ELECTRICITY EVEN BEFORE THE TOWN DID.  SO IT WAS A VERY MODERN HOME IN ADDITION TO BEING A VERY BEAUTIFUL HOME.

COURTENAY:  HIS HOME THAT TO THIS DAY REFLECTS PAWNEE BILL’S LOVE FOR THE AMERICAN BISON, BOTH INSIDE AND OUT.

ERIN:  ONE OF MY FAVORITE THINGS IN THE HOME, OR SOME OF MY FAVORITE THINGS, ARE THESE PAINTINGS OF THE BISON.  AND THAT’S ANOTHER THING THAT PAWNEE BILL’S REALLY WELL KNOWN FOR, IS HIS WORK TO TRY TO SAVE THE BUFFALO.

RONNY:  WE’LL TALK ABOUT, YOU KNOW, HOW ICONIC THEY ARE TO AMERICA, YOU KNOW, AND HOW THAT WE ALMOST LOST THEM TO EXTINCTION AND HOW IMPORTANT IT WAS TO PAWNEE BILL AND HOW HE, YOU KNOW, HELPED PETITION THE US GOVERNMENT TO BUILD GAME PRESERVES TO PROTECT THE BISON FROM EXTINCTION.  SO, IT’S REAL IMPORTANT TO US AND TO THINK THAT PAWNEE BILL BUILT THIS RANCH IN 1910 AND HERE IT IS 2011; YOU KNOW, 101 YEARS WE’VE HAD BUFFALO ON THIS RANCH.  AND SO, IT’S REAL IMPORTANT TO US AND IT’S A NEAT TOUR FOR THE KIDS.

COURTENAY:  AND IF THE BISON AND MANSION AREN’T ENOUGH, THE PROPERTY ALSO HOUSES A MUSEUM.

ERIN:  AS A MODEL TO SHOW PEOPLE WHAT A STAGE COACH WOULD HAVE LOOKED LIKE, AND PAWNEE BILL HAD A STAGE COACH IN HIS SHOW, THEY DID A STAGE COACH ROBBERY.

COURTENAY:  AND LONG AFTER HIS DEATH, PAWNEE BILL STILL HAD ONE MORE SURPRISE.  AS A BUILDING WAS DEMOLSIHED AND THE ROCKS BEGAN TO FALL.

RONNY:  WHEN THEY TORE DOWN THE WALL, THE BUILDING THAT WAS RIGHT NEXT TO THAT BUILDING, THE ROCKS FELL AND THIS WAS UNCOVERED.  THEY, THIS WAS PUT UP IN 1900 TO ADVERTISE A ONE-DAY SHOW THAT WAS GOING TO PERFORM IN BLACKWELL, OKLAHOMA.  AND UH, THEY PUT THESE UP, THESE WERE ACTUALLY CALLED BARN POSTERS OR BARN BILLBOARDS, AND THEY WOULD PUT THESE UP TO DRAW ATTENTION.  THEY WOULD PUT THEM UP WAY AHEAD OF TIME OF A SHOW.  BUT FOR THIS TO BE DISCOVERED AND PRESERVED AND SAVED IS JUST AMAZING.  UH, YOU KNOW, SMITHSONIAN, AT THE TIME, YOU KNOW, THAT IT WAS DISCOVERED SAID, IT WAS JUST LIKE THE FIND OF THE CENTURY FOR SOMETHING THIS LARGE, OF THIS SCALE AND GRANDEUR, TO BE SAVED.

COURTENAY:  AND THE SCALE AND GRANDEUR OF PAWNEE BILL’S RANCH MAY ONLY BE THE BEGINNING OF HIS HISTORY THAT SEEMS TO GO ON, FOREVER.

NOW THE RANCH ALSO HAS COVERED PICNIC TABLES, FISHING PONDS, A PLAYGROUND, AND EVEN A MEETING ROOM.  THE BIG BARN CAN EVEN BE RENTED FOR WEDDINGS, REUNIONS, AND MORE.  BUT PERHAPS ONE OF THE MOST EXCITING THINGS AT THE RANCH IS THE RE-CREATION OF PAWNEE BILL’S ORIGINAL WILD WEST SHOW THE LAST THREE SATURDAYS IN JUNE EACH YEAR.