Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Day One with Janet Lee Barton

After we moved to Oklahoma, I was pleased to find out that Guthrie, one of the first towns settled in the 1889 Land Rush, is only about fifteen minutes from where we live. We've made several trips to the town that is a Historical District of over 2,000 buildings covering 1,400 acres. One can take a trolley tour and visit the Oklahoma Territorial Museum, The State Capital Publishing Museum and The Oklahoma Frontier Drugstore Museum. There are quaint places to eat and shop, antique stores that invite one to browse.

It didn't take but one visit for the idea of I'd Sooner Have Love to spring to life. And as I delved into research, all kinds of what-if story ideas to start coming to the surface to develop the Oklahoma Sooners series. With each visit since, I've come to admire those first settlers so much. I love going there and imagining what it was like to be one of the first to settle this area of the state, to see a town go from tents to frame buildings almost overnight. The planning for the first towns in Oklahoma were so well done, one can see why its so easy to find ones way around even now. I'm so glad Guthrie is still here, with so much of what it was then still here and being appreciated and taken care of.

Very soon the frame buildings quickly turned into brick ones, most of which have been well preserved. Four months after run, the City Directory included 6 banks, 16 barbers and at least that many blacksmiths and carpenters. There were 5 newspapers, over 20 grocers, 4 jewelers, 7 hardware stores, 19 pharmacists, 39 doctors, 7 hardware stores, 40 restaurants, 81 lawyers, not to mention dry goods stores, laundries, flour and feed stores, and the list goes on. Hotels went up and were quickly filled; boarding houses were started, sparking the idea for Faith's boarding house in I'd Sooner Have Love, and period homes still line residential streets.

Guthrie quickly sprung up on the prairie to become a city, and today it's like stepping back in time to visit there and see so much of the Victorian elegance that proclaimed it the capitol of Oklahoma until it was moved to Oklahoma City in 1910.

What part of preserved history is near where you live?


  1. I am blessed to work in the Mississippi State Capitol. Sometimes I take time to touch one of the doorknobs engraved with an "M" or sit in the House chamber and look up at the stained glass dome. Mississippi's first capitol is also a few blocks away, and was recently renovated to return it to its original state. Aaron and I used it for a scene in one of our recent books, which was a lot of fun. This is a wonderful area to come to work each day, like having one foot in the past and one in the future.

  2. I love Guthrie. It's such an interesting town with all it's old buildings and rich history. Downtown Tulsa has some really cool Art Deco churches and buildings. Before I became a writer, I never paid much attention to historical buildings, but now they fascinate me. It's interesting how your perspective can change.

  3. Guthrie is a wonderful place to visit. I enjoyed my visit there and loved exploring the past with good friends. There are lots of places in New Mexico to visit but to be honest my favorite place to visit is Silverton, Colorado. It's only a couple of hours away and I love the feel of the antiqueness of the town. In my minds eye I can picture the saloons, the gunfights, and the old miners as they lived and shopped Silverton. A great place to visit.

  4. Loved your post. I need to come up there sometime just to visit Guthrie.

    Yesterday, I was the guest speaker for the Tea and Tales book club in East Texas. Getting there, James and I went through several small towns with many interesting historical buildings. Sometime soon, I hope to spend a couple of days going back and visiting them.

  5. What a delightful post. I love that building! I live in Maine and there is tons of history here. My town has some wonderful architecture and there are tons of great historical sites to visit.

  6. Thanks for visiting everyone!
    I would love to see that renovated capitol, Diane! it is much fun to use real history in our stories, isn't it?
    Writing historicals does change one's perspective on how we look at the buildings that are still here, Vickie! Now I'm on the lookout where ever we go.
    Rhonda, it's been so long since I've been to Silverton, but I remember how quaint it was. Would love to see it again.
    And Lena, I'd love to take you to Guthrie and spend a day there! Those small Texas towns are certainly fun to explore, too!

  7. Carla, I would love to visit Maine one day! I'm sure there is tons of history. One day . . . :)

  8. Last fall we vacationed in St Louis and drove around a lot and the historical buildings there are just amazing... I loved looking at them and got inspired (of course) for stories.

    Great post, Janet!

  9. Hey Janet,
    Great post! I have always loved visiting historical sites, but I have extra incentive now. Diane mentioned the capitol building. It inspires me every time I visit as I imagine the men and women who have walked the halls and made decisions that have a huge impact on our state today. Natchez, Mississippi, is only about two to three hours away. So many of the antebellum homes have been faithfully preserved. As I mentioned in a post when the book released, visiting Rosalie mansion sparked the idea that became "Among the Magnolias." I am thankful we have so many wonderful places to remind us of our historical heritage, full of people who built a great country as they sought to serve God and spread His message. I also love being able to keep small parts of that alive, as you are with this series. Thanks, Janet, for sharing this with us.

  10. Hi Lacy and Aaron!
    There is just something about old buildings--especially if they have been kept in good condition--that fuel a historical writer's imagination, isn't there?
    And Aaron, I LOVE Natchez! So many beautifully preserved antebellum homes to go through and feel a bit of that history of ours! Having real places to draw on helps so much to bring our history alive and give us a new appreciation of our heritage and the belief in God that our country was founded on.

  11. Bev PorterJune 14, 2011

    I very much enjoyed reading about the history of Guthrie. My husband has historical roots in Oklahoma. Some of his relatives participated in the land rush and he still has kinfolk in the Nowata area, though I have never met them. His grandparents, with his mother and her five siblings in tow, left Oklahoma during the dust bowl era and settled in my native state of Oregon.

  12. AnonymousJune 14, 2011

    There is something about old buildings that sweep you into another time, don't they? We have an old swinging bridge over the river here and when I was a teenager we used to drive across it. I still remember the way it swayed and the wooden planks creaked under the weight of the cars--how foolish were we??! Now when I see it as I'm driving across the new concrete bridge, I'm reminded that bridge was built for a different time and a different culture and it makes me wonder about the people that used to live here. Thanks for the post, Janet. Great article.
    Ginger Vaughan

  13. Hi Bev and Ginger--thanks for visiting!
    Bev, your husband's grandparents must of been of strong stock to travel all the way to Oregon! What a trip that must have been.
    Ginger, I love those old swinging bridges--but don't think I'd want to drive an auto across one! I'm glad we still have them here and there so that we can be reminded of what it must have been like!

  14. Loved your description of Guthrie. Best place to find a Bed and Breakfast in central OK.

    A historic place I enjoy visiting is a tiny church in Hartville, MO - Mt. Zion Baptist. It was build in 1854 and my mother's family went there for generations. Many of them are buried right outside. I based a church in "Sixty Acres" on it and described the baptistery. My mom then told me they added that later. She was baptized in the creek. Had to change it.

    Thanks for the memories!

  15. Thanks for visiting, Regina! How wonderful the church your family went to for generations is still being used. I'd love to see it! It is a blessing when a church that was built so long ago is still standing!

  16. Neat post, Janet!

    Where I grew up, we had a huge theater from way back when. All you had to do was go in and sit, and you thought some vaudeville show of the past would suddenly resurrect itself and start right before your eyes. In my day, it was a movie theater, and no longer hosted live performances. Except sometimes they'd have a guy play an ancient organ before the show!

  17. Oh, how neat, Erin! That would be wonderful to see. If you can find them, those old theaters have so much character! I remember going to one where I grew up and I loved how grand it felt, with its balcony and rich draperies! Thanks for reminding me of it!

  18. I am on the Eastern seaboard -- and Ocean Grove, NJ, a quaint former Methodist Camp Association location, is filled with Victorian charm and splendor. Most buildings are on the rolls of historic places. The Great auditorium is a sight to behold. I love visiting the community.