| OOLOGAH, Okla. Cherokee Nation announced plans to purchase
the historic Will Rogers Birthplace Museum in Rogers County. A small
signing ceremony was held at the museum on Wednesday, Nov. 4 to coincide
with Will Rogers' birthday and formalize the acquisition from the
Oklahoma Historical Society.
"Will Rogers' humor and his unique ability to make complicated
political and economic issues easy to understand made him a powerful
social critic and commentator. He captivated audiences around the
nation because his humor never insulted or belittled anyone
he was simply telling the truth about people in positions of power,"
said Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. "He was called 'The Cherokee
Kid' in his early entertainment career and always embraced his culture
and his tribe. No matter how popular he was, Will Rogers was always
a Cherokee, and he talked about it. He reminded people every day
that there are Native people of this land still alive and who remain
a vibrant part of America's tapestry. It is quite fitting that the
Cherokee Nation will now have an opportunity to continuing telling
this story from such a unique perspective."
Cherokee Nation Principal
Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. signs as Deputy Principal Chief Bryan
Wagner, left, and Tad Jones of the Oklahoma Historical Society
look on during a transfer ceremony at the Will Rogers Birthplace
Ranch in Oologah on Wednesday. The ceremony was held to formalize
the Cherokee Nation's acquisition of the museum from the Oklaoma
Historical Society. (Photo provided)
Cherokee Nation announced plans to purchase the historic Will Rogers
Birthplace Museum in Rogers County. A small signing ceremony was
held at the museum on Wednesday, Nov. 4 to coincide with Will Rogers'
birthday and formalize the acquisition from the Oklahoma Historical
Society. (Cherokee Nation photo)
William Penn Adair Rogers was born to Clement Vann Rogers and Mary
America Schrimsher on Nov. 4, 1879. He was the youngest of eight
children and grew up on his family's ranch in the Cooweescoowee
District of Cherokee Nation. After leaving the ranch around 1905,
Rogers pursued an entertainment career in Hollywood. Often referred
to as 'The Cherokee Kid' and 'Oklahoma's Favorite Son,' Rogers became
one of the highest paid Hollywood actors in the 1930s. He appeared
in more than 70 films, had a syndicated newspaper column and made
numerous radio appearances.
"The Oklahoma Historical Society and the Cherokee Nation have a
long history of mutual respect, cooperation and shared resources,"
said Dr. Bob Blackburn, executive director of the Oklahoma Historical
Society. "Every penny earned from this transfer will be invested
in the Will Rogers Memorial Museum, located in the Cherokee Nation.
Together, we will make sure the world will always remember the life
and legacy of this famous Cherokee cowboy."
By the late 1890s, the Curtis and Dawes Acts had reduced the ranch
to about 140 acres. Throughout time, the family was able to purchase
surrounding land but only regained 2,000 of the original 60,000
"Today is a good day to celebrate this historic site and all that
has been accomplished here by those who acted as caretakers of the
land for many decades, including the Oklahoma Historical Society,"
said Deputy Chief Bryan Warner. "The story of Will Rogers is such
an integral part of Oklahoma history and Cherokee Nation history.
I want to thank the Oklahoma Historical Society for preserving this
site and allowing folks from all across the world to get a glimpse
of the famed Cherokee humorist who left a lasting impression on
so many of us."
Today, the property spans 162 acres, which includes the historic
ranch-style home, a caretaker's home and two outbuildings. The museum
showcases what life was like on a late 19th century ranch in Indian
Territory and shares details about Will Rogers' Cherokee lineage
and his family's relocation to Indian Territory as Old Settlers.
Special exhibits explore his early life, before his success as one
of America's most iconic entertainers, including his entry into
adulthood during the Curtis Act, allotment, statehood and more.
The Will Rogers Birthplace
Ranch is shown near Oologah. The house was moved to its current
location on the hill overlooking Lake Oologah before the lake
was built. (The Oklahoman Archives)
"This is a proud moment for Cherokee Nation and the beginning of
what I know will be a promising future for this treasured site,"
said Keith Austin, Cherokee Nation Tribal Councilor. "I grew up
just a few miles from here, and the Will Rogers Birthplace was an
important part of my childhood. I spent a lot of time here, and
it is a true honor to have the opportunity to share the Cherokee
story of Will Rogers and the Rogers family ranch. Today, we celebrate
part of our Cherokee roots being returned to the Cherokee people,
and I'm proud and humbled to be part of it."
The Will Rogers Birthplace Museum will continue operations under
Cherokee Nation Businesses and be managed by the cultural tourism
department beginning 2021. With this addition, the tribe now operates
eight Cherokee Nation museums, two welcome centers and several retail