Saturday, August 27, 2016

Marland Mansion—Ponca City, OK

with Linda "Lin" Farmer Harris

I enjoy a great mystery and when it's associated with a stately mansion it's even more intriguing.

Earlier this year we toured the Ernest Whitworth Marland Estate Mansion, 901 Monument Road in Ponca City, Oklahoma. The architecture and tile work in the home are incredible.

Marland Mansion-Front-Courtesy Marland Estate Mansion

Marland Mansion-Back-Courtesy Marland Estate Mansion
As we toured, I thought y'all might be interested in sightseeing with me. So I whipped out the camera and started snapping. However, one thing I learned upon returning home is what interested me might not be of interest to you. For example, the blue and pink bathrooms throughout the mansion.

Marland Mansion-Typical Tub under Shower-Harris photo

Marland Mansion-Typical Shower over Tub-Harris photo
Before Marland built the Monument Road mansion, his first home was 22 rooms set on eight acres of formal, terraced gardens at Tenth and Grand, near downtown Ponca City. His first wife Virginia Collins Marland oversaw the collection of shrubs, foliage, and flowers, deemed by the citizens as the most beautiful garden this side of the Mississippi.

First Marland Mansion—Tenth and Grand-Courtesy Marland Estate
After seeing the Davanzati Palace in Florence, Italy, he wanted to build his own palace on the Oklahoma prairie. In 1925 he hired master architect John Duncan Forsyth and scores of internationally renowned artists, decorators, stone masons, tile setters, and sculptors to make his dream a realty. Forsyth also built many other homes in Ponca City and in Tulsa. Virginia died in 1926 after a long illness and never lived in the new mansion.

Workmen labored from 1925 to 1928 to create the 43,561 square feet masterpiece built within limestone exterior walls and red clay tile roofs. The building and furnishing cost was $5.5 million dollars.

The docent said the 55 rooms are distributed over four levels and include 12 bathrooms, 10 bedrooms, 3 kitchens, and 7 fireplaces. I asked who was in charge of changing out the 861 light bulbs. He laughed and said, "Thankfully, not me."
Marland Mansion-Aerial View-Courtesy Marland Estate

We didn't have time to tour all of the small historic museums housed in some of the restored original buildings on the grounds. The chauffeur's cottage, now designated as Lydie's Cottage, reflects many elements of the main house.

Chauffeur's Cottage-Courtesy Marland Estate Mansion
E.W. and Virginia were childless so they invited two of her sister's children, George and Lydie (pronounced Ly-de) Roberts into their home. Eventually, they adopted the two children. Two years after Virginia's death, Lydie's adoption was annulled and she became the second Mrs. Marland, but the first to live in the mansion.

Mr. Marland was founder and president of Marland Oil that would become Conoco Oil Company and later Conoco/Phillips. He pioneered employer paid insurance, paid eye care and dental bills, and built over 400 homes for employees. After a hostile take over of his oil company by J.P. Morgan & Co., he went into politics and was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1932. He was elected as the 10th Governor of Oklahoma in 1934. He ran for U.S. Senate twice, but lost both times.

E.W. Marland Accomplishments as Oklahoma Governor-Harris photo
He commissioned sculptor Jo Davidson to create the three Marland family statues from French limestone.

Courtesy of Marland Estate Mansion

Lydie and George Marland-Courtesy of Marland Estate Mansion
Marland died in 1941 after the sale of the mansion and grounds to the Carmelite Fathers for a monastery. After it was home to the Marland family, it became a monastery, a college, a convent, and now a historic home museum.

During my tour I was fascinated by the ceiling tiles and hand-painted panels. My pictures don't do justice to the beauty of the art work.

Marland Mansion-Harris photo

Marland Mansion-Harris photo
The wood work was intricate and detailed. Even the lattice patterned heating vents were amazing.

Marland Mansion-Harris photo

Marland Mansion-Harris photo
Can't have a mansion without a dumbwaiter with telephoning system or an elevator.
Dumbwaiter—Marland Mansion-Harris photo

Elevator Door—Marland Mansion-Harris photo

Elevator Door Open—Marland Mansion-Harris photo
The furnishings from the period were lavish, skillfully created, and abundant. Every room was a masterpiece. I hope you get a chance to visit the mansion.

What's the mystery I mentioned? Well, in 1953, Lydie packed up her Studebaker with tapestries and paintings and left Ponca City. She wasn't seen locally or heard from by friends and acquaintances for 22 years. However, while she was gone, the taxes on the cottage and its property left to her in Marland's will were paid through her lawyers.

In 1958, The Saturday Evening Post ran an article "Where is Lydie Marland?" It's believed that she lived near Central Park in New York City, and in the '60s participated in the peace marches in Washington, D.C. surrounding civil rights and the Vietnamese War.

In 1975, the Felician Sisters announced plans to sell the "convent" mansion. Lydie came home and asked the citizens of Ponca City to support the purchase of the mansion as a city treasure. She moved into her cottage on the estate grounds and lived a reclusive life until her death in 1987.

What mansions turned historic museums have you visited? What's your favorite.

Linda "Lin" Farmer Harris

Lin and her husband, Jerry, live on a hay and cattle ranch in Chimney Rock, Archuleta County, Colorado. Lots of pioneer homesteads, but no estate mansions.

Turning Tidbits of History into Unforgettable Stories
The Lye Water Bride
California Gold Rush Romance Collection

Friday, August 26, 2016

A Breif History of The Mighty Mac

Michele Morris here on Heroes, Heroines, and History.

Location of The Straits of Mackinac

The Straights of Mackinac are a narrow, relatively shallow waterway connecting Lake Huron and Lake Michigan. The shortest distance across the Straits from Michigan’s Lower Peninsula to the Upper Peninsula (UP) is about five miles. It’s across this stretch of water that The Mackinac Bridge was built.

During the seventieth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries, people traveling from one peninsula to the other used canoes or boats to cross. The crossing was dangerous and during winter, almost impossible until the waterway completely froze over.

Algonquin Indians in dugout

As early as 1880, Michigan Legislators began discussing the construction of a bridge spanning the Straits of Mackinac. Then in July 1888, on Mackinac Island, during a meeting of the board of directors of the Grand Hotel, Cornelius Vanderbilt II introduced a plan to build bridge across the Straits. His goal was to expand business in the area and help lengthen the resort season of his hotel. The design he proposed was similar to one under construction across the Firth of Forth in Scotland. Though plans for a bridge were ahead of their time, ways to make crossing the waterway more efficient continued to pass through Michigan Legislation and discussed among local businesses.

By 1923 cars had become common place in the United States. The Michigan State Highway Department began a car ferry system to transport people and their vehicles across the Straits. As the ferry system became more popular it 
also became more expensive for the state to maintain.

After only five years of ferry service, Governor Fred Green ordered that the same agency that ran the ferry system to research the possibility of building a bridge. Their findings were positive. The estimated cost was 30 million dollars. There were steps taken to get the project underway but soon the project was dropped until 1934 when Michigan Legislature formed the Mackinac Straits Bridge Authority of Michigan.

At this time, The Bridge Authority conducted another study of bridge feasibility. Their findings were similar to the 1923 study, and it was concluded that the bridge could be built for approximately 32,400,000.

For the next ten years the Mackinac Straits Bridge Authority worked diligently to raise funds and obtain federal grants, but unfortunately due, in part, to World War Two, the Bridge Authority was abolished and all plans for a bridge across the Straits were put on hold.

Soon after the war ended The Mackinac Bridge Authority of Michigan was reinstated and exists to this day. It took another ten years of fundraising and planning before bridge construction took place. Ground breaking ceremonies were held on May 7th, 1956 in Saint Ignace (Upper Peninsula side) and on May 8th in Mackinaw City (Lower Peninsula side).

Mackinac Bridge construction began with the erecting the pillars. Caissons (footing) were built off site then floated into position and sunk to provide a foundation for the two main towers. Cables would be connected to the two towers and would serve to support the center span of the bridge. Creeper derricks (crane type machines) were added, to raise materials for construction. Truss sections were built in sections and floated into position then raised into place.

Right on schedule, the Mackinac Bridge opened to traffic on November 1, 1957. The auto ferry service discontinued runs on the same day. On June 25, 1958, the Bridge was formally dedicated.

The following facts and figures are quoted from David Steinman's book "Miracle Bridge at Mackinac".


Total Length of Bridge (5 Miles) - 26,372 Ft.

Total Length of Steel Superstructure - 19,243 Ft.

Length of Suspension Bridge (including Anchorages) - 8,614 Ft.

Total Length of North Approach - 7,129 Ft.

Length of Main Span (between Main Towers) - 3,800 Ft.


Height of Main Towers above Water - 552 Ft

Maximum Depth to Rock at Midspan - Unknown

Maximum Depth of Water at Midspan - 295 Ft.

Maximum Depth of Tower Piers below Water - 210 Ft.

Height of Roadway above Water at Midspan - 199 Ft.

Under-clearance at Midspan for Ships - 155 Ft.

Maximum Depth of Water at Piers - 142 Ft.

Maximum Depth of Piers Sunk through Overburden - 105 Ft.


Total Length of Wire in Main Cables - 42,000 Miles

Maximum Tension in Each Cable - 16,000 Tons

Number of Wires in Each Cable - 12,580

Weight of Cables - 11,840 Tons

Diameter of Main Cables - 24 1/2 Inches

Diameter of Each Wire - 0.196 Inches


Total Weight of Bridge - 1,024,500 Tons

Total Weight of Concrete - 931,000 Tons

Total Weight of Substructure - 919,100 Tons

Total Weight of Two Anchorages - 360,380 Tons

Total Weight of Two Main Piers - 318,000 Tons

Total Weight of Superstructure - 104,400 Tons

Total Weight of Structural Steel - 71,300 Tons

Weight of Steel in Each Main Tower - 6,500 Tons

Total Weight of Cable Wire - 11,840 Tons

Total Weight of Concrete Roadway - 6,660 Tons

Total Weight of Reinforcing Steel - 3,700 Tons


Total Number of Steel Rivets - 4,851,700

Total Number of Steel Bolts - 1,016,600


Total Number of Engineering Drawings - 4,000

Total Number of Blueprints - 85,000


Total, at the Bridge Site - 3,500

At Quarries, Shops, Mills, etc. - 7,500

Total Number of Engineers - 350


Mackinac Bridge Authority Appointed - June 1950

Board of Three Engineers Retained - June 1950

Report of Board of Engineers - January 1951

Financing and Construction Authorized by Legislature - April 30, 1952

D.B. Steinman Selected as Engineer - January 1953

Preliminary Plans and Estimates Completed - March 1953

Construction Contracts Negotiated - March 1953

Bids Received for Sale of Bonds - December 17, 1953

Began Construction - May 7, 1954

Open to traffic - November 1, 1957

Formal dedication - June 25-28, 1958

50 millionth crossing - September 25, 1984

40th Anniversary Celebration - November 1, 1997

100 millionth crossing - June 25, 1998

Thank you for joining me here at Hero, Heroines, and History.


Award winning author, Michele Morris’s love for historical fiction began when she first read Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House book series. She grew up riding horses and spending her free time in the woods of mid-Michigan dreaming of days-gone-by and knights-in-shining-armor. Therefore, it only makes sense that she now writes historical romance with a touch of suspense. Married to her high school sweetheart, they are living happily-ever-after with their six children, three in-loves, and six grandchildren in Florida, the sunshine state. When not spending time with her large brood or writing, Michele enjoys photography, genealogy, and cooking. 

Thursday, August 25, 2016

History of Sign Language in the United States

By Jennifer Uhlarik

One of the things I love as an author is the research it takes to pull of a historical story. It can be frustrating at times to find the information one needs, but exhilarating when you ferret out the elusive details.

In writing Mountain Echoes, I chose to include a twelve-year-old deaf boy, as well as a woman who worked at a school for the deaf. All this meant I would need to research deafness and deaf education in the mid-1800’s.

Down through history, different cultures treated deafness in varying ways. For instance, the ancient Egyptians saw the deaf as having special abilities that hearing people didn’t possess, and therefore, they were respected and treated kindly. Conversely, the ancient Greeks viewed the deaf as a burden, and most, if not all, deaf citizens were killed. In later times, the Spanish viewed deafness as a result of the sins of the parents being visited upon their children, so the afflicted children were often sent to live in monasteries with the priests, who could hopefully save their souls. Thankfully for these children, the priests often worked to educate them and even teach them rudimentary means of speech.

Abbe de l'Epee
In the 1700’s, a French cleric in Paris—Abbe de l’Epee—became interested in a rough system of signing that two deaf girls displayed while he visited a local parishioner. This deaf children were able to convey ideas to one another with hand signals, now known as Old French Sign Language. Abbe de l’Epee used their system as a starting place to create his own system, signing exact words rather than ideas. Old Signed French, as l’Epee’s language is known, was used in a school which he started, and it was so helpful to the deaf community that many of his graduates went on to start schools of their own in other locations across Europe.

Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet
In the early 1800’s, a minister in the United States by the name of Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet became interested in finding a way to help his deaf neighbor learn to communicate. Having heard of the success of deaf schools across Europe, he traveled there to learn what he could. It was on this trip in 1816 where he met Laurent Clerc, a recent graduate of one of the deaf schools. Clerc graciously taught Gallaudet about deaf education and signing, and Gallaudet convinced Clerc to return to America with him to aid in starting the first deaf school in the country.

Laurent Clerc
The two men took l’Epee’s Old Signed French system and remade it into a form of sign language better suited for the understanding of American students. The new system employed signs for individual words, just like l’Epee’s system, and also used rules of grammar. Gallaudet set up the first deaf school, called the American Asylum, in Hartford, Connecticut, and Clerc stayed on to be the first teacher of the deaf in the country. What the two men found was the students learned their new system, now known as Old Signed English, but after formal classes let out, they would shorten their signed sentences to simple phrases that didn’t employ the strict rules of grammar they used in the classroom. This more natural pattern is what we now know as American Sign Language.

Just as it was in Europe, as students graduated from Gallaudet’s school, which was later renamed the American School for the Deaf, many went on to found their own schools across the growing nation. By the early 1860’s, the number of deaf schools had grown to twenty-two.

Edward Miner Gallaudet
When Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet died, his youngest son, Edward, opted to carry on his father’s legacy. Edward went into teaching, taking a position with his father’s school and was later asked to become superintendent of the Columbia School for the Deaf and Dumb and the Blind in Washington, D.C. He had been considering the idea of opening a college for the deaf, so he presented his idea to Congress, who approved the idea. Edward took the position at what would become Gallaudet University, the only university for the deaf in the world.

Jennifer Uhlarik discovered the western genre as a pre-teen, when she swiped the only “horse” book she found on her older brother’s bookshelf. A new love was born. Across the next ten years, she devoured Louis L’Amour westerns and fell in love with the genre. In college at the University of Tampa, she began penning her own story of the Old West. Armed with a B.A. in writing, she has won five writing competitions and finaled in two other competitions. In addition to writing, she has held jobs as a private business owner, a schoolteacher, a marketing director, and her favorite—a full-time homemaker. Jennifer is active in American Christian Fiction Writers and lifetime member of the Florida Writers Association. She lives near Tampa, Florida, with her husband, teenaged son, and four fur children.


Ride into adventures alongside nine determined women of yesteryear whose acts of compassion and bravery attract male attention. Marcy helps displaced Indians. Emmy tends wounds at Fort Snelling. Ronnie stows away on a cattle drive. Daisy disguises herself as a Pony Express rider. Elinor becomes an abolitionist. Mae tames wild horses. Hannah gets help for accident victims. Lucy’s curiosity unnerves criminals. Kate nurses soldiers on the battlefield. Will real dangers douse the sparks of love?

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

First Modern Olympics included Guns and Whiskey, but no Gold

The Gun that Won the West…

With the capture of the Wild Bunch in 1896, gunfights in the Old West were winding down just as a different type of gun battle was heating up.  For that was the year the first modern Olympics was held in Athens, following a 1502 year hiatus.
There was no official U.S. Olympic team in 1896 and, indeed, the thought of Americans participating in the Olympics was frowned upon by many including the New York Times: “The American amateur sportsman in general should know that in going to Athens he is taking an expensive journey to a third rate capital where he will be devoured by fleas.”
Some members of the Boston Athletic Association (BAA) disagreed. They saw the Olympics as a chance to do something significant, maybe even historic, and an all-star track team was selected.
U.S. Olympic team 1896
When BAA member John Paine heard about the Olympic team, he convinced his gunsmith brother Sumner to enter the shooting competition with him. The two brothers landed in Greece armed with an arsenal of weapons, including a colt revolver and more than three thousand rounds of ammunition. 
Like all the other American athletes, they were in for a shock.  Greece went by the Orthodox calendar which meant it was April 5th in Greece and only March 25th in America. Instead of having two weeks to prepare for competition, as planned, American athletes had only eight hours. Fortunately, that was all John and Sumner needed.  

…Also Won the Crown

When the brothers were told that their Stevens 22s were "not usual" and inadmissible, the brothers switched to Colts 45s.
John easily won the military gun contest with his Colt.  Thinking it unsporting to continue, he withdrew from the other events so as not to embarrass the host. (Can you imagine anything like that happening today?) Sumner easily won the free pistol event, making the brothers the first siblings to win medals in an Olympic event.

The brothers’ shooting skills were given less credit than the whiskey they sipped between rounds to relieve tension. Thinking booze would give them the winning edge, other marksmen started sporting flasks, too.
1896 Medals
Since gold was considered “crass,” first place winners went home with a silver medal and crown of olive leaves.  I don’t know what the two brothers did with the crowns, but one medal came in handy.
Several years later in 1901, Sumner found his wife in bed with his daughter’s music teacher.   He chased the man away with four pistols shots and was arrested for assault.  When the police learned he won an Olympic medal for shooting, they decided he must have missed on purpose and released him. 

 Did you watch the Olympics?  If so, what was your favorite sport?

Coming in November... 

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