| Forty six years
ago, one of Vinita*s
most enchanting and historical homes was demolished. This beautiful
mansion had been the scene of countless social events during the time
that two generations of the Halsell family lived there.
This limit view of
the Halsell Mansion is the only photograph known to exist and
appears courtesy of the Eastern Trails Museum in Vinita. Wanda
The highly successful and well-respected
cattleman and businessman William E. Halsell bought the house In 1882
while It was still unfinished. Apparently. the original builder ran out of
money and Mr. Halsell, although wealthy, was not immune to the lure of a
Since he was born in a humble log house in
Alabama, having a beautiful home must have been especially rewarding to
William. He grew up in Texas and at age 18, became a trail driver on the
Chisholm Trail Later, as a well, established cattleman, he married Mary
Alice Crutchfield when he was 22 and she was 18.
marriage to Alice, who was part Cherokee, enabled him to claim a homestead
that eventually became the largest ranch in the Tulsa area during the
1880's and 1890*s.
But the Halsells decided not to live on the ranch, choosing in stead the
convenience and culture of a bustling frontier town.
At the time they moved into their spacious
Vinita house, their eldest child, Willie Edna was 9 years old and their
only son, Ewing, was five. After only two years in their new home, Willie
died from meningitis at age 11.
Ten years after Willie*s
death, Mrs. Halsell died at age 50 in 1894. Three years after her death,
Mr. Halsell remarried. His new bride, Josephine Crutchfield, was his dead
niece. She was 21 years old, just two years older than Mr. Halsell*s
only son, Ewing.
By 1907, the year of Oklahoma*s
statehood, Mr. Halsell had the house extensively remodeled. A third story
ballroom was added and the downstairs space was doubled. The cost was
estimated to be $60,000.
The house had twenty rooms, six fireplaces.
seventy-two leaded glass windows, five bathrooms, a library, and six
bedrooms. In addition to the main living room, dining room, and parlor,
the Halsells entertained on the lavishly landscaped grounds where a
smaller house had room for informal summer parties.
Fine hardwoods of oak, maple, and walnut were
used for floors, doors, trim, and fireplace mantles. There were two
swimming pools, an orchard, and formal gardens brimming with flowers
popular during the early 1900's Five care fully mown acres surrounded the
house and gardens.
The large two-story barn had space for six
horses, a buggy, and a carriage. The servants quarters were upstairs. Mr.
Halseli was a great dog lover and the servants*duties
included care of the dogs and well as the horses.
Mr. William Halsell*s
three surviving daughters and his son, Ewing, often had parties for their
friends at the mansion. Even when travel was limited to trains or
horse-drawn carriages, guests came from Oklahoma City and Tulsa to attend
events at the Halsell mansion.
William Halsell was such a prominent figure in Vinita*s
public affairs, an invitation to his home was a coveted prize. He was a
board member of the Worcester Academy, a benefactor of Willie Halsell
College, and he helped build a theater and opera house in town.
He was one of the founders of the First National
Bank of Vinita (1892.) He purchased numerous blocks of real estate and
sold them for huge profits when the population increased due to the
of the Halsell barn was taken as it was being dismantled, sometime
in the late 40's or early 50's. While it was in use, it housed the
horses, livestock, carriage, and a buggy. The servants' quarters
In 1910, William Halsell and his second wife
Josephine moved to Kansas City and Ewing, the oldest Halsell child and
only son, moved into the mansion with his wife Lucile Fortner. Lucile was
the daughter of a prominent Vinita physician and a classmate of Ewing*s
and Will Rogers*
when they attended Willie Halsell College in Vinita.
Ewing and Lucile continued the Halsell tradition
of gracious entertaining; delighting their guests with dinner parties and
informal gatherings for many years. But by the late 1940*s,
they were spending more and more time at their other home In Texas where
business interests were headquartered.
There were fewer and fewer parties at the
mansion: and the busy cattleman and his wife spent almost all of their
time in San Anto. Only the servants lived at estate, maintaining the
grounds and house.
the Halseliís occasional visits to Vinita stopped together and they made
Texas their permanent home. They donated the land and mansion to the
Vinita School Board who had it razed in 1956.
|These walkway steps are all that
remain of the Halsell Estate at its original location. Ewing Halsell
Middle School replaced the mansion and outbuildings.
The Ewing Halsell Middle
School is now located on the grounds where the beautiful mansion once
stood. Only a few dilapidated walk-way steps remain as a reminder in town,
of the Halsell mansion and the fabulously wealthy people who lived there.
|Although undated, this building stone
engraved with the name "W. E. Halsell" was part of the Halsell
mansion and discovered in a ditch adjoining the estate many years after
the house had been demolished. It is currentley in the private collection
of Dr. and Mrs. Danny Lankford, Vinita
Dorothy Nix, Sam Dove, Arthur Frank Wertheim, and Barbara Bair.
Kathleen Duchamp, Vinita Daily Journal, Nov 6-8,2002