All around the neighborhood swarms of squealing, laughing children frolic with summer joy at the ending of another schoolyear. It is a sobering thought to realize that the students of Z.T. Snyder (the Old Spider) had not even begun the 1871 school term as of this month way back then. The first-ever public school classes of Stone County didn’t begin until the first of August, then lasted only three months. The subject of this Old Spiderweb column, Ed Galloway, had not been born when that school was in session, but undoubtedly there were some, if not many, of Old Spider’s students who later in life visited the Galloway Hootontown studio. Some probably bounced down the winding dirt roads in Model-T’s.
The recent passing of Mary Scott Hair, beloved Stone County author and folklorist, gave many of us reason to pause and reflect upon her wisdom in general and contributions in particular in preserving local history. I came across an article she penned many years ago concerning Ed Galloway, a creative genius who began a remarkable career in the little James River village of Hootontown. She wrote: “...A nice Sunday afternoon drive in a Model T was over to Hooten Town to see the Woman and the Snake, the Caged Lion and other carvings...”
Please activate your imagination and travel along while we visit the old Hootontown sculptor and woodcarver. Keep in mind fellow writer Ray Gold’s reminiscences regarding Model T travel: “...We didn’t have no paved roads, th brush all growed up on both sides of a little ole narrow, rough, one-way road. We hat to watch fur limbs a stickin out a little too fur, hits jest kinda like runnin into a clothe line, hit sure would git your attention...”** But then, as now, Ed Galloway’s sculptures are worth the trip!
Nathan Ed Galloway, born in 1880, married Miss Vila Sue Hooten and at once embarked upon a fantastic journey of “non-traditional” creative artistry in the small town of Hootontown, named after Vila Sue’s ancestor, Will Carver Hooton. Galloway’s most notable legacy to northeastern Stone County is his famous Lion In A Cage wood sculpture. It is housed in Dickerson Park Zoo, Springfield, Misouri. The plaque beneath it reads: “Carved...for the 1915 World’s Fair in San Francisco. Life-sized lion in a cage, carved from a single solid piece of sycamore...A 1970 Hillcrest High School class restored and painted the piece. It was taken off exhibit in 1980 and remained off display until 1992 when it was refinished by zoo staff and the Springfield Wood Carver’s Association.” Galloway’s lion was standing guard in the Reptile House when I discovered it. Technically, the big cat is “the oldest animal in the zoo.” His very existence is a miracle of unfathomable talent. The lion’s size and dignity is both chilling and inspiring, yet the man who carved him is only vaguely remembered in Stone County, Missouri, as something of an enigma.
It is said that Galloway was having financial trouble making arrangements for the 1915 World’s Fair exhibit when he had the good fortune to meet with Charles Page, of Sand Springs, Oklahoma. Mr. Page persuaded Galloway to teach woodworking at the Charles Page Orphan’s Home in Sand Springs. And so it was that Ed Galloway devoted the next 22 years of his life sparking the esteem and creativity of the home’s orphan children, his greatest achievement by far. When he retired in 1936, he and Vila Sue (known as Villa) moved to a farm at Chelsea, Oklahoma, where Nathan Edward Galloway began what might be considered the most unique phase of his life’s work.
Galloway was an avid student of Indian-lore and now began memoralizing Native Americans through a prodigious output of symbols, including totem poles. He spent 11 years building a 28-ton steel-reinforced concrete totem, adorning its figures in brilliant colors. It was completed in 1948. At 90 feet high and 40 feet at the base, this is the largest totem pole in the world. There was also a fiddle house at Galloway’s totem pole park. Galloway is reputed to have once commented, “I can whittle out a fiddle while my wife gets breakfast!” He whittled at least 300 fiddles. (Click here to see Ed in the fiddle house.)
In preparation for this writeup, I had a very pleasant conversation with Carolyn Comfort, Chairperson of the Totem Pole Park. Carolyn answered the phone at the park’s museum/gift shop. (That number is 918-342-9149.) She invites everyone to a special fundraiser bar-b-que on Saturday, June 17, 2000.
Most of the park structures belonging to Galloway have been rennovated and are now open to the public, including a playhouse built for a grandson. The Totem Pole Park is 4 miles east of Route 66, on Oklahoma Highway 28A, near Foyil and northeast of Claremore, Oklahoma. Ed Galloway is quoted as saying, “All my life, I did the best I knew. I built these things by the side of the road to be a friend to you.” Should you happen to visit Galloway’s last great marvels of stone and wood near Foyil, Oklahoma, think back on these kind words as you drive along Highway 28A. Think then also of Stone County’s oldtimers who sallied forth in Model T’s (or on foot, on horse or mule, in buggy, by boat, etc.) for a bumpy, exciting trip to Hootontown’s famous Galloway Studio.
Galloway said something else that has stayed with me from the moment I first read the words. Nathan Ed Galloway said:
“Be sure to work on your imaginations!”
*Hootontown is sometimes spelled as Hootentown or as two words with
either the “on” or “en” version. The town is named after the Hooton pioneers.
**This quote taken from Ray Gold’s “Th Way Hit Wuz With Th Model T Ford”, 1998, featured in MOSTONE’s Family Stories.
Totem Pole photograph is courtesy of Rogers County Historical Society, Claremore, Oklahoma.
“Lion In A Cage” photograph is courtesy of Dickerson Park Zoo.
One last word, just as there is confusion with the spelling of Hootontown,
there is a peculiarity in the spelling of Nathan Ed Galloway. On occasion,
his middle name is spelled “Edd”, with two d’s. Edd Galloway appears to
have taken on a life of its own even though the correct spelling is “Ed.”
© May 31, 2000