March 22, 2018
T. B. Ferguson Home Transferred to the City of Watonga
OKLAHOMA CITY — At the regular meeting of the Watonga City Council on Tuesday, March 20, 2018, the council approved the real estate transfer that places the T. B. Ferguson Home under the ownership of the city. Dr. Bob Blackburn, executive director of the Oklahoma Historical Society (OHS), was on hand to sign the transfer documents following the council’s unanimous vote.
The OHS and the City of Watonga had been working toward this transfer for many years, but until the 2016 legislative session the legal means did not exist to make this happen. Title 53-5.2b now authorizes the OHS to transfer real estate to other entities of government and nonprofits for cash value or in-kind contributions in the form of investment in the property. “As with most state agencies the OHS has been faced with budgetary challenges over the past ten years. These challenges led to the difficult decision that some of our properties might be better cared for under new ownership,” said Blackburn.
Other recent OHS real estate transfers include the transfer of Fort Washita near Madill to the Chickasaw Nation and the transfer of Sequoyah’s Cabin near Sallisaw to the Cherokee Nation. In August the Frank Phillips Home in Bartlesville reverted to the City of Bartlesville under the terms of the donation to the state of Oklahoma. The City of Bartlesville then transferred the home to the Frank Phillips Foundation, which also owns and operates Woolaroc, the museum and wildlife preserve on the Phillips ranch.
“The decision to transfer any property is a difficult one and each transfer was approved the OHS board of directors before negotiations began,” continued Blackburn. “Each of these properties is owned by entities that will continue to preserve them for future generations.”
“The City of Watonga and the Friends of the T. B. Ferguson Home have done an excellent job of caring for and operating the historic home with very little financial support from the state over the past ten years,” Blackburn said. “It was time to make the transfer official so work can continue on the home free from the contracting requirements imposed by state regulations.”
“The Ferguson Home is an important part of our community, and we are pleased to have it under local control,” said Mayor Gary Olsen. “The city looks to continue the close working relationship with the Friends of the Ferguson Home to keep the home open to the public. Some much needed renovation work will be starting soon on the front porch.”
Thompson Benton Ferguson was born in 1857 near Des Moines, Iowa. Although he was trained as a teacher and Methodist minister, Ferguson began writing occasional articles for a local newspaper and developed an interest in journalism. After the 1892 Land Run, Ferguson brought his family to Watonga, Oklahoma Territory, where he established the Watonga Republican. He remained the publisher of the newspaper until his death in 1921.
Ferguson was governor of Oklahoma Territory from November 1901 until January 1906, longer than any other territorial governor. After Governor Ferguson's death in 1921 his wife, Elva, managed the newspaper until 1930. In 1927 the famous novelist Edna Ferber stayed in the Ferguson home, where she found much of the material for her novel “Cimarron.”
The Ferguson home is a three-story Victorian-style home built in 1901. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1973.
The mission of the Oklahoma Historical Society is to collect, preserve and share the history and culture of the state of Oklahoma and its people. Founded in 1893 by members of the Territorial Press Association, the OHS maintains museums, historic sites and affiliates across the state. Through its research archives, exhibits, educational programs and publications the OHS chronicles the rich history of Oklahoma. For more information about the OHS, please visit www.okhistory.org.