COLLINSVILLE — The property has changed a lot in a century, but a small white farm house nestled among a few trees about 100 yards from one of Tulsa County’s busiest highways is officially a piece of Oklahoma history.
What was once rolling prairie is now new home development, shopping centers and two new schools to serve the exploding population around Owasso and Collinsville.
“I remember it different,” said Kathleen Morrow. “I can remember getting on my horse and riding all the way to Rogers County and back.
“There was nothing but the land. You couldn’t hear anything but the wind.”
Time changes everything, but Morrow hopes to preserve her little corner of Oklahoma history after recently getting the “Morrow Home Place” listed as an Oklahoma Centennial Ranch.
The Oklahoma Centennial Farm and Ranch program certifies farms and ranches that have been owned and operated by the same family for at least 100 years.
An estimated 80,100 farms and ranches dot the state. So far, just 1,549 have been certified as an Oklahoma Centennial Farm or Ranch.
“No question it has been a labor of love for me to do this,” said Morrow. “I absolutely wanted to preserve the story of my family and to pass it on.”
The Morrows likely moved to this piece of land, the highest point in the Owasso area, as early as 1897 or 1898.
The house on the land is estimated to date back to 1905. And the actual deed to the land was acquired by Morrow’s grandfather in 1913.
The house is just off U.S. 75 on 126th Street North. The original home place has been chopped up into various pieces over the years; Morrow estimates only about 100 acres remains.
Several housing developments neighbor the property, and just a half-mile away are two new elementary schools — one for Owasso and one for Collinsville.
Signs of modern sprawl are everywhere you look. But Morrow never considered the small ranch where she grew up as a Tulsa suburb.
“When you look out the back of the house, you can see the small hill near the end of this field,” she said. “As a small child, I can remember going out there late in the day and reading books. I could sit up there and see the lights of the Tulsa airport. I could watch the planes land and take off.
“It was all very exciting for me. I remember dreaming about someday getting on one of those planes and going to visit all the places I read about.”
Morrow has visited many spots in the world since she left Collinsville High School in the 1960s. She earned a doctorate in business and personal management at Oklahoma State University and lives in Dallas.
In recent years she developed an interest in documenting her family history for future generations.
She’s got a plan to make sure the ranch stays in the family for generations to come.
Morrow got the “home place,” as she likes to call it, listed on the National Register of Historic Sites.
Then she worked to get the ranch listed as one of the state’s centennial ranches. It is one of only two Tulsa County locations listed as such.
Morrow has a story for just about every place you walk on the four acres where the house stands.
Much of it has been passed down from her grandmother, Lucille Ellingwood Morrow, who was a well-known newspaper columnist for more than 30 years.
During a recent visit to the house, the granddaughter noted its personal meaning.
“This front room is where her sons, including my father, were born,” said Morrow. “This room is where she sent her sons off to war. And this is the room where she died.
“My entire family history is here. It’s this house. It’s this land. For me, that’s worth remembering and passing on. I want schoolchildren to come here someday and understand life in early-day Oklahoma.”
Morrow has worked hard to preserve what remains of the ranch. The house needs work, as do several other buildings. Luckily, much of it remains.
“This house just needs some preservation work,” she said. “It’s actually in pretty good shape. It’s limestone floors and walls; there aren’t any cracks; there’s no wood rot or termites.
“It just needs some attention, and that’s something we can do.”
The Morrow Home Place was well-known as a large cattle and dairy operation. At one time, cows were milked there before the milk was bottled and delivered on the same day all over Tulsa County.
The Morrows also had pigs and sheep. The big barn, which was torn down in the 1970s, was a longtime landmark on the road between Owasso and Collinsville. Its foundation remains.
Newspaper columns written by Lucille Ellingwood Morrow, who also was a teacher at Collinsville, made the Morrow Home Place famous throughout northeast Oklahoma. Appearing in various papers, including the Tulsa World, the column was called “Just Thoughts of a Plain Country Woman.” It ran from 1937 through 1970.
“It was sort of like what we would call a blog these days,” said Morrow. “It was just a column about life on a ranch. As a result, much of what happened at the ranch was documented in those columns, such as when they got electricity (1939) or running water.
“Honestly, she was like an early-day version of Ree Drummond (the “Pioneer Woman” author and television star from Pawhuska) — only Grandma was not that great of a cook. But it was great to do research, and here were these weekly columns that documented all of the major events on the ranch for 33 years.”
Morrow now drives up from Dallas about once a month as she works on the “home place” and plans projects to preserve what remains.
“Every time I hear the song ‘Oklahoma!’ I think of this place,” she said. “The words really hit home with me because, no matter how long I’ve been away, this has always been home.”
John Klein 918-581-8368