“A man must leave some sort of track.”
Born in Louisiana, Thomas Gilcrease was still an infant when his father decided to take advantage of his wife’s rights as a Creek Indian and brought his family to eastern Oklahoma. He attended Bacone College at Muskogee and a teacher’s college in Kansas before settling in Tulsa in 1908 and entering the oil business only two years later. In 1922 he founded the Gilcrease Oil Company and drilled the Gilcrease pool in especially deep sand (later named “Gilcrease sand”) in Hughes County in 1923.
His passion for the history and art of the American West culminated in his opening a small gallery at his Tulsa estate, now the internationally recognized Gilcrease Museum, which houses one of the world’s most outstanding collections of Western art and Americana. At the time of its founding, the museum was the only one of its kind between the Mississippi River and California.
Thomas Gilcrease’s enormous collection began in the 1940’s and included the first letter sent from the new World, signed by Columbus’ son, Diego, in 1512; the only certified copies of the Articles of Confederation and Declaration of Independence outside the Library of Congress; five suitcases of explorer Cortez costing $130,000.00; and the original 1775 document appointing Paul Revere to make his historic midnight ride.
Gilcrease came to Eufaula and then Twin Mounds in the Creek Nation of Indian Territory around 1895.