An awareness of history lost in the reshuffling of both people and towns because of the Keystone Dam made preservation needs evident to residents in the late 1960s. Norma Ross was writing the history of Basin. She and John lived on part of the Ed Lawmaster Homestead, John’s grandfather. Rufe Smelser, a neighbor, had lived there since 1898 and knew of earlier history from his parents.
In 1974 Norma and Kelly Collins held a Basin reunion. As more settlers came their knowledge began to grow. Soon Norma was writing for the newspaper, where her editor, Margaret Edgar, shared her interest. A history was gathered and appeared regularly in the Lake Keystone News.
Mannford decided to become a U.S. Bicentennial City. Jack Wettengel, of the Oklahoma State Historical Society, gave them advice and the first meeting was Dec. 1, 1975. Twelve persons attended, all acquaintances of the Rosses. On Feb 16. 1976, they chose a name and officers.
Hugh Trantham suggested “Keystone Crossroads” because the junction of the Arkansas and Cimarron Rivers was the crossroads to the many migratory Indians from the area before outside settlement. The name Keystone also made clear the scope of area to be covered. The group’s Indian artifacts collector, John Scovil, gave us the first program. Officers were Hugh Trantham, president; Kelly Collins, vice-president; Norma Ross, secretary; John Ross, treasurer; Clell and Letha Applegate, Mark Crismon, Chuck Sasser and John Scovil were directors. They joined Mannford Heritage Day held on June 12, 1976. Big projects were the placing of a marker at the entrance of the original townsite and the location of property to build a museum. Several places were considered. Mayor Gary Murdock guided the city in giving a long-term lease to “the best view in town.”
KCHS tried to raise money with dues, raffles and garage sales, but this fell far short of needed funding. In 1977 KCHS began an annual Arts & Crafts Show, managed by Wanda Byrom, in the Irby building. The third year it moved to the school, at fall break, and it continued for years. Gene and Wanda Box took over in 1980 and served through 1999. Ann Hickson had served the last three years. The kitchen managed by Kelly Collins, John and Norma Ross, Don and Joyce Sissom, and Twila Young different years, brought in some income. Mike Porter put in a lot of time as assistance to everyone.
Through State Rep. Don Johnson we received two grants of $6,000 each, so that the museum construction could began in 1980. Also at this time the H.U. and Eva Maud Bartlett Foundation, through their son Charley Bartlett, began an annual donation to the museum which continues today. This Bartlett family has strong ties to the area of Mannford. Several others have joined with them: Lester and Sylvia Rhoades, Zeine and Margaret Goatcher, Hugh and Juby Trantham, John and Norma Ross, and Mike Porter. KCHS has two Life Time Member plaques hanging in the museum.
The buildings were paid for as built, no indebtedness occurred. Mike Porter began a program of taped interviews. Norma Ross had a very extensive amount of historical notes from which we worked. Mike Porter also led society members in building a very nice Veterans Memorial. Programs have been held every year around Veterans Day since 1991.
The museum opens for special tours on request. Members keep the museum open Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.
Come Join KCHS and work for the future by preserving the past. After all yesterday is now history.