Craig Day, News On 6
NEAR PAWNEE, Oklahoma -- You can find cowboy culture all across Oklahoma. Part of our rich western Heritage is on display at a museum just an hour from Tulsa.
Just off Highway 64 near Pawnee, there's a state historic site you may have driven past, but you ought to stop. If you do, you'll find an impressive collection of Wild West Show exhibits, all surrounding the life of one of Oklahoma's most memorable figures: Pawnee Bill.
"Pawnee Bill, they say, was one of the last of the western legends," Ronnie Brown, Historic Site Director, said.
Gordon William Lilly, or Pawnee Bill, got his start in show business as part of Buffalo Bill's Wild West show in 1883. Five years later, he started his own touring show.
"His show was so successful, he bought out the Buffalo Bill show," Brown said.
Pawnee Bill's Wild West show toured America and the world for 25 years, entertaining folks who wanted to see a big part of the American west before it was lost.
"I kind of compare it to a rodeo, circus combined." Brown said.
A lot of Pawnee Bill Wild West show memorabilia from those days is on display at the museum, which draws 50,000 visitors each year.
"Some of the clothing that they wore in the Wild West shows," Brown said.
There are Buffalo heads and show posters.
"This is a poster advertising beautiful daring western girls and Mexican senoritas," Brown said.
From an old stagecoach, to historic photographs, you'll find it here.
"A high back western saddle," said Brown said.
Visitors will also find Pawnee Bill's ranch house built in 1910. From the Victrola, to the original tableware, it's furnished with all of the original possessions owned by Pawnee Bill and his wife Mae.
The mahogany floors, tall ceilings, and western decor all make for an impressive tour; and Pawnee Bill certainly is one of Oklahoma's most impressive figures.
"Very flamboyant, very colorful," Brown said. "Very outspoken and he was a very good businessman, and also he loved the state of Oklahoma."
If you love Oklahoma's western heritage and enjoy learning about a larger than life figure, make time to stop the next time you travel down Highway 64.
"We truly are a great find," Brown said.
The Pawnee Bill museum's been awarded Travelocity's Local Secrets, Big Finds designation several years in a row.
Editor's note: The first version of this story incorrectly described the location of the museum as Highway 62. The correct location is Highway 64. Thank you to the users who pointed out the error so we could correct it.