Final home demolished in Tar Creek buyout

Saturday, October 15th 2005, 11:55 am
By: News On 6

PICHER, Okla. (AP) _ The last home in the state's $3-million Tar Creek buyout relocation plan has been demolished.

The home of former resident Carl Hayes was brought down on Friday. Hayes visited his old home near Picher, taking photographs and remembering special times with his great-grandmother.

``It's sad to see a home go down to rubble,'' he said. ``It's been real hard. I have cried the last couple of times I have been here. It's just sad.''

C.Y. and Effie Semple built the home in the 1920s.

``My grandmother was such a guiding influence in my life,'' Hayes said. ``She always said she wanted to live in three centuries.''

Carl remembers with clarity, watching the moon landing in 1969 with his grandmother.

Friday, Hayes was able to take a few mementos, such as the door chimes, the front door and a stairway banister.

C.Y. Semple died in 1959. After Effie died in 1974, the home was passed down to a farm manager who later sold it. The home's last occupant was Tonya Griffith, who is raising two small children, said John Sparkman, president of the Tar Creek Steering Committee.

The Lead Impacted Communities Relocation Assistance Trust bought the two-story house this year for $228,000.

The house originally was at the site of the Early Bird mine near Treace, Kan. In October 1947, the house was moved three miles east of Picher and expanded to 7,000-square-feet. Local folks referred to the house as the ``Semple Mansion.''

The Semples, who operated five mines in the 1930s and 1940s, soon made an addition to the house, just in time for their granddaughters' double-wedding in December 1947.

``I still have the 16 mm film of my mother's wedding,'' Hayes said.

Demolition is scheduled to be completed by Monday or Tuesday, Sparkman said.

The trust is designed to give families with children age 6 and younger the option of selling their property to the state for the average county market value for comparable properties.

Gov. Brad Henry's plan offered families with young children the option of moving away from the dangers of lead poisoning in Ottawa County.

``Demolition is ahead of schedule,'' Sparkman said. ``It was a real good program. Gov. Henry did the right thing.''

Initially, Sparkman was against tearing down the home, saying he thought it might be used as a halfway house. Ultimately it was the decision of the trust to tear it down, he said.

C.Y. Semple was living in Oklahoma City and working in the grain exporting business at the beginning of the 20th century. He got involved in the mining business, and in 1918 he sent his widowed grain export manager, Effie Ireton, to look in the Early Bird mine after it started losing money.

In a short time, Effie had turned the mine around. In 1938, at the age of 50, she married C.Y. and together they ran the five mines, including the Early Bird, until 1945.