Wednesday, February 23, 2011

J.M. Davis Gun Museum, Claremore

As we left Tulsa last Friday, we choose Old Highway 66, the Mother Road, and traveled towards Claremore. Claremore played a significant part in my childhood. My great-grandmother lived here in a small white frame house complete with side yard, wooden front porch, and porch swing. It was 1959 life at its best. There were holiday dinners, family gatherings, and casual visits to Mama B’s house. Louise Toy Brasher was a widow; my great grandfather, known as Pop, died when I was two month old, but family stories record the kind and gentle man he was. His own father (Bryon Lafayette Brasher), was born in Kentucky and traveled to Jerico Springs, Missouri where Pop (Claude Everitt Brasher) was born. As a grown man, Pop was drawn to the Oklahoma oil fields where he met Lou and married the tiny Cherokee blooded woman.

One of their daughters, Twyla-my grandmother, lived in Arkansas, Missouri, and Kansas as an adult. The bulk of her later years were spent in Coffeyville, Kansas. Her sister Wave lived half a block down the street in Claremore where she raised three daughters. Her middle daughter, Patt, lives in that house now. Patt has worked for many years at the J.M. Davis Gun museum in town. Before we went out to her house, we strolled through the museum for yet another time.

During the 50s and 60s, I visited the Mason Hotel many times with my dad and grandpa. Once a dinner was over, the ladies retired to wash dishes and exchange family gossip, even rehashing the story line of As The World Turns, a family favorite soap opera. But the men took off to stroll downtown, ride out to the river, see the Will Rogers Museum or hang out at the Mason Hotel where J.M. Davis had every spare inch of wall and floor filled with guns and saddles. The firearms hung behind the registrar’s desk, up the stairwells, on walls, and rested in glass cases. The lobby of the hotel was filled with huge overstuffed leather sofas and chairs. A child sank down into the seats, but an adult could sit and study all the guns. The smell of leather saddles permeated the lobby. This wonderful collection of firearms started with a muzzle-loading shotgun Davis received when he was seven years old.

Davis continued to add to his collection until a separate building had to be built for the collection in 1969. The J.M. Gun Museum sits only a couple of blocks away from the original hotel he owned, which is now torn down. There are 14,000 guns on display here: muzzleloaders, flintlocks, shotguns, rifles, small cannons, pistols, and an array of various types of igniters. The displays cover 600 years of firearms. One of the earliest exhibits is a Chinese hand cannon form 1350. There are also collections of beer steins, Indian memorabilia, swords, and John Rogers (known as the Norman Rockwell of the 19th century) statuary.

I am not a knowledgeable about guns, but I find things there worth the study when I go. There are handguns displayed that were involved in murders; there are pistols from famous outlaws. The curators have reconstructed one room to be similar to the lobby of the Mason Hotel. When I walk in and see those leather chairs, I again think that I can sniff my dad’s Old Spice, feel grandpa’s calloused hand in mine, and feel like I am seven years old again if only for just a few minutes.

Entracne to the J. M. David Museum is free or for a donation. Visit the museum online at:


Linda O'Connell said...

What a lovely trip down Memory Lane.

Jenny said...

Thanks for the lovely little trip today. Your Great-Grandmother's house sounds so charming.

Betty Craker Henderson said...

Thanks for taking me through the gun museum again. Many years ago we took our three kids (young at the time...many, many years ago!) through it and it was amazing then so I really enjoyed refreshing my memory. It is quite a place.

Lisa Ricard Claro said...

Beautiful post, Claudia. You've shared some wonderful memories.