By Jane Wilson Sheppard
Jane Wilson Sheppard was three years old in 1917 when her family moved to Oklahoma. Around seventy years later, she began writing anecdotes from her life. As I read stories of her childhood, I realized how much history she included–history that should be shared and preserved. She wrote about early oil fields and county fairs; Tulsa’s landmarks, its race riot, and its riverside area; Oklahoma’s 101 Ranch and Pawnee Bill; and her life inside a convent school.
Most of her memories revolve around her Tulsa neighborhood near the Arkansas River and her “interesting” family, as one neighbor euphemistically described it. She and her two younger nephews Billy and Jack had adventures ranging from poignant to hilarious. They were tended by black servants almost as though the family lived in the Deep South.
Jane was born in the family’s Huntington mansion, Kenwood, which is still a showplace. Her father, John A. Sheppard, was a prominent attorney, landowner, and former state senator who came west with the early oil boom. He helped develop the Boynton Pool near Muskogee and by 1917 had settled his wife, Lydia; her mother; and Jane in Muskogee. Two older daughters, Edwina and Pauline, were married. The third, Wells, was in boarding school. By 1920, the family had moved to the fashionable new Buena Vista neighborhood in Tulsa near what Jane considered her forest along the Arkansas River.
As Jane’s three sisters moved into and out of her life, an undercurrent of dysfunction gradually swept her from the security of childhood in surprising directions.
I edited and rearranged her material more or less chronologically, and I changed two names, but the memories and the naive child’s voice are hers. She begins with the train trip west–our first glimpse into a bygone era.
Sally J. Bright, Daughter and Editor