The Cherokee Strip Regional Heritage Center (CSRHC) in Enid, Oklahoma, preserves the story of settling the Cherokee Strip — and includes a wide variety of petroleum history exhibits. The museum opened in 2011 in partnership with the Oklahoma Historical Society.

Enid’s heritage center stands on “one of the most historic spots in the history of the American West,” overlooking a Chisholm Trail watering hole and the only remaining 1893 U.S. Land Office, according to CSRHC, staking a claim to a piece of land on the day of the land run and hard journey for those who poured over the border on September 16, 1893.

Cherokee Strip Regional Heritage Center Chairman Lew Ward addressed a crowd gathered at the latest cultural addition to Enid on April 1, 2011: “Opening the heritage center is the closing of one chapter, but just the beginning of another to fulfill our pledge of claiming our past and inspiring our future,” announced the independent oilman who was instrumental in its establishment.

Cherokee Strip Regional Heritage Center

Hundreds gathered for the April 1, 2011, opening of the $10 million Cherokee Strip Regional Heritage Center on the east side of Enid, Oklahoma.

The $10 million center’s opening followed six years of dedicated work, explained Ward, who died in March 2016 after leading state and national energy industry associations and receiving numerous lifetime achievement awards.

“Exhibits and programs will make a significant impact on future generations,” noted Ward, who founded Enid-based Ward Petroleum in 1963. The past  chairman of the Independent Petroleum Association of America (IPAA) received many awards, including the petroleum industry’s Chief Roughneck Award in 1999 (the American Oil and Gas Historical Society awarded him its “oil patch preservationist” award in 2007).

Cherokee Strip Regional Heritage Center

The Cherokee Strip Regional Heritage Center includes a 1927 portable drilling rig created by petroleum technology pioneer George E. Failing, who added a drilling rig to a Ford farm truck. The same engine that drove the sturdy truck across the oilfields was used to power its rotary drill.

Thanks to Ward’s help, in 2005 the Cherokee Strip Regional Heritage Center Inc. was created through partnerships with the Oklahoma Historical Society, the Sons & Daughters of the Cherokee Strip Pioneers Association, and the Phillips University Legacy Foundation.

Cherokee Strip Regional Heritage Center

Annually awarded since 1955, the U.S. petroleum industry honored Heritage Center Chairman Lew Ward in 1999 as “Chief Roughneck.”

The heritage museum at the new center’s location at the eastern edge of Enid and became a property of the Oklahoma Historical Society in 1976. As a result, Ward noted the center’s oral history library contained more than 260 interviews capturing the stories of the Cherokee Strip from those who have lived them. “This growing library is an invaluable component of historical research for our region,” he added.

“Trained staff and volunteers collect the oral histories of people from the Cherokee Strip and Northwest Oklahoma,” Ward said. “The interviews are then transcribed and made available to the public and for use in the Research Center.”

Further, a the center has hosted teachers seminars on the Enid campus of Northwestern Oklahoma State University, according to Ward. The seminar explained to teaches how to incorporate lessons of leadership into their curriculum through the study of history,” he explained.

In November 2013, the center was selected by the Oklahoma Energy Resources Board (OERB) to partner in the statewide school education programs – OERB Homeroom.

Cherokee Strip Regional Heritage Center

In 1917, Herbert H. Champlin purchased a small refinery on the outskirts of Enid. By 1944 his company operated service stations in 20 states.

OERB spends millions of dollars annually to provide teacher training, curricula and programs that bring the petroleum industry to classrooms across the state –  and offers free field trips to selected museums. “We are thrilled that the Heritage Center has been chosen to partner with OERB in their school education program,” said Museum Director Andi Holland.

“The heritage center’s Dave Donaldson Oil and Gas Gallery is well equipped marking the beginnings of oil and gas production in the Cherokee Strip through its economic importance to Northwestern Oklahoma today,” Holland added. The center’s gallery includes a series of interactive features about how natural resources are found, produced and refined.

A program already created by the heritage center’s education department is called “Boom and Bust, Natural Resources in the Cherokee Strip,” said Cody Jolliff, the Enid museum’s education director.

“This partnership will allow more students to attend the heritage center and learn more about Northwest Oklahoma and the rich natural resources that impact our lives,” Jolliff added.

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The Cherokee Strip Regional Heritage Center’s exhibits include: The Outlet – Learn about life before the land run, and how the run changed the course of history; The Land & the People Gallery – Hear the stories of settlers in the years after they staked their claims.

Also among the exhibits, the Thelma Gungoll Phillips University Gallery – Celebrate the founding and history of the first private university in the state.

Finally, the Dave Donaldson Oil & Gas Gallery offers a Champlin Oil exhibit. “The Champlin Refining Company, which for many years held the distinction of being the nation’s largest fully integrated oil company under private ownership, was based at Enid,” notes the Oklahoma Historical Society.

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The American Oil & Gas Historical Society preserves U.S. petroleum history. Become an AOGHS supporting member today and help maintain this energy education website and expand historical research. For more information, contact bawells@aoghs.org. Copyright © 2021 Bruce A. Wells. All rights reserved.

Citation Information – Article Title: “Cherokee Strip Regional Heritage Center.” Authors: B.A. Wells and K.L. Wells. Website Name: American Oil & Gas Historical Society. URL: https://aoghs.org/cherokee-strip-regional-heritage-center. Last Updated: May 18, 2021. Original Published Date: June 1, 2011.

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