Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Doc Grisso "Road Builder"

As with the post called Doc Grisso "Land Dealer", I am quoting directly from The Grisso Family book.

     During the "oil-boom" era of Seminole, 1926-1930, money kept pouring in from the oil wells and Seminole mushroomed to a town of some size.  Oil camps were established in Earlsboro, Cromwell, Bowlegs, and all around Seminole;  some estimates put the number of people in the Seminole area at around 50,000.

     It does not take a lot of imagination to see what sort of disastrous results occurred to the old dirt roads in the area when such a large influx of people and vehicles came to Seminole.  Naturally most all of the citizens were concerned, but Doc Grisso was determined to do something to improve the conditions of the roads.  At the time he was the chairman of the Chamber of Commerce Committee on Roads, and spent a considerable amount of time and money making trips to urge the State Highway Commission to help Seminole make improvements on the roads.

     On one such trip in November of 1927, he invited the highway commissioners to come to Seminole and have dinner as guests of the Chamber of Commerce.  It seems that there were misgiving about going to this rowdy boom-town, and Doc retorted with, "Hell, I eat in Seminole".  Finally they agreed to come, and on their trip from Oklahoma City it began to rain pitchforks at just the right time of day to catch the commissioners on just the right spot on the highway.  Congressman Carter said in his speech that he had never made a promise in his twenty years in politics, but that he was going to make one right now.  He said he was going to vote a billion dollars to repair a one half mile strip he knew between here and Seminole.

     During these years Doc prodded and pushed and politicked for the improvement of roads in Seminole County.  He had considerable influence in his county and was gaining a statewide reputation for being a booster of better roads.

     His efforts eventually provided State Highway 270 eligible for state and federal funds and the building of a new  highway from Ada to Seminole to Prague,  State highway 48, presently known as State Highway 99.

     Doc worked continually for building roads.  He spent a great amount of money promoting roads; some estimate the amount to be in excess of $100,000, and all of it came from his own pocket.  As Mrs. Grisso says, "No one will ever know just how much he really did spend on roads."

     In addition to being chairman of the State Highway 270 and State Highway 48 committees, Governor E.W. Marland appointed him to the Oklahoma High Commission in 1935 as chairman of the Commission.  This appointment was perhaps the most significant honor ever given to a man from Seminole at that time.  He had a philosophy by which he was guided on the commission, and that was to "build the roads where the traffic needed them" and to make roads" go someplace".  His impact on the highway was of great importance, and the State of Oklahoma owes to this man a debt of gratitude.

     The next post about Doc Grisso will be his role as a rancher and conservationist.


Thursday, June 23, 2016

Doc Grisso "Land Dealer"

Several sections in the biographical sketch of Doc Grisso illustrate his interests.  Land Dealer, Road Builder, Rancher and Conservationist are included in The Grisso Family book.  I am writing this directly from the book.

     During the years, 1913 to 1926 Doc became more of a land dealer than a doctor or merchant.  He no longer practiced because another doctor had come to town and there were not enough patients for both of them.  In 1913 he had sold out his interest in the drugstore.  From that time on, Doc dealt solely in the buying and selling of land, leases, and livestock.

     As regards land, he had a theory that was a guidepost for him the rest of his life.  He regarded land as the basis of all wealth, and this viewpoint influenced his behavior in almost every endeavor in which he was involved.  It was during these years that he began to amass holding of land.  One of the principle ways he acquired land was to buy up any land that the Indians could legally sell.  There were certain legal requirements concerning the sale of Indian lands, and Doc became an expert on the subject.  At that time an Indian could not sell land that was a homestead; however, if the land was inherited, he could sell it.  Doc knew this fact and kept a close watch over any Indian lands that could be sold.  He was honest and fair with the Indians in a time when all white men were not.

     He had six interpreters who worked for him for many years, and they aided Doc greatly in his dealing with the Indians.  They knew he would not do anything illegal to the Indians.  A familiar sight to many of the residents of the Seminole area was Doc Grisso in his buggy, being driven by one  of his interpreters on his way out to check some land in what is now Seminole County.

     He was always studying maps and charts and land surveys, and in this manner he came to know more about the area than any other person.  He worked up a book constituting  a complete land survey of the county, which showed the detailed thoroughness of his methods.

     He also amassed a considerable amount of debts during this time.  He would borrow whatever was needed to increase his land holdings.  His home farm was a money maker, but much of what he made there went back into more land.  In 1926 there were rumors that Doc was going broke.  Indeed his debts had accumulated to $120,000. His sons, Horton, Bill, and Wayne were going to school on borrowed money.  It looked as if the world was about to cave in on Doc Grisso, and it was then that the oil gushers of 1926 began to come in, many of which were on his land.

     Seminole became know as the "Miracle City" and the "Oil Capital of the World"  Needless to say, the resourceful Doc Grisso did not go broke; quite to the contrary, it is estimated that he made three to four million dollars from the oil that was discovered on his land. 

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

W.E. Grisso (Part 2)

It was a stroke of genius, when I realized I could just copy the pages about "Doc" Grisso from the biographical sketch in The Grisso Family book. Or so I thought.
Well, I guess I got the cart before the horse as the old cliché goes. The copy of these pages is rather difficult to read. For that I apologize. I will continue to include the copied page for those who might have a magnifying glass and the curiosity to read the actual document. Otherwise, I will summarize the parts I found interesting.

"Doc" Grisso attended teachers' college, taught for a few years, and then attended medical school.  He was given a certificate to practice medicine around 1903.

After his medical school graduation, he was asked by neighbors, who were moving to Indian Territory, to drive a wagon for them.  He decided to do so, and with three hundred dollars in his pocket (all of it borrowed) drove the wagon to Holdenville in Indian Territory.

He moved on to Tidmore and practiced medicine there.  More often than not he would accept as payment for medical services most anything. He accepted cotton, corn, hay, cattle, pigs, etc.

He opened "The Seminole Drugstore" with Mr. John McGheehee.
The store carried general merchandise as well as drugs and medicines. Again, he found that most people could not pay cash for medical services or supplies. His barter system was such that his manner of transacting business gave him the reputation of being honest and fair.  This was especially important for establishing a good relationship with the Indians who lived in the area.

The last paragraph is about his personal life. His first son, Walker Dixon Grisso, has the distinction of being the first white child born in Seminole, Oklahoma.

Never fear. There is more to come.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

William Edward "Doc" Grisso

I hope my readers are not tired of reading about "Doc" Grisso.  I have covered our trip to see the mansion in Seminole, Oklahoma in the following posts. Click on any blue title to catch-up or re-read.

Seminole, Oklahoma
Grisso Mansion
The tour goes on...
A Few More Pictures of the Grisso Mansion

The next few posts will be about Mr. Grisso himself.  This information is taken from The Grisso Family book. It was written in 1970 by Susan Garland, a granddaughter of W.E. Grisso, while a student at East Central State College.


She discusses the heritage of pioneers who impacted Oklahoma.

State Senator Allen G. Nichols says, "Doc was the best all-around citizen I have ever known.  He was a great individual and a very special friend."

Doc was interested in and a promoter of good roads, effective land conservation, cattle ranching, the improvement of pecan trees, the field of medicine, the oil business, the field of education, local and state government.

He was born in Vidette, Arkansas, on January 8, 1874. His father, Jacob, died when he was nine.

Even though the family was a poor farming family, three of five children became teachers, including Doc.

to be continued.......



Wednesday, June 15, 2016

A few more pictures of Grisso Mansion

My favorite room, of course

Main living room being set up for a reception. Maybe we should have a Grisso Reunion here.

Grand Staircase

Imported Tile

Minstrel Balconies

Another view of party room

Beautiful Carpet
Touring this house was definitely something to check off the bucket list.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Tour interruption

Today, I want to take a short break from the ongoing tour of the Grisso Mansion in Seminole, Oklahoma to wish my grandmother, Nina Lorene Smith Grisso, a happy 115 birthday.  Last year I wrote about her on her birthday.  See that post here... Happy Birthday Lorene Smith Grisso (1901-1984) I am also going to place another writing about her in the featured post section of this blog.

As I have been writing about this Oklahoma Oil Millionaire ( Doc Grisso), I have wondered if Grandpa Bert and Grandma Nina knew him or at least of him.  I assumed so since Bert and "Doc" were from the same county in Arkansas. There were four generations of  Grissos everywhere in Fulton, County, Arkansas.

One of my favorite treasures is a letter from Grandma Nina to her mother, Estella Smith.  The reason I like it so much is that it is signed "Mrs. Bert Grisso".  How excited she must have been to be married to Bert. The letter is postmarked from Baggs, Oklahoma.  I had been told that Bert and Nina went there on their honeymoon. I have started to wonder if they went there looking for work in a distant relatives oil fields.  However, when reading more about "Doc" Grisso, it appears that he may have been just about bankrupt when Bert and Nina made that trip.

While looking for one specific letter, I stopped to read a couple more I found.  This is the card Grandma Nina wrote to her parents on her wedding night.
                                         Des Moines, Ia
                                     Jan. 31, 1920

Dear Folks,
     We left Jefferson at 5:50 on the Milwaukee road and arrived here[Des Moines] about (9:00 p.m.  We will stay here till 7:30 a.m. tomorrow, and arrive in Kansas City about 3:00 o'clock and leave for West Plains about 5:00.
     We will make better connections by staying here tonight.

We didn't get a bit cold coming to Jefferson. Are alittle tired and sleep now tho!  We are staying at the Hotel Ivern tonight it is near the depot. and is a swell place.  I had my first ride on a elevator this evening. Ha.  Will write when we get to Moody.
 With love,
 Nina L. Grisso

Friday, June 10, 2016

And the tour goes on.....

The newspaper article which I consulted said...The Grisso mansion was completed in 1928 when Seminole City was still a boom town.  It was planned as the dream home of Grisso's wife, Margaret. 

The newspaper article was written in 1977 when Margaret was age 90 and still lived in the house.

We heard from our guide that Margaret, Maggie, was Doc Grisso's third wife. His first wife died as did his second.  Maggie had actually been attracted to Doc when they were kids back in Vidette, Arkansas. When he left that area, Maggie was only fourteen and unsuited (according to her parents) for marriage because of her age.  Years later when she was older, she traveled to Seminole and went to work at the post office. 

She came to Seminole to find him.  It looks like it worked. I also enjoyed the stories about the gas stoves.  She had carried all the wood she wanted. The contrast between growing up in the hills of the Ozarks and living in such a mansion in their life time is almost too hard to contemplate.

Back to the house. Let's go upstairs.

Four full bathrooms and three half-baths adjoin second floor bedrooms, with the master bedroom having its own sitting room, bath and dressing room.

Master Bedroom sitting area

Looking carefully at the pink wall behind the door, one can see the design of the bedroom walls. The backside of the door matches this pink design. The wood side or outside of the door matches the hallway. All the doors are like this.  They match the wall when closed.

The next post will continue with pictures of the mansion.  The beginning of this article which I have been referencing began as follows.
W.E. "Doc" Grisso , who made millions from Greater Seminole Oil Field productions in the 1920's put his money where his faith was, the future of Oklahoma.
His money and energy went into land - "the only real wealth," in his view - road building, education and some $750,000 into the home still known as the Grisso mansion.


Wednesday, June 8, 2016

The Grisso Mansion

I wonder why we are enamored with famous or wealthy relatives. I imagine we have as many horse thieves or convicts as we do rich and famous. Horse thieves might be fun to discover when they are from a hundred years ago, but recent day felons are not a topic for a genealogy blog. So, we stick with the rich and famous.

We learned many interesting tidbits while touring the mansion with the general manager. She told us she had dreamed of working in this house since she was a young girl. The Grisso Mansion was the talk and envy of several generations of Seminole citizens.

The backside of the mansion with the greenhouse on the right side of the photo.

The front side of this Italian designed mansion.

After returning home, I checked the pages of The Grisso Family book and found an article written in 1977 by someone named Mayme Moore. I do not know from which newspaper this was taken.  I will be using information (that in italics) from this article to describe this elegant 26 room house which was placed on the National Register of Historic Sites by the Department of the Interior in 1976.

Its 26 rooms, built around a courtyard-solarium, include 11,000 square feet of floor space.  Downstairs rooms include the entry hall with its cathedral ceiling, minstrel balconies and a grand staircase; living room, music room, a dining room 30 feet long and 20  feet wide, a breakfast room twice as large as an average kitchen, utility and storage.

One of our favorite stories told by the guide was about breakfast with the Grisso family.  The two youngest children were still at home when the family moved into the mansion.  At breakfast, the children were expected to be seated at the table by 7:00 a.m., completely groomed for the day, and ready to discuss the information in the daily newspaper which they would have already been expected to read.

Such details as marble window sills-except for those of ceramic tile in the bathrooms and kitchen- elaborate plumbing fixtures, an early type shower and heated towel rods give an idea of the quality of plannings.

Furnishings were personally chosen in New York City by Mrs. Grisso with guidance from her decorator.  Woods are dark and polished, the general style massive and elaborate, fabrics exquisite.  The living room carpet was hand-loomed in England.

This house tour is far from over.  We will continue in the next post.  Our guide told us that over the years, they are able to hear great stories from locals who have come to tour the home since it opened to the public. One fellow said he had worked for the Grisso's as one of the many groundskeepers for 20 years, yet he had never been in the house. 

Monday, June 6, 2016

Seminole, Oklahoma

Grisso Story Continued...

The Oklahoma spring tornadoes did not keep us from arriving in Seminole, Oklahoma on our travels a month ago. Although, it was a bit dicey. I know I would not want to live there. We have tornadoes in our home state, but those in Oklahoma seemed much scarier. We were glued to the weather broadcast on the T.V. for four hours, but we slept safely and enjoyed our short tour of Seminole.

Our first stop was the library where indeed there was a copy of The Grisso Family book. What a shock! It was huge! It has obviously been used often over the years because it is coming apart and not in the best shape. I had to take a picture of it because I never guessed it was such a tome.

I spent a couple of hours reading and copying a few pages to add to what I have. We rode around Seminole looking for Grisso Avenue. It is a lovely boulevard winding itself through the park.

 The next day we went to visit the Grisso Mansion. And yes, William Edward "Doc" Grisso was a second cousin once removed to our grandfather, Bert Grisso. They were both born in Fulton County, Arkansas and descended from Jacob Kittinger Grisso of Virginia.

William Edward "Doc" Grisso was the son of Jacob Grisso (1834-1883). Jacob's father, Madison (1807-1870), was the son of Jacob Kittinger Grisso (1772-1844).

This chart might be clearer.

                                     Jacob Kittinger Grisso

George W. Grisso          Madison      ----        brothers
William Madson            Jacob           ----        first cousins
John Martin                    William Edward "Doc" Grisso  ----2nd c.
Bert Roscoe                    Second cousin of "Doc" Grisso once removed from common ancestor Jacob Kittinger Grisso

Mary & siblings             Second cousin 2 times removed

Margie & 1st cousins     Second cousin 3 times removed

George, Madison, and James were the three brothers who settled
in northern Arkansas in the mid 1800 having left their parental home in Virginia. They migrated first to Tennessee and then on to Fulton, County Arkansas.

Now that we have established the relationship, we will learn a little more about the mansion and Doc Grisso.

Stay tuned.

Saturday, June 4, 2016


Here I am at that crossroads. You know the one. It is that genealogy crossroads that has signs pointed toward the Wrights, the Tolsdorfs, the Grissos, the Bordens, etc. Recently, I have been consumed with the DeHarts. This worked out well because I could share a journal written by my aunt in 1988. The reason this worked so well was because I could schedule posts while on the road moving from winter residence to summer residence. Once I am settled back down, which way will I go?

Let's talk Grissos today.  This is my mother's father's side of the family. Mother, Mary Louise Grisso Wright. Her father, Bert Roscoe Grisso.

As I have mentioned before, my interest in family history was originally piqued by my Great Grandma Estella Smith. Then, came a special day in about 1972 when her son-in-law, my grandfather, spent an afternoon telling me about his heritage. After that day with Bert Grisso, I wanted to learn more about these ancestors who everyone thought came from Italy. Through my own family research and many others interested in the Grisso name, we have learned that the Grissos did not come from Italy, but some cousins just refuse to let that go. What is true is that three Grisso brothers left Virginia along with their wives, who were all Grubb sisters. They settled for a time in Tennessee, but eventually made their way to northern Arkansas around 1842-1844.  Most of the Grisso brother's siblings stayed in Virginia. (There is much to be written on the Grisso line in the future.)

In the 1970's, one of my dearest Grisso cousins read about a place in Seminole, Oklahoma called The Grisso Mansion. She was always curious about the place. Who were these Grissos? Were they relatives? Are we rich?

Sometime in the past 10 years or so, another aunt passed on to me part of a document written and complied by a couple of Grisso descendants of Mathias Grisso. This was not the whole document just part of it. It took me many long hours to decipher and understand these pages.  It might have been easier if I would have had the whole document.  It might have been much easier if every generation didn't need to name their Grisso sons, George or William. I know this is a common complaint among genealogists. I wish I could trade a George for a Henry or a William for a Charles. What names would you like to trade? Oops, digressing.

I have been on the trail of that completed volume of The Grisso Family book for many years. I have come close to finding it a few times. I exchanged emails with one of the authors who said there were no more good copies. I exchanged emails with a very gifted Grisso genealogist who had the book on C.D. Unfortunately, I did not receive the C.D. due to his untimely death. Somewhere through the years, I have learned that copies of this book exist in several libraries where Grissos have lived. There is a copy in Salt Lake City as well as libraries in Virginia, Ohio, Arkansas, and Seminole, Oklahoma.

Now, Seminole, Oklahoma is where the Grisso Mansion is located.  AND there is a copy of The Grisso Family in the local library. This definitely has to be a stop on our summer migration route. It really isn't too far out of the way.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Special Days

Have you ever noticed some days are just more special than others?  This is how I feel about June 1. This was the day one of my dedicated blog followers was born.

Happy Birthday, Scott.