By Leilani Roberts Ott
Christmas presents are stacked on the corner of the couch in the living room.
There won’t be a tree adorned with ornaments in this home on the Muskogee Christmas Home Tour from 1 to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. The Thomas-Foreman Historic Home is being decorated for the tour in similar ways it was decorated for the holiday when Grant and Carolyn Foreman lived there.
The tour benefits the Kelly B. Todd Cerebral Palsy and Neuro-Muscular Center. Sue Tolbert, manager of the home, said it has never been on the tour before. Her grandson, Nate Pease-Tolbert, 18, has cerebral palsy and benefited from the center when he was a small child.
“The tour is a good way to help them and it helps us,” she said. “It will bring people in that might not otherwise come.”
The house at 1419 W. Okmulgee Ave. was built in 1898 as a farmhouse by John R. Thomas Sr., a federal judge over Indian Territory, according to a brochure at the home. Thomas’ daughter, Carolyn, and his son, John R. Thomas Jr., came to live there. Thomas Jr. became a celebrated hero of the Spanish-America War with the Rough Riders.
Carolyn married Grant Foreman, who came to Muskogee in 1899 to serve on the Dawes Commission. The couple wrote articles and more than 20 books on Oklahoma history. They were inducted into the Oklahoma Hall of Fame in 1934.
Since the couple never had children, they didn’t put up a Christmas tree, Tolbert said.
“They did give and receive gifts,” she said.
The presents were put on the Federalist period couch dated from the early 1800s. The orange and wooden couch was brought with Judge Thomas as a family piece when he moved here from Illinois.
The wrapped gift boxes have been in the home since the 1940s, Tolbert said. She will add hard ribbon candy, apples and oranges along with poinsettias and garland to the holiday decor for the tour.
“The neighborhood children liked to come here,” Tolbert said of the home. “He would play Penguin on a Board with them. We’ve seen several mentions of it in their writings, but we’ve never been able to find the game.”
Grant also took bells from his travels to the schools so children could hear the different tones. The bells are on display in the home. There are also collections of handmade dolls, art from the Orient, Native American art, historical pieces from Babylon and Egypt, and art painted by Carolyn’s cousin, Cara Draper Kimberly of Washington, D.C. There also are many photos. Besides the collectibles, there are hundreds of books.
“They were always interested in history, reading historical novels,” Tolbert said. “Grant was a historian and believed in preserving the history of Native Americans. It is because of him that we have the Indian Archives, records at the Oklahoma History Center in Oklahoma City.”
The couple loved books and gave them as Christmas gifts, Tolbert said. For the tour, each room will have a little touch of Christmas, including a stack of Christmas cookbooks from the era on top of the refrigerator in the kitchen.
“Judge Thomas books ranged from farm and ranch to ships,” Tolbert said.
The most recent restoration of the house was started in April 2011. The exterior was redone and the inside repainted in similar colors like a spring green color in the kitchen and brown on the wooden floors. The kitchen still looks as it did when Carolyn died in 1967. The wringer washer is on the back porch just off the kitchen. There is an original claw-foot tub in the bathroom.
“It seems fresher with the new paint,” she said. “There is a uniqueness of the house. The things that are in it belonged to the family that lived here. That’s unusual for Oklahoma.”
Muskogee Garden Club just planted more than 1,000 daffodil bulbs that will pop up in the spring. Daffodils are some of the many plants Carolyn grew. Some of the original plants are still growing around the house, Tolbert said.
For those who aren’t able to go on the Christmas Home Tour, it is open to the public from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. Tolbert will open it for groups at special times if they call ahead, (918) 686-6624.
If you go
WHAT: Christmas by Candlelight.
WHEN: 7 to 10 p.m. Dec. 1.
HOMES: Matthew and Annette Williams, 1403 W. Okmulgee Ave.; Bob and Gwen Coburn, 3420 River Bend Road; Noble and Pam Beck, 3415 Harris Ave.; and Three Rivers Museum, 220 Elgin.
ADVANCE TICKETS: $25 by calling Donna Taylor, (918) 683-6600.
If you go
WHAT: Muskogee Christmas Home Tour.
WHEN: 1 to 4 p.m. Dec. 1 and 2.
HOMES: Michael and Ellen Mayer, 3535 Mayer Lane; Ken and Linda Johnson, 2921 Mayer Lane; Vernell and Toni Redo, 3706 Country Club Drive; Joan Eaton, 308 Kingsbury Drive; and Thomas-Foreman Historic Home, 1419 W. Okmulgee Ave.
TICKETS: $10 available at the door or in advance at Economy Pharmacy, Bella Mea’s, Rustic Elegance, Haley and Loyd Jewelry, I’m A Basket Case, Bebb’s Flowers, and Kelly B. Todd Cerebral Palsy and Neuro-Muscular Center.
PROCEEDS: All money goes to the Kelly B. Todd Cerebral Palsy and Neuro-Muscular Center in Muskogee.