PARK HILL — Hunter’s Home, a division of the Oklahoma Historical Society (OHS) located in Park Hill, recently received a donation of 37 photographic glass plates from turn-of-the-20th-century Indian Territory.
“What makes this donation so special is that they were created by Jennie Ross Cobb, a noted Cherokee photographer and our first caretaker,” said Shirley Pettengill, former director of Hunter’s Home and a current volunteer at the site.
“Jennie lived in the home and developed many of her glass plates in one of the closets,” said David Fowler, director of Hunter’s Home. “Some of the images were already in the Oklahoma Historical Society collections, but some are new to us. Jennie started taking photographs around 1896 and continued until around 1903, leaving a showcase of what life was like for affluent Cherokees in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.”
Jennie’s nephew, Robert Bruce Ross IV, donated these plates, returning Jennie’s glass plates to the place of their origin. Assisting in facilitating this wonderful donation were Jennie’s grandson, Cliff Biggers, and a cousin, Gayle Ross. As a child, Biggers lived on-site with his grandmother. He also donated a ledger used by Jennie at Hunter’s Home.
Jennie lived with her family at Hunter’s Home from 1894 until 1900, when she graduated from the Cherokee Female Seminary and became a teacher at various rural schools. She married in 1905 and moved to Texas, where she ran a floral shop and her husband, Jesse Clifton “J.C.” Cobb, worked as an oil field engineer. Jennie and J.C. had one daughter, Jenevieve, in 1906. J.C. died in 1940, and when Jenevieve died in 1945, Jennie took her two grandchildren, Jennifer and Cliff Biggers, to raise. In 1952, Jennie left Texas with her grandchildren and returned to Park Hill and Hunter’s Home. The State of Oklahoma had purchased the home with plans to restore it and open it to the public. Jennie served as the caretaker for the Murrell Home, as the State of Oklahoma named it, from 1952 until her death in 1959.
Using the photographic images taken during her family’s years at Hunter’s Home, Jennie guided the restoration work. The images documented how the house and grounds looked when she lived there as well as the original furnishings that remained.
“Jennie’s images have been invaluable as we work to re-create life in the 1850s at Hunter’s Home,” Fowler said.
“We are especially excited that this donation came to us during March — Women’s History Month,” said Trait Thompson, executive director of the OHS. “Jennie Ross Cobb was among a select few amateur and professional women photographers who recorded life in Indian and Oklahoma Territories. The advent of dry-plating and lighter equipment starting in 1888 attracted more women to the hobby that no longer required noxious chemicals and heavy equipment.”
Hunter’s Home is a division of the Oklahoma Historical Society. The mission of the Oklahoma Historical Society is to collect, preserve and share the history and culture of the state of Oklahoma and its people. Founded in 1893 by members of the Territorial Press Association, the OHS maintains museums, historic sites and affiliates across the state. Through its research archives, exhibits, educational programs and publications the OHS chronicles the rich history of Oklahoma. Information: www.okhistory.org.