One of the 2018 ALHFAM conference highlights will be a visit to George and Minerva Murrell’s 19th-century plantation mansion, “Hunter’s Home.” Sturdily constructed in Greek Revival style, the mansion is located in Park Hill, Oklahoma, just outside of Tahlequah.
George Murrell, a white man born to a prominent Virginia family, moved to Tennessee in the early 1800s, where he met his future wife, Minerva, daughter of Cherokee treasurer Lewis Ross and niece of Chief John Ross. After their marriage, George and Minerva settled in Tennessee but were forced to relocate with the signing of the Indian Removal Act. The couple traveled with the rest of Minerva’s family to Park Hill, Cherokee Nation, Indian Territory, where they settled among the other wealthy families of the Nation. This area, rich in culture and society, came to be known as the Athens of Indian Territory.
It was here that George built his wife a mansion, which they named “Hunter’s Home.” George claimed 800 acres in Park Hill and established a plantation that featured the mansion, a spring house built over a cold spring, a large walnut barn, smokehouse, grist mill, corn crib, and nine cabins that served as homes for the enslaved people who worked the plantation. Murrell also maintained a mercantile establishment on the property for the first part of the 1840s.
Minerva contracted malaria in 1850 and passed away from complications in 1855. This not only left George without his beloved wife, but it also left him without a connection to the Cherokee Nation. In 1856 George inherited “Tally Ho,” a sugar plantation in Bayou Goula, Louisiana, and in 1857 he married Minerva’s younger sister, Amanda.
Once wed, George and Amanda began to winter in Louisiana and summer at “Hunter’s Home.” When the Civil War began, George went to Virginia to help raise a militia to fight for the Confederacy. Amanda followed a year later with their ten-month-old son, leaving her aunt Eliza and her cousin Eliza Jane to care for the property.
During the Civil War, the house was raided many times by both Union and Confederate troops. After the war the Murrells never returned to live in Indian Territory. Various Ross family members lived in the home over the years. When individual allotment of land was forced on the Cherokees, the house and some of the property were allotted to Lula Bruce, a family member. In 1912 Lula sold the property, and it passed out of the Ross family. The home fell into disrepair. In 1948 the State of Oklahoma purchased the property. The first curator hired for the site was Jennie Ross Cobb, who had lived in the home as a young girl in the 1890s and early 1900s. Jennie brought with her photographs she had taken while she lived there. Using those photographs, and with the help of other family members, Jennie began to gather many of the original furnishings, letters, and other materials that were in the home when the Murrells lived there.
Written by Jennifer Frazee, Hunter’s Home Interpreter