Route 66 Who's Who:

Nathan Ed Galloway

Ed Galloway is considered one of Oklahoma's most prominent folk artists. He never received any formal art instruction, and so his work is considered outside of mainstream or traditional art.

 

Nathan Ed Galloway was born near Springfield, Missouri (Stone County) in 1880, and from a very young age he showed a talent and propensity for wood carving.

He joined the U.S. Army and served in the Spanish-American War in 1898 and was assigned to duty in the Phillipines. While there, he came into contact with creatures such as crocodiles and other reptiles which would inspire some of his later art.

After leaving the Army, Galloway returned to Springfield and pursued his wood carving. He specialized in household objects such as hall trees and smoking stands, which he covered with intricate carvings of animals and other figures. He also fashioned many large-scale items from tree trunks; these, too, were often decorated with human and animal figures. Galloway planned to be an exhibitor at the Panama-Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco taking place in 1915. Tragically, there was a fire at his studio which destroyed most of his work.

Ed managed to salvage a few pieces, including what is known as his “Lion in a Cage,” and began making his way west toward California for the exposition. It is said that he had been temporarily waylaid in Tulsa when his work was seen and admired by Charles Page. Page was a businessman and philanthropist who had established a home for orphaned children in nearby Sand Springs. He offered Galloway a job teaching woodworking to the boys at the Sand Springs Home. Ed Galloway remained at Sand Springs in that capacity for the next twenty-plus years.

“All my life, I did the best I knew. I built these things by the side of the road to be a friend to you.”

In 1936-37, Ed and his wife, Villie, moved to several acres near Foyil, Oklahoma (Villie was from the Bushyhead area) and began the chapter of his life for which he is best-known. Ed began building a stone residence on the property (completed 1937) and a collection of large native-American-inspired structures. The largest of those structures is a ninety-foot-tall totem pole which took him eleven years to complete (1948).

Galloway also constructed his “Fiddle House,” an eleven-sided building created expressly to house the growing collection of fiddles which he was carving during this time. That collection is said to have exceeded three hundred.

Ed Galloway seems to have been speaking to Mother Road lovers such as you and me when he said: “All my life, I did the best I knew. I built these things by the side of the road to be a friend to you.”

Ed Galloway died of cancer on November 11, 1962 (Veteran's Day). His Foyil property was donated by his family in 1989 to the Rogers County Historical Society, which maintains the present-day Totem Pole Park.

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This article was compiled by Drew Knowles, July, 2004. Color photos by Drew and Lauren Knowles.

 

Ed Galloway's Totem Pole Park was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1999, and is on Hwy 28A, about 3.5 miles east of OK 66 (old Route 66), Foyil, Oklahoma. Other information can be obtained from the official website: www.claremore.org/ historicalsociety/ totem.htm