If you have driven north along Interstate 235 at night and looked east after passing the Harrison Avenue exit, you might have seen a green light reaching towards the sky.
It is the Beacon of Hope, and sits in the Founders Plaza in Stiles Park. While the plaza honors the visionaries responsible for the Oklahoma Health Center, the man for whom the park , one of the city’s oldest, is named seems to be one of Oklahoma City’s forgotten pioneers.
Capt. Daniel Frazier Stiles was born in Massachussetts in 1841 and entered the Army in 1861. After a long career in the Army, in 1889 he was ordered to Oklahoma with a battalion of men to provide law and order during and after the Land Run.
A story from the April 16, 1989, Land Run Centennial special section of The Oklahoman said:
“Until Oklahoma became a U.S. territory in 1890, no civil law existed within the Unassigned Lands except that which the residents themselves established.
“The federal government, however, did dispatch army troops to keep peace during the run and through the early days of the settlement. They were not to interfere in political affairs, but merely to offer support to the settlers and to intervene in local disturbances.
“When the 10th Infantry got off the train in Oklahoma City on April 19, Capt. Daniel F. Stiles was in command.”
Capt. Stiles, described in his obituary published in The Oklahoman Sept. 12, 1900, the day after he died, gives an excellent description of the man and his importance.
”Capt. Stiles was one of the prominent figures in the early opening and settlement of Oklahoma. He was the Provost Marshal at the time of the settlement of Oklahoma City and the faithfulness with which he discharged his duties won him the praise of all law abiding citizens. He was retired from the army on half pay in ’93. Since that time until his death he has been an energetic, enterprising and public spirited citizen…”
The Honorable Sidney Clarke said in his tribute to Stiles in the Sept. 12 article: “The death of Capt. Stiles will be deeply lamented, not only by the people of Oklahoma City and Oklahoma Territory, where he is so favorably known, and with which he has been intimately identified from the first settlement, but by his many friends throughout the country, as an officer of the regular army retired after an honorable service of over thirty years, and as a citizen always ready and willing to promote the good and the true, the memory of Capt. Stiles will be highly cherished by all who had the honor of his acquaintance.
”In all his long career there was no man in the army more popular and more highly respected than Capt. Stiles. He was a strict disciplinarian but at the same time careful of the welfare of his men, kind in his intercourse with all, and just and human in all his acts. While in command at Oklahoma City at the opening of the Territory to settlement in 1889 and during th ensuing year previous to the organisation of the Territorial government, his duties were extremely delicate because of the neglect of Congress to provide civil government contemporanious with the opening of the country. But he performed those duties with such uniform good judgement, that he always received the approval of his superiors.
“No words I can write can express my regret at the sudden death of Capt. Stiles. He was my friend. Hew was the friend of Oklahoma City and of our people. He took a great pride in the growth of this young city, and by his activity, enterprise, comprehensive views and wide experience, contributed largely to its marvelous prosperity. He will be missed as few men are missed, as they step over to the other side. A brave officer, a Christian gentleman, a noble citizen, a kind-hearted neighbor, a faithful husband and father and friend, he has left behind him a record of duty done– of an honorable and useful life.”
After his retirement, Stiles, joined with James Geary, another pioneer, developed the area north of what is now Stiles Park, as the Maywood Addition, Oklahoma City’s first “Nichols Hills.”
Again, from the April 16, 1989, story: “Stiles’ contributions to his new home included organizing Oklahoma National Bank, construction of the Masonic Temple, the luring of the Choctaw Railroad and true to his military colors the formation of the Oklahoma National Guard, which he served as colonel.”
So the next time you drive near the hospital complex and you happen to see the “Beacon of Hope,” I hope you think of Stiles Park and the man it was named for: Capt. Daniel Frazier Stiles.
The winged lions that were originally destined for the state Capitol have been sitting right up the street from The Oklahomanbuilding all these years. Their location is in front of Cunningham Interiors at 2701 W Britton Road.
I want to thank the readers who called and e-mailed to let me know where the lions were and to tell me their memories of the lions. I especially want to thank Sheldon Tarver and Lyle Cunningham of Cunningham Interiors for their calls. They both gave me additional information that led to me finding the following:
A story from The Oklahoman, Sept 24, 1968, that did not come up in my original search, answers the question of when the lions were moved and tells of the fuss that followed.
“After sitting docilely on the corner of NW14 and Classen Dr. for over 50 years, two lions decided Monday it was high time to kick up their heels and cause a little confusion.
The seven foot, 2,500 pound marble mammoths, which had twice been promised to the Oklahoma City Zoo, were recently sold to Cunningham Interiors, 2640 NW Britton Rd. by M. S. Kaufman, of 823 NW 47, who owns the property on which the lions stood.
The hassle began when movers hired by the company carted the statues off Monday morning only minutes before the zoo movers arrived on the scene.
“The statues belong to the zoo,” Mrs. Martha J. Sturm, zoo official, said. “We’ve been delayed in picking them up, but we definitely want them to place at the zoo’s entrance.”
“I offered the lions to the zoo about 10 years ago,” Kaufman said. “They never came and picked them up. I got an opportunity to sell them, so I did.”
Meanwhile, about five years ago, zoo officials were again offered the lions by another man, L. A. Wilcox, 1848 Dorchester Dr., who said he was their rightful owner.
Mrs. Sturm said zoo officials had accepted Wilcox’s offer and had planned since that time to have them removed to the zoo as soon as they could decide on an appropriate spot for them.
“The drawings were submitted and plans drawn up the first of the year,” Mrs. Sturm said. “Mr. Wilcox has worked with us and was eager for the zoo to have them.”
“We contacted the moving people and they were to pick the statues up Monday morning,” she said. “When we arrived the lions were gone.”
Wilcox said that about 5 years ago, his son, Burr Wilcox, who owned a wrecking company, was contracted by Kaufman to demolish the buildings that occupied the property.
“When a man accepts such a job,” Wilcox explained, “the buildings he tears down automatically belong to him.”
He said his son asked Kaufman if he might salvage the two statues and donate them to a worthy cause, and Kaufman agreed.
However, shortly before the job was finished, Burr Wilcox died. His father then decided that the lions should be donated to the zoo as a memorial to his son.”
With two estates involved and the zoo claiming ownership, the last story I was able to find was from the next day and said, “attorneys for three individuals and the zoo met but were unable to work out an agreement.”
Since Cunningham Interiors had purchased, paid for and moved the lions, the assumption is that legally they were his, and so they have been for the last 42 years.
I drove past last week, and the lions looked well cared for and quite content.
Visit my blog at http://blog.newsok.com/archivist/ and view more photographs of the lions.
(Photographs taken by Steve Maupin of The Oklahoman)