World's Largest Totem Pole, Foyil

#387 of 603 in Things to do in Oklahoma


Nathan Edward Galloway was born in 1880 near Springfield, Missouri. He only had an eighth grade education. At age seventeen, Ed joined the U. S. Military. In 1898 he served in the Spanish American War in the Philippines. He started wood carving as a part time career after his military service, selling modest carvings in a small shop. In the 1920’s he worked for the railroad near Bushyhead, Oklahoma, where he met his wife, Villie Hooten, who was from the Bushyhead area.

The Springfield shop had a major fire, but a large walnut piece with serpents and reptiles carved in a design was saved. Ed took it as far as Tulsa on his way to San Francisco to an art exhibition. He left it at a drugstore near the Sand Springs railroad line, until he could get the money to go on to San Francisco. The art piece was seen by Charles Page, developer of Sand Springs and the railroad line. Mr. Page also owned a large residential area for women with children who had no fathers in the home. He provided a school for the children and needed a wood working teacher and a role model for the boys. Mr. Galloway was hired for that job and spent from 1911 to 1936 with the boys making furniture for the home, and teaching craftsman skills during the school year. In the summer the boys went camping at the Foyil twenty acres owned by the Galloway’s. They helped gather many of the rocks in the home and those in the large totem pole. The park is now located on the north part of the twenty acres.

While living in Sand Springs, Oklahoma, in 1918 Ed and Villie adopted a baby boy. He was named Paul and is now deceased. Paul’s wife, joy is a very important part of the park project with historical counseling and loaning artifacts and pictures. She and her two children gave the 1 1/4 acres with the structures to the Rogers County Historical Society in 1991. The organization purchased the remaining available land, which currently makes the park’s nine acres.

Ed had little experience with masonry, however, he built their stone home which they occupied in 1936-37. He then started the “Largest Totem Pole in the World” as a monument to the American Indian. He wanted the world to know there was someone here before us. It took eleven years and was completed in 1948.

Mr. Galloway was a workaholic. He worked with one bucket of cement at a time covering the stone and steel, then carving the designs. In building the 90 foot high totem pole, he used 28 tons of cement, 6 tons of steel, and 100 tons of sand and rock (all native). The totem pole is 18’ in diameter, 54’ around the base, and displays 200 different carved figures. The Indians at the top are 9’ tall. Geronimo (Apache) is on the west, Sitting Bull (Sioux) is on the North, Chief Joseph (Nez Peres’) is on the East, and Quanah Parker (Comanche) is on the South.

While building the totem pole, he was encouraged by his wife to build a museum to house his furniture, pictures, and fiddles. She called it his “show off” place so he wouldn’t bring everyone who wished to see his work into their house.

Ed had little money. He received a government pension of $90 a month because of his service in the Spanish American War. He hitch hiked to Claremore, Adair, and Chelsea to collect scrap wood and glass from the lumber yards. (Visitors should notice the tiny pieced glass scraps in the windows.)

He had a wood shop with a lathe, (displayed in the Fiddle House) and made 300 fiddles, each one of a different wood. The purpose was to display wood from all over the world; thus the name “Fiddle House.” HE also made numerous artifacts from small inlaid pieces of wood; every scrap was utilized.

The Totem Pole is the only remaining folk art in Oklahoma of this type. No one has ever disputed that it is the largest Totem Pole in the world. It has been written up in International books and many national and local publications. In 1999, the park was added to the National Register of Historic Places.

Ed’s famous saying: “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 was only 5’7” tall, but thought big! He left a wonderful legacy. Villie died in 1960, Ed died in 1962 with hundreds of friends mourning his death.


David and Patsy Anderson

Directors, Totem Pole Park

918 283 8035
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45 reviews
  • Just off route 66 a fun stop to see a totem pole. It took a lot of work to paint the totem pole......  more »
  • We enjoyed Totem Pole Park and this is supposed to be the largest totem pole. Compared to the ones made my native's I'm not sure I would consider these totem poles, but the artwork is similar even if ...  more »

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