Her questions about an Oklahoma town’s history led to a new curriculum for school students

Great State
This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.
Data pix.

HENRYETTA, OKLAHOMA -- Kathryn Shurden's grandfather filled her with tales of her own hometown of Wewoka.

But here she was walking down Main Street Henryetta one day without even knowing about the abandoned coal mines beneath her feet.

"There's a catacomb of coal mines underneath the city of Henryetta," she says. "I didn't know we had coal here. Krebs or McAlester maybe."

With a background in both education and journalism, Kathy started asking questions about history all over town.

Who were the Hamras, for instance?

Well, she found out they were a Syrian immigrant family who started a department store catering to those same coal miners.

Shurden continues, "They came for the mining. They came for the railroads."

Then what about Nichols Park south of town?

Everyone thought it was an old WPA built park.

Turns out it was actually built by the Civilian Conservation Corps thanks to then Congressman Jack Nichols.

"Who got the CCC to come here and build what was then the smallest federal park in the National Park system," she says.

So many questions, so little time.

Shurden thought of writing a book, but then she had a better idea.

Why not unleash the curiosity of teachers ans their students to learn about their own communities?

Kathy says, "They'll have their timelines, their biographies, and their maps."

A few years back she came up with something called "Every Place Has a Story".

Her teachers' guide shows elementary kids through high school where to look and how to present the local history they learn.

"Hopefully we're building in them a sense of pride in their hometowns, and they see the value in historic places, and understand the sacrifices made by the people who built their community."

Shurden found some of her answers in libraries and old county abstracts.

She didn't write a history book of her own, but she might have inspired a few others as yet unwritten.

For more information on the Every Place Has a Story curriculum go to www.youarehereok.com

4Warn Me Weather // Quick Links:


Follow @KFOR on Twitter