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TOTEM as Monument & Archive: Workshop and Lecture Series

August 2023

"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 (1880-1962)


Nathan Edward Galloway was born in 1880 in Springfield, Missouri and developed his carving skills as a child, creating mother-of-pearl buttons and small wooden items for loved ones. As a young man he served in the U.S. Army during the Philippine-American War stationed on the Philippine islands, during which he was introduced to the art of Japan and the Far East. After the war he returned to Missouri and then became a manual arts teacher for over 20 years, introducing the skill of woodworking to orphan boys in the Sand Spring Home in Oklahoma. The eastern influence became apparent in his diverse wood inlay fiddles and furniture. Retiring in 1937, him and his wife Villie moved to a property they had purchased in rural Foyil, Oklahoma.


Galloway dedicated himself to his art fully from here on out. He created massive sculptures from tree trunks, incorporated human figures, fish, and reptiles into these pieces and started to construct the Totem Pole Park itself. This park features his 12-sided Fiddle House studio, a large totem pole, 4 small totems, two ornate picnic tables with animal-form seats, a barbecue, and four sets of animal-form gateposts all constructed from concrete and brightly painted with any house paint he could lay his hands on. Beginning in 1937 and continuing until 1948, he built the large totem rising 90ft tall from the back of an enormous turtle, in tribute to the American Indian. It is estimated that 28 tons of cement, six tons of steel, and 100 tons of sand and rock comprise the structure. The large pole features 200 carved images with four nine-foot Indian chiefs near the top of the structure. 


In the decades following Galloway’s death, the sculptures and buildings began to deteriorate from weather and neglect. In 1989 the property was acquired by the nonprofit Rogers County Historical Society who helped to facilitate an extensive conservation effort which was spearheaded by the Kansas Grassroots Art Association from 1988-1998. The outdoor sculptures were restored and repainted, the Fiddle House was repaired and renovated, as well as the Galloway house. In 1999 the Totem Pole Park was added to the National Register of Historic Places.


Not many years later had the latex paint once again bleached from the sun and peeled and chipped form the surface of all of the structures. A new conservation effort, spearheaded by Erin Turner, Margo Hoover, and Park Directors David and Patsy Anderson with the Rogers County Historical Society began during the summer of 2015. This effort uses new standards in preservation of concrete art environments by utilizing silicate-based mineral paints which petrify into the concrete substrate through a natural chemical bond. The paint is environmentally safe, anti-static (keeping the surface clean as dirt cannot cling), lightfast (color is unaffected by UV rays and will not fade), water vapor permeable (allowing the surface to breath), non-film-forming (surface will not peel), water repellent, does not contain solvents and plasticizers, and algae and fungi resistant. The local community is energized and engaged, and the project is on track for a successful completion. 


Three phases of restoration have been made on the large totem pole. It is projected that the large totem will be completed Summer 2020. Summer 2017, David and Patsy Anderson, directors of the Ed Galloway Totem Pole Park, Erin Turner, and Margo Hoover received the Oklahoma State Historic Preservation Officer’s Citation of Merit for the Ed Galloway Totem Pole Park restoration project. 


Operations and maintenance of Ed Galloway’s Totem Pole Park are funded solely by visitor donations and gift shop sales. It is free to the public and open all daylight hours. The Fiddle House Museum and Gift Shop is open daily 12:00 – 5:00 pm. The park is located about 4 miles East of Foyil on Hwy 28A, approximately 3.5 miles from historic Route 66.


Erin Turner, Summer 2020

Early photos

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