Ed Galloway

Creator of the World's Largest Totem Pole

NATHAN EDWARD GALLOWAY, TEACHER, ARTIST, AND CREATOR OF THE ICONIC TOTEM POLE PARK, FOYIL, OKLAHOMA

Nathan Edward “Ed” Galloway was born in Missouri, February 18, 1880. He married Villie Hooton Galloway in 1904. Their son, Paul Edward Galloway, was born in 1916.[1]

Beginning his artistic career as a youth carving buttons from wood and mother-of-pearl, he graduated to larger-than-life sculptures in adulthood.

The Kansas City Star exclaimed in 1912, “From One Sycamore Log – Remarkable Piece of Carving That is the Work of Clever Missouri Citizen. Kansas City – The massive piece of wood carving shown here is the work of N.E. Galloway of Springfield, Mo., and is carved from one solid piece of wood – a sycamore log. Galloway served as a soldier in the Philippines and while there saw the strange creatures represented in the carving – snakes, lizards, owls, and so forth. He remembered what they looked like, although he had no pictures of them, and some months ago he started to work on the piece of work.”[2]

“The strange carving is 6 feet 4 inches tall, and the circumference of the log is 7 feet 10 inches. All the tools used in the work Galloway made himself. The ‘bark,’ as well as the animals, is hand-carved. Mr. Galloway devoted four hundred working hours to the production of this curious bit of sculpture – forty days, working ten hours a day. The sculpture has been on exhibition at the corner of Ninth street and Baltimore avenue. – Kansas City Star.”[2]

Not long after, tragedy struck the artist’s studio.

“Story of One True Artist of the Hills. N.E. Galloway, Now in Tulsa, Has Remarkable Talent. $8,000 Collection Gone. Fire Destroyed His Most Beautiful Pieces. Exhibits One Piece Here. By C.E. Rogers.

“The streaks of gray in the hair of N.E. Galloway, ‘The artist of the woods’ who is displaying pieces of his handiwork in a Main street show window are testimonials of the greatest sorrow that can come to an artist’s life. Last summer, fire destroyed his most cherished pieces, the results of many months of painstaking but loving labor, pieces with which he hoped to compete successfully at the Panama Pacific Exposition. But [now he has been forced to inhibit this hope, for the inspiration which prompted his performance in artistic work does not occur every day.][3]

“Master Hand – The realization that he was able to produce the likeness of living animals in wood did not come to Galloway till he had passed his boyhood days. Two years ago, he laid down his trade as country blacksmith in the hills of the Ozarks and moved to Springfield, Mo., where he began to devote his whole time to the handicraft in which innate ability made him master. He had never tried a conventional subject. He knew that he could carve the likeness of a stump which could not be distinguished from the original but what more he was capable of he did not know. That his ability was evidence enough that people of means provided him with such assistance as would enable him to give his whole time to the art.

“Made Own Tools – He had never studied art, and whatever he knew of mechanics was learned through correspondence. No one told him what tools he would need. His intuition guided him as it guided him in conceiving his work. Being a blacksmith, he began work making his own instruments. He has a set of two or three dozen different shaped chisels, knives, and so on.

“His masterpiece was burned in the fire which destroyed all his valuable pieces except the one he has on exhibition in Tulsa. It was the representation of a woman about which was wreathed a serpent tamed by her superior intellect, all set upon a globe. The design especially commemorates the completion of the Panama Canal.

“On the globe was shown North and South America connected by the isthmus of Panama cleft by the canal. The portraits of Columbus and an American Indian were inscribed on the globe. The piece was 12 feet high and took three months to complete.

“Destroyed Art – Another piece in the destroyed collection was the representation of a modern hunter, life-sized, and having all the habiliments common to the nimrod of today. An especially difficult feat was accomplished when the carver wrought from one piece of wood a lion in the captivity of a cage. This, too, was taken from the fire.

“Other statues were a fisherman, a decorative stand table, and a bust of Wilson. The loss of the whole was valued at $8,000 by the owner and was the work of two years.

“There are some interesting facts about the piece which he has with him. It represents two snakes curled about a stump supported by a huge turtle. Besides the snakes, there are butterflies, toads, fishes, lizards, and owls carved on the side of the stump. On the snakes, one of which is a rattler and the other a blacksnake, there are 8,000 scales. The whole figure required 50 workdays of 10 hours to complete. It may be used for a chandelier or merely as a decoration. The wood, like all his work, is sycamore.


“While he had his complete collection, Mr. Galloway was offered $1,000 for it on two occasions, but there was no figure great enough to persuade him to break the collection. But now, since he has only a portion left, he desires to sell it. If he cannot find a purchaser, he intends to give it to a Tulsa school, more likely Henry Kendall College.


“The Commercial End - The rustic artist has degenerated art for the sake of remuneration. His disastrous fire crushed the greatest hope in his life. He is now in the commercial field for inside decorative contracts. At the present time, he has work awaiting his return to Springfield.”[iv]


It was at this Tulsa exhibition of Mr. Galloway’s art that he caught the eye of Charles Page who eventually convinced Mr. Galloway to become the Superintendent of Manual Training teacher at Page’s school in Sand Springs, Oklahoma. Not only did Mr. Galloway accept the job, he donated his wood carving to the home as well.

The Tulsa Democrat reported, “Manual Training for the Children – N.E. Galloway, Wood Carving Artist, to Teach in Sand Springs Home. N.E. Galloway, wood artist from the Ozark hills of South Missouri, near Springfield, and who has had a collection of his work on exhibit in Tulsa for the past week, has been engaged by Charles Page to teach manual training at the children’s home at Sand Springs. Mr. Galloway will begin his new duties at once. His largest carving has been given to the Home, where it will always remain as an emblem to the children of what skill, energy, and perseverance will bring forth. Mr. Galloway makes all kinds of wood carvings, having quit the life of country blacksmith to chisel out fish and birds and men and a long line of subjects from wood. His workshop has heretofore been his barnyard in the woods back of his Missouri home, and many of his carvings have been pronounced masterpieces by the greatest woodcarvers of the world.”[5]

The Sand Springs Leader added, “The Wood Carving now at the Home – Work Done By Superintendent Manual Training Department. The wood carvings made and presented to the Sand Springs Home by N.E. Galloway, who has been made the head of the manual training department of that institution, are furnishing extra attractions for the many visitors there. One of the carvings represents the stub of a tree around which are wound two large serpents. Other reptiles are also represented. Another of the carvings represents a table carved from one piece of wood. The work is the product of a genius, and one of the few to attain that perfection. In securing the services of Mr. Galloway the boys at the home will receive the practical instruction in all kinds of woodwork, including cabinet making, which together with the other practical instruction they receive will well qualify them for life’s work.”[6]

Ed Galloway is appreciated by many for the time he spent instructing young people in the Manual Training Department at Sand Springs. Yet he is most fondly remembered as the man who constructed the “Largest Concrete Totem Pole in the World,” a 90-feet tall brightly colored Totem Pole structure made of concrete and metal that rides on the back of a stone turtle. This and other unique structures of Mr. Galloway’s creation are always on display for the public to experience at Ed Galloway’s Totem Pole Park, Foyil, Oklahoma. One wonders if the epic fire that destroyed Mr. Galloway’s sycamore sculptures in the past, inspired him to build his totem pole sculptures out of cement that would last.

In December 1962, The Sapulpa Daily Herald shared Mr. Galloway’s obituary. “Carver of Totem Pole Succumbs – Chelsea {UPI} – Services were scheduled Saturday for Nathan Galloway, 83, builder of a Totem Pole said to be the largest in the world. Galloway spent 11 years carving the 90-foot pole, located on his property near Foyil. He died Thursday at his home (Death: 29 November 1962). Galloway retired in 1938 as manual training instructor at Sand Springs Boys Home where he had taught for 22 years. He was a native of Stone County, Missouri.”[7]

Mr. Galloway may be gone, but he is certainly not forgotten. His legacy lives on as Ed Galloway’s Totem Pole Park continues to delight visitors today. Placed on The National Register of Historic places (click here),[8] the park is located on Oklahoma State Highway 28A, 3-and-a-half miles east of U.S. Route 66, and is open for the public to enjoy.

by Christa Rice

You can discover more about Mr. Galloway’s amazing story and the part the Rogers County Historical Society played in the restoration of his Totem Pole Park, by reading Ed Galloway’s Totem Pole Park, by John Wooley.

Sources: Unless otherwise noted, Oklahoma newspapers are sourced through The Gateway to Oklahoma History, https://gateway.okhistory.org; crediting Oklahoma Historical Society.

[1]Nathan Edward “Ed” Galloway. Birth 18 February 1880. Death 29 Nov 1962 (aged 82). Burial Chelsea Cemetery, Chelsea, Rogers County, Oklahoma.

https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/33218487/nathan-edward-galloway Accessed: January 1, 2021.

Spouse: Villie Hooton Galloway (1884 – 1960), m. 1904.

https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/33218476/villie-galloway Accessed: January 1, 2021. Son: Paul Edward Galloway (1916 – 2008).

https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/134916656/paul-edward-galloway Accessed: January 1, 2021.

[2] Rhodyback, V. L. Mangum Sun-Monitor. (Mangum, Okla.), Vol. 23, No. 5, Ed. 1 Thursday, October 3, 1912. Accessed January 1, 2021.

[3] Newspaper is printed so lightly speculation was made as to what was written.

[4] Lorton, Eugene. Tulsa Daily World (Tulsa, Okla.), Vol. 9, No. 270, Ed. 1 Sunday, August 2, 1914. Accessed January 1, 2021.

[5] Stryker, William. The Tulsa Democrat (Tulsa, Okla.), Vol. 10, No. 297, Ed. 1 Tuesday, August 4, 1914. Accessed January 1, 2021.

[6] Sand Springs Leader (Sand Springs, Okla.), Vol. 1, No. 15, Ed. 1 Thursday, August 13, 1914. Accessed January 2, 2021.

[7] Livermore, Edward K. Sapulpa Daily Herald (Sapulpa, Okla.), Vol. 48, No. 68, Ed. 1 Sunday, December 2, 1962. Accessed January 2, 2021.

[8] “Ed Galloway’s Totem Pole Park.” https://www.nps.gov/nr/travel/route66/galloways_totem_pole_park_foyil.html Accessed: Jan 2, 2021.

Ed and Villie Galloway