OBU Acquires Gaskin Archives, Murrow Press

OBU has acquired the Gaskin Archives and Murrow Press from the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma to permanently house elements of Oklahoma Baptist history on Bison Hill.

OBU President David Whitlock and Dr. Anthony Jordan, executive director-treasurer of the BGCO, signed an agreement in early November to move the historic items to OBU. The Gaskin Archives are housed in the Hobbs Center on the third floor of OBU’s Mabee Learning Center, and the Murrow Press is displayed in the Learning Center’s lobby.

Dr. Richard Cheek, dean of library services at OBU, said the collection was started on Bison Hill in 1955 by Lee Spencer, OBU librarian, as the Oklahoma Baptist Collection. In the 1960s, retired OBU history professor E. W. Thornton gave much of his time, money and energy to organizing and cataloging the materials. When the library was renovated in 1976, OBU, in cooperation with the BGCO, provided and equipped space on the third floor of the Mabee Learning Center to house both the Oklahoma Baptist Collection and the OBU archives. In 1995, the Baptist Collection was renamed the J. M. Gaskin Historical Library and Baptist Archives. The Archives were moved to the Baptist Building in Oklahoma City in March 1996.

“So moving the Archives to OBU is actually bringing them home,” Cheek said.

The most immediate benefit to the collection being housed on Bison Hill, Cheek said, will be for students taking a Baptist history course taught by Dr. Jerry Faught, Dickinson associate professor of religion. He said the materials in the collection will make it much easier for students to find the sources to write history papers.

“The Archives will also be resource for all Oklahoma Baptists who are interested in their history and heritage,” Cheek said. “The Mabee Learning Center is well equipped to maintain the collection and help make it into a valuable resource for telling the story of the Baptists of Oklahoma.”

The collection moved to OBU includes materials that have been in storage for an undetermined length of time and materials previously on display on the second floor of the Baptist Building in Oklahoma City. The archives have served as the repository for Oklahoma Baptist historical materials, offering a resource center for those interested in doing research on any subject pertaining to Baptist life in Oklahoma, past and present. The articles on display have included artifacts and personal libraries of noted Baptists as well as church memorabilia.

The “Murrow Press” is a printing press brought to Atoka, Indian Territory, by J.S. Murrow in the 1870s “as a tool to bring the gospel and civilization to the vast untamed land occupied by the Choctaw and Chickasaw Indians,” Anson Justice wrote in “The Murrow Press,” a pamphlet available at the Mabee Learning Center circulation desk.

“Following the Civil War, the South and our Southern Baptist churches were destitute indeed,” Justice wrote. “Murrow, through his publications, drew most of his financial support from the Northern churches and their mission societies. ‘The Indian Missionary’ and ‘The Indian Orphan,’ published in Atoka (Okla.) and distributed not only to the Indian people but throughout the nation, enabled him to carry on for over 60 years.”

After Murrow’s work with the press was complete, it was sold to J.E.T. Clark of Coalgate, Okla., and used to publish “The Coalgate Courier.” During World War II, Mrs. Clark gave the press to Justice, who served as pastor of First Baptist Church of Atoka. For three years, Justice printed “The Atoka Baptist” to encourage the 120 church members serving in military and others in war work. In 1947, Justice became pastor of the Kelham Avenue Baptist Church of Oklahoma City, and the press was again retired.

Dr. J.M. Gaskin became secretary of the Oklahoma Baptist Historical Commission, and he knew the history of the press. He asked First Baptist Church of Atoka to donate the press, the Murrow Bible and other items to the Historical Commission for preservation in the archives at OBU. After a stint as part of the J. M. Gaskin Historical Library and Baptist Archives housed at the Baptist Building in Oklahoma City, the Murrow Press has returned to a permanent resting place in the Mabee Learning Center lobby at OBU.