The ‘World’s Largest Totem Pole’ Is An Oklahoma Original
For some unknown reason, people still refer to Oklahoma as a 'flyover' state. That somewhat bugs me. It's not that I'm one of those people that think their state is superior to any other, I just see things for what they really are. If anything, Oklahoma is a roadside attraction state that allows travelers the opportunity to see some really wild and unique things.
Case and point, travel Oklahoma to see things like the Blue Whale of Catoosa. Stay a night in Buck Atom's Nuclear AirBnB. Take a tour of the Bone Museum. Can't miss seeing the world's biggest Bigfoot... It's all roadside across Oklahoma, and so is the "world's largest" totem pole.
Before you suspiciously challenge that title through a little light Googling, it's no longer the "world's largest" totem pole, but it once was, and it remains the largest "concrete" totem pole in the world. Seriously, it's massive.
Welcome to the roadside attraction that is Ed Galloway's Totem Pole Park in the tiny town of Foyil, OK. It's just off the Mother Road, Route 66, about twenty minutes northeast of Tulsa.
Why is it famous? As the story goes...
Ed Galloway was an artist and world traveler. Born in Springfield, Missouri in 1880, Ed did what most young men did when coming of age. He joined the military seeking steady pay. His short career with the US Army took him overseas in 1899 to fight in the Philippines War. While there, he made quite a name for himself carving tree trunks as a side hustle.
Upon his return stateside, Ed moved back to his home in Springfield and had a go at being an artist. Known for his carvings, he found quite a bit of success until it all went up in smoke.
Ed was a master wood carver and his studio was located atop the local gas station where he sold his art to travelers. One day it caught fire and he lost everything. One of the travelers, a man named Charles Page, held Ed's creations in high regard ended up offering him a job near Tulsa. It was a job teaching shop and manual skills to orphaned children in Sand Springs.
Time went on and Ed enjoyed making his living by sharing his passion for creative arts. As you would expect, he retired in the 1920s and moved off to a small town local to Tulsa to live out his days... but he got so bored doing nothing, he decided to build something spectacular.
Ed started building what would be his Totem Pole Park.
Consisting of eleven decorated and unique buildings full of interesting and curious goods, his crowning achievement was his massive concrete totem pole that he built 100% himself.
He pulled sand from the local river bucket by bucket, carried each backing stone, and even tied his own metal reinforcements around the base structure. It's even more impressive when you imagine a retiree doing this in a time when modern construction amenities weren't yet available.
It's 30 feet wide at the base and stretches a full 90 feet tall. It contains six tons of steel, 28 tons of cement, and 100 tons of sand and rock. He was nearly 70 years old when he finally completed it.
As I said, while the totem pole gets all the glory, the park is full of interesting stuff. Oklahoma even holds a bit of pride in this place because it's considered the finest and earliest example of Americana folk art in the state of Oklahoma and should be on every list of things to see if and when you make it up that way.