The Terry House on the Hill, or the Doc Woodson Home in Poteau, Oklahoma
The story of the House on Terry Hill, also known as the Woodson Home, begins when Oklahoma was still Indian Territory. George W. Terry, a prominent Poteau businessman and civic leader, was also a romantic. Nearly every day, George would get his exercise by hiking up Cavanal Mountain. It was during one of these hikes that he met a young woman from eastern Texas.
After they met, George’s began walking up the mountain more frequently. He always stopped at her house for a few moments each day to woo and court her. A very punctual man, he would consult his gold watch frequently during their visits. After a time, he would offer his farewells and continue on.
The two soon fell in love. After a brief courtship, they were married in December 1906. He was forty years old; she was only nineteen.
Over the next several years, Christine “Sunshine” Terry and George W. Terry would enjoy great personal and financial success. During this time, eastern Oklahoma experienced a boom period, which helped the couple achieve their dreams.
In 1913, George purchased land on what would later become known as Terry Hill. On the hill, he began building a home for his wife and their six small children. Work continued on the home at a steady pace for several years, however, George wouldn’t live long enough to see it completed.
George died in 1918. By this time, only the exterior shell of the house had been completed. Christine, heartbroken over the loss of her husband, tried in vain to complete the home, but the burden was too much. Several years of raising six children by herself forced her into debt, and she finally had to admit defeat.
On May 14, 1926, a judgment for $2,272.75 plus interest and all costs was awarded to Wiley W. Lowery against Christine. Lowery was a prominent businessman and real estate investor in Poteau. To pay off the additional debt that she owed, Christine was then ordered to offer the house at auction to the highest bidder.
The auction was held on June 28, 1926. Even though the house was appraised at over $4,000, the bids never reached that high. The highest bid was $2,667, made by Lowery. He was deeded the property on July 30, 1926. For Christine Terry, this was the final blow. After the sale, she took her children and moved back to San Antonio, Texas to live with her family. Ultimately, she would recover and remarry, but she never did see the house complete.
Almost immediately after the sale, on the same day, Lowery then sold the property to J. M. Jenson for $2,667.
J. M. Jenson and his wife, Lydia Jenson, held the property for nearly two years before he sold it. On May 21, 1928, J. M. Jenson sold the property to Sherman W. Pemberton for $6,500. This sale included a mortgage to Wiley W. Lowery for $3,000.00.
After purchasing the house, “Sherm” Pemberton immediately set about finishing the interior. During this time, he and his wife, Delia G. Pemberton, were living above the City Bakery.
The Pemberton family had previously lived in West Virginia and moved to Poteau around 1910. After arriving, they built a house on Dewey Avenue and founded the City Bakery. Previous success and success with the bakery gave Permberton the financial freedom to purchase the house in 1928.
Pemberton had a hard time affording the house because of his large family. Despite this, he was able to complete the chimneys and ceilings within the house. It is also believed that, during this time, the house was divided into apartments and rented as individual dwelling units. Still, not much was done to the inside.
Ultimately, the house became too much of a burden to the Pemberton family. On May 2, 1942, the house once again changed owners. They sold the property to Dr. Earl M. Woodson for the sum of $5,600.00.
Dr. Woodson ran the first hospital in Poteau out of his home. It has been told that Mrs. Woodson took the food from her dinner table to feed his patients.
After purchasing the Terry House, Dr. Woodson and his wife soon finished off the interior space. The only later addition here has been the replacement of the original stairway from the first to the second floor with a smaller circular one in 1950.
After nearly forty years under construction, the house was finally finished. Since then, the house has been a popular landmark in Poteau. Throughout the years, it has gained fame.
Perhaps the most famous event happened when President Kennedy visited the area in the early 1960's. After touring Poteau, the Woodson family hosted a great meal for the president and his staff. Many influential people attended the dinner, as well as several residents from town. The president, along with the entire Washington Press assembly, was graciously quartered here by the Woodson family. While Kennedy was offered lodging at the Woodson home, he politely declined, however, some of his security detail and the Washington Press stayed the night.
About the Research
Eric Standridge, author of The Birth of Poteau and Stories of the Mountain Gateway, has spent several years researching the history of Poteau. The information about the Woodson Home comes from a variety of sources but primarily relies on memoirs from the Terry Family and Oklahoma Corporation Commission reports.
© 2016 Eric Standridge