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Frank Eaton, the inspiration for Pistol Pete, speaks to a class on campus.

A Tribute to Pistol Pete

Monday, December 1, 2008

Media Contact: Mack Burke | Associate Director of Media Relations | 405-744-5540 |

A year ago, a 12-foot bronze statue of Frank “Pistol Pete” Eaton was erected in his hometown of Perkins, Oklahoma. It was the beginning of a long-sought-after development by the community to commemorate, educate and entertain locals and visitors about the town’s most beloved celebrity.

"It's been a pipe dream to have some type of Pistol Pete attraction ever since he died in 1958," said David Sasser, chairman of-the Oklahoma Territorial Plaza Trust. 

The dream became reality when Congress appropriated $200,000 toward the construction of the Oklahoma Territorial Plaza and the statue by Oklahoma artist Wayne Cooper as part of the Oklahoma Centennial celebration.

Before long, additional support through grants and local donations raised $1.2 million, and 'the project blossomed into a six-acre park with a lighted walking trail, museum, art gallery, living farm, 1901 log cabin, 1907 barn, agriculture exhibit, vintage railroad depot, turn-of-the-century church, one-room schoolhouse and a 1960s porcelain enamel service station housing a 1952 Perkins fire truck. 

“I’ve never seen enthusiasm for a project like this before,” Sasser said. 

Statues of Pistol Pete and another famous resident, Iowa Tribe Chief Nacheninga, welcome visitors to the park of living history. And right behind the original cowboy’s pistol-yielding hands is his original home, moved from its original location three blocks away to the town’s plaza. 

Dennis Beyl of Beyl-Davenport House Moving volunteered his services for the extreme move, which involved the cooperation of OG&E to take down major power lines in the pathway. 

Though the house made it safely to its new location, much repair and rehabilitation is still needed for the century old home.

“Other buildings that have been moved to the plaza were done so through private donations or commitments to fund the move and restoration, but there are no restoration funds for Pete’s house,” Sasser said. 

The goal of the plaza trust is to restore the house to its original design. After Eaton’s death, ownership of the house changed a couple of times and the inside was gutted to house a gift shop. 

“We’d like to restore it to the original layout and use it to talk about Pete the man, the ‘original Cowboy’ — who he was, his character and the men who have portrayed Pistol Pete for OSU,” Sasser said. “And people who knew Pistol Pete can learn more about how he became the mascot.”

Gordie Gray, OAMC alumni president, hands Frank Eaton an honorary lifetime membership in the Alumni Association in March 1956.

Costs to restore the house to its original splendor are roughly $25,000 plus the $10,000 paid to acquire the house. 

The Oklahoma Territorial Plaza Trust and Perkins Community Foundation are working together to raise the funds and have received overwhelming support from the community for the entire project. 

“It has been a rallying point,” Sasser said. “This project has touched every aspect of the community and brought several groups together. It has been remarkable.” 

Sasser hopes OSU alumni will also feel a connection to the project and make the pilgrimage 10 miles south of Stillwater to gain a greater appreciation of a piece of OSU’s history and will consider making a gift so Pistol Pete’s story can be shared well into the future. 

Donations are tax-deductible and donors who give $250 or more to the project will be listed on a bronze plaque inside the home. Those giving $1,000 or more will receive a limited edition. 11 by 14-inch “Tall in the Saddle” print by Oklahoma artist Mark Larsen. 

“This is just a neat opportunity to really let people know Pete’s story,” Sasser said.

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