We’ve all done it – driven past an abandoned building and wondered about the story behind the weathered wood and paint, the dilapidated stairs and the unkempt property filled with items from a bygone era.
Amy Hedges has turned those musings into a website, appropriately called Forgotten Oklahoma, with more than 70,000 followers.
“I remember when I was a kid driving around with my grandma I would take photos of old houses,” Hedges says. “A few years ago, I started posting them on Instagram and Facebook on my personal page, and my dad said I should make a [separate] page for it – so I did.”
Hedges’ page became so popular that other people submitted photos and within a short time her love of photography and historical settings evolved into a Facebook site encompassing much of Oklahoma’s past.
“I never in my wildest dreams thought it would become so popular,” Hedges says. “I remember getting 500 likes and I was beside myself. In 2013, I started the original Forgotten Oklahoma page and, when it received 12,000 likes from fans, I decided to start the group so everyone could share their own photos, instead of submitting them to me to share.”
Hedges isn’t just a fan of Oklahoma’s vintage edifices; she acquired a 1902 bank building in Pawnee that once belonged to Gordon William “Pawnee Bill” Lillie, a colorful wild west showman.
“I have been in the process of restoring the building and it now houses the Pawnee Tag Agency, where I am the tag agent, and the Forgotten Oklahoma headquarters,” Hedges says. “I sell Forgotten Oklahoma branded merchandise and I give tours of the building.”
Hedges says she has met many others who have their own restoration projects underway as they try to revitalize their own towns and keep those histories alive.
Jana McElyea, part of Hedges’ inner circle, joined the Facebook group because she loves “anything old and seeing how people used to live.” She especially enjoys memorabilia from Chandler, where she was born, and other parts of Lincoln County.
“I have enjoyed this group since day one,” McElyea says. “There are lots of places I had never known anything about, so I learn something new every day.”
McElyea wants to visit Cheyenne soon and take in the Black Kettle National Grassland.
Meanwhile, Hedges plans to expand the group and write a book.
“There is so much left for me to explore,” Hedges says. “Oklahoma has some great places. I am passionate about preserving our great history in Oklahoma and bringing awareness to it. Our motto is ‘Preserving Oklahoma history one picture at a time’ and we want to make sure our history is not forgotten.”