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Officials investigate possible arson in Picher, Oklahoma after historic site burned

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Officials are investigating a possible arson in Picher, Oklahoma, after one of the last remaining historical sites burned to the ground yesterday.

The former Picher Mining Field Museum was engulfed in flames early Tuesday morning.

Former residents of Picher say the fire marks an end to nearly 90 years of history.

"It had such a big history," said Gary Linderman, owner of Ole Miners Pharmacy. "People remember what had occurred there, the museum showing the history itself, then going down in ashes."

Built in 1926, adjacent to the former Picher trolley stop, the site originally was inhabited by mining producers until the 1960's.

Up until the 1950's, it also doubled as the town's health department.

Many loved the architecture of the museum, which operated from 1979 until it was sold in 2008 as part of the Picher buyout.

Artifacts and records were saved, but the building, an artifact itself, has been neglected for the past seven years.

"The trust that purchased the building as part of the buyout became the owners, but I think to the frustration of a lot of us, as everybody who moved out of Picher, the trust did nothing to maintain that building," said Ed Keheley, historian and former vice president of the museum.

"People were breaking into it," Linderman said. "Vandalism was occurring, and it was a sad situation."

We reached out to the Quapaw Tribe Fire Department who responded to the fire, but officials there declined an interview due to the incident still being under investigation.

Former museum employees say the destruction of the building is exactly what they feared would happen when the trust took over ownership.

"We had hoped that somebody at some point would have been interested in purchasing it and setting something up in there," Keheley said.

"That's one chapter closed right now," Linderman said.

Many of the museum's former documents are now housed at Pittsburg State University, and a lot of the physical artifacts are at the Baxter Springs Heritage Center and Museum.
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