Bartlesville, Oklahoma

This is a little local history from our small western  town. And speaking of the west; if you are interested in the June 2013 Photo Workshop all of the rooms at the Express UUBar Ranch lodge are reserved but you can still book at the nearby St. James Hotel. Check out their website @ or call  (575) 376-2664. Be sure to mention the photo workshop on June 13th, 14th & 15th.

The St. James and the UUBar Ranch are both owned by Bob Funk and are only five miles apart.

                      Down The Road with the Original Buffalo Dale

Welcome back.  This week marks the New Year and as always this is a good time to look back. On January 15, 2013 the City of Bartlesville will be 114 years old as this is the date of its official incorporation in 1897. I have been looking into my history books, including the programs from our 1997 Centennial Celebration and thinking about how far we’ve come.

Many of you history buffs will know that 1897  was the year that Jennie Cass, the daughter of George Keller, dropped the “go-devil” into the hole that started it all, the original Nellie Johnstone oilwell. 1897 was also the year that the first church was built in town. The following year a post office was established along with a new town to the north named Dewey after Admiral George Dewey. 1899 brought the Santa Fe to town and the first public school opened. By 1901 Bartlesville had electric street lights and telephone service. Banks opened, a brick plant was founded and H.V. Foster came to town.

In the early 1900s Bartlesville grew quickly. Huge oil storage “farms” were built and the Crystal Ice House opened where a young Boots Adams worked. The Tyler brothers started a cement plant in Dewey and the Star Theater opened. By 1906 there were 121 drilling companies in town and the city needed a hospital. By all accounts Bartlesville’s 11 barbershops and 6 pool halls also stayed busy.

In 1907 Frank Phillips built his historic house in town. This was followed by the opening of May Brothers in 1910 and the construction of the first high school, the first city hall and Douglas School. In 1917 Frank and his brother L.E. Phillips founded Phillips Petroleum Company. That was a turning point in the history of Bartlesville when growth really took off and the company grew to be the city’s largest employer and supporter.

Over less than 100 years the town grew from a little settlement along the Caney River in Indian territory with only 200 inhabitants to a thriving city with 40,000 residents by 1984.

1984 was a significant year because the Washington Park Mall and the George Miksch Sutton Avian Research Center both opened that year. It was also the first time many people had heard the name T. Boone Pickens, the corporate giant who tried unsuccessfully to gain control of Phillips. The following year Carl Ican also attempted a hostile takeover of the company. Phillips managed to thwart both attempts but the company was forced to lay off employees as a result.

1986 brought another big problem to Bartlesville when the Caney River rose 29 feet above normal and 800 homes were flooded.

1987 brought better things when the Indian Summer Festival was created and although the population of the city had dropped to 34,252 the mood was still optimistic. A beautiful new library opened in 1992 and in 1996 Phillips had its best year in a long time.

In 1997 a year long city wide celebration of the city’s Centennial was organized by H.T. Sears, Jr. and Bill Creel. Both men had extensive knowledge of Bartlesville and the contacts to pull off a great party to mark its accomplishments. The celebration included historical re-enactments, parades, concerts, a carnival and much more. To date it remains the biggest and most successful city wide celebration ever held. Bill and Tom and the hundreds of volunteers they recruited not only raised all the money for the Centennial events but they were also able to make a substantial contribution to the (then) new Bartlesville History Museum when the celebration was over.  My friends I hope you were there.

Now with Bartlesville’s future looking brighter than ever another birthday is coming up. I’ll leave this week by simply saying “Happy Birthday Bartlesville!”  Till next week I’ll see ya down the road….




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