Welcome back. This will be the last segment of my three-part series about Bartlesville’s big 100th birthday party in 1997. When the Cow Thieves and Outlaws Reunion was brought back to life in September as part of Grand Finale Week it was a huge success but friends it wasn’t always like that. Let me take you to the beginning, back when Frank Phillips was still alive.
In 1927 Frank organized the first event to thank the cowboys and other workers at Woolaroc for all their hard work. Over time the guest list grew to include more townspeople as well as his friends and business associates. By 1930 more than 1,000 people were coming to what was now being called the Cow Thieves and Outlaws Reunion where they ate Frank’s barbeque, drank his whiskey and were entertained not only by some real outlaws of the time but also by trick ropers, musicians and any other amusements Frank could dream up.
From what I could find out this popular yearly party came to an end when Frank’s wife Jane died in 1948. Then on August 23, 1950 the man locals called “Uncle Frank” also passed away and the history of the Cow Thieves and Outlaws Reunion is a little sketchy from that point.
Don Doty was President of the Board of the Frank Phillips Foundation in the years following Frank’s death and he recalls that the Cow Thieves and Outlaws Reunion was held off and on but it was a much smaller gathering up until 1997 when Bartlesville’s Centennial Celebration took place. With a gift from Dorothy Glynn Adams, the Centennial Commission was able to breathe new life into the event including appearances by reenactors such as Pawnee Bill, dance performances by members of the Delaware Tribe and a concert by Michael Martin Murphy. The picnic grounds at Clyde Lake were packed with people enjoying the same good food, drink and entertainment as Frank’s original guests.
1997 started a tradition that continues today because the Centennial Celebration had drawn people together for all kinds of events not only around town but also at Frank Phillips’ beloved Woolaroc. I know he would be happy that his party is still going strong and would love to have you come out for it. This year’s event is scheduled for October and it may be the biggest one yet.
As for Frank, after Jane died, he put the plans in motion for a mausoleum for himself and Jane right there on the grounds of the ranch. Using the Will Rogers Memorial in Claremore as a blueprint construction workers blasted 18 feet deep into the sandstone, building a burial place fit for a king. With air-conditioning and telephone service, the building took close to a year to complete. All the while Jane’s body sat waiting at the White Rose Cemetery mausoleum. It was 1949 when their mausoleum was finished and Jane’s body was moved. That same year Frank resigned as Chairman of the Board of Phillips Petroleum Company.
In 1950 while vacationing with old friends in Atlantic City to escape the August heat in Oklahoma, Frank died from a gall bladder attack. He was 76 and today he lies beside Jane in the place he loved the most, Woolaroc.
My sources this week are Don Doty who served as Chairman of the Board for 25 years, Bob Kane who replaced Don on the Board, Bob Frasier, Woolaroc’s Executive Director and Gail Morgan Kane whose book Frank’s Fancy is a must read.
Next week: it’s such a noble profession yet we seldom think about these workers until we need them. Yes folks, I’m talking about nurses and I’m about to tell you their story, starting with Florence Nightingale who founded the modern nursing profession.
Till then I’ll see ya down the road…….