Tyler Cement: The First in the Country

Welcome back. In last week’s column you learned a bit about the Drummond family and their relationship to the king of Hungary. This week it’s another family dynasty and their history which stretches across not only Washington County but the entire four state region. It all started in 1905 when Herbert Tyler and his son Donald came to the area looking for two things, natural gas and large deposits of limestone and shale. Both were plentiful just east of Dewey and in February 1908 after buying land, drilling for gas and building the first of several concrete silos, the Tylers sold the first sack of concrete in the state.

A success from day one, the Tylers were one of the town’s largest employers and many of their workers were Mexican Americans who had migrated and settled in Dewey. The job paid twenty cents an hour for twelve hour shifts seven days a week and it was hard work but I learned from my research that these men also had fun when I read that they had their own band. Yes friends, the Dewey Portland Cement Mexican Band as they were called played whenever they could find the time.

A plant manager and co-owner of the company, Don was also an oil producer, cattleman and big time philanthropist. He not only gave money for youth in agriculture, he financed the building of the Ag center and the Dewey fairgrounds and then the construction of the library. In addition he donated the land for Don Tyler City Park.

According to the books published by the Washington County Historical Society it was the success of the concrete plant and then the new smelter west of Bartlesville that pushed growth in the area. Frank Overlees, William Johnstone, George Keeler and Frank Phillips were all building WAn early legend in the construction business, Felix went on to build the Phillips mansion and many other homes and churches in the community. His son Arthur followed in his footsteps, then Charles, then his grandson Arthur who took over in 1962 and of course today the companies are run by Art’s sons John and Tom which is another story.

By 1908 Bartlesville and Dewey had grown so much that the Bartlesville Interurban Company was formed to provide transportation in and around the towns. There were three train cars, a large one for the trip to Dewey, a smaller one for service to Smelter town and the last one for the Bartlesville loop as it was called. The cars ran both ways and the fare was ten cents each way. With all this growth back in the 1900s, Bartlesville was on its way to becoming the community we know today. The next time you drive down Don Tyler Boulevard in Dewey or Johnstone, Keeler, Adams or Phillips, remember the contributions of these early business leaders who shaped so much of what we have here in Bartlesville and Dewey.

Till next time I’ll see ya down the road……

The Tulsa Historical Society

Welcome back. Bartlesville and Dewey, Oklahoma are known by visitors as towns full of museums. The Philips and Price families saw to that and the many others who followed their example have preserved this important history. As for me, this Saturday I’ll be following in the footsteps of a Tulsa legend when I make tracks for the home of Sam Travis, the early 20th century oil tycoon who built the house which is now the Tulsa Historical Society. It was back in the so-called “Golden Age” and Tulsa was the oil capitol of the world when brothers Sam and Dave Travis built their mansions on what was then remote land out on South Peoria. The Italianate Revival style homes sit side by side and as Tulsa grew the magnificent houses changed owners several times up to the present day.

Today Dave’s home is the Tulsa Garden Center which is a great destination throughout the year and Sam’s is the Historical Society. Filled with artifacts from Tulsa’s past, they also host traveling exhibitions, all focused on the history of Tulsa and Oklahoma. This Saturday, my new friend and traveling partner, the author and lawyer Ken Frates and I will be there to talk about our books and there will also be a screening of my documentary Footprints in the Dew: The Last Ten Tapes at 11AM. I’m looking forward to hearing Kent speak about his best-selling book about the Roger Wheeler murder and friends thanks to the Historical Society it’s free. Admission to the museum, Kent’s presentation and the film, it’s all free and you history buffs should plan to attend. Call the museum at (918) 712-9484 for more information.

Now a little more Tulsa history, back in 1848 when the Perryman Cemetery was created 32nd and Utica was out in the sticks. Who were these folks you might ask? The Perrymans became one of Tulsa’s founding families when they were forced to move to “Tulsey Tulova” after an outbreak of cholera in the area where they were living.

Family members, friends and unknown Civil War soldiers were buried in the cemetery, including John Perryman who was Tulsa’s first postmaster and Hannah Hayes Alexander a survivor of the trail of tears. In all around fifty people are buried there today along with several unknown graves. The last person to be buried there was William Shirk in 1941.

might say that’s an interesting story but here’s the scoop. The old cemetery is located in what has become a very busy part of town and it is kept in beautiful shape not by the city but by dedicated volunteers from the Tulsa Historical Society. The old grave markers are something to see if you’re ever in this part of the city. It’s hard to imagine that the Perrymans once ran cattle on 60,000 acres there!
I hope to see you in Tulsa but if not, till next time I’ll see ya down the road…..

Great Independent Book Stores in Oklahoma

Welcome back. This past week I’ve been at a lot of book stores. In Edmond there was Best of Books, a large store that is tucked away in a mall about a mile from the University of Central Oklahoma campus. Here you’ll find books of all kinds. Kids’ books, they’ve got hundreds of them as well how-to books, mysteries, new fiction and non-fiction. They even offer a reading room with refreshments. OU great Joe Washington and I autographed books there recently along with the bestselling mystery writer Kent Frates. If you’ve never heard of Kent, he’s the guy who’s written a two volume series about Oklahoma’s most notorious murder cases. An Oklahoma City attorney since 1964 Kent is also the real deal as far as writers go. We found we had a lot in common and plan on doing some book signing to together after the first of the year.

Ponca City has a bookstore I also recommend. Jerry Brace opened Brace’s Books thirty-five years ago and friends it’s still going strong. Like Best of Books, Brace’s has it all, including a specialty area where unique gifts of all kinds can be found. With a mini restaurant in the back next to the reading room, it’s no wonder that authors come from around the world for book signings here. While you are at Brace’s you can also arrange to take a tour of the Maryland Mansion which is a must see and visit some of the many other historical sites in the old town area. I always love visiting Ponca City and I think you will too.

The bookstore that everyone knows in Oklahoma City is of course Full Circle Books which is a landmark for book lovers throughout the state. When I was there last week my friend Gale Kane’s book Frank’s Fancy was being featured right next to mine. For those of you who haven’t read it, Frank’s Fancy tells the story of how Frank Phillips created Woolaroc. Woods, lakes and rocks, that’s Woolaroc and it’s a destination that’s known around the world. If you want to learn more you can find Frank’s Fancy in the Woolaroc gift shop and if you go now you can also take in the beautiful light display that they put up every year.

Coming up next Friday you’ll have the chance to meet the director of another great museum when Natalie Shirley from the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum is the featured speaker at Arvest’s Friday Forum. If you are interested in the history of cowboys from the old days, this lady knows all about it. I’ve heard her speak several times and I know after you hear her your next trip will be down to Oklahoma City to the museum. John Wayne is there, so is Joel McCray and all the other cowboy actors just waiting to greet you and tell their stories from the Golden Age of movies.

Friday Forum is held every Friday at 10AM at Arvest’s eastside branch. It is free and guests are always welcome.
I want to close this week by thanking everyone who helped put my new book Before the Dew as well as Footprints in the Dew on the Oklahoma best seller list last week. As always I appreciate the support.

Till next time I’ll see ya down the road…..

The Bredero Price Company

Welcome back. Traveling the country I have often visited towns that have revitalized their aging downtown districts. Durango, Colorado is one community that comes to mind. After years of decline its busy again thanks to the commitment of local citizens who had a vision of what the town could be. I see Bartlesville in the same way with all the recent growth downtown. If you haven’t been lately there are lots of new shops and a restaurant on every corner. From the historic Bartlesville Print Shop building up and down the street owners are spending money renovating their buildings, preserving their historical character while bringing new life to an area that had been in decline.

New specialty shops like Moxie’s where I will be signing books on Saturday are springing up alongside well established businesses like McCoy’s Jewelry. If you’re looking for a place to eat you can take your pick from a wide variety of establishments. Or if you’re looking for a little exercise after Thanksgiving a walk through town or a spin around the holiday ice skating rink might be just what you need and of course parking downtown is always free.

The downtown area also offers several interesting museums including the Phillips Museum, the Bartlesville History Museum and the Price Tower. The Frank Phillips Home is another great place to visit during this time of year when the house will be completely decked out for the holidays. Whatever you are looking for check out downtown Bartlesville, I know you will be glad you did.
I can’t leave this subject without mentioning downtown Dewey. From the old hotel and the Tom Mix Museum to the many shops, this is a place I often visit as well.

Down the road has become much more than a phrase for me lately. You might say I’m wearing out horses as I travel from Bartlesville to Oklahoma City, Ponca City and Tulsa. Then it’s Edmond, back to Oklahoma City and on to Claremore, Pryor and Nowata. The towns have gone by in a blur since Thanksgiving and there’s no end in sight. As usual I will be bringing stories from the road.
Last week I gave you a brief introduction to Bill Creel, a 1946 graduate of College High School who went on to help lead the Bredero Price Company to unimaginable heights. I knew Bill and as my friend Marilyn Tate out at Prairie Song said, his devotion to the city of Bartlesville and its citizens was unwavering until his death.

I also ended my column with a bit of mystery around the identity of Carol Cecile Lusk and what was so special on Thanksgiving Day November 22, 1951 that Harold Price and his sons flew to New Orleans. In my research I discovered that the purpose of this trip wasn’t for a meeting with business leaders, it wasn’t with the governor or a senator or even for a make or break pipeline deal. This was a wedding and Harold’s son Joe Price was a groomsman. On that day Carol Cecile Lusk married Bill Creel and became a Bartlesvlle resident helping him with every venture.

Although I am still going through the files about Bill’s accomplishments, my friends this is a couple that Bartlesville should never forget.

Till next time I’ll see ya down the road……

The Price Company, Bartlesville, OK

Welcome back. I could begin this week with Bartlesville’s treasured Price Tower but that story has been written by others many times before so I thought I’d take you back in time before this magnificent structure was built. The story of Harold C. “Hal “Price Sr. and the Price Tower actually started back in 1921 when Harold was the manager of the Bartlesville Zinc Company and lost his job when the plant closed.

With 2500 in borrowed funds, this entrepreneur opened the Electra Welding Company. With a small shop, Hal was living in a boarding house on Second Street when he got his first job repairing oil tanks. By 1926 he had the largest welding company of its type in the Midwest but he wasn’t done growing. In 1928 he secured the contract for the construction of his first major oil pipeline, 160 miles of 8” pipe down in Texas. The new pipeline needed cathodic protection to make it last and by 1936 Hal had added a coating division to his company called Somastic.Wherever he had pipeline projects going on, Somastic plants would be there to coat the pipe.

In the 1940s Somastic expanded its operations to 36 states. At the same time Price Company engineers were developing new ways to lay, weld and coat pipe with every job. The 1960s brought even more work to the Price Company which by now employed hundreds of workers. The coating division’s first international job was in a neutral zone between Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. Just as the project was being completed the region turned into a battle ground during the Six Day War. Despite this experience the company continued to expand overseas and during my research I found the names of several people who contributed to its success who I hope you remember.
A new partnership was created in 1963 between the family of companies and the United Bredero companies based in the Netherlands. The Bredero companies had been founded during the industrial revolution to build housing for workers and had grown into an important construction company. Together the two companies created the Bredero Price plant to focus on pipeline coating and the plant became a major operation in Europe.

Now Hal Price had business all over Australia and the Far East as well as in France and Germany and who was the first man he sent to Europe to head up this important operation? No it wasn’t some out of towner but Bartlesville’s own class of 1947 graduate Bill Creel. Bill traveled the world with the Bredero Price Company eventually becoming a senior manager.

I’m sure you’ve all heard of another person who played a big role in Harold Price’s story, Jim Curd, Sr. Jim had been doing all the advertising and promtion for the Price Company since 1950. As the result of this relationship Jim and his family moved to Bartlesville from Denver and he opened his own business. Over time the Curd family became very involved in the community and opened two landmark restaurants, Dink’s and Sterling’s Grille.

Yes friends the legacy of the Price Company is not only in a building. Next week, Bill Creel’s role as a community leader after retirement.

Till next time I’ll see ya down the road…….