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……

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