Sunday, August 2, 2009

Early Tulsa Tidbits

Here are some interesting items you may or may not have known about our fair city back when it was a rough cow town.

The first Hall store also housed a Chinese restaurant. The Chinese owner came with the railroad (he was an employee who helped lay the tracks) and decided to settle here. Unfortunately, he also became one of the first murder victims as well. Here is the earliest photo I could find of the Hall store, from 1886. That section on the far right was said to have been a Chinese restaurant before it was a furniture store (click on photos to enlarge):

The Dalton brothers were regular fixtures around Tulsa at this time. Only a few people knew they were related to the Youngers and most believed them to be on the right side of the law, which they did try to be for awhile. After they crossed over to the wrong side, they would frequently stop in Tulsa. But not before having a good look (through binoculars) from the top of Standpipe Hill (north of the Frisco tracks) to see if any lawmen’s mounts were around. Here is the view from around 1892:
And here is what the town looked like in 1889 from that angle:

If the coast was clear, they would boldly walk through the town, eat at cafes and trade at the stores as well as attend church where they were said to have beautiful singing voices. Two of the brothers, Grat and Bob, were shot and killed (along with 2 others) in a failed attempt to rob 2 banks at the same time in Coffeyville, KS.

Lawmen wanted everyone to know that a wanted man/men had been killed and usually had them photographed to prove it:Emmett survived and served his time, then later returned to Tulsa for awhile before heading to Hollywood.

So, what is a standpipe, you ask? It is a water tower that supplied brackish, sandy water to the little community. Here are some views of Standpipe Hill. It was approximately where OSU Tulsa campus is now. This is around 1905: And here we have Mrs. E.G. Fike and Miss Mattie Lou Disher sitting on the steps of the standpipe, September 23, 1910:

The happy news that “the fleet is in!” was the sign that a delivery of booze across the Arkansas River had made it past the federal marshals and Indian police. Nearly every 2nd story of Tulsa’s few 2-story structures housed gambling halls and brothels. In a few short years illegal gambling parlors flourished openly, bordellos increased and First Street became known as “Bloody First” due to the violence. Bootleggers were open 24 hours a day without hiding it. These vices and lifestyles split the town with the churchgoers and groups such as the Tulsa Christian Temperance Union on one side and others who enjoyed the “helluva good time”on the other. Elected officials often found that quite a few citizens voted one way but preferred to live another when trying to enforce moral laws.
Here are the ladies of the Tulsa Christian Temperance Union in 1893:

CTU leader Carrie Nation took a train from Kansas to Tulsa in 1905 when she learned of the huge party planned for the opening of the Robinson Hotel.

When she arrived, however, the invited guests (and their liquor and beer) were inside and had bolted the doors. Tulsans have always loved a good party.

photos courtesy of Beryl Ford Collection/Rotary Club of Tulsa/Tulsa County Library/Tulsa Historical Society unless otherwise noted


Unknown said...

Great story about Carrie being locked out.

Yogi♪♪♪ said...

Great post. Very interesting stuff.

Anonymous said...

There is a home at 17th and Elwood that has (or had) a Victorian sideboard that Carrie Nation had damaged with her hatchet. The home was then owned by Lucia Loomis Ferguson. I read this in one of John Brooks Walton's books about Tulsa's historic homes.

Anonymous said...

I am related to the Robinsons.
Great to see the old hotel.

Unknown said...

I would love to find out more about that era of the Robinson Hotel. My great-grandfather, Ernest Robitaille, was an attorney in Tulsa during this era. His office was #322 in the Robinson. He was also an oil man, although not very successful. We are attempting to piece together more information about his biography. He died in the Robinson Hotel in 1933.
Judy B.

Unknown said...

I am seeking information on my great-grandfather, Ernest Robitaille, an attorney in early Tulsa. We believe his office was in the Robinson Hotel and he may have lived in his office, off and on. I am particularly interested in learning about a musician's union. He played the flute and possibly was a member of the Ritz Theater orchestra. The info I have says he was the secretary of the musicians union.