Sunday, January 23, 2011

Tulsa's West Side Stories- Taneha and Oakhurst

Trains and oil booms are what helped create some little communities in what is now West Tulsa.  The trains carried oilfield workers and supplies to the oil fields.  Red Fork, where the first strike occurred, was close enough to Tulsa that most workers came back on the train rather than stay there.  The Glenn Fields, however, were far enough out that boom towns for these workers to live in shot up practically overnight.  A little town called Praper consisted of a few railroad workers until the Glenn strike.  Being the closest train depot to the Glenn Pool it virtually exploded and, by 1906 was home to hundreds of oilmen.  The town changed its name just before statehood to Kiefer.  

Another boomtown was Taneha, which was Creek for "oil under land".  Located about four miles north of Sapulpa, Taneha was a typical rough and tough oil field community, one in which women did not go outside after dark.  Structures were usually just wooden frames with clapboard sidings and tar paper roofs.  Taneha boasted a grocery store, hotel and boarding houses such as Elizabeth Winter's Boarding House (below).

The Taneha Boarding House fed three shifts at each meal.

Another boarding house.

This was Sherman Smith's gasoline service station.

 In 1909 a post office opened there and the town was re-named Bowden.  The post office remained until 1957.  But that wasn't the end of the Taneha name.

That same year,  L.J. Weatherman platted a community a few miles north and east of Bowden called "Business Men's First Addition to Taneha". Six months later it was renamed New Taneha.  The land changed hands and was re platted several times then sold to O.C. Graves in 1913.  Graves, a speculator from St. Louis, began drilling for oil and soon oil derricks dotted the area. 

He filed plats for New Taneha in 1915 and, in 1918-1919 began an aggressive marketing campaign to gullible easterners, selling 25-foot lots and practically promising an oil well in every back yard.  A Main Street was laid out..

sidewalks were poured...

and natural gas-fed street lamps sprouted from them.  

The entry into the neighborhood boasted brick pillars and matching canopied buildings on either side. 

What Graves - and buyers- couldn't know was that the oil wells were drying up and the Great Depression loomed on the horizon.  Most buyers never claimed their properties and lost their investments.  And while it looked as though it would all dry up and blow away with the Oklahoma dust, another unknown factor came to light.  The road in front of the entrance pillars would become Route 66 in 1929, and a new generation came down it.  After losing jobs and surviving the Depression, the inexpensive houses were a draw.  While it is unclear exactly when it happened, according to old-timers who lived there, the Frisco railroad later gave the community the name Oakhurst because it's mail drop was near a grove of oak trees.  Click on the map below to enlarge:

Thanks to an observant reader who pointed out that the above building still stands, even though the pillars are long gone:

References:  David Breed- Southwest Tulsa Historian; The Rush Begins by Kenny A. Franks; The Tulsa Spirit; Southwest Tulsa History; The Tulsa World

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Tulsa's Coal Mines

There isn't an abundance of information easily available on the  coal mines that were once here in Tulsa.  I have found maps, which are helpful and useful- provided you can read and understand them.  I have found recollections from former workers and one lone newspaper article from 1932.  In it the reporter decided to see what the life of a miner was like and visited one of the mines on the "outskirts" of town.  His last remark:  "As we make our way back to the showers, I take off my hat to the miners and fervently confess to my guide that I'd rather see, than be one!"  There were a lot of interesting photos taken for this newspaper article.  Unfortunately the xeroxed copies make them unusable to share here.  

This is a photo of men digging a strip pit in Indian Territory (photo courtesy Oklahoma Heritage Association):

There were at least 14 coal mines in Tulsa.  Here is a map obtained from a reference book in the library showing them:
(click on photo to enlarge)

The other drawn maps are Sanborn Maps.
There used to be a town called Dawson back before statehood.  It has since been absorbed into the big city.  This Google map shows it to have been here:

Dawson was the home of strip coal mining as well as a rock quarry.  The Smith Brothers owned and operated the coal mine there as did Leavell Coal Company.  

Since the Smith Brothers aren't on the above list, they were probably one of the first coal mines in the area.  This is a photo of workers with the Smith's daughter on the bank.

This was the Henry Adamson Coal  & Mining Co. and the Adamson Coal Mine - located together south of 11th Street between Yale and Sheridan.  

The Seneca Coal Mine was located on the land where Doctors Hospital now stands on Harvard.  When I was researching the Harvard Apartments Mystery I learned that, in the late 1940's Coca Cola was interested in building a plant "out there" but didn't because of the instability from the mines.  And years later, when the hospital was built, it was noted that in one of the elevators you could still smell the coal.

Next to the Seneca Coal Mine was Hickory Coal Mine #2 aka Lucinda. This little slope was located on the south side of 21st, just east of (what would become) the Broken Arrow Expressway.  This was the mine the reporter visited in the story I mentioned above.  Frank and William Podpecham started Hickory Coal Co here in 1929.

You can see in the map that the company general store was at the west end of the complex, as you would now go under the expressway bridge.  The miners, who lived in a 'tent city' of sorts,  had tokens that they would spend at these stores.    

And then there are these maps that I snagged online of the Fairground area mines and shafts.  I'm not quite sure how to read the yellow lines - but what a honeycomb design they make!   Again, click on these to enlarge:

The white rectangle at the top of this is the Expo Building:

Anyway, now you can see that all of the rumors about the Fairgrounds, Sears, the baseball park etc being on top of coal mines are true.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Fairgrounds Grandstand

Reading about them tearing down one end of the grandstand at the Tulsa Fairgrounds made me think about a trivia question I once asked on Facebook.  It was one of the "where am I?" where I show a random photo.  This was the photo in question that day:

The answer is:
This was the Merchant Exhibit and Grandstand Building at the Tulsa State Fairgrounds. Designed by Bruce Goff, it was built in 1930 beneath the existing grandstand which was 685 ft long and 100 ft wide. This was the longest building of its kind west of the Mississippi River. The building was lost when half of it sank into an abandoned coal mine.

Did you catch that last sentence?  Yes, it sank into the ground!  Much of that entire area, including where Sears sits, was used for coal mining.

I plan on writing some about these coal mines in the future.  There were quite a few.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Tulsa Pioneers: T.E. Smiley

When Thomas E. Smiley arrived in Tulsey on the 2nd of June, 1884 from his home state of Tennessee, he came to a little village with less than 200 residents.  The 21 yr old went to work as a store clerk in the first Hall store (H.C. Hall Merchandise Company) over in Red Fork.  

Tulsa was then a cow-town and Smiley wanted to experience life on a cattle ranch and went to work at the Turkey-Track Ranch for awhile.  When he returned to the Tulsa area he married Nora Perryman who bore him three children.  She passed away in 1898 and Smiley remarried in 1901.

Thomas developed a business of cutting and selling walnut logs and other hardwood products, harvesting them from the huge supply along the Arkansas River.  They had teams of oxen and mules (owned by C.A. Wimberly) to haul these logs to the railway station or float them down the Arkansas River, employing a force of men to cut them down and saw them.  This business was a boon to early Tulsa in that he and his partner, M. Baird, always gave employment to men who were really in need of money.

It was during this time, around 1894, that Smiley seriously considered going into the lumber business.  While studying the plans for such a venture, he was called upon by a salesman from a lumber mill in Arkansas named W. S. Dickason.  

After meeting with him, Smiley agreed that he would place an initial (train) car-load order, but it was to be placed once he had all of the details of his new business figured out.  By mistake, the shipment from Arkansas was made upon receipt of the order and arrived in Tulsa just as it appeared Smiley would be unable to form his company.  The population of Tulsa at that time was approximately 250; a full car-load of lumber was a lot of board feet to have on hand at one time.  Dickason took the initiative and proposed that he and Smiley form a partnership to sell the material, which Smiley agreed to and Tulsa's first lumber firm- briefly known as Tulsa Lumber Company- was in business.  Total resources pooled by the two men were $1,900.

Dickason hit the road again as a salesman leaving Smiley in charge of the Tulsa operations.  Although it was still 4 years away from becoming an incorporated city, Tulsa's growth was steady and strong.  In 1896 Dickason met C.A. Goodman and the two acquired lumber yards in Kansas and Missouri and eventually they bought out Smiley's interest, going on to have outlets in nearly 50 communities.  After the oil boom days faded they centered their business in the Tulsa area.  The original yard was on Boston Avenue, on the north side of the Frisco tracks.  Later it was moved to Main Street on the Frisco then in 1915 it was relocated on First St and Madison. 

It was in this location that Dickason's son expanded then concentrated the business on furniture sales.  The Dickason-Goodman furniture company was around until the late 1980's, spanning 100 years in Tulsa.
Smiley went on to other interests, opening the first ice plant, becoming secretary of the commercial club, fire and police commissioner in 1911, city councilman and a member of the first school board.  He, like all of the other pioneers of our city, had that spirit of giving and serving that made Tulsa what it is today.