A Newspaper Reference Work (1919)
(By Glenn Condon)
Tulsa, in the short space of ten years, has achieved the reputation of being the best advertised city of its size in the world.
Being the center of the romantic oil industry in the southwest publicity naturally favored her and her reputation has grown to such an extent that homes cannot be built fast enough to supply the demand, with the result in 1918 that the railroads declared an embargo on the shipment of household goods here. This was necessitated by the congestion of such shipments in the local freight depots, due to people billing in their effects and then being unable to find a home in which to place them.
Tulsa is anything but a "boom" town. Tulsa feels that she is a stable, carefully built city with an assured future, and that is why rich oil men, traditionally transient, are anchoring here and investing their millions in interurban railway lines, office buildings, homes and business enterprises.
Tulsa is today and has been for some time the richest city, per capita, in the world. Tulsans will tell you this, with just pride, and in the same breath point to the fact that their city is the musical center of the state, where all Oklahoma comes to hear the noted concert artists, grand opera and instrumentalists.
There are many things about Tulsa that the stranger does not know, for he usually thinks of "Tulsa" and "Oil" in the same breath. Tulsans believe that Tulsa is something more than just an "oil town" and they have ample proof to justify that belief.
Few people, including Tulsans themselves, know much about the early day history of the city. In fact one reason why "Tulsa is Tulsa" is that there are no old traditions here, no retired farmers or Capitalists with sons waiting to inherit their estates, no north or south, no east or west. Whether you are "northerner" or "southerner," "democrat" or "republican," "Presbyterian" or "Catholic" cuts no ice in Tulsa. It is just what you are today that counts. If you are live, full of pep, honest and have ambition, you are welcomed with open arms and the door of opportunity swings wide as you approach. Contrary to all precedent there are no "blue sky" oil companies in Tulsa. Tulsa has so many legitimate concerns that she has no time for the other kind and they have never been permitted to gain a foothold. The fact that people with money to invest rarely get "stung" has had much to do with attracting people of means to the community and making of them permanent, enthusiastic "Tulsa Boosters."
There is a romance about the origin and growth of Tulsa that few cities possess. Dr. Fred S. Clinton, one of the most prominent physicians and builders of Tulsa, is one pioneer who has devoted considerable time to compiling the history of the city and to him we are indebted for most of the following information.
The first authenticated settler in the territory embraced within the present incorporated city of Tulsa was a fullblood Creek Indian named Archie Yahola, who came here from Georgia in 1836 as the King or Town Chief of the Tulsa Lochapokas. His splendid physique and superior mind gave him a powerful prestige in addition to the position to which he was elevated by his people. He was considered a guide, a philosopher and friend among his followers.
He died in 1850 and is buried in the southern part of the city near the old amphitheater erected by the members of his clan for the practice of their religious rites.
His brother, Che-ya-ha, succeeded him in 1850. Tulsa Fixico was the next successor to the kingship. During the civil war, while captain of a company of Indian home guards, he was killed. He was the father of Joe Tulsa, the great ally of Chitto-Harjo, or "Crazy Snake."
O-kel-essa Micco came into power next and was followed by Waitie Beaver.
It is natural that some interest should attach to the meaning and origin of the Creek Indian word, "Tulsa." It is simply the name of a former Creek clan. There was a time when the oligarchic government was very strongly established among the Creeks, or Muscogees, because the members of clans were not allowed to inter-marry and representatives were hereditary. However, upon the adoption of the constitution in 1867 and the inauguration of the House of Kings and Warriors an elective form of government succeeded the hereditary custom. The Creek nation was divided into 47 "towns" or communities, each of which selected a member as Town chief, who sat in the House of Kings and two or more members to sit in the House of Warriors. Three of these 47 towns formerly bore the name of Tulsa. They were Tulsa Lochapoka, Tulsa Canadian and Tulsa Little River. These names are descriptive of the place of residence. Lochapoka means "turtling place," or where they fish and kill turtles,
and was brought with them from Alabama. Canadian and Little River have reference to the streams of the same names on which the towns were located.
It was a custom among members of these towns to have an annual meeting place called a "busking ground," where some of their religious rites were practiced. Before they could eat green corn they would attend these annual meetings and take certain medicines which had an emetic effect. This was followed by a final cleansing bath in some nearby stream, after which they took a short sleep, ate of the first green corn of the season and at night commenced their "stomp" dance.
Some leader with a sort of war whoop, like a bugle call, would spring into a previously prepared ring in the center of which had been built a fire, singing in a guttural tone a monosyllabic song. One by one the men and women dropped in behind this leader, each joining in the song. Many of the women wore on the tops of their feet terrapin shells in which pebbles had been placed, producing a kind of rhythmic shifting sound.
It was the establishment of the busking ground of the Tulsa Lochapokas on a prominent elevation near the outskirts of the city that gave Tulsa her name.
According to the best authority the word "Oklahoma" is a Choctaw'Indian word. "Okla" means "people" and "home" means "red," the compound being "red people."
When the railroads first entered this portion of the state Tulsa was little more than a small trading point. It marked the convergence of the Choctaw, Chickasaw, Creek and Cherokee Indian nations. Several outlaw gangs were in the habit of getting their supplies at Tulsa. Among them were Belle Starr and the James and Dalton boys.
For a long time the Frisco terminus in Oklahoma was Vinita, 60 miles east of Tulsa. Later the line was extended to the Arkansas river, then the river was bridged and Sapulpa became the new terminus. Lines were later built on to Oklahoma City, and into Texas.
Red Fork, now a small suburb of Tulsa, was a thriving village long before Tulsa was considered even a "possibility." The cattle business was the big industry here in those days. Cattle were brought from as far as Texas to Red Fork and shipped to Kansas City and other markets. It is interesting to note here that the first oil well in the state was drilled, not at Tulsa, but in Red Fork, and the first big field—the Glen Poo!—was nearer to Sapulpa than to Tulsa. These facts are given merely to prove that "Tulsa is Tulsa" not solely through luck, or the turn of
fate, but largely because there has been a special species of "boosters" here since the early days. There is no particular reason why Red Fork or Sapulpa should not be the center of the oil industry today excepting that Tulsa was fortunate in having good "boosters" early in the game, and the additional fact that the species has propagated and improved as the years rolled by.
One of the men who started Tulsa on her kaleidoscopic career is J. M. Hall, still a resident of the city, who came here with the Frisco railroad as a merchant. He is the same indefatigable believer in the city's future that he was back yonder in the days when they burned oil lamps—and watched their step to keep those from being shot out.
Before Bob Galbreath had even thought about sinking the hole that was to make Oklahoma the greatest oil state in the union, before anyone had even suspicioned that oil and gas lay beneath the surface, there came to Tulsa a newspaperman, one J. B. Dickinson. He had experienced a highly colored career, including a long term of imprisonment in a Mexican prison for a political offense, but the minute he swung off the train and looked about at the three or four buildings that then constituted the town, he decided, as Washington Irving had decided when he visited this site on his "Tour of the Prairies," that here was the land of milk and honey and that some day "in this fertile valley of the Arkansas will spring up a great city." "J. B." not only decided that, but determined to have a hand in working the miracle.
One of the first "stories" he sent to the metropolitan press was a lurid account of a strange "discovery."
"Great shafts of flame have been shooting from the side of Turkey mountain, just across the river," was the way his yarn ran, and "the citizens were positive that either something uncanny was taking place, or else, a wonderful new deposit of natural gas had accidentally been discovered."
I have Dickinson's own word for it that this story was pure imagination on his part, but, while there may be those who will contradict it, I want to chronicle here and now the statement that J. B. Dickinson was the publicity agent who first put Tulsa on the map and turned the attention of America toward this then little known Indian country.
Dickinson immediately got into the real estate business. He knew what his stories would result in. Soon the investors began to arrive. They were met at the train by Dickinson and his friends. They were given every attention. They were told of the wonderful "agricultural" possibilities
ties of this region, and it was whispered gently to them, in mysterious tones, that there were mineral deposits beneath the soil that were destined to make Aladdin's lamp look like a flint box alongside of a Mazda.
Finally a well was drilled. Gas was found, and also oil. Then truly Tulsa's fame was spread to the four corners of the world. From that day to this she has enjoyed a steady growth. There has never been a real estate "boom." Street paving has never extended beyond the thickly populated parts of the city; no distant sub-divisions have been placed on the market on the payment plan. Tulsa has been paid for as she has been built and there are fewer mortgages on down town improvements than any city of similar size in the world. Practically all real estate transactions are on a cash basis.
In 1900 the population was 1,390. In 1919 it was 78,580.
Tulsa is situated on the northern and eastern bank of the Arkansas river. On the north and west it is skirted by a range of hills. The hills on the west are divided by the Arkansas river. On the south is found the fertile valley of this river and on the east the great broad prairies of Tulsa county. There is not a more perfectly drained area of inhabited land anywhere. The death rate is unusually low. There is no healthier spot in the land.
The soil within the city and over a large portion of contiguous territory consists of a chocolate colored sandy loam, varying from one to six feet in depth. Its productiveness is unquestioned. Cotton, corn, wheat and oats are raised extensively and profitably. Flowers and fruits of large variety and excellent quality are produced in season. Some of the largest dairies in the state are located just outside Tulsa, including the White City Jersey farm, owned by G. T. Braden, head of the Oklahoma Natural Gas Company, and owner of the largest herd of Jersey cattle in the United States. Thoroughbred stock is a hobby with many wealthy farmers and Tulsa county horses and cattle are constantly winning prizes at the big shows and expositions all over the country. The biggest horse show in the state is held annually here, in addition to the largest and most successful free county fair.
Tulsa is headquarters for a number of large coal companies which operate in territory contiguous to Tulsa. Coal extends from the extreme northern boundary to the extreme southern boundary of the county, at a depth of ten feet in the north and fifty feet in the south. Oil men have reported a five-foot vein at a depth of 240 feet, but this has never been worked. The supply is practically undeveloped and scarcely scratched at this time.
Ample shale is found north of the city and a good quality of building stone is secured east and south of the city. Vast quantities of superior building sand are procured from the Arkansas river bed. Several crushers in the county produce great quantities of stone for paving work. Thousands of barrels of lime are kilned in the nearby hills, while the immense deposits of limestone will undoubtedly result in great cement plants being established before long.
Tulsa's elevation is 75o feet and her annual rainfall is 36 inches. She has a mean temperature of 60 degrees. There are 500 oil and gas companies here, more than So owning their own palatial and modern buildings, including the Cosden building of fifteen stories and the Sinclair building of eight floors.
She has nine banks, with deposits of more than 860,000,000. One of these is the Exchange National bank, with the largest deposits of any bank in the state, and the most palatial banking rooms in the southwest. There are two local traction companies, with 5 cent fare, and two interurban lines, both of which are constantly making extensions, so that within two years time every town and city within a radius of 50 miles of Tulsa will be hooked up by electric lines. There are 100 miles of paved streets and large additional contracts now being put in.
The Tulsa industrial district represents 14,640 employes, with a monthly pay roll of $1,705,878. There are 150 recognized industrial plants, only a small portion of which pertain to the oil business.
Tulsa has 2 20 days of sunshine each year, is the recognized oil capital of the world, the home of oil millionaires, the nerve center of the oil fields of Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas, the county seat of Tulsa county, richest county in the state and second in point of population, the heart of a great agricultural section, a city of cleanliness, culture, refinement, education, opportunity and respect for the law. Tulsa has never had saloons and is an ideal community in which to rear a family.
Her school system is second to none. The Tulsa type of unit school, originated by H. O. McClure, president of the Board of Education, has been copied by Paris, France, Boston, Mass., Winnipeg, Canada and scores of communities all over the world. Tulsa's $350,000 central high school building, with accommodations for 1,400 students, is the finest thing of its kind in the southwest.
Tulsa has nine modern theaters, including the Majestic, finest in the state, a modern photoplay house erected at a cost of a quarter of a million dollars by E. R. Perry, vice president of the Cosden Oil & Gas Company, and Dr. C. W. McCarty.
Every effort is being made by the business interests of the city to develop the agricultural possibilities of the county. The most fertile valley in the middle west crosses the county. Ninety-five bushels of oats to the acre, forty-six bushels of wheat and seventy bushels of corn will not long go un-noticed by farmers who till land worth $ 150 to $200 an acre, which produces less than this land, which can be bought at from $40 to $75 an acre. And here they can live in an ideal climate, with a long growing season, permitting them to get five cuttings of alfalfa and pasture their stock from nine to twelve months in a year.
Shortly after statehood in 1907, Tulsa adopted a charter and the commission form of government. A mayor and four commissioners are elected every two years. They are paid ample salaries and give all their time to the duties of their offices. In 1918 a city hall, costing $200,000 was occupied by the city departments, Chamber of Commerce, Retail Merchants' Association and Traffic bureau. It includes an auditorium seating several hundred persons. There is also a municipal Convention Hall, seating 5,000 persons, with complete stage equipment and a $10,000 pipe organ. This building and organ have had much to do with making Tulsa the musical center of the state. Here the people of Oklahoma have come to hear Geraldine Farrar and all the other stars in Grand opera, at a cost of $10,000 a night and here also they have listened to Galli-Curci, McCormack, Destinn, Scotti and all the others. The only great musical star who has not yet appeared in Tulsa is Caruso and he can name his own price when he gets ready to include Tulsa on his concert itinerary.
All of the recognized lodges and clubs are well represented here. The first Rotary club in the state was organized in Tulsa. The Masonic bodies, headed by Akdar temple, A. A. O. N. M. S., have purchased a costly site and within a year will begin work on a Masonic home costing, with equipment and site, close to $500,000.
All of the protestant churches, with the exception of the Congregational, have costly edifices, while the Catholic church with nearly 3,000 parishioners, is the largest and most costly religious structure in Oklahoma.
Tulsa is the home of Henry Kendall College, a Presbyterian institution, with an extensive plant that is constantly being improved and added to, thanks to the generosity of the philanthropic oil men on the board of trustees and the whole-hearted co-operation of the entire citizenship.
Tulsa is the hub of five railroad lines. The Frisco yards and shops at West Tulsa are the largest in the state. Other railroads operating into the city are the M. K.& T., Midland Valley, Santa Fe, and A. V. & VV.
There are spacious and modern Y. W. C. A. and Y. M. C. A. buildings here, a splendid federal building and some of the finest homes to be found in the United States.
The Cosden refinery at West Tulsa, employing in the neighborhood of 2,500 men, is the second largest independent oil refinery in the world and has pipe lines leading to all the fields in the southwest.
Tulsa's building permits for 1918—a 'war year'—totaled $4,847,370, and will greatly exceed that figure in 1919. The bank clearings for the year were $489,983,156, the highest of any city in the state by $18,924,545. It is interesting to note that the Tulsa clearings were more than $60,000,000 above Hartford, Conn., more than double those of Springfield, Mass and Portland, Me.; exceeded by $100,000,000 the clearings of Rochester, N. Y., and were $200,000,000 ahead of Albany, N. Y., or Reading, Pa. They doubled the clearings of Akron, Ohio and larger than Peoria and Lincoln, Neb. combined. They were greater by 100 per cent than Galveston, Texas, and $40,000,000 larger than Wichita, Kan.
The city of Tulsa, during March, 1919, voted $1,000,000 for public school improvements and the bonds were all sold to a local institution, the Exchange Trust Company. Tulsa county recently voted $1,750,000 for hard-surfaced roads, now being constructed.
Tulsa has something unique in the finance committee of her Chamber of Commerce, a committee made up of 5o men, each man being worth more than $1,000,000.
The city is soon to vote on a $5,000,000 bond issue for the purpose of putting in a permanent water system, with an unlimited supply of pure, clear water. At present the water supply is adequate and the city has never faced a shortage but she is planning for the future.
The Tulsa Financial Corporation is an organization designed by R. M. McFarlin, former president of the Chamber of Commerce for the purpose of raising a fund to assist worthy business and industrial enterprises in successful development. This corporation is capitalized at a million dollars, with a paid up capital stock in excess of $500,000. Any legitimate industrial or commercial enterprise seeking a location in Tulsa and needing financial assistance can receive it after proper investigation has been made.
There will be no portion of this fund paid as bonuses, nor will the value of patents, patterns, good will and intangible assets be considered, but under proper conditions the Tulsa Financial Corporation will put as much real money into a legitimate industrial enterprise as the owners of that enterprise themselves will put into it, thus making its success assured.
One of the progressive features of the Tulsa public school system is a free night school, mainly for adults. The enrollment is over 700 this year. There are twenty-nine different classes, taught by eighteen teachers. Often the students enrolling are past 50 years of age and many of them are foreigners. Husband and wife often find a common interest in the night school.
During the war Tulsa met every obligation promptly and gladly. She always lead every community in the state in the amount of her subscription and over-subscription. Tulsa was state headquarters for the Four-Minute Men, the Boys' Working Reserve and many similar organizations.
Tulsa invested in Liberty Bonds, under the first loan, $5,685,000; second loan, $6,450,000; third loan, $4,623,400; fourth loan, $8,240,560 and fifth loan, $5,150,000. It has put $1,750,000 into War Savings Stamps, $500,000 to the Red Cross, and more than $500,000 for war budgets.
Tulsa sent to France, as complete units, one ambulance company, one infantry company and one engineer company, in addition to 6,100 volunteers and draftees in miscellaneous organizations.
Every spring the Tulsa merchants conduct a series of "good fellowship" excursions, one each week, using a special train and taking a band along. In the course of these trips they visit every town in the city's trade territory, meet the business men personally, have "get together" luncheons and otherwise make the surrounding communities feel that Tulsa appreciates their support in a substantial, whole-hearted way.
She has one of the finest park systems to be found anywhere in a city of her age. There are more than 400 acres of improved parks, every one equipped with a modern shelter house and community building, playground apparatus, etc. The park board is now completing the first leg of an "around the city" boulevard, 50 miles is total length and including a formula drive along the Arkansas river front.
To sum it up, Tulsa has an "esprit de corps," equal to that boasted by the famed United States Marines, there are no traditions to cause strife, no "dead ones," no north or south, east or west, but "just Tulsa," the real "city of opportunity." Colonel Clarence B. Douglas, secretary of the Tulsa Chamber of Commerce, and one of the highest salaried executives in that line in America, expresses the idea poetically, as follows:
I Am Tulsa
I am Tulsa—
The city with a history.
The city with a vision.
And looking back along the yesterdays,
I smile with pride for things accomplished.
The future I look into with fearless eye,
Content and confidence.
For i am Tulsa the unafraid.
I am Tulsa—
The patriotic city,
And ten thousand of my own
Red blooded men
Have heard the nation's call;
Have heard and answered.
On all the Seven Seas,
Across No Man's Land
In Belgium, Italy and France
Are those who call me home,
And calling thus will soon return
I am Tulsa—
And where'er my sons may wander
There is my name spoken,
And in pride they say it
As no other name is said.
And back to me not only
Will they come
When comes the righteous peace,
But each with him
Will bring another man to
Know and love his Tulsa.
I am Tulsa—
The mighty melting pot,
Where fused and blended
Are the nation's best,
And where Aladdin's lamp
Has been outshone in splendor.
I am the home of culture,
Wealth and pleasure,
Of homes content and happy,
Of peace, prosperity, energy and ambition.
And to the cold,
The naked and the hungry,
Where'er the God of War
Holds sway, I give and give
And give again, for
I am generous Tulsa.
I am Tulsa—
The home of pioneer
The nation's mighty midway.
And here shall meet, shall
Mingle and shall mate
The nation's best of
All that's best,
And o'er and o'er decades to come
My name shall be
On every tongue,
And poet's pen
Be made to sing
The fame of unmatched Tulsa!