Tulsa Times A Pictorial History:
The Early Years

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Photographs From the Beryl D. Ford Collection
Text by Susan Everly-Douze
Edited by Terrell Lester
(c) 1986 by: World Publishing company
318 S. Main Mall
P.O. Box 1770
Tulsa, Ok 74102

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Section 4

The River and the Railroad

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Description of the photos. My comments are between the [ ] Author's captions are in black.


A steam ferry unloads at Tulsa's Arkansas River "port," north of the Frisco Railroad bridge, while the packet steamer "Mary D" manuevers into position to pick up buggies waiting in the mud.

[Photo of the ferry crossing the Arkansas River with buggies and teams lined up to cross]


The River and The Railroad [Short narrative]

" .... the old-timers hated the river". The murky waters that curled beside the tiny settlement were unpredictable to navigate and undrinkable. What's more, the river separated Tulsa from the newly discovered Red Fork gushers. That almost washed out Tulsa's ambitions to be the hub of the just-about-to-burgeon oil industry. ,,,, When voters, figuring oil was just a flash in the pan, vetoed funds for a bridge, three Tulsans, Melvin Baird, don Hagler and George Williamson, put together 450,000 and without state or federal funds, built their own toll crossing, the 11th Street Wagon Bridge. It opened Jan 4, 1904, complete with a marker that crowed: "You Said We Couldn't Do It, But We Did." ..... In 1882, the first construction crews arrived to extend the Frisco Railroad ..... Tulsa's roots were set. ... By 1909, 34 trains were chugging in daily carrying 1,000 new arrivals.


 Ferries provided transportation because the Arkansas River frequently was too high or too low for navigation. This is a steam ferry at the east bank in 1895. Note the cattle crossing in the background.


Two early methods of fording the flow: a ferry on the Arkansas just below the Cimarron River and a crude cable car across the Cimarron.

[Upper photo is of a wooden flat ferry with two men standing on it. The name painted on the end is Keystone Ferry. The lower photo shows two men seated in a small cable car suspended over the river.]


Construction of the Frisco Railroad bridge over the Arkansas began almost immediately after the railroad reached Tulsa. The bridge, which extended the railroad to Red Fork, was opened for business in the spring of 1883.

[old photo of the bridge. Several people standing on the bridge]


Bridges across the Arkansas: The steel pedestrian-wagon toll bridge, built at 11th street in 1903, helped assure Tulsa's future title of "Oil Capital" by providing a way to get the first influx of workers and equipment across the river to the Red Fork and Glenn Pool oil fields. The Frisco Railroad bridge in the background, later in the boom made possible special trains, such as the 15-car "Coal Oil Johnny," that transported thousands more workers from Tulsa to the fields.


[close up shot of the pedestrian-wagon toll bridge]


[photo of the road leading to the bridge. Rough and muddy]


[Photo of the 4 Frisco Railroad surveyors - 1901. No names]


[Two photos of construction camps for the MK&T Railroad - ca 1900. No names of the people in the photos]


[Photo of the Frisco Railroad Depot on a busy day in 1905. Wall to wall people (as the saying goes).


[Two photos of the train depot. One in 1905 and one in 1908]


Claremore was a stopping off point for trains that chugged through Indian Territory from Tulsa to Vinita, the transfer terminal for St. Louis. The sign on the Claremore Depot reads "398s miles from St. Louis".

[Photo of the Claremore train depot]

Broken Arrow's Main Street, in about 1905, also owes its positioning or repositioning, to the railroad. The small town, once called Elam, already was on the map when the surveyors plotted the railroad's route, but was bypassed by several miles. Practical town fathers simply towed their town, buildings and all, to a site nearer the tracks.

[This photo of Broken Arrow's main street doesn't look a lot different than Broken Arrow looks today. The old train depot was going to be torn down a few years back but one of the small towns - Sand Springs, if I remember correctly, wanted the depot and had it towed to their town where it is set up as a historical landmark.]


Oil naturally attracted new Tulsans, but the city enjoyed phenomenal growth because of its local boosters - and they depended on the railroad. Beginning in about 1905, local businessmen put together, and paid for, booster trains that traveled to eastern cities touting the new frontier town. The trains came complete with a brass band, civic leaders and displays. A particular hit was a young cowboy who did rope tricks. His name was Will Rogers.

[Photo of the train depot in Springfield, MO in 1905. The train is in the background on the right of the depot building. The Tulsa band is lined up next to the tracks and behind them are several men in suites (local businessmen I would guess) and to the far right - the only man in shirt sleeves, is Will Rogers]


[close up photo of the booster train. Signs on the side of the box cars - "Wants More [blocked by a post] Stories", "Tulsa Ind.Ter." and one car has a map of Oklahoma with an oil derrick.]


[Photo of a group of men and the Tulsa Booster Band on the steps of a large building. There is a sign propped up that reads "Tulsa Oklahoma Age 6 years, Pop 16,300", but handwritten on the bottom of the photo - East Steps, State, War and Navy Building, Washington DC, April 17, '08. Since the sign is in the photo you have to assume that the sign maker knew the facts so that means this photo was actually taken about 1911.]

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Contact: Linda Haas Davenport