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 10

Striking It Rich

 

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

192

[Photo of an oil derrick just after a gusher blew]

193

Striking it Rich: [a short narrative]

When oil gushed, Tulsa boomed. The railroad officially put the city on the map. Tulsa, however, remained a cow town until the rush for black gold. The quest for oil in Oklahoma began in the 1870s. But the first genuine gusher didn't blow until June 24, 1901. It was the work of two Tulsa doctors, J C W Bland and Fred Clinton, who simply wanted to attract more settlers. They set to drilling four miles west of Tulsa on the Red Fork homestead of Bland's half-blood Creek wife, Sue. The well, Sue Bland No. 1, spurted high then pooped to a trickle. But the doctors accomplished their purpose. Within 24 hours, would-be oilmen descended on the would-be oil mecca. One of the curious was Robert Galbreath, an Ohioan. He'd never set eyes on an oil well before Sue Bland, but only four years later he made oil history. On Nov 22, 1905, just south of Tulsa, Galbreath and partner, Frank Chesley, drilled the Ida E Glenn No.1, the discover well of the Glen Pool, Oklahoma's first major oil field and the richest field the world has yet seen. Publicity on the strike reached international proportions. Whole trains were advertised "the best to the Tulsa Oil Fields" and transported thousands. Housing was so scarce that men slept on derrick floors. Galbreath, who went from practically penniless to millionaire, hired shotgun-toting guards to keep interlopers a mile from his claim. As one story goes, he drilled only one dry hole in the Glenn Pool. The Glen Pool literally became a "lake of oil." Black gold fever was so hot that storage tanks could not be constructed fast enough. Oil, much of it wasted, stood hub deep. Production peaked about 1907 with more than 100,000 barrels a day. The same year also meant statehood and the Glen Pool pushed new Oklahoma to the top of oil producing states. It also was a strike-it-rich time for Tulsa. The gushers were all across the river, but businessmen were determined to make Tulsa the center of the oil action. Supply stores and hotels, with "modern conveniences' such as bathrooms, sprang up. Still unpaved streets were clogged with wagons hauling rig timber, boilers and casings. The "Coal Oil Johnny" was amount special trains scheduled daily to shuttle wildcatters to the fields. By 1912, Tulsa was boasting itself "Oil Capital of the World." And for a heyday era, no one disagreed.

194

[Left photo: Historical marker of the Sue Bland No 1 well. Right photo: The Sue Bland No 1 well gushing]

195

[Wedding photo of Dr. J C W Bland and his wife Sue]

196

[Group portrait of some of the Creek Indians responsible for obtaining the 500,000 ace oil and gas lease that opened up the rush for oil at Red Fork]

196

[Dr. Fred S Clinton standing beside the pump of the capped Sue Bland No 1 oil well]

197

[Left photo: Photo of the Ida E Glenn No 1 well at The Glenn Pool. Top right photo: Historical marker of the Ida E Glenn No 1 well. Lower right: Portrait of Robert Galbreath.]

198

[Photo of The Glenn Pool in 1909]

199

[Left photo: Typical oil derrick. Top right photo: Long range view of an oil field. Lower right: Oil storage tanks]

200

[Upper photo: People standing on the edge of a crater after a wagon hauling nitroglycerin exploded in Owen Park about 1901. Nitroglycerin was used to "shoot" oil wells. Bottom photo: Charlie and Dave Holbrook drilling for oil near Dawson about 1904]

201

[Photo of a "gusher"] Of the early wells drilled in The Glenn Pool, only 2% were reported to be dry. Initially, the wells gushed so profusely that the oil simply was collected, without benefit of tanks, on the ground. Waterfowl frequently mistook these "lakes of oil" for ponds. Local cafe owners took advantage and "roast duck" was a frequent and cheap menu item.

203

[Fuzzy photo of First and Main streets about 1904. Lots of people and lots of oil field equipment clogging the streets]

204

Today a quite Creek county town, Kiefer exploded as a roaring boom town as the result of the nearby Glenn Pool. Some local historians called the town the original "Oil Capital." The turn-of-the-century scene was one of muddy streets full of oil-field equipment and hastily erected shacks that housed field workers as well as brothels, saloons, dance halls and gambling halls. Drainage and sanitation were limited to sloughs in the streets which were infested with cottonmouths [snakes]. As oil-filed workers' families arrived and the hub of the boom moved elsewhere, Keifer lost its reputation for vice and violence.

205

[Wide angle view of Keifer - shacks and tents and long train in the background.] Alternately described as "the richest and busiest town in Indian Territory" and "the toughest town east of Cripple Creek, Col., Kiefer boasted a population of 20,000 during its heyday.

206

[Photo of teams and equipment waiting for the ferry across the Arkansas River - oil derricks and storage tanks on both sides of the river. On photo: Waiting for the Ferry Cimarron River, copyright by Clarence Jack, Tulsa, OK.

207

[Typical sight of 12 oil wells on 5 acres of land - ca 1907]

208

An arc of electric lights is a welcoming beacon to the new "Oil Capital of the World." This is Tulsa, 1910, looking south on Main Street from the Frisco Railroad tracks. Little more than 20 years earlier, the same street scene (opening page) shows a raw, frontier settlement called Tulsey Town.

 

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Contact: Linda Haas Davenport