Snippets From
Tulsa Spirit

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Chapter 9 The Teachers and the Learners by Robbie Boman

<Pg 115> ... Prior to 1883, Tulsa had no real education system and even then its beginning was shaky - if not somewhat shady.

In 1883 a man claiming to be a school teacher drifted into Tulsa, a town consisting of a cluster of wooden buildings facing onto an unpaved street rutted with horse and wagon tracks.

His name was never recorded, but he opened a school in a small shack on the south side of First Street between Main and Boulder. Unfortunately for his career, he was found also to be a gambler; his teaching profession was short-lived.

Earlier, Indian tribal and mission schools had been established among the Creeks before the Civil War and there are records of a Creek neighborhood or tribal school in the Tulsa area as early as 1880-1881 when 30 pupils were enrolled.

Mission schools soon took their place alongside the tribal schools, and all were supported from national or tribal funds, and all texts, teachers and courses of study were selected by a national supervisor.

Each neighborhood provided a school building and elected three local trustees, the forerunners of our school districts and boards of education.

The first combined church and schoolroom was built in the fall of 1884 on "the hill south of town," what came to be the southeast corner of Fourth Street and Boston Avenue. "Town" in 1884 lay north of Second Street.

This mission operation lasted until 1899 .... In 1888, Miss Matie Mowbray and her sister Anna, opened <pg 118> a day school in the First Methodist Episcopal Church, North Main and Brady, to reach children whose parents would not or could not pay tuition.

... 1896 .. the first public school was opened.

... The first school for black children was opened in 1913 ... on North Harvard.

... The Tulsa Spirit 1920: [quoting Lilah D Lindsay] "In October, 1886, I was transferred from the Wealak Indian Mission Boarding School to the Tulsa day school; both schools at that time being under the management of the Home Mission Board of the Presbyterian Church, with headquarters in New York City. The building consisted of one large room with the old style double desks each occupied by two children and sometimes three. In this one room two teachers heard the recitations while the remainder of the pupils, 60 or more, prepared their lessons."

>Pg 123> .... The University of Tulsa had its beginning around the turn of the 20th century.

Three Forks, so named because it was located near the confluence of the Arkansas, Verdigris and Grand Rivers, was the first town in the Indian Territory and was the forerunner of Muskogee.

And it was here that the Presbyterian missionaries established the Presbyterian School for Indian Girls. This school was always in financial trouble and as the territory grew, the need for a school for higher education increased.

As a result, a man named William Robert King, who had come to the school as a replacement missionary, went to the Board of Home Missions of the Presbyterians and pleaded for an institution of higher learning.

The Board approved his request and when he was asked to suggest a name for it he named it after Henry Kendall, one of the Board's respected secretaries.

The birth of Kendall College marked the end of the Presbyterian School for Indian Girls and two other schools that had sprung up.

From the beginning, Kendall College was plagued with money problems and the stigma of being an Indian school. But it struggled through 13 years before the Board finally took action and began to look for a new location.

On May 14, 1907, the commission accepted a proposition submitted the Tulsa Commercial Club and on June 4 Henry Kendall College was transferred to Tulsa. .... The name was changed to Tulsa University in 1920.

Chapter 10 Moving the Mobile Masses by Ellen Sue Blakey

<Pg 129> ... Efforts were made in the 1830s to make the Arkansas River fully navigable. Funds were appropriated to remove snags, and to dredge and modify the river channel. By 1834, steamboats were bring supplies as far upstream as Fort Arbuckle, but the river was erratic, sometimes drying to a muddy trickle, sometimes flowing over - too fickle for regular use. An average of two steamboats a year were lost in its treacherous waters.

When the Katy Railroad proposed to pass near, but not through Tulsa, the Tulsa Commercial Club conducted a horseback survey and ascertained it would be more economical to go through Tulsa. The chief engineer of the railroad construction refused to listen to the findings. When he left for a trip to Chicago, Tulsa's boosters approached his assistant who excitedly wired the Chicago office of the survey. As soon as the chief engineer discovered it, the assistant was fired. But it was too late: Katy officials agreed with the survey. They fired the chief engineer, and the Katy came to Tulsa.

... the advance survey crews staked out a town about 13th and Lewis. When H C Hall proposed to build the first store on that site, the Cherokees refused him permission. They did not tolerate businesses owned or operated by whites on their land. Hall was not to be out-maneuvered. He convinced the rail men to move the site two miles further west into the Creek Nation where laws were more liberal. In August 1882, a locating engineer of the Frisco pounded a small wooden peg into the ground to official mark Tulsa. The train hauled out its first passengers - the 130 construction mules that worked with the crews - on August 21.

... The railroad engineer established a terminal between what is now Archer and First Streets, and carpenters constructed a small station, section house and roundhouse north of the railroad tracks about Main and Boston. The construction engineer surveyed a three-block-long Main street, considered "ample for all" who might want to build here. It was, however, only 80feet wide since 100 feet wide seemed just too far to wade through the mud to get to the other side.

<Pg 131> ... By 1889, the town was filling up with transient boomers waiting for a chance to make their fortunes in the land runs. Tulsa's muddy, corrugated roads were crowded with covered wagons, daylight to dark. Many failed to find their fortune in the run and returned to settle in the friendliest place around.

... By April 1905, the railroad system had grown so much that one enthusiastic reporter wrote, "It is possible to leave the city in nine different directions."

.. ... automobiles began to appear on Tulsa's unpaved streets. By June 1905 205 cars were counted (nine years before Henry Ford began assembly line production).

... in 1907 ... the new electric trolley cars ... The Tulsa Street Railway was the first ... two years later, the Oklahoma Union Traction Company was formed and continued to thrive until WWI.

... there had been an aeroplane flight in Tulsa in the summer of 1911, but its success is unknown. The first official airfield was opened in Tulsa in 1917 by Tulsa oilman Harold Breene near what is now Admiral Place and Hudson. It consisted of one hangar and a biplane, and an exciting five-minute sight-seeing tour over Tulsa cost $25 a passenger (one at a time please).

In 1919, Breene joined with W T "Bill" Campbell to form the Curtiss-Southwest Airplane Company. In August, they few the nation's first commercial interstate air freight shipment. The trip took three hours and 40 minutes, and an excited Kansas City held a banquet in the pilot's honor. The shipment was not that spectacular - pasteboard bellows boxes of insect powder - but as Tulsa Mayor C H Hubbard put it, "It is only a peek into the future of air travel - and it is mighty fine that Tulsa was the first to do the peeking."

The Santa Fe depot opened in March 1918, but it would be another six years before Tulsans would vote a bond issue to build the Union Depot and make Tulsa a full-fledged railroad center.

Before the turn of the century, there was but one road laving the city to the west, a dirt stretch called Turkey track. By 1911, the situation had not improved much, according to the Spirit in 1916: "Five years ago it was almost impossible to get five miles from Tulsa during the Spring season." ... and reported January, 1918: "It was team work in Tulsa which carried the bond issue for $1,750,000 worth of good roads in the county. It was team work which enabled the Tulsa automobile dealers to get out fifty cars on election day and round up and take hundreds of votes to the poles, who might not otherwise have had an opportunity to vote."

By 1919, the city had its first real roads, in August, 1920, 21st and Main was oiled and rolled. The same month the city had problems with its street cars and automobile theft; two months later the first paved road between Tulsa and Sapulpa was completed.

<Pg 134> ... In November 1925, Tulsa's last livery stable quietly went out of business.

<pg 135> ... It was the custom in the early days of railroad construction for the engineer to survey town sites, using the railroad track as a base. Main streets were usually laid out at right angles to the track, since most tracks ran true to direction - north to south or east to west. This simplified layout. But when Tulsa railroad track came it, it came in from a northeast angle. The engineer surveyed at right angles to the crooked track, and Tulsa's downtown district has remained "crooked" to this day.

... In the Democrat on October 10, 1904: "The track laying gang of he Midland Valley reached the city limits yesterday morning and intended crossing the city during the day, but were stopped by the authorities. Mayor Cline and his officers met the workmen at the city limits and waiting upon those in charge of the work explained that such performance of labor was forbidden with the city limits on Sunday by ordinance."

<Pg 138> The county engineer announced in June 1925 that Tulsa county had 160 miles of paved roads, all of them built since 1919. By 1926 county engineers were solving the problems of road blow-ups (caused by expansion of the concrete) by roping the blow-up section, tying it down, and waiting for the cold weather to pull it back into place.

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