Tulsa Daily Word

Jan 12, 1998 Centennial Supplement

"The Tulsa 20 - In Honor of the People Who Put Tulsa On the Map"

A few snippets from some of the Famous 20 articles


J. M. Hall by Rik Espinosa: J.M. Hall proudly wore the title of "The Father of Tulsa", which was given to him by fellow pioneers. Hall came to town with the railroad in 1882, pointed the growth of Tulsa when he laid out Main Street, owned its first store, organized the first public school and the first church and was the first postmaster to reside in the town site. James Monroe Hall (called J.M.) wrote the 1928 history of the town, "The Beginning of Tulsa, First Men - First Events," which is considered by some the Bible of early Tulsa history. Born De 4, 1851, in Belfast, TN, he first came to Tulsa to work with his brother Harry, who persuaded the Atlantic and San Francisco Railroad to move the terminus of its line from Dawson to where the railroad crosses Main Street today. The three-mile extension moved the end of the tracks into the Creek Nation, which welcomed white-owned business and out of the Cherokee Nation, where whites were not allowed to work.

Cyrus Avery by Barbara Byrne: His most lasting accomplishment may well be his idea of a highway system that linked all of America, and his insistence that Tulsa be a stopping point on the road that was America's pulse. Today the mere mention of Route 66 brings to mind a snappy tune or two, a bygone television series, and a general sense of nostalgia. .... Avery insisted that Tulsa be on the road, and eventually his pleas were heard - Oklahoma got 423 miles of Route 66.

Newton Robert Graham by D R Stewart: Tulsa banker, civic booster and water resources visionary, Newton Robert Graham inspired and cajoled two generations of Oklahomans about the potential riches in the Arkansas River..... Largely due to his powers of persuasion and his friendship with influential Oklahomans, the Corps constructed 22 dams with permanent lakes and 15 local water conservation projects in the Tulsa district. Graham was born in 1883 in Pueblo, Colo., came to Tulsa in 1907 as an advertising salesman for the former Tulsa Democrat [newspaper].

Lilah Denton Lindsey by Terrell Lester: It has been said that Lilah Denton Lindsey was the most photographed woman of early day Tulsa. Indeed, she was a strikingly handsome woman of Creek and Cherokee Indian heritage, with hip-length hair and a disarming, photogenic smile. But, more likely, she was photographed so often because of her penchant for civil involvement. She never a cause she didn't like. She was teacher, an ambassador, an activist, a friend to presidents. She taught at Tulsa's first school after becoming the first Creek woman to earn a college degree. ..... She was born in 1860 near Coweta to John and Susan Denton. Her father was Scottish and Cherokee, her mother Scottish and Creek. ..... Married Col. Lee W. Lindsey, a Civil War veteran, in1884 in Lenoard in southern Tulsa co.

Sam Kennedy by Ashley Parrish: He was Tulsa's first doctor. He was an early opinion shaper for the community. His signature is one of those on the now lost original charter for the city. But the question remain whether Samuel Kennedy is indeed responsible - unintentionally - for Tulsa's growth to the south. Kennedy was a county doctor who settle in Tulsa with his brother J. L. Kennedy, in 1891. He was a "specialist in every disease and ailment known to mankind." And, "dentistry being never heard of, we had to extract all the aching teeth for miles around," he wrote in his memoirs. When Sam Kennedy married Agnes Lombard, an Osage Indian, he used her tribal claims to accumulate thousands of acres in Osage county - land that is today Gilcrease Hills and more under development north of Tulsa. ... In 1913, he drilled his first oil well in Osage county, on land that was put up for sale by the Indian Agency. He and his partner, W A Springer, made $6 million in four years. .... According to the story, after a dispute with city leaders Kennedy refused to sell the land that now makes up north Tulsa, keeping it from being developed. As a result, Tulsa moved south - away from the major highways and downtown. His own family owns up to the story. ... he inserted a clause into his will insisting the land not be sold for 20 years ... The other view was that the town went south because of the smell of the refiners that kept people from moving north.

Claarence Isaiah "Cy" Pontius by Scott Cooper: When he took over the University of Tulsa in 1935, the school was on the verge of closing. .... on the day he stepped down as President the school was in good shape. ... Born the son of a farmer and oilman in the foothills of the Allegheny Mountains in Pennsylvania, Pontius would make his mark as an investment banker. He came to Tulsa in 1930 seeking better financial assets after the 1929 stock market crash.

B C Franklin by Michael Overall: Old Nelly did Tulsa a big favor, taking the buckshot in the buttocks the way she did. The intended target was B C Franklin. The victim, instead, was the Franklin family's only horse. But if that shot had found its mark, north Tulsa may never have been rebuilt after the devastating race riot of 1921. The shotgun blast rang out in Rentiesville in 1919 or some say 1918. Franklin had moved to the tiny, all-black community in eastern Oklahoma to escape the racism plaguing his law practice in Ardmore. But Rentiesville didn't want him either. He was Methodist and everyone else was Baptist. ... [Franklin] moved to Tulsa, where he expected to find plenty of paying clients in the prosperous black community that had turned Greenwood Ave into America's "Black Wall Street." Three months later, he was rounded up at gunpoint and marched, with hundreds of other, to a detention center while all his belongings were looted and burned. It was March 31, 1921. In retaliation for a black man accidentally bumping into a white woman, white vigilantes apparently were trying to wipe out Greenwood. ... A statute was passed demanding that north Tulsa be rebuilt fire-proof or not rebuilt at all. Franklin knew the law's real purpose: to force blacks, who generally could not afford fire-proof construction to just move out of town. He sat up his law office in a tent amid all the rubble and drafted a lawsuit. It went to the State Supreme Court, which threw out the city ordinance and cleared the way for black Tulsans to remain in their communities. ... He was one of the first black attorneys to be authorized to argue US Supreme Court cases.

William G Skelly by Riley Wilson: .... Founder of Skelly Oil Company. Certificates of achievement and honorary designations cascaded upon William G Skelly in the lifetime spent in Tulsa. From petroleum, ranching, politics, education, religion and philanthropy, they came to honor his contributions. A list would fill pages. The reasons would fill a book. ...honorary member of the Osage Tribe in 1949 .... He liked is Osage tribe name - Wah-tah-in-kah - which means "Sassy Chief"... The son of an oil field teamster, Skelly was born near Erie, PA. He broke into the oil game at 16 by hopping a freight to Oil City, Pa., then in its heyday. He worked at various oil field jobs and attended Clark's Business College there. He followed the oil industry westward and in Indiana, he met and married the former Miss Gertrude Frank and the couple moved to Illinois, Texas, Kansas and Oklahoma, settling in Tulsa in 1912.

William Rea Holway by Joe Robertson: His name was William Rea Holway (a New England-born engineer with a degree from MIT), but he always went just by his initials, "W R". Sometimes, if the day is clear enough, the work of W R Holway is best seen from the window of an airplane soaring eastward out of Tulsa. Across the hazy blue landscape below, the products of his engineering masterpieces glint like glass on the curving horizon: Lake Hudson, Lake Eucha. Spavinaw Lake. Grand Lake. But Holway's greatest engineering achievement might be measured with a look back at the modern Tulsa skyline and the city that spread outward along the Arkansas River. ... he successfully directed a massive public works project in the 1920s to build a 55 mile-long pipeline and dam known as the Spavinaw Water Project that brought clean water to Tulsa. Young Tulsa was finding it difficult to realize its oil boom potential as long as brackish water from the Arkansas poured thick and syrup-like into tubs of Tulsa homes. Residents of the town of 70,000 typically toted around five-gallon jugs of drinking water drawn out of wells or springs. The idea to connect Tulsa to the distant Spavinaw Creek was unheard of in that day. It would require what was then the longest raw water line ever built. .... The last section of pipe was fitted on Oct 19, 1924, and cold, clear water began flowing from the new Spavinaw Lake to Mohawk Reservoir, setting off city wide celebrations.

Eugene Lorton by Ken Neal: Eugene Lorton hit Tulsa on Oct 10, 1911, to edit a tottering little newspaper called the Tulsa World. Neither the World nor Tulsa was ever the same. By 1917, Lorton owned the newspaper outright .... Before arriving in Tulsa, Lorton had left his Missouri upbringings to knock around the west as a printer's helper, a telegrapher, a fledgling actor and newspaper editor and publisher. At the age of 42, he had a lot of experience in newspapering .... Tulsa ... with only a few more than 10,000 souls in 1910, was on the brink of explosive growth. Oil had been discovered in the Glenn Pool oil field a few years before and Tulsans were beginning to think that their little city could do big things. ..... [in reply to a scathing telegram from x-governor Lee Cruce] ... Lorton replied: " ... it is unnecessary for me to reiterate the statement that you are making an ass out of yourself. Your communication and the vicious spirit with which it is permeated affords me an opportunity to say to you publicly what so many people of this state are thinking and saying behind your back - that you are an egotistical, law-defying, self-centered bigot."

Katie Westby by Leslie Wakulich: As a young girl, she dreamed of being a great architect. She grew up to be the Cinderella of elegant balls and a social servant for her city's poor. But Katie Westby most likely will be remembered by Tulsans as the queen of the arts. .... 1961 helped create Tulsa Arts Council (now called the Arts and Humanities Council) .... she has, through the years, hand picked paintings, sculptures and other art objects that have enhanced Tulsa aesthetically.

Photo of "then President Richard M Nixon dedicates the Port of Catoosa in 1971"

Waite Phillips & Thomas Gilcrease by James D Watts Jr: It seems a simple enough story: Two Tulsans, who made their fortunes in the early days of the Oklahoma oil boom, leave as their legacy to their hometown a pair of museums. Simple, but not quite true. Tulsa is home to two world-class museums - the Philbrook Museum of Art and Gilcrease Museum - because of the very personal ideals of two men, Waite Phillips and Thomas Gilcrease. ... Phillips was born in Iowa in 1883. When he was 16, he and his twin brother Wiate spent three years backpacking through the West, an adventure that ended when Wiate died of appendicitis in a Spokane, Wash., hospital. Waite came to Oklahoma in 1906, when his older brothers, Frank and L E wanted a field man to assist them in their oil dealings around Bartlesville. Gilcrease was born in Louisiana in 1890; he was still an infant when his parents moved near Eufaula, to take advantage of the Creek heritage of Gilcrease's mother and the land allotments being award tribal members. ....Phillips sold his brothers his share of the business in 1914, three years before Frank and LE would form Phillips Petroleum Co., Instead, he sought out his own properties and leases, striking it rich in 1915 in the fertile oil fields around Okmulgee. Gilcrease's personal 160 acre allotment happened to be smack atop one of the richest oil fields ever, the Glen Pool south of Tulsa. When he was 16 he sued for his majority rights, and by the age of 21 was a millionaire.

Walt Helmerich by Wesley Brown: Probably no name in Tulsa's history has captured he city's sense of fascination and pride as the Helmerich family. Almost since the time that Tulsa became a city, the Helmerich family has kept Tulsans intrigued with banner headline stories of the family's internationally known drilling company, Helmerich & Payne; the family's philanthropic endeavors and "gifts of millions" through the Helmerich Foundation; and their ownership and dream of making Utica Square one of the city's best-known landmarks. ..... stories of the family's personal life ... from Walt II's beginnings as a daredevil pilot to Walt III's marriage to a Hollywood star (then Peggy Dow) and later kidnapping for ransom. .... Walt Sr ... born in Chicago in 1895, Walter Hugo Helmerich II came to Oklahoma by way of the fabulous flying machine. .... near Ft. Sill he married the daughter (Cadijah) of Charles F Colcord, a wealthy Oklahoma oil pioneer against her father's wishes. .... by 1920 Helmerich had saved up enough to buy his first oil rig... teamed up with Bill Payne "oil scout" and geologist and started a business in South Bend, TX. In 1924 Helmerich & Payne moved to Tulsa.


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