The 150,000 Boomers and Sooners who flooded into the Oklahoma Indian Territory starting in 1889 were seeking land.
The next big wave of frontier fortune-seekers were after oil—black gold—and, oh boy, did they find it.
In April 1897, George Keeler and William Johnstone hit the first commercially successful oil well in the territory at Bartlesville with the Nellie Johnstone No. 1. It spouted 100,000 barrels of oil over 50 years.
That gusher launched a boom in the Osage oil fields of the region. Oil patch camps named Wolco, Carter Nine and Whizbang popped up. In two decades, the Osage wells produced more wealth than all of the American gold rushes combined, according to the Oklahoma Historical Society.
A century later, Bartlesville visitors can see the city oil built in northeastern Oklahoma. It starts with a replica of the Nellie Johnstone oil derrick that erupts with gushing water from the Caney River.
“Until you see that [simulated] oil well erupt, if you’re not from Oklahoma, you can’t really grasp how big those operations were,” said Maria Swindell Gus, a Bartlesville native and tourism bureau director.
Attractions include the Woolaroc Museum and Wildlife Preserve, Tom Mix Museum and Pioneer Woman Mercantile.
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Drizzle it over biscuits, use it to sweeten a cup of tea, or just sneak a spoonful out of the jar every now and then—there’s nothing like Oklahoma honey.
Hungry for Taters
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