6th and Main
History of Bristow
The following information was gathered from documents at the Bristow Historical Society, Inc. Depot Museum, Montfort and Alllie Brown Jones Public Library, The Bristow News, and The Bristow Citizen.
In the late 1890s a beautiful little basin encircled with groves of oak trees was the birthplace of a new settlement christened “Woodland Queen” of the Creek Nation. Rightly named because of her natural beauty, the Native Americans referred to her as “Choska Talfa,” meaning “place of the post oak.”
The advent of the railroad marked the beginning of progress in Woodland Queen. By 1897, the St. Louis and San Francisco Railway started to expand the rail from Sapulpa to Oklahoma City. The rail was completed to a point about 2 miles northeast of Woodland Queen on Sand Creek in 1898.
Dr. J.C. W. Bland, a physician from Red Fork, which was a part of Tulsa, and John Egan, part owner of a trading post in Kellyville, are credited primarily with Bristow’s founding. The location was Indian owned land, reportedly owned by Sue Bland, Dr. Bland’s Indian wife. Permission had to be granted by the Dawes Commission for town site rights, which Dr. Bland secured.
Through the efforts of Senator Joseph Little Bristow, Fourth Assistant Postmaster General, an official post office was established. C.O. Crane was appointed Postmaster, under the administration of President William McKinley. The first mail was received in Woodland Queen on May 30, 1898, Decoration Day. As the area began to transform into a settlement, by 1898 C.O. Crane setup his camp and began selling goods near the northwest corner of what later became the intersection of be Sixth and Main. Mr. Crane built his house east of the railroad right of way in 1898. That’s where Bessie Crane was born. She was the first white child born in Woodland Queen.
As the settlement grew, Tom Flynn soon arrived, selling goods across the street, near the southwest corner of the intersection. Mr. Flynn had long been in Indian Territory. At the time, he was postmaster of Philipsburg, a stage site located some 8 to 10 miles southeast of Woodland Queen. He gave up this position in August 1898. Ben Ayers came, put up his tent and sold “Semco Mead’, which was really just plain beer. Shortly thereafter a blacksmith located under the trees a short distance to the north.
The citizens decided to change the name of the community yet again, this time to "Bristow" to honor Senator Joseph L. Bristow, Fourth Assistant Postmaster General who helped Bristow obtain a post office. The City of Bristow was incorporated as a city under the laws of Arkansas in January 1899, thus insuring protection to life and property. The Creek County territory would show a population of 626 citizens by the 1900 census.
The official town site of Bristow was surveyed by Joe Gillette who was elected official surveyor and approved by the U. S. Department of Interior in December 1902. The area covered 130 acres, divided in 108 blocks. Business lots were 25 x 150 feet and residential lots were 50 x 150 feet. Proudly the town and surrounding area began to grow.
In 1906, the Government passed the Statehood Bill, uniting both the Indian Territory and the Oklahoma Territory. The new State of Oklahoma was admitted to the Union by proclamation on November 16, 1907. Charles N. Haskell was elected the first Governor.
By 1907, the year of statehood, Bristow boasted a population of over 2500 people.
The stage route passed a short distance to the east of Woodland Queen. Stage stations were located at Sapulpa and the Sac-Fox Indian Agency, which is about six miles south of Stroud.
Bristow had long set her sight on being a county seat. Bristow sought to set up a county to be known as “Moman”, with Bristow as the county seat. Both Bristow and Sapulpa wanted to be the county seat. It wasn’t until 1912 that Sapulpa was named the county seat. This was after a very long legal battle between the two cities.
A short time before statehood, activity in oil and gas started. Claude Freeland and Frank Barnes drilled a well on the northeast edge of town. They found gas, a fuel supply that was the start of something big. Other wells were drilled. Of course, the search for gas was based on a hope that the well would produce “Black Gold”. Then a gas well was brought in that supplied enough gas to light the whole town. Mr. Freeland and Mr. Barnes were given the franchise to supply Bristow with natural gas, and they established the Bristow Gas Co. This was the beginning of Bristow being recognized as the “Keystone” of Oklahoma’s Oil and Gas Development.
One day a man by the name of Tom Slick arrived in Bristow. In his pocket, he carried a U. S. Geological Survey Map, wherein, surface indications were favorable for oil located about 10 miles northwest of Bristow. He had no money himself, so he tried to interest various businessman in his oil scheme. B.B. Jones and his brothers took their chances and took large blocks of leases. A test well was drilled and oil was discovered. As it turned out, the Drumright-Cushing Oilton fields were one of the largest oil fields discovered up to that time. This set off one of the wildest oil booms in history. Mr. Jones was reported to be one of the largest independent oil producers in the world, with thousands of barrels of daily production.
Bristow’s economy was set around oil and gas, with agricultural a close third. Cotton crops were abundant and Bristow led the state in cotton production providing business for seven cotton gins and two cotton-seed oil processing mills. Peanut farming was also huge and at one point Bristow was known as the "Peanut Capital of Oklahoma." City officials passed an ordinance requiring a peanut in the shell be given to a customer any time they were given a glass of water. Other area crops included Irish potatoes which yielded 200 bushels to an acre with two crops in a year along with oats, wheat, corn and strawberries.
In the early 20’s, the Chamber of Commerce had a slogan – “25000 in 1925.” Bristow almost made it. The count got up to 22,000.
Bristow’s history is filled with adventure. To the proud, wise and courageous pioneers who built their town upon solid ground and buried their roots deep, we give thanks. Their generosity, gift of themselves and willingness to share their good fortune has left Bristow a legacy long to be remembered.