Coal Mining Was The Reason For City Of Dewar's Being
The goals of the Foundation .. . . . is to encourage excellence in education by funding initiatives to benefit all the students of Dewar Public Schools.
The town of Dewar first began with a cluster of houses near No. 7 mine, and in 1907 Fred Darl laid out the streets of the town. The name of Dewar was used in honor of Sam Dewar, one of the officials of the M. 0. & G. Railroad.
Dewar School Founded
In 1906, a small building was moved to Dewar from Coal Creek for use as a school. A teacher was contracted to teach but became ill of pneumonia and died. As no other teachers were available, Mrs. Thomas Gower taught the first school term. In about 1908, a four room frame building was built for a school, burned down several years later, and was replaced in 1912 by a two-story brick structure. Another brick building was built in 1918 and served as high school until 1938 when the Hammond High School was built.
Post Office Established
About 1908, a fourth-class post office was instituted here with W. P. Harris as postmaster, and at about that same time, a freight depot and small frame passenger depot were built. In 1916, J. T. Dennis of Muskogee was contracted to build a brick depot, and simultaneously the post office was raised from fourth-class to third-class. This status was held until about 1931 when the depot was wrecked and the post office again became fourth-class.
Dewar's first church was built in 1912 on the present site of the United Pentecostal Church and was called the "Little Green Mission." In 1912, the old Presbyterian church was built but has been wrecked since. Mrs. Thomas Gower and Mrs. A. G. Hughey solicited the first $100 to build the old Baptist church in 1917, and at that time building was started on lots donated by the Oklahoma Coal Company. In 1937, the church was wrecked and a new Baptist church was built two blocks east of the old site on Broadway Street. The Methodist church was built in 1921.
In 1915, the City of Dewar was incorporated, and on October 5, 1915, the first city council met and filled appointive offices. John Fouler became chairman of the board with Ed Sadness as treasurer, and High Condors, as clerk. Appointees were Jack Curry, city marshal; L. A. Williams, special city attorney; Arthur Triffin, street commissioner; and Sol Teague, sanitary commissioner.
By the end of 1915, the city of Dewar had its own gas plant and electric companies, and by February of 1916 had its own water works. At that time Dewar's population numbered well over 3,000. On March 1, 1918, the city purchased the present city hall, which was built in about 1916 by Clarence Evans.
Early Dewar Was 'Boom Town
(Information from a 1980 interview)
Dewar's two oldest senior citizens, Ora Lamb and Emma Dawson, can well remember the hey-days of the coal industry in and around the Dewar area. Ninety-one year old Ora Lamb came to Dewar from Muskogee in 1911 and went to work for Oklahoma Coal Company in the company store. Eighty-nine year old Emma Dawson came to Dewar from Paris, Texas, in 1914.
Ora Lamb’s Recollections
What was Dewar like in those early days? Says Mrs. Lamb, “Well, I tell you, the town was running over with houses, tents, and anything else people could find or put together to live in. We even had one elderly man that lived in Old Number 8 Mine. We had several doctors in Dewar, we had several two-story buildings and there were buildings on both sides of Main Street all the way down to the railroad tracks where the depot was. A block down, at the next crossing, was where the freight came in. From there the freight went on to Coalton, and then to Okmulgee.
At that time Henryetta had no hospital. When we had an injury at the mines, we had to put the man on the train and send him to Fort Smith. Dewar wasn't incorporated until 1915, but it was a coal industry. We had the whistles sounding from 15 or 16 mines--some were slope mines, some were shaft mines."
Coal mines and the coal industry go back about three generations for Ora Lamb. Her grandfather, Newton Wheeler from Ohio, was office manager for J. J. McAlester when he opened up McAlester. Her father, W. P. Kelley, was just eight years old at the time, and the year was about 1876.
When Ora was one month old, her family moved to Oklahoma City. Oklahoma City was just a tent and shanty town at that time. Says Ora, "We had a shanty at Seventh and Robinson. There's a big cathedral located there now." When Ora was nine years old, her family moved to a place near Krebbs, Oklahoma, and her father (who was now a civil engineer) worked in the coal mines at McAlester. The family had traveled to the location near Krebbs in a covered wagon. They lived out of the covered wagon and slept in it at night while Mr. Kelley built a log cabin. "At night, when we went to bed," says Ora, "he would tie the horses to the wagon wheels to keep horse thieves from taking them."
The family moved to Henryetta in 1905 and Mr. Kelley worked in the Coalton Mines. Each evening he would walk home with his pit clothes (mining clothes) on and wash at home. These were the days before the Union and before wash houses were installed at the mines.
In 1906, Ora finished school at Henryetta High School. There were only fourteen students in the whole high school. The teacher at the High School was named Goree. Mr. Goree later became the Superintendent of the Okmulgee County School system.
Also in 1906, Ora married a building contractor, Herbert Cross, and they moved to Muskogee. Cross, incidentally, built the old Severs Hotel in Okmulgee and at least one business building in Henryetta.
Ora's mother was a practical nurse in the old days and her younger sisters went into nurses training. Ora attended Draughn's Business College and, at one time, worked as a model for Gossard Corset Company…she was a "Perfect 36." She got her retail store training at Graham & Sikes in Muskogee.
Widowed in 1911, Ora moved to Dewar. Her father was working for Oklahoma Coal Company at Mine Number 6 and she had an opportunity to go to work at the company store. At the Company Store she was responsible for buying shoes, piece goods, notions and all soft goods. Caleb Underwood was the buyer for the grocery side of the store. On Sundays she had to ride horseback to Coalton to check the company store located there.
In 1911 there was no bank in Dewar, so Ora had to take the money and ride horseback to the bank in Henryetta. Smelter City did not yet exist, just a dusty trail to the dirt streets of Henryetta. Within the next two years a bank was established in Dewar.
In 1912 Ora met Mr. Lamb, who worked at the Number 6 Mine. Five years later Ora and Mr. Lamb were married. In 1911, Oklahoma Coal Company's company store sat across from where the scout house now stands. The pay offices were upstairs. In 1912, the company store was moved to where the Dewar Oddfellows Hall now stands.
Emma Dawson Remembers Early Days
Emma Dawson was born in Cooper, Texas, in the second smallest county in the state, Delta County. Her mother's folks were Mississippi farmers with slaves. When all the slaves were freed and settlement land opened up in East Texas, her grandfather and her uncles decided to settle in the new territory. They came to East Texas by covered wagon and by oxen team.
Emma went to school in Cooper and in Commerce, Texas, in Hunt County. The family moved to Paris, Texas, where she finished junior high. Her father, Albert Lee Bradbury, owned and operated a liquor store in Paris. At one time he sold out and moved to New Mexico, but in New Mexico there seemed to be a liquor store on every corner. So he moved back to Paris, Texas.
In Paris, Emma met and married Claude Dawson, a boy from the McAlester mining family. His folks wrote letters telling how all the mines were opening up, and it was good money and a great opportunity for work. Emma knew that mining was underground work so she didn't want to go. She held Claude off for about two and one-half years while the letters kept coming in. Finally she agreed to make the move if Claude wouldn't work down in the mines. Said Claude, "There is plenty of work up on top." In 1914 they made their way to Dewar.
Emma Dawson was raised near three uncles who were preachers, all three of different faiths. She knew nothing about home-brew or chock, and certainly nothing about the rough ways of a booming coal mining town. Says Emma, "When I came to Dewar, I thought I'd gone into the back door of Hell: That's what the town seemed like to me.'
For two whole years Claude managed to keep Emma in the dark. All this time he had been working underground on the machine that cuts coal out of the vein while other miners scoop the coal into a bin to be carried up out of the earth. One day a neighbor came by the house and said, "Claude, did you pull my room today?" Suddenly Emma realized Claude had been working underground all this time.
Claude continued to work with the machine until one day an accident claimed one of his arms. He was compensated for the loss of his arm, but not before filing suit against the coal company.
A similar accident claimed a leg from Mr. Lamb. A new mine had opened up in Heavener. It was a rich vein and a sloping vein. He was taken to the closest hospital, Fort Smith, and then later transferred to Tulsa. Very shortly thereafter, this coal company filed bankruptcy and closed out. There was no compensation for the loss of his leg.
A wide variety of nationalities migrated to Dewar during the oil boom days. Many came to work in the mines, others came to set up retail stores. Mr. Khouri, an Asyrian, opened and operated Khouri Dry Goods. One day he left Emma in charge of the store while he sent back East to get his bride. She was 16, he was 32. The marriage had been arranged by his and her parents the day the bride was born. He brought his bride back and they were married in Dewar. Says Emma, "I think every Asyrian in the whole country was here for that wedding."
Ora Lamb and Emma Dawson can easily recall a wealth of almost lost history of this small community. Through it all, the section boss of the M. 0. & G. Railroad lived and raised his family in a small house down by the freight depot, and watched as "Boom Town" came and went. This community was his namesake, he was Sam Dewar.
Old Timer Left Rare Newspaper
Anna Mae Byrne may not be as old as many of Dewar's other senior citizens, but she has been around the area just about as many years as any else. Her mother, Mrs. Kate Berkey, was one of the oldest citizens. One of the many keepsakes she left to her children was a weathered old copy of the first edition of The Dewar Telegram, published Thursday, May 7, 1914.
Anna Mae Byrne was born in Strawn, Texas, October 9, 1906, to Joe and Katherine Berkey. Joe Berkey was a coal mining man. When the mines began to open up in Eastern Oklahoma in 1909, he moved to Warden Camp, Oklahoma, in Henryetta. Warden Camp consisted of a couple of rows of company houses that still stand just north of Henryetta's V. F. W.
Mrs. Byrne remembers little about Henryetta. Says Mrs. Byrne, "Mother had a buggy. When she would go to Henryetta, from Warden Camp, to buy groceries I can remember the wheels of the buggy sinking deep in the mud of Henryetta streets."
Some Early History
Dewar was established in early 1900 when the M. 0. & G. Railroad, connecting Muskogee and Henryetta, was built. A depot was built and the settlement was named Dewar, after the section boss, Sam Dewar. The town plat was surveyed and filed for record in the U. S. Clerk's office in Okmulgee, I. T., on February 28, 1907, at 2:00 p. m. Dewar Mine had already opened up in the northwest corner of the town plat. There was a big switch yard at the west outskirts of Dewar, and a spur was built to the Dewar Mine, then to Coalton and on to Okmulgee.
In 1911, Joe Berkey moved his family to the prospering little community of Dewar. Anna Mae was five years old. According to Mrs. Byrne, "There really wasn't too much here. There was a wooden depot down by the railroad tracks, a few company houses, and a lot of tents where people lived. All the roads were dirt, and there was very little business area. The businesses came later as Dewar began to boom from the opening of new coal mines." Her father worked at the Wadsworth Mine.
In a short period of time, the businesses came to town. From the depot, the business buildings extended on both sides of the street for about three blocks. Says Mrs. Byrne, "Sam Fowler ran the Post Office and a grocery store down by the depot. We had an Airdome Theatre, an indoor theatre, a hardware store, a millinery shop, two drug stores, a bank (where the Senior Citizens building now stands), a newspaper, a bakery, a garage, a Coca-Cola Bottling Plant, several grocery stores, a photographer, and a funeral parlor which was run by John Boyle. The Funeral Parlor was owned by Mr. Buchanan and had a horse-drawn hearse. Buchanan later moved to Henryetta."
Dewar was incorporated in 1915 and was knee-deep in it's "coal boom" days: approximately 16 coal mines were being worked in the near vicinity. The prosperity of Dewar, at this time, can more easily be pictured by a review of the first issue of The Dewar Telegram, May 7, 1914.
From “The Dewar Telegram”
The first issue of The Dewar Telegram was an introductory industrial edition with business news compiled by a firm known as "The Dale Company.” Caleb M. Bales was secured to edit and publish the local publication. The motto of the newspaper was "He That Tooteth Not His Own Horn, the Same Shall Not Be Tooted; The Telegram Toots for Dewar." In a lead story The Dewar Telegram reports:
"Of the number of important towns which bejeweled the broad and productive domain of Okmulgee County, none surpass in natural resources or in charm the fundamental elements and scenic beauty of Dewar, situated fifteen miles from the county seat and about fifty miles south of Tulsa on the M. 0. & G. Railroad bearing toward Muskogee and in the midst of what has and is developing into one of the greatest coal, oil and gas belts in the state.”
“Dewar is indeed, a thriving business point. Its townsite is a natural one on which nature has lavished her gifts unsparingly. It has magnificent location for building sites - the best in the world - and in view of what seems almost inexhaustible supplies coal, as well as natural gas, should become a manufacturing center. The kaleidoscopic view rests upon a landscape as fair as the vine clad hills of sunny Italy, while the balmy air, laden with electrical life, it is fitting to inspire one to all the deeds of the higher life. God in His wisdom wished to create a beautiful spot to meet the desires of nature, and He created Dewar.”
“The Telegram hopes at some future day to see Dewar a city of 50,000 people. Let the citizens take a new life and new vigor, then promises of the future present a rainbow hue and are worthy of a smile. Dewar, three years ago, was nothing more than a cow pasture; today she has a population of over 2,000. There is a payroll in the coal mines alone here of upwards to $100,000 monthly, to say nothing of oil and gas. Dewar's mercantile element is the most thrifty and enterprising, gifted with the elements of spiritual welfare and realize the weight of public spirit.”
“There has been more buildings erected, both business and residence, in the last twelve months than in all the town's past history, and this has been of the substantial kind. The next twelve months promise an ever greater activity in this line than the past twelve. Our population should almost double again before a year rolls around.”
“Dewar is designated to take her place among the important cities of Eastern Oklahoma. Nature has surrounded her with greater resources than any of her neighbors. Aside from the coal, oil, and gas, we will show you rich agricultural areas, capable of producing the finest fruits, vegetables of all kinds, tame grasses, alfalfa, small grain, cotton and corn. The visitor can investigate vast bodies of shale and clay from which brick and sewer pipe, tile, etc., can be made. We have other resources as well; when one sums them all up they begin to realize why Dewar is destined to be one of the big towns and one of the wealthy towns of the state.”
"Most towns are placing their trust to future greatness on just getting population - they say, "people make cities," while we have as the first article of our city making creed, "People with earning opportunities create advantages," we have mines already employing 1,000 men and we believe in getting factories and future developing our coal, oil, and gas fields, as well as bringing in farmers to raise the products our people need for sustenance, is the way to build a city and build it substantially."
“Dewar has as good a school as you will find most anywhere. In the Fall of 1912 they built a substantial two story structure containing four study rooms and a library. So rapid has been our growth in population that the coming summer almost a duplication of this same structure will erected, giving us three more class rooms and an auditorium. The growth of our school almost illustrates the town's growth; two rooms were sufficient at the beginning of 1912, while this fall it will take the entire eight class rooms with eight instructors to properly handle our educational work."
Dewar’s boom days came and went. In the 1930s and early 1940s, the coal mines were winding down, and production was cut at the oil and gas leases. Most of the businesses and buildings are gone, but the memories linger on.
Part of Newspaper Article
Just looking through the first edition of The Dewar Telegram one can easily visualize the activity of the booming little community. There were a total of 40 businesses featured in the special publication. Those listed were First State Bank, Brink & Reames Hardware and Furniture; Oklahoma Coal Company; The Bijou Theatre; Griffin's Transfer; J. F. Brow n -- a painter, Dr. W. G. Brymer - physician; J. V. Hutton Grocery; Dewar Telephone Company, H. E. Courson-Jewelry, Dewar Drug Company owned by Mr. Drummond, Clem Lumber Company with C. T. Stiles as manager, R. D. Smith and O. F. Wilder - Barbers, C.O.D. Grocery owned by A. W. Lowe, Rio Motor Car Distributor - G. A. Richards, C. Gantt - Contractor and Builder, Dr. Coleman -physician, J. R. Sevall - insurance sales, Stephens Grocery - owned by C. C. Stephens and E. F. Stephens, Dr. W. C. Mitchell - physician, Bert's Barber Shop owned by Bert Thornsbrough, W. T. Sims, a blacksmith, Home Bakery operated by Mrs. M. F. McKeever, G. H. Cline -Jewelry, Dr. O. M. Fenton dentist; C. H. Stevens - Contractor and Builder, Jackson & Son Livery, Dewar Popular Milliners owned by Mrs. H. E. Miller and Miss Ethel Davis, Pearson's Popular Pharmacy owned by F. M. Pearson Jr. S. M. Hufstedler and Company owned by J. T. Hufstedler and his brother S. M., Dewar Hotel operated by Mr. Frank James, B. F. Hicks - Contractor and Builder, Miner's Mercantile Company with C. V. Jones as manager, C. L. Rice-Baker, Stockton Restaurant with Mrs. A. J. Stockton operating, O. M. Sholl & Company Mercantile Store, James Clothing Company, I. E. Hofstedler - Postmaster and Real Estate Dealer, Dewar Cash Grocery owned by M. Miracle and J. W. Fowler & Son General Merchandise Store. C. I. Clarion of Wetumka took all the photographs in the special edition and had expressed an interest in moving to Dewar.
Dewar's Boom days came and went, in the late 1930's and early 1940's the coal mines and production was cut at the oil and gas leases, many of the business buildings are gone, but the memories linger on.
Says Anna Mae Byrne, "I remember when they tore down the old wooden Depot and rebuilt it in tile. Now it's all gone, there's nothing there