The Dewey Hotel: the real story

Republished with permission of the Bartlesville Examiner-Enterprise

By: Roseanne McKee


Last week I began a two-part series about the Dewey Hotel, wherein I introduced readers to Jacob “Jake” Bartles, from the perspective of Washington County Historical Society Aarchivist Sarah Thompson and Dewey Hotel Manager Jack Fleharty.

Sarah Thompson said, “I think we’re telling you a different version of what has been told. This is more accurate.”

This week, our story continues from 1925 when Jacob Bartles’ wife, Nannie Bartles, passes away in her 80s, and the hotel is sold at sheriff’s sale.

Jacob Bartles had died 17 years earlier from a rare blood disorder called Bright’s disease, leaving Nannie a widow for many years.

Elizabeth Allen bought the Dewey Hotel, and her daughter-in-law owned it until 1967, Thompson said. Allen ran it as a hotel and boarding house. Meals were served daily in the large first-floor dining room.

When Bartles built the hotel, he didn’t yet trust electricity, so the overhead lights were both electric and gas.

“He also brought in the telephone,” Docent Virginia Chew said.

Behind the dining room was a prep kitchen and the main kitchen was in a separate building behind the hotel.

According to information provided by the Washington County Historical Society, the hotel served family-style meals in the large dining room, and at times three meals per day were also delivered to the oil fields.

The hotel staff worked hard, long hours. The hotel employed two women just to handle the hotel’s daily laundry.

Behind the house were a set of stairs used only by the hotel owners, which led directly to their private quarters on the second floor.

Thompson said that Nannie Bartles was aware that ladies of the evening visited the third floor of the hotel, but she did not want to interact with them. The private staircase allowed her to avoid them completely.

In 1967, the city was going to condemn the hotel but a local banker, O. A. Patridge, bought it for $13,000 and gave it to the Washington County Historical Society.

“We’ve owned it ever since 1967,” Thompson said with a note of pride.
Since the historical society took ownership, they have worked to restore the hotel through donations of period-piece furnishings.

There is furniture in one of the bedrooms which was built for Nannie’s parents by a carpenter employed by Bartles. The bedroom set is hand-made from black walnut.

The pieces which are original to the house are located in the study on the first floor. They include Jacob Bartles desk, chair, barrister book case, oak file cabinet and a cash register from one of Bartles’ general stores.

Bartles’ economic investment in Bartlesville and Dewey may have influenced others to invest there.

“I think he’s one of the ones who helped Oklahoma get started and become a state,” Thompson said. Bartles purchased an existing mill in Bartlesville, the Nelson Carr Mill, and converted it from a corn mill to a flour mill, Jack Fleharty said.

“We have a handwritten copy of the bill of sale from 1883 from when he bought half of the mill for $1,000,” Fleharty said.

Bartles later purchased the other half of the mill, but Fleharty did not have evidence to show when.

“He hooked up an electric generator to the mill,” Fleharty added.

Implementing an economies of scale approach to his business empire, Bartles sold the flour he milled in his general stores.

Dewey is noteworthy for several firsts.

Thompson shared that Bartles had brought the first doctor to Dewey, Dr. Tan.
Dewey had the first bank building in Oklahoma territory, the first registered pharmacist and the first airplane factory, Thompson said.

Nannie’s legacy to the community, in addition to the Dewey Hotel, was starting two churches, the Indian Church and the First Baptist Church of Dewey, the latter of which is still active.

Nannie’s father, Delaware Chief Charles Journeycake, was also a Baptist pastor and evangelist, so he likely influenced Nannie’s decision to establish these churches in Dewey.

Following a divorce, Joe Bartles, the son of Jacob and Nannie Bartles, lived in the Dewey Hotel after it was sold to Elizabeth Allen.

“He paid $10 per week for room and board according to the ledgers,” Thompson said. “A suitcase of Joe Bartles’ is located on the second floor inside his bedroom.

On the second floor, suites have been decorated by several organizations, each with a specific theme.

The Bartlesville Indian Women’s Club is one such service organization, which has created displays in one of the second-floor suites. The displays showcase traditional clothing from several Indian tribes and artifacts.

Another room, dedicated to the Dewey Portland Cement Company, has history panels and memorabilia from the plant. Among the items are: cement pigeons, a bright red and blue Dewey cement truck flag that hung behind the cement trucks, and a photo of the owner, Don Tyler for whom the main downtown thoroughfare is named.

There are also second floor rooms with dedicated to O.A. Patridge, John Kane and Joe Crow of the Little Ranch.

On the third floor of the hotel is a room with windows facing three directions where hotel guests played cards. Thompson said this was important because if law enforcement approached the hotel, the guests in that room could see them coming and cease any illegal activity — such as drinking alcohol during Prohibition.

Although Jacob Bartles died before his time at the age of just 66 of Bright’s disease, he did live to see statehood.

Bartles was an innovative business leader who saw the potential of northeast Oklahoma and made a lasting mark here. I think he would be proud to see what Bartlesville and Dewey have become.

The Dewey Hotel, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, is open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday – Saturday, 801 N. Delaware St., Dewey.