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.

The Dewey Hotel Built by Bartlesville’s Namesake

By: Roseanne McKee

Re-published with permission of the Bartlesville Examiner-Enterprise

The Dewey Hotel, built by Jacob “Jake” Bartles, for whom the city of Bartlesville is named, provides a glimpse into Oklahoma’s pioneering days. This part one of two articles based on an interview with members of the Washington County Historical Society.

To tell the story of the Dewey Hotel, one must first know the story of Jake Bartles, who built the hotel. According to Sarah Thompson, a Washington County Historical Society Archivist, Bartles, who lived from 1842 to 1908, first lived in the East. His father ran the first telegraph line in New York.

The family moved to Kansas when Jake was ten. He grew up and got married in Kansas before moving to Oklahoma Territory, where he established a trading post at Silver Lake, southwest of what is now Bartlesville. There was a settlement there and so he had ready customers.

“To be a white man in Oklahoma, you had to be married to an Indian to do business,” explained Washington County Historical Society Archivist, Sarah Thompson. Bartles was already married to a member of the Delaware Tribe, Nannie, but the couple had not had a Delaware wedding, and so their marriage was not recognized by the tribe.

“They had a second Delaware ceremony, so that he could do business here,” Thompson explained.

Nannie Journeycake Bartles had been married once before, but her farmer husband died at the age of 24, leaving Nannie a widow with three young daughters.

Jake Bartles then married Nannie and brought her back to Oklahoma territory, where she had 60 acres from the Delaware Tribe, Thompson said. The couple had two sons together, Charles, who died as an infant, and Joseph, who lived to be 81.

The story is that Jake Bartles, who initially settled in what is now Bartlesville, left and moved to Dewey when the railroad was built too far from his trading post for him to benefit from its construction. He had wanted it to be built on the north side of the river, but it was built on the south side. This prompted Bartles to move.

Once in Dewey, Bartles moved his general store from Bartlesville to Dewey to the location where the Tom Mix Museum now stands. Across the street from the store, he built the first modern bank building in the territory in 1903, Thompson explained.

“He sold the bank building in 1908 before he passed away,” Thompson said. “I think it’s older than any of the buildings in Bartlesville.”

He also had general stores in Bartlesville, Pawhuska and Nowata, Thompson said.

“Farmers could get clothes, groceries, farm equipment, tools, carriage parts, furniture, lumber; it was the Walmart of its time.

“We have one of the cash registers and receipt books,” she added. “He even had coupon books.”

Thompson continued: “Jake was a wonderful entrepreneur but the legacy of the son was that he took care of the Fourth of July Rodeo, said to be the third largest in the United States. He ran it and promoted it. It became such a well-known rodeo, that the participants had to reserve an invitation.

Joe Bartles organized the rodeo to please his father, Jake. Initially, the rodeo was held to honor the remaining living soldiers from Jake’s civil war regiment.

“He fought on the Union side. He went in as a private and came out a colonel,” Thompson said.

The arena was at the Washington County Fairgrounds on 60 acres of land given to the city by Jake Bartles. Later, the Dewey Schools were built there, Dewey Hotel Manager Jack Fleharty said.

“He had the first Rodeo in 1908 for his regiment and the last one was held in 1950, the year the bleachers fell down during the event.

“A local gentleman who was there said there were horses tied to the [support] poles and when the kids set off fireworks, they pulled the poles and the bleachers fell injuring several.

“Twenty to thirty thousand people came for the rodeos,” Thompson said.

Jake Bartles built the Dewey Hotel in 1900, when his son, Joe, was 25 years old.

The hotel, which had living quarters for Jake and Nannie Bartles, was sort of a retirement place for them, Thompson explained.

Unfortunately, Jake Bartles died in 1908 at the age of 66.

“That is when the trouble started – when Jake passed away,” Thompson said. “They went to probate court and they gave one-half to Joseph and one-half to Nannie. Joe later borrowed against his half and put the property in jeopardy. There were several court cases with two banks that resulted.

“After Nannie passed away in 1925, the hotel was sold at a sheriff’s sale.”

To learn what happened next, read my column in next week’s Sunday Bartlesville E-E.