Washington County has been claimed by a least 8 different nations at various times in history. Some of them include the Wichita, Kaw, Osage, Cherokee and Delaware Indian Nations, as well as Spain, France, England and the United States.
Spain laid claim to Washington County by virtue of Christopher Columbus' voyage in 1492 to the New World. England challenged that claim in 1497 and 1498 based on the voyages of John Cabot. The English began successfully colonizing North America in what is now Virginia and claimed all the land between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. in 1673 the French floated down the Mississippi River to the mouth of the Arkansas River and claimed all of the interior of North America. In 1682 Robert de la Salle duplicated the first French journey, this time going all the way to the mouth of the Mississippi River, claiming all the land west of the Mississippi for France and naming it Louisiana. When the French and Indian War broke out France and Spain became allies against England. England won the war, however, France needing to compensate Spain for it's losses due to the war, transferred title of the Louisiana Territory to Spain in 1762. Thirty-eight years later, in 1800, Napoleon came into power in France. He dreamed of a New World Empire all his own. To that end he sent 27,000 men to the North America to reclaim Louisiana. Although many of his men died of yellow fever before ever reaching North America he was successful in reclaiming the area. Shortly after sending his army to the New World he began having trouble with England. Because of this he decided it was best to give up his idea of a New World Empire and recalled what was left of his army to France. He then made a little real estate transaction with the United States called, the Louisiana Purchase. So, in 1803 Washington County became the property of the United States of America.
The Wichita people were known to have lived in this area as early as 1700. However, by the 1760's the Osage and Kaw tribes had pushed them into Kansas. The Osage and Kaw spoke the same language and were often allies. In 1805 an Osage chief called Black Dog established a hunting camp at Silver Lake. From that camp Black Dog established the Black Dog Trail which ran north to what is now Caney, Kansas. The trail crossed the Caney River just south of the present 7th Street Bridge in Bartlesville. and crossed again near present day Cherokee Avenue. Because white settlers were moving farther west, the Cherokee Indians were being pushed out of their homeland in and around Arkansas. By the early 1800's the Cherokees were edging into northeastern Oklahoma. Raids occurred in our area between the Osage and the Cherokee. By 1825 the Osage had ceded all their land north of the Arkansas River to the Western Cherokee. In 1828 the Cherokee signed a treaty with the U.S. Government exchanging their land in Arkansas for land in and around where the Arkansas, Grand and Verdigris Rivers joined in northeastern Oklahoma. By 1835 approximately 3,500 Western Cherokees were living in northeastern Oklahoma, including Washington County. The Osage didn't return to the area until 1872, when a treaty was signed with the U.S. Government granting the Osage a reservation in what is now Osage County. Osage County is located just west of Washington County.
In 1821 two men, Jacob Fowler and Hugh Glenn, planned a fur trapping and trading expedition that would take them through Washington County. Their journey began in Cincinnati, Ohio. From Cincinnati they traveled to Fort Smith, Arkansas to finalize their plans. There were seventeen men in the party including one black slave. A man named Nathaniel Pryor was considered a great asset to the expedition party because he had served with the famous Louis and Clark Expedition. The men left Fort Smith September 6, 1821 making their way into Oklahoma. They followed rivers and Indian trails and came to the Caney River on October 21, 1821, approximately 24 days after leaving Fort Smith. They followed the Caney River across Washington County and followed part of Black Dog Trail. Mr. Fowler kept a journal and his description of the journey is the earliest known record of our region.
The permanent settlement of Washington County began with the arrival of the Cherokee and Delaware Indians beginning around 1835. A few white men ventured into the area to trade with the Indians.
Nelson Carr was an early day settler in Washington County. He was married to a Cherokee woman whose family was from this area. In 1867 Nelson Carr and his wife opened a store northwest of Bartlesville where the Black Dog Trail forded the Caney River. While Mr. Carr was on a trip to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, Indians raided and destroyed his store. He moved his business to the horseshoe bend of the Caney River, near a natural rock dam where he built a gristmill. This became known as the Carr-Bartles Mill. There is a historical marker on the west side of Highway 123 going south into Bartlesville from Dewey just before you reach the Caney River Bridge. You can also view part of the rock foundation of the mill from Johnstone Park. There is a brick pavilion near the river just across from where the old mill stood.
Jacob Bartles and his wife, Nannie came to Washington County in 1873 from Wyandotte County, Kansas. Jacob had come to Wyandotte County with his parents when he was 15 years old from New Jersey. The family farmed the area there in Wyandotte County. By the time Jacob and Nannie came to Washington County he was a successful businessman and farmer in Kansas. Nannie was a Delaware Indian and the daughter of Chief Charles Journeycake who was a Baptist minister. She was married to L.B. Pratt in Kansas and had three daughters, Nonie, Ella Mae and Ida. Mr. Pratt died and in 1868 Jacob and Nannie were married. They had two sons, Charles, who died as a child and Joseph.
The Bartles came to Yellow Leaf Ford and then to Silver Lake in 1873 after exchanging wedding vows again, this time in a Delaware Indian Ceremony. Thus Jake acquired membership in the Delaware Tribe. To settle in Washington County prior to State hood, a non-Indian either had to purchase a permit or be an intermarried citizen of the Delaware or Cherokee Tribes. Jacob opened a store at Silver Lake and prospered. In 1874 he relocated his store to a larger building on Turkey Creek. Nelson Carr sold his gristmill to Jacob in 1875 for $1,000.00 Jacob had a store just south of the mill at that time. A small community grew up around the mill site. The Bartles home became the center of local activities. Religious gatherings were held there as well as other social events. Jacob built an ice house, a water tower, a butchering plant and converted the grist mill to grind wheat instead of corn. There was an 800 yard straight race track across the Caney opposite Bartles' store and it hosted frequent horse races - betting was commonplace.
Jacob was postmaster for the area and his store served as a bank for many residents. The little community that grew up around the mill was never incorporated. Jacob also owned several large wheat fields around Bartlesville and in the early 1890's 45,000 bushels were harvested. Jacob also expanded his business interests to include another store near Catoosa and another about 5 miles south of Hulah Dam where the trail between Pawhuska and Coffeyville crossed.
William Johnstone and George Keeler came to work for Jacob Bartles in his store and after a time they decided to open a store of their own. They built their store on the other (south) side of the Caney River and opened for business. This, of course, caused competition since Jacob had had the only store in the area for almost a decade before the Johnstone-Keeler store opened.
In 1897 the Kansas, Oklahoma, Central and Southwestern Railroad Company decided to investigate running a rail line from Caney, Kansas through this area and south to tap into the agricultural and potential oil market around Bartlesville. Jacob Bartles heard of this and he and three men from Caney, Col. Sam M. Porter and Harve and Tom Truskett, hired a survey crew to survey a right-of-way from Caney south and along the Caney River on the north side of the river passing near Bartles Store and onto Collins and Horsepen coal mines, just to the south of present day Washington County at Collinsville. Jake and the others contracted with A.R. Gilliland to grade the right-of-way at 7 cents a yard. Using mules and scrapers, about 50 miles of it was graded by 1898, when Jacob and his partners ran short of money. The Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad took over the project in 1898, but instead of following the original survey, built to the south side of the river near the Johnstone-Keeler store. Eventually the rail line extended on south to Tulsa. You can follow the rail line out of Dewey along Highway 123 just where Jacob wanted it, until you reach an area about even with the SPCA building, then you can notice it turning to the southwest, eventually, you lose sight of the rails before reaching the Caney River Bridge.
Of course, losing the railroad to the south side of the Caney River did not please Jacob Bartles. He was so displeased he decided to leave the community and move his store a few miles north, choosing a site in a wheat field he owned that was near the rail line. The only building in the vicinity was a log house on what is now 6th street just west of Delaware, occupied by the George Hazelrig family. A well was dug and a sign was put up reading "Dewey, I.T.". That well is just across the street east of the Dewey Hotel. Jacob named the town in honor of Admiral George Dewey, who was the hero of the day, having fought in the Spanish-American War.
In the spring of 1899 the store was being moved from its location on the Caney River to the new townsite. It was moved up the railroad grade. To move the store, the building was placed on logs that had been blazed flat. Railroad rails were spiked onto the logs and greased to slide on timbers placed under the store. Using an upright winch and six horses, the store would be pulled three or four hundred feet. They would then move the timbers, rig the winch and the horses and repeat the process. The move took approximately 145 days. When it arrive in Dewey it was left 300 to 400 feet south of its permanent location until a partial basement and foundation could be completed. The store remained open while it was being moved, everyday except Sunday.
Construction of the Hotel across the street also began in the spring of 1899. Rocks quarried in from the Osage Hills, about 5 miles northwest of Dewey were used in the foundation. The beams and framing came from timber taken from the Caney River bottom. Both the rocks and lumber were hauled to the site by horse and wagon. The railroad came through Dewey in July 1899, making it possible to bring in milled lumber to finish the Hotel. (It came through Bartlesville six months later in December 1899.) The Hotel was partially completed in the fall of 1899 and the Union Sunday School began meeting in the unfinished structure. The Bartles family, who had been living on the second floor of the store, moved into the partially completed Hotel in the winter of 1899. The Union Sunday School then moved its meetings to the 2nd floor of the Bartles Store. The Hotel opened for business in May 1900.
The Dewey Hotel served family style meals in the large dining room. Many old-timers say they were greatly impressed by the food served there. April 15, 1897 marked a new dawn for Bartlesville and Dewey when the Nellie Johnstone #1 was brought in by the Cudahy Oil Company. It was the first commercial oil well in Oklahoma. With it came the oil boom and many, many people. Stubbs and Low drilled the first oil well west of Dewey in 1904, bringing more activity to the area. Mrs. Roy Shipley, a hotel maid during the oil boom of that time said the Hotel staff could barely keep up. They worked long, hard hours. She said the Hotel kitchen couldn't prepare enough meals to send to the drilling operations. Sometimes three meals a day were taken out into the field. She recalls things never seemed to stop. Two women washed sheets, napkins and other laundry everyday.
As the oil boom continued three more hotels were built in Dewey. They were: The Bailey, 2 doors from the Santa Fe Depot; The Katy, next to the Katy Depot and The Star Hotel built at 1020 N. Choctaw.
In September of 1908 Jacob Bartles was gravely ill with Bright's disease and knew his time on earth was short. He held his military service close to his heart and wanted to see his Civil War comrades one more time. He asked his son, Joe, to gather the local cowboys and ranch hands for a Roping and Riding contest. The reunion was a huge success. Jake died just one month later. The following July 4th, Joe Bartles recreated the Roping and Riding contest, which became an annual event and brought as many as 30,000 people to the small town of Dewey in one year. The event name was later changed to the Dewey Roundup and it became one of the top three rodeo events in the US and Canada. The Roundup continued to entertain visitors each July 4th through 1949. That year, a section of bleachers fell, injuring several people and prompting the end of this annual event.
Unfortunately, due to Joe Bartles losing his money in the 1930's, all of the original furniture was sold. Only a few pieces are connected with the Hotel: a roll top desk which belonged to Jacob Bartles and was used in one of his stores, an oak file cabinet and Barrister bookcase, and the cash register which was used in the Bartles Store. The bottom of the cash drawer bears the name "Jacob H. Bartles". The furniture in Nannie's room of the Bartles Suite on the second floor was built for Nannie's parents by a carpenter who worked for Jacob. It is entirely handmade and carved from black walnut.