Shidler, Oklahoma History

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"This information was gathered from various sites throughout the Internet. The numbers behind the sentences correspond to the web page I got the information from during my research. It is a conglomeration of information that has it's resources on the corresponding webpages. Please visit those web pages as the people there have done hard work in making history more available to all of us.

Paul Reeves

At the bottom of the page are 'Places of Interest' where I have captured some of the history of the local area.

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Shidler is located in Osage County about 24 miles northeast of Ponca City at the junction of Oklahoma 11 and Oklahoma 18 highways.

Shidler was originally established in December 1921 by Eugene Shidler who was born on 29 November 1876 in Leon, Kansas. He died on 4 July 1938 in Pawhuska, Oklahoma. He was buried in Pawhuska, Oklahoma. President of Citizens National Bank of Pawhuska, Okla., The town of Shidler, Oklahoma was built on his ranch, and named for him., due to an oil development in the Burbank Field, which proved to be one of the largest oil finds in the United States. The town hit it's peak in the late 1920's and early 1930's with several of the well-knowns in history such as Frank Phillips, E. W. Marland, Sinclair and Clark Gable who was working as a roustabout in the oil fields.[2] The town is located about 25 miles east of Ponca CIty Oklahoma on State Highway 18.

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The town was incorporated in 1922 and supports a school, which is home of the Shidler Public Schools Fighting Tigers. The school has about 250 students in kindergarten through 12th grade. The school brings in students from the surrounding towns in the area.[3]

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The Osage Railway, a branch of the Midland Valley Railroad, reached Shidler from Foraker in February 1922.[6] The railroad is gone these days, but the town does fill the needs of the local agricultural community. In the late 1920's though, the town had as many as 10,000 people living in the area, with some of the oil boom towns like 'Whizbang' being near by. The oil boom towns would come and go quickly on the Oklahoma plains, many of them only lasting a few years before being phased out after the oil field drillers left the area to move on to a different field.[2] Shidler had nineteen oil-well supply businesses in 1922. That same year the Phillips Petroleum Company constructed "the world's largest" absorption gasoline plant west of town (six gasoline plants were operating near Shidler in 1930).[6]

The 'Shidler Review' is the towns newspaer and began publication in 1925.

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The Shidler jail was built in 1922 and served all of the surrounding communities. This was one of the largest jails around, having two cells. Henry Majors was Shidler's first lawman.[1]

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Ben Johnson was born near Shidler Oklahoma June 13, 1918 (died April 18, 1996), Ben Johnson was a ranch hand and rodeo performer when, in 1940, Howard Hughes hired him to take a load of horses to California. He decided to stick around (the pay was good), and for some years was a stunt man, horse wrangler, and double for such stars as John Wayne, Gary Cooper and James Stewart. His break came when John Ford noticed him and gave him a part in an upcoming film, and eventually a star part in Wagon Master (1950). He left Hollywood in 1953 to return to rodeo, where he won a world roping championship, but at the end of the year he had barely cleared expenses. The movies paid better, and were less risky, so he returned to the west coast and a career that saw him in over 300 movies.[4]

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Cal Worthington was born near Shidler Oklahoma November 27, 1920 and is a famous Southern California car dealer whose TV commercials blanketed the Los Angeles area, usually at night, and were almost impossible to avoid. He had two main new-car dealerships--Worthington Ford in Long Beach and Worthington Dodge in Bellflower--but his commercials were almost exclusively about the used cars he sold on those lots ("I've got a gajillion used cars!") which is apparently where he made the vast majority of his money. His catchy jingles included the lines, "If you're looking for a better set of wheels, I will stand upon my head to beat all deals, I will stand upon my head till my ears are turning red. Go see Cal. Go see Cal. Go see Cal!" accompanied by a shot of Cal engaged in all sorts of silly antics with a variety of animals--tigers, bears, boa constrictors, etc.--he called "My dog Spot". He was investigated several times by the state Attorney General for unethical business practices, such as rolling back speedometers and "bait and switch", in which a dealer would advertise a particular car at a price far below its market value, and when potential customers showed up to see it, they would be told that the car had already been sold but "we have one here just like it" (for more money, of course). In the   movie Into the Night (1985/I), one of his crazy commercials is shown playing on a TV in the foreground. Today, both sales and service for the L.A.-area Worthington dealerships are open 24 hours a day.[5]

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There are several towns with the name of Shidler, one in Delaware County, Indiana, another in Pennsylvania. Shidler, Oklahoma is the largest. It is an oil town, and at one time had a population of over 10,000. The main street was a mile long, had a couple of banks, churches, schools,and its own water works system. The town was built on the Shidler ranch, which was quite large. Perhapsthe reason this selection of location, was that the ranch land was formerly Indian land, and when the land was purchased, the oil right had been reserved for the Indians. Gene Shidler laid out the town, gave it his name. He also built a railroad line from Burbank to Shidler, later selling this line to the Midland Valley Railroad.[7]

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 Whizbang - The oil boom towns of the Osage were rowdy and often violent. The most infamous was the community best known as Whizbang, although the Post Office officially called it DeNoya. Located near Shidler, Whizbang was a wide-open place where slayings were common and it was said a woman wasn't safe on the street after dark. The bank was robbed twice. One longtime oilfield worker said, "A man that flashed a roll wouldn't likely be eating his breakfast with the boys next morning." Jose Alvarado, whose true name was Bert Bryant, is part of the local lore. A man who worked both sides of the law, he was involved in several controversial shootings while serving as a lawman in Whizbang. On one occasion, Advarado had a fight with a lawman from Shidler over a woman. The other officer shot the woman dead and hit Alvarado in the chest and broke both his legs with bullets. Alvarado shot his foe four times in the body. As the "Ghost Towns of Oklahoma" relates, "The two men were taken to the same hospital; they recovered, forgot the woman and became good friends. Such was a day in the life of Whizbang."[8]

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Denoya, Oklahoma [Information on Denoya, Oklahoma is from the book written by John W. Morris - "Ghost Towns of Oklahoma".] -- Denoya (a.k.a. known as Whizbang) is located in Sec. 6, T26N, R6E, 7 miles north, 20 miles west of Pawhuska; 1½ miles north, 1½ miles west of Shidler.[9] 

The Post Office began December 31, 1921 thru September 30, 1942. The Post Office Department thought the name Whizbang was an undignified identification, so they named the new town Denoya after a prominent Osage Indian family.[9] 

The Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe, ran through or near the town at one time, but was abandoned around 1939.[9] 

Denoya was the wildest of the boom towns that developed with the opening of the Burbank Oil Field. Denoya came into existence almost overnight after a six-hundred-barrel well was brought in just north of where the town located. E. W. Marland (later Governor and US Congressman of Oklahoma) drilled that well. The second well was a heavy gas and light oil producer. The oil would burn in an automobile. The third offset well was topped the day before Christmas.[9] 

On New Year's Day, while the crew was on vacation, the well started flowing one barrel per minute with the tools still in the hole. The only tank available was a thousand-barrel wooden storage tank. A flow line was laid to it, and help was summoned from Tulsa immediately. By dark, trucks had delivered three-inch pipe, and by three o'clock the next morning a pipeline three miles long had been laid to adequate storage facilities. The flow from the well increased to a little over twenty-five hundred barrels per day.[9] 

With an oil play of such magnitude, businesses of all kinds, desirable and undesirable, were soon established in the new town. Large oilfield supply houses were started, and a railroad was extended to Denoya. In the early 1920s there were more than three hundred business buildings ranging in size from the very small hamburger shacks to two moderately large hotels. Many people living in Denoya were not connected with oil companies. Shootings were more frequent in Denoya than in other towns in the Burbank area. The bank was robbed twice, and "it wasn't safe for a woman to be on the streets of Whizbang after dark."[9] 

Alvarado, probably the most controversial law officer to serve in an Oklahoma oil field area, was a special officer for oil companies during a part of the boom period. His name was actually Bert Bryant, he was a Texan, and he had served in the revolutionary army of Pancho Villa. During WWI he worked with General Alvarado of Mexico, and in the early 1920s he came northward to the Oklahoma oil fields. Stories of his activities describe him as everything from a cold-blooded killer to a Robin Hood. One story says that during a raid on a notorious "boarding house" he seized twenty-five hundred dollars from the woman manager. Later he returned the money to the woman in the presence of two bankers and received a receipt for it, but he was arrested for stealing it, and was finally tried and acquitted.[9]

On another occasion, when fire started in the post office of Denoya, Alvarado refused to let the oil companies help extinguish the fire until all postal records were burned. After that the oil companies refused to help, and an entire business block was burned.[9] 

During the fire Alvarado had a shootout with a lawman from a neighboring town, probably over a married woman. The visiting lawman killed the woman and then shot Alvarado in the chest. Alvarado returned fire and shot the other man four times in the body while he was hunting for cover. Alvarado then took cover behind a merchandise-laden table that had been moved into the street from a burning store, but since his legs were exposed below the tabletop he was shot in the shins, and both his legs were broken. (The two men were taken to the same hospital; they recovered, forgot the woman, and became good friends.) This was a day in the life of Whizbang.[9]

Denoya died almost as rapidly as it was built. In the late 1920s, as production declined, people started moving away. Good roads to large cities, changes in agriculture and cattle business, the depression of the 1930s, with the loss of property evaluation, and abandonment of the railroad resulted in the the death not only of Denoya but also of most Burbank Oil Field towns and camps. All that remains of Denoya today are foundations of some buildings and a few oil rigs. In 1975, the location of the town was marked by the remains of a few buildings and crumbling foundations.[9]

In 1927, E. W. Marland was one of the prinicpal developers of the Burbank-Denoya field, founder of the Marland Oil Company (later Conoco), Congressman (1932-34), and governor of Oklahoma (1935-39).[9]

Denoya, In 1924, Shotgun houses were built for workers by oil companies on leases they owned.[9]

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Pistol Hill between Whizbang and Shidler was an especially dangerous place. Outlaws would emerge from roadside brush as autos slowed for the steep climb and rob motorists. Bridges also could be bad, with armed men suddenly blocking both ends and trapping drivers in between. Nor did holdup men spare oil rigs; many working crews were held up and relieved of money, watches and rings. In retaliation, workers at one rig surprised would-be robbers and hanged them from the well's walking beam. The sheriff asked no questions.[8]


Places of Interest:

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Prairie Rattler Winery and VInyards is located 1 mile to the west of Shidler Oklahoma on State Highway 18. They bottle their wine and grow the grapes at the location and are a family owned and operated business. Next time you are out tha way, stop by and see them!


Bivin Gardens is located one quarter of a mile west of Shidler on State highway 11. 

© Lord Gazmuth 2012