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Ponca City Information

Ponca City History

Louis (Lew) Haines Wentz

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Louis (Lew) Haines Wentz

Nov 10, 1877 Lew Wentz was born in Iowa. He was the fourth of seven children.

1882 The family moved to Pittsburg, PA. After graduating from high school and financially unable to attend college, Wentz organized a semi-professional baseball team from a number of Pittsburg schools. Wentz was given credit for inventing the idea of the umpire holding up his right hand for a strike and his left hand for an out. He is also the person who is said to have suggested the umpire wear a black alpaca coat.

Jan 19, 1911 Arrived in Ponca City from Pittsburgh, PA. Sent to Oklahoma by John G. McCaskey to protect McCaskey’s interests in the 101 Ranch Oil Venture. He became secretary of the 101 Ranch Oil Company.

After a few years he disassociated himself from the 101 Ranch Oil Company and the Marland Refining Company. He remained a friend with the Miller Brothers. Together with McCaskey and another partner, Joseph W. Weaver. Wentz started cornering lease land in the northwest Kay County area. Soon the McCaskey-Wentz Oil Company was formed.

1914 Although not yet wealthy, Wentz felt confident enough to borrow money from the bank to establish a life-long pattern of often anonymous giving to others.

As “Daddy Longlegs” he provided toys and other gifts at Christmas to children of families on the city relief rolls. The program was continued until his death in 1949 without need of a bank loan.

1918 Oil prices were high, and Wentz leases were producing generously. Wentz operated on the premise that where there was natural gas deposits there was apt to be oil. Within a couple of years, Wentz had his first million dollars.

1922 Wentz began developing his leases in the Tonkawa pool, and two years later a 160-acre lease, the McKee, became one of the biggest producers.

1923 Organized Wentz Oil Corp. It was the largest one-man oil company in the world by 1926. Wentz Oil Company was on the third floor of the Masonic Building.

1926 Helped organize the Oklahoma Society for Crippled Children and contributed more than $50,000 to the society that first year.

1927 Leases were producing and Wentz was making almost $1,000,000 a month. Wentz sold out and invested heavily in government bonds.

1928 Construction of Wentz swimming pool began. Wentz’s private benefactions touched every phase of his life. He sent children to circuses, bought quantities of tickets to good shows for his young friends, provided public playgrounds and athletics for the children of Ponca City. Provided free moving pictures for the poor people of Ponca City, and constructed the Boy Scouts’ camp.

1940 Elected Republican National committeeman. Served until his death.

June 9, 1949 Louis Haines Wentz dies.

1949 Under the terms of Wentz’s will, the City of Ponca City inherited the Lew Wentz Swimming Pool and Camp located near Lake Ponca.

 

Sources:
Dec. 18, 1948. Saturday Evening Post
“Lew Wentz: Oklahoma’s Godfather”
Then Came Oil, C. B. Glasscock
Mistletoe Leaves, Jan. 1990 (OHS)
Oklahoma Leaders: Biographical Sketches
Of the Foremost Living Men in Oklahoma
By Rex Harlow, 1928