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Ponca City Information

Ponca City History

1916 - 1917 - 1918

The Ponca City Information website is not affiliated nor associated with the City of Ponca City, the website is provided by Kay County Media LLC as an information website for Ponca City, Oklahoma.

1916 — William McFadden, executive vice president of Marland Oil Company, and mayor of Ponca City, directed the building of the tanks on the present ConocoPhillips property. The "tank farm" constituted the largest aboveground storage complex in the world. Filled with crude oil, the tanks held a fortune. Oil prices tripled in reaction to the war in Europe. "E.W. Marland and the company made $25 million," McFadden said, "and it took him until 1928 to spend it all. We started slowly, but got to the point of building a tank a day for a time." Filling those tanks with crude oil and realizing huge profits when the war broke out gave McFadden and Marland a big jump on the fortunes they both made.

Mayor McFadden was a prime mover in urging his fellow commissioners to purchase land for the new city hall. He also sponsored the bond issue that resulted in the construction of the auditorium section of the Civic Center. One source says he "forced through the purchase of the additional site." Around 1900, B.S. Barnes had built a home on Grand Avenue between Fifth and Sixth streets. Barnes had the house moved so that the new Civic Center could be built.

The Marland family moved into their new home on the southeast corner of Tenth Street and Grand Avenue. The property extended east to Fourteenth Street. The four-level Mission/Spanish Revival home was stucco with an Italian clay barrel tile roof, 22 rooms and an indoor swimming pool. Architect Solomon Layton, who also drew the plans for the State Capitol building, the Skirvin Hotel, and the Oklahoma County Courthouse, designed the home. The local contractor was Mr. O.F. Keck. Some of the unique features in the home were a built-in vacuum system, air conditioning, a game room, and a three car attached garage. The marble fireplace in the living room originated from the Mexican palace of Maximillian. The carriage house stood on the west edge of the property.

Virginia and E.W. Marland adopted her niece and nephew, George and Lydie Roberts. The children had come to Ponca City from Flourtown, Pennsylvania to visit about four years earlier. Virginia convinced her sister and brother-in law, Margaret Collins Roberts and George Fredrick Roberts, to let her and E.W. adopt the two teenagers.

Mr. Marland also built a home for his sister, Charlotte, on the northwest corner of Tenth Street and Grand Avenue. It was Italianate Revival style, and also designed by architect Layton. "Lottie" Marland was president of the hospital guild, loved music and fine arts. She owned the first electric car in Ponca City. The one-seated vehicle was guided not by a steering wheel but by a swinging tiller similar to a boat's steering mechanism.


1917 — The city began construction of the Civic Center Auditorium. Before it was completed, it was used on Oct. 2 to send off 141 Kay County soldiers leaving to fight in World War I.

With the discovery of oil and the new wealth that came with it, Ponca City became a thriving modern city. Hundreds of new homes were built in the late teens and early 1920s in the central part of the city.

Due to the increased need for oil in the war, the price of crude went up to $3.50 per barrel.

All frame buildings on Grand Avenue, between First and Fourth Streets, were condemned.

Ponca City Refinery was sold to Empire Refinery Company.

The Oklahoma Legislature passed the "Bone-Dry Law." The law stipulated "it shall be unlawful for any person in this state to possess any liquor received directly or indirectly from a common or other carrier." The measure had the firm backing of the state's Anti-Saloon League. Violation of the law constituted a misdemeanor and carried a penalty of up to $500 in fines and six months in jail. The bill's passage marked 10 years since Oklahoma had entered the Union as a dry state.

The new Marland home was the entertainment place for many of the young people in town. The indoor swimming pool attracted George and Lydie's friends, and Mrs. Marland always kept an assortment of extra bathing suits for guests. The young men and women of that era enjoyed swimming, horseback riding and costume parties.


1918 — Henry Hatashita, a young Japanese man, came to Ponca City to be E.W. Marland’s personal landscaper and gardener. A graduate of the University of Kansas, Hatashita was responsible for the plantings at the first Marland home on Grand Avenue. They included botanical gardens that reached from Tenth to Fourteenth Street and from Grand to Central. A greenhouse was erected along Fourteenth to start new plantings. There was an abundant vegetable garden adjacent to a lilac thicket. The evergreen hedges that bordered the property suggested the formality of a Versailles garden. Flanking the east terrace of the home were two large water lily ponds. Hatashita and his crew of 30 men were also responsible for the design and landscaping of a nine-hole golf course. It covered approximately 24 square blocks, extending from Grand to Highland Avenue, from Tenth to Twelfth Street, across from the new Marland home.

Lew Wentz made his first million, given a boost by high oil prices and generously producing leases.

A third refinery, the Lake Park Refinery, opened at Fourteenth Street and Lake Road, where the Pioneer Woman Statue now stands.

Marland reorganized his geological corps under Spot Geyer. Geyer, who had been a University of Oklahoma football star, was ideally suited in temperament for Marland. Both shared a love for poker and both were willing to take chances in a business where risks played an important role.

Nickles & Gentry Body Shop opened on North First Street.

At the 101 Ranch, a group of German prisoners of war was helping construct several new buildings.

Van Winkle's Clothing Store for Men, founded by Marvin Van Winkle, opened at 212 East Grand. It soon became the leading men's haberdashery in the city.

The Ponca City Courier and The Ponca City Democrat consolidated and became The Ponca City News, published by Richard Elam. The new daily was printed on a 12-page Duplex, a flatbed press that was slow, rickety, and undependable but still turned out more and bigger papers faster than the sheet-fed presses of its predecessors. Lew Wentz financed the new business venture.

The Daughters of the American Revolution organized a local chapter.

The "Bone-Dry Law," passed in 1917, became one of the state's most contested laws because it failed to exempt liquor distribution for sacramental use in churches. Yet, the law provided the exceptions for hospitals, pharmacists, universities, and scientific institutions. The Roman Catholic Church challenged the law, and in May 1918, the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled that the distribution of wine for sacramental purposes would be exempt from the law. In December, a ruling that allowed an individual to possess liquor, as long it was not received from a common carrier, further diminished the law’s intent.