Tulsa was originally intended to be a part of Indian Territory in 1836 when the Creek and Lochapoka tribes arrived here following the Trail of tears. Under a tree that would be called Creek Council Oak Tree, they established a home and named this new settlement Tallasi, which means “old town” in the Creek language. Over time, it was changed to Tulsa and in January of 1898, Edward Calkins would become the first mayor by election.
The first oil well would be discovered in 1901 and name Sue Bland No. 1, putting this tiny town on the map. Sitting near the Arkansas River banks, it would turn out to be a great crossroads for commerce and growth and about 15 miles south of there, Glenpool would be found in 1905. This would bring a rush of entrepreneurs to the area who wanted a part of the growing number of oil fields. In less than 30 years, the population of Tulsa would grow to more than 140,000, with a surge up to 180,000 in 1909.
For the better part of the 20th century, Tulsa would be known as the “Oil Capital of the World” and with that title brought much attention and success, especially in the construction and energy industries. Tulsa would fare better than most American cities during the Great Depression because of its foothold in the oil industry. This is apparent by the art deco buildings that are still standing today.
During the early part of the 20th century, Tulsa had an area that was named “Black Wall Street”, which was one of the country’s most prosperous African American communities. It was situated in the Greenwood neighborhood and would become better known for being where the Tulsa Race Riot took place in 1921. This was noted as one of the most violent racial acts in the nation even still today. It would continue on for 16 hours until the National Guardsmen were deployed by the Governor. Reports would later state that 16 whites were killed and 23 black were killed.
Tulsa has never been one to let anything keep it down and in 1925, Tulsa, Cyrus Avery, a businessman that would become known as the “Father of Route 66,” would begin his campaign for a road to run between Chicago and California. As such, Tulsa is known as the “Birthplace of Route 66”. This would become an important part of the development of Tulsa and became a rest stop that was popular among those traveling from East to West or West to East.