Yesterday I spent traveling to the north part of the state of Oklahoma to a small town called Ponca City which is located approximately twenty miles to the south of Kansas. Ponca is the city where I was born and I was there to do some research for a few of my books. This little city has a lot of interesting history associated with it and oil has been in the center of much of the history.
The statue above was dedicated in 1930 by E.W. Marland who was a millionaire oilman who pretty much put Ponca City on the map in a lot of ways. The theme of the statue was based upon the settling of the american west. It was dedicated on April 22, 1930 on the 41st anniversary of the land run of 1889 which opened Oklahoma territory to settlers. More than 40,000 people attended the unveiling of this 17 foot tall bronze statue weighing in at 12,000 pounds that cost more than $350,000 at the time. In today’s dollars it would have cost about 4.5 million dollars.
The plaque below that first step reads ” This monument was erected by E.W. Marland in appreciation of the heroic character of the woman who braved the dangers and endured the hardships incident to the daily life of the pioneer and homesteader in this country.”
This is a photograph of the home of E.W. Marland, the millionaire oilman who went on to become a U.S. Congressman and the 10th Governor of the state of Oklahoma. This mansion is listed on the National Register of Historical places and has almost 44,000 sf. It is roughly 80 feet by 185 feet and has four levels.
The mansion was built from 1925-1928 at a cost of 5.5 million dollars which in today’s dollars would equate to approximately 77.5 million dollars. There are 10 bedrooms, 12 bathrooms, 7 fireplaces, and three kitchens and was designed by architect John Duncan Forsyth. The mansion has come to be known as the “Palace on the Prairie”.
E.W. Marland came to Ponca City pretty much broke and was living in a local motel. He used some of the last bit of his money to lease land from a Ponca Indian where he started to drill for oil. Things went really well for E.W. after that when in 1911 he hit his first gusher, and continued to find oil everywhere he drilled.
By 1922 E.W. was one of the richest men in the United States and controlled more than one tenth of the world’s oil resources. More than 1/3 of the population of Ponca City worked for Marland Oil Company. Mr. Marland was always very kind to his employees and pioneered employer paid insurance, eye care, and dental bills. He even built homes for many of his employees. There is a movie about the Marland story entitled “The Ends of the Earth” that is in production now staring Jennifer Lawrence.
This photo was taken of the old Poncan Theater which is still operational today. It was built in 1927 at a cost of $280,000 dollars which in today’s money would equate to approximately 6.5 million dollars. It is also listed on the National Register of Historic places and started out as a combination vaudeville/movie theater house. I used to go to this old movie theater as a young boy.
My dad tells a story of how when he was a teenager, they were giving away a bedroom set in a drawing and he ended up having the winning ticket that day. It turned out to be a pretty nice set complete with bed, mattress, night stands, and dresser drawers, that would probably be worth 4 to 5 thousand dollars today.
My day in Ponca City turned out to be a great day. The weather was fantastic and I got to take my mom and daughter with me. We also got to have lunch with a few of my cousins who I had not seen in a long time. I don’t believe it could have been a more enjoyable day!