All through Bartlesville history, there is one landmark that has seen more history than anywhere around, with the exception of the Caney River, which might be a tie. It turns up in most historic west side photographs at one time or another. It really doesn’t have a name, other than ‘The’ Mound, yet it has watched over our city with an intense loyalty that reminds me of a watchtower. It has been here from the beginning, so I like to say it is ageless. From the fossils that have been collected, many people, including Sooner Spartan (1971) Michael Louthan, believe the fossils on the Mound are mostly from the Silurian Age. The Silurian site on Google defines ‘that the Silurian geological system lasted about 30 million years, starting at about 440 million years before the present day. It was an age when life began to move from the sea to land, well before the time of amphibians, dinosaurs, mammals, and birds. In fact, the Silurian Age is twice as far back in time as the age of the dinosaurs. It is still relatively young compared to the age of the Earth and the earliest known forms of life’. We can only guess that it has stood at its lookout location for millions of years.
‘Another way of explaining it, the Mound is the result of the unequal eroding of rock topped escarpments which left isolated buttes, known locally as mounds’. (Washington County A Centennial History by Kenny A. Franks, Paul F. Lambert, Margaret Withers Teague, page 21)
There is only sketchy documentation about the Mound. “Native Americans and Euro-American exploration marked the period between 1500 and 1860, when Europeans arrived in the New World Caddoan speaking peoples, including the Wichita and Caddo proper, where they inhabited the area around Bartesville.” 1
THE CIVIL WAR IN INDIAN TERRITORY
The Cherokee Nation, whose mixed blood included slaveholders, officially sided with the Confederacy during the conflict. Under the leadership of Stand Waite, Cherokee troops served the southern cause with distinction in a number of Indian Territory battles…Some local residents speculate that Indian and Union forces clashed in the vicinity of the Mound. The supposition rests on the discovery of numerous arrowheads in a semi-circular pattern, the supposed remnants of an attack on white soldiers who so positioned themselves defensively. The reason this theory is not taken seriously, however, is because the project states ‘Surely Indian troops at this time would have used guns and rifles rather than bows and arrows.’1
Like it or not, at one point in history there probably were battles fought around the Mound. Hundreds of arrowheads have been found on the Mound. So, we might not have evidence in the form of writings, but just the fact we have so many arrowheads recovered from the area leads to a conclusion. We know that both outlaws and Indians roamed on the Mound, being a perfect lookout for enemy forces. Yes, although historians are mostly silent about the different tribes and peoples that have come and gone throughout history on this mound, it is rich in buried history.
Permanent white settlement of the Bartlesville area occurred between 1860 and 1899. One of the first men with recorded Mound history is Jasper Exendine. ‘About 1868, Exendine operated an Indian Trading Post and a Stage Coach stop at the southeast side of the Mound, known as Sugar Loaf. ‘ (Elmer Sark, historian)
Most people know that Frank ‘Pistol Pete’ Eaton was adopted and lived with Exendine and his wife at their farm called Mound City Farm. When Eaton was only 8 years old, he witnessed 6 cattle rustlers kill his father in Caney, Kansas. As a result of the murder, Eaton spent hours and hours learning everything about firearms and how to shoot until at the tender age of 12, he could outshoot many of the Army’s expert marksmen. At one time, Eaton rode the cattle range near the Mound, and it was within sight of this landmark that he first learned the location of Shannon Campsey, one of his father’s slayers. (Examiner Enterprise)
The end of this story verifies that Pistol Pete eventually found and killed all five murderers, as the sixth murderer had already been killed elsewhere.
The Magnet newspaper has a couple of mentions of Jasper Exendine and his farm ‘Mound City’. On July 30, 1897, George Keeler purchased the Jasper Exendine place commonly known as the Mound City Farm.
One other bit of Magnet gossip happened on April 19, 1895, when Col. Bartles was supposedly going to start a new town on the site of Mound City, which was only a rumor. ‘He has too much business sagacity to do anything that will have a tendency to injure the prospects of our thriving town. Our businessmen are all united, and have only one great object in view – the growth of the prosperity of Bartlesville.’ Magnet Newspaper
THE STAGE COACH DAYS AT THE MOUND
In 1869, when Jasper Exendine and Pistol Pete lived at Mound City Farm on the southeast side of the Mound, the Wells-Fargo Stage Coach made a stop there every week. The Stage Coach route started in Coffeyville, with a stop at the railroad bridge at Jake Bartles’ place, then a stop at Sugar Loaf at the Mound, which continued to Okesa, and then stopped in Pawhuska (Elmer Sark, historian). The Wells-Fargo Company was very popular at the time, and listed is some of the early employee information printed in the Bartlesville Enterprise:
- Wed. Jan 16, 1910: A man shot through the roof of a Santa Fe Coach between here and Dewey several nights ago. A warrant has been issued for his arrest, through the efforts of Emmett Gregg, Santa Fe detective.
- Tues. Oct 18, 1910: Robert Brown resigned his position of the Wells Fargo Company and will go to San Antonio to spend the winter. George Bow of New York will take his place.
- Mon. March 16, 1917: Bert Sutton is the new Wells Fargo agent here, succeeding Howard Thayer.
- Wed. May 17, 1917: W. W. Brand has been placed here as agent for the Wells Fargo Company, transferred from Cushing.
- Archie Clark Binning was employed at the Wells Fargo Express Company, delivering freight after it was brought into the area by horseback. His obituary notice was published in the Examiner Enterprise on Tuesday, April 25, 1967. He passed away at 78 years of age in the Memorial Hospital after a brief illness. He was the Great Uncle of Joe Sears, and Earl Sears, of Bartlesville.
PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION BY DAILY STAGE COACH SERVICE:
- Leave Bartlesville 1:00 p.m.
- Arrive Coffeyville 8:00 p.m.
- Leave Coffeyville 5:00 a.m.
- Arrive Bartlesville 12 noon
This schedule appeared in the first Magnet newspaper, March 8, 1895, one of several different routes.
WHAT’S IN A NAME, ANYWAY?
Today, maps show 2 other towns named Mound City, one is located in Kansas and the other one in Illinois. As for names of mounds, you will find Osage Mound in Wagoner County, Oklahoma, as well as Clermont Mound, Blue Mound, Craig Mound, and the most famous of all mounds, Spiro Mounds, among hundreds of other named mounds.
The online dictionary defines a mound as a natural elevation, such as a small hill. The Mound stands 866 feet tall. It ranks as the 513th highest mountain in Oklahoma, and 58,997th highest mountain in the United States. (Google: Peakery)
If you go to the Osage County land office in Pawhuska, you will find part of the Mound described as 3-26-12 N 660′ of E 660′ of Lot 4. You can see an aerial map of the Mound by going to www.expertgps.com.
Also included is a deed from 1909 for a lot on the Mound that George Wilkie owned. There have been many owners of Mound lots/acres through the years before Phillips Petroleum bought the land in the fifties. Interested in what it looks like? I just happen to have one here:
The Mound doesn’t have a road named for it anymore. ‘On Tuesday, September 24, 1957, the Mound Road bowed out of existence Monday night and became Sunset Boulevard when the Board of City Commissioners passed a motion to rename the road that extends on the north and south side of Frank Phillips Boulevard. Members of the city’s planning & zoning committee wanted to call the now extinct road, Hudson Boulevard, because it leads to Lake Hudson, site of the city’s water supply and recreational area. Another name that had also been suggested was Weber Boulevard, after the late Dr. Howard Weber.’ (Examiner Enterprise) However, Sunset Boulevard won the approval, and is so named to this day, 57 years later.
A NAME IS A NAME IS A ….
So I have to ask, why doesn’t the Mound have a name? Why does it sit, so majestic, knowing the secrets of all time, and yet only be referred to as ‘The Mound’? Generations have benefitted from this landmark. When the trolley ran in the early 1900s, one of the popular stops was the Mound. When the weather was nice, people enjoyed it, walking to the top, many with picnic baskets. It was a recreational destination.
Another Mound pastime also included many archaeological digs. Michael Louthan, who went with the Osage Hill Gem & Mineral Society in the 1960’s, remembers a lot of activity on the Mound with various groups searching for fossils and arrowheads. Another group from the Oklahoma State University used to take their Invertebrate Paleo class to the Mound in the 60’s. Cub Scouts, boy scout and girl scout troops went many times to prospect for fossils, and Sooner High School had school photos of student groups taken in front of the water tank. In the late 1980s, I bought fossils off ebay that had been recovered from The Mound in Bartlesville, Oklahoma. There have probably been innumerable fossils/arrowheads removed from the Mound through the years.
Again, I have to ask, why doesn’t the Mound have a name? Why would the city forefathers ignore naming it, while walking and driving past it, for years at a time? But here we are, in the year 2014, still being called ‘The’ Mound.
Drive by it, even now, and you will see a mound that is ever present, silently watching the lives of people, as it has always done. It reminds me of a grandfather, possessing great life experiences, watching his children and offspring, silently observing, always remaining steady, and in silence, urging each one of them to be productive and successful, often with great pride. Yes, Bartlesville is a very successful community, for the most part, maybe thanks in part to the ever watchful eye of the Mound. Who knows how many secrets have been carefully guarded by this silent ally, ever watching! I have always heard that Bartlesville could never be hit by a tornado, simply because it sits in a valley. Yes, we had a bad tornado hit us in 1982, however, who knows? There could have been a lot more damage if the Mound hadn’t been there directing most of it away!
We have had several history accounts of tornadic storms that form over West Bartlesville, and eventually dissipate. Don’t discount the (nameless) Mound!
(1. Bryans, Dr. William S., Williams, Jeffrey K., Morgan, Julie D., Portwood, Donna, Architectural/Historic Survey of Bartlesville Historic Context, 1988)