Due west of Red Fork, Indian Territory, was a beautiful valley. The valley was sparsely settled in the years before the oil strike. It served both as rangeland and farmland. The 1889 surveyors didn’t record any individual large landowners in the area at the time of their survey. They portrayed the Berryhill area as prairie land, with a single fenced in area along what we know as West 41st Street and S. 65th W. Ave. There is little but growing recorded history about the Happy Hollow/Berryhill community. Most of the history is still being passed down in stories from older residents.
A small collection of those stories was gathered together by Pat Upton for the Tulsa World in an article on May 23, 1982, entitled “Community Grew Up Through Rough, Tough Times.” The article appears below, with a few omissions due to bad copy.
“Berryhill’s only real recorded historical legacy is catalogued colorfully in the memories of its generational residents. Lordy, I was here when there was nothing,” clamors Mrs. Hade E. Bridges, born in 1905 in Berryhill. Then, though, Tulsa’s bedroom community was called Happy Hollow by a smattering of immigrant setters rushing to the future Dust Bowl between the time of the Cherokee Strip Run and the turn of the century. Tulsa was just one street with a commissary and when it would rain, Lordy, the mud was so deep. I guess they were happy, that’s why they called it Happy Hollow."
Happiness, though, seemed to come with double doses of fear and hardship inherent with the rugged frontier times. Mrs. Bridges remembers that as a 3-year-old, she and her family barely escaped in time to watch their home being swallowed by a swollen and violent Arkansas River during a raging rain storm that collapsed wide stretches of the river bank. “I still can’t go near water after all these years because of that,” she said. “The man with the fastest horse and the fastest gun lived the longest.” She remembers, “Drunk Indians, real Indians, gobblin’, hoopin’ and hollerin’ as they ran up and down outside our house. I remember I’d get so scared, cause you didn’t know what they were going to do. I’d try to hide and go sit on my momma’s sewing machine treadle.”
But there also were the days of a one-room house which served as a makeshift school for farmer children taught by a traveling teacher, just as religion was the circuit proposition of a traveling preacher man. Most of Oklahoma’s new settlers, like Tom Berryhill, a farmer immigrant from St. Joseph, Mo. Were give 160 acre Indian allotments by the government. The most-often repeated story is that some time after 1910, Berryhill, an honorable and community-conscious man, gave, rather than sold, land to the community for the first bonafide school. In appreciation, Happy Hollow became Berryhill. “There was a sort of Code of the West,” Mrs. Bridges said. “You were obliged to your fellow man. It seemed like you couldn’t do enough for each other. Everybody had to help or nobody would survive.” Early-day survival, especially as the Depression permeated the Midwest, depended largely on industry offered by a growing Tulsa. Blasting from a rock crushing plant atop today’s ChandlerPark hill constantly shook the area, cracking residents’ homes.
The growing oil boom spawned Cosden Oil Co, which later became Mid-Continent Oil Co. And eventually DX Sunray Oil Co. The Ozark-Mahoning acid and chemical plant and, later, the Texaco oil refinery also provided early jobs. “Before my family came here, we were starving on a farm in Missouri,” said Mary Lou Taylor, a Berryhill resident since the age of 5 whose father found work as a crane operator at Ozark-Mahoning in the 1930's. The town had well water, but it wasn’t fit. Mid-Continent allowed Berryhill residents, many of who were employees, to siphon as much water as they could carry from a fresh water faucet on company grounds. One man, Valty Phillips, she recalled, filled his makeshift tank truck from Mid-Continent’s faucet and carried water free to his neighbors. “You just hung a white towel out and he’d know to come by and give you water,” said Mrs. Taylor, a research librarian for the Tulsa Library. “That’s the way people are when you grow up in a place like that.”
“The story is that seven people came out in a wagon to settle,” Mrs. Bridges said. “The story is they camped in those caves up in the hills and got lost sure enough. They supposedly found their skeletons. That’s why they call it LostCity.” Henry and Belle Starr once eluded lawmen by stopping at Mrs. Bridges’ mother’s cafe. Mrs. Taylor remembers that, “Rumors had it that Pretty Boy Floyd hid out in those hills. Us kids were always a little scared we’d meet up with him.” The only notorious area of Berryhill now, Mrs. Taylor said, is 41st Street extending to Prattville--otherwise known as Lovers’ Lane. "Nobody tells us what to do, we take care of ourselves. Everyone’s friendly. If anyone gets ill or has hard luck or someone passes away, your neighbors care. I’ve never seen anything like it.”
Pat Upton, Tulsa World
Another government survey was done of the Red Fork, Indian Territory in 1911-1912. The printed map was done in 1915. This map showed a roadway (now West 41st Street) from east of Red Fork due west nearly to Fisher Creek west of Sand Springs. The surveyors recorded a north/south roadway (now S. 65th W. Ave.), a parallel roadway (now S. 49th W. Ave.), and a connecting roadway (West 31st St.). A trail is shown in a diagonal from the north side of Berryhill to an area on West 41st Street just south of LostCity. The 1915 surveyors documented about a dozen homes in the Berryhill area.
In the late 1920's and early 1930's large landowners in Berryhill dwindled. The Charles Page estate and Sand Springs Home were major property owners. As the area began to grow, ownership changed hands quickly. Tulsa View Addition was platted in 1906. Berry Hill Acres was platted on January 2, 1930.
Elsie Hargis Staires, retired elementary school teacher at Berryhill, provided us with an interesting look at the community in her History of Berryhill School story, written in 1986. The early days of BerryhillSchool in her story appear below.
“Berryhill had its roots before statehood. The school was then known as Happy Hollow, a one-room school across from the present day Berryhill Football Stadium which was built in 1954. The people who lived in Berryhill or Happy Hollow at the time were farmers and oil field workers. There was also a rock quarry and a sand plant. This community has always been a close-knit group who were interested in the school. A few of the teachers during that time that I recall were, Sadie Ray, Cora Jacobs Berryhill, Mr. Hines, Miss Pace, and Mr. and Mrs. Emerson. My in-laws, the Hargis family, usually boarded the teachers on the staff.
In the early 20's the two-room school was built just west of the present Junior High building on land donated by the family of Thomas Berryhill, who was a Creek Indian. After Thomas died March 24, 1915, Mrs. Berryhill donated the land. The community became known as Berryhill from that point. The fall of 1927 was exciting for me. I came to Berryhill to teach in my first school. I felt as if I had gone to a strange land, having spent my life in Broken Arrow. The houses were few and far between. However, we had approximately seventy-five students that year. Mr. Jim Yearout, Mr. George Miller, and Mr. Ray Hayes were my first board members. We had a three-man board up until about 1939. I was nineteen years old when I first started teaching.
Clint Lambert and I started the year together. Two months of school had passed by when Mr. Lambert became dissatisfied and resigned. The Board insisted that I take the principal’s job and teach the upper grades. They promised to help me, which they did quite often that year. It was because of their encouragement and support that I was able to survive that year. I shall always be grateful to these gentlemen. In the spring of 1928, a new four-room brick building was constructed. My. Hyden came as principal and Mrs. Hyden as a teacher. We had three teachers that year. The two-room school building was sold to the FreewillBaptistChurch and moved across the street.
In the early 30's, part of the Berryhill Farm was divided into acreage. People began to move to Berryhill. Many worked for Mid-Continent and Texaco Refineries. The school began to grow and more teachers were added. During Mr. Hyden’s tenure as superintendent, the school continued to grow. He and the Board worked to make Berryhill a good school. In 1933 the present Junior High Auditorium and the rooms to the south were built. We had seven teachers. Athletics were initiated the first year. I was the first girl’s basketball coach. In 1937 the gym and classrooms were added. A cafeteria was included in the building that was a W.P.A. project. At the same time, Mary McCray did two giant-sized paintings. That was also a W.P.A. project. These paintings are very valuable. Our school was fortunate to receive them. They’re still there today.”
Elsie Staires Hargis
Mrs. Staires story about the Berryhill school is one of the few documents available about early Berryhill. It gives us a small glimpse of the community and the people in it. Berryhill’s pride and traditions center around their school and education system.
Out of Berryhill came rodeo trick rider Don Wilcox. He gained national attention with his wife Virginia beside him. They worked as a team for many years on the rodeo tour. Don was inducted in the Rodeo Hall of Fame in Oklahoma City in 1994.
Homer Jackson, first Berryhill Volunteer Fire Chief, was on the school board. Russell Snyder was a neighbor of the Jacksons and recalled they had an old Air Force Fire Truck.When homes were destroyed by fire, the community would join to build a new one. Many of the Berryhill men worked at the Mid Continent Refinery or Ozark-Mahoning Chemical Plant. People either had well water, or got water from the Mid Continent truck.
In the ‘70s underground fires erupt at a landfill near ChandlerPark. In 1984, a group of Berryhill people filed suit claiming they were exposed to toxic fumes and noxious odors from the fires. The EPA orders a clay cap put over the site. Sun Co. and Texaco Inc. spent $12 million on the 46-acre site. The suit was settled in 2000. With help from city and county financial planners, the Berryhill fire district organized in 1977.
1952--The Berryhill School Board decides to buy land from the Ault Estate and build a football stadium. Then the field was sprigged with starts from Sand Spring Home Farm. The first game was in Sept. 1954 with Collinsville.
Nov. 1957—Mrs. F.J. Mouser in her Berryhill Bits column reports Johnnie Bacon is cutting wood off of the future ball diamond and selling it. He seeks volunteers to help plan the program.
May, 1982—Tulsa considers fencing Berryhill which would omit the majority approval requirement if the “fence” is drawn about three sides adjacent or contiguous to Tulsa
June 3, 1994 – Sun Co. presents the keys of a fire truck to Bud Washburn of the Berryhill Fire Department.
Nov. 19, 1995—Empire Construction opens W. 41st Street after three years of construction.
July 3, 1996 – David Leon Hood injured in accident on S. 49th W. Avenue, known as Thrill Hill. In 1994, three teenagers were killed after they were dared to speed down the hill at 100 mph. A motorcyclist had also lost control in recent weeks.
May 14, 1997—Berryhill third graders top suburban Tulsa school districts in test scores.
Many remember the go-cart races, payday when the parents paid the grocery bill and the offspring got candy. The housing market remained tight, but families come, some staying through three and four generations.
Dec. 14, 2000—Jack Lollis ends a 25-year stretch as a Berryhill school board member. He was president 10-12 times. First 3A softball state title in 2000.
Dec. 14, 2000—Leonard Wood was Superintendent of Berryhill Public Schools from 1984 to December 2000.
But, decades before, other events made the early newspapers.
Sept. 4, 1904. --Dr. Fred Clinton called to treat Eva and Margaret Cook who were thrown by a frightened team onto wire fences. Al Farber who accompanied the girls to LostCity had only bruises and scratches.
Sept. 6, 1904 –ValleyGroveChurch to be built 2.5 miles north of Red Fork. Fourteen baptized in the Arkansas River with J.R. Chapman preaching the revival. Elder Chapman and Tom Weedman go fishing with A.R. Evans and Tom Berryhill and families.
Sept. 23 1904 —The boll worm damages cotton crop. Cornelium Perryman builds a stone house on his farm. Lumber bought and delivered for building a schoolhouse. Red Fork Derrick.
Oct, 14, 1904 –Thomas Weedman fed up with Indian Territory, moving to Idaho.
Nov. 8, 1904 --New church is up. Rev. J.R. Chapman invites everyone. School started.
May 27, 1905 --Mr. Steelsmith to drill an oil well on the C.B. Perryman place, west of Red Fork. Steelsmith claims to have a blanket lease to all land west of the Frisco right-of-way with the Arkansas River on the north and Oklahoma on the west and south.
June 3, 1905 --Conelius Perryman’s wife dies after childbirth.
June 24, 1905 – Children’s Day postponed because of rain. Rev. E. N. Owen preaches.
Oct. 28, 1905 -- Red Fork Derrick, hunting supplies, barbecues of opossum and sweet
potatoes every two weeks
Oct. 28, 1905 --I. M. Wheelan farming on the Berryhill place shipped a load of onions and potatoes. Lincoln Postoak ill.
Nov. 18, 1905--Some farmers do a lot of work on the road to Red Fork. Grading and culverts added. The Tulsa Chief reported July 21, 1908, that the biggest fish ever caught in the Arkansas River was caught near LostCity. It weighed 72 pounds and was 4 feet, 6 inches. It was on display at King’s Meat Market on East Second.
Jan. 13, 1906—Rev. E.N. Owen, a Baptist minister, holding services at the schoolhouse. Plan to move his family to LostCity.
June 19, 1906—Tulsa Title and Trust dedicates a park for picnics and outings. Shade, pure water, rocks, flowers and picturesque scenery. Frisco agent F.E. Clark said a sheltered platform would be built at the park and the train would make regular stops there. The Tulsa Chief says this is a “prehistoric place.”
Feb. 23, 1906 –Injunction filed in Sapulpa by the Colter Construction against Theodore Berryhill. Colter is building the lines for the Pioneer Telephone Co. Berryhill allegedly pulled a shotgun on the lineman. The line is to run from Tulsa to Pawnee. (Indian Republican)
July 27, 1906 --Four men buy a 20-acre tract adjoining LostCity. They plan to install a rock crusher and furnish stone for curb work and paving of First Street. W.A. Stuckey has the contract.
Oct. 5, 1906 – W.T. Berryhill and Peter Snyder bring more than 3,500 pounds of cotton to gin.
Aug. 30, 1907--Box supper at Berryhill School House
Valentine’s 1908 --Walter Gandy and Bessie Carter married and settling in LostCity. James Masters and Mrs. Emma King married Feb. 8, both of LostCity.
March 6, 1908 --Valley Grove school box supper raises $11 to equip the school with lights and a bell.
Aug. 19, 1910 --Large cement plant going in at LostCity, on the A.V. & W. branch of Frisco, three miles from the city limits. Expected to hire 180-200 men and produce 1,200-2,500 barrels of cement a day.
Oct. 4, 1907 —Office building finished for the big cement plant.
Nov. 25, 1910 --Tulsa Chief reports nearly all the Berryhill farms are rented for the next year. The community had a Methodist preacher named Rev. B.A. Myles and had just started Sunday school.