Frank M. Overlees


Frank M. Overlees had the first store on the site of the present City of Bartlesville. He was also the first citizen upon whom fell the distinction of being elected to the office of mayor after the town was incorporated. In the years that have been required to develop a flourishing city around his pioneer store Mr. Overlees himself has been one of the foremost individual factors in commercial and civic upbuilding. His name properly signifies a great deal of what is best in the history of Bartlesville.
The activities associated with his name are not confined entirely to the City of Bartlesville. He has spent many years in this section of Indian Territory and Oklahoma, and he has the honor of having superintended the first practical operation for the exploitation of the oil resources in the Bartlesville District. His has been an exceedingly useful and honorable career, and few men have so much to show for their years of labor.
He was born in Goshen, Indiana, October 25, 1866, a son of Henry S. and Mary A. (Lenta) Overlees. His grandparents were Henry and Mary (Small) Overlees, the former a native of Kentucky and the latter born near the River Rhine in Germany. They first met in Dayton, Ohio, where they married and afterwards moved to Indiana, where they died. The life of Henry Overlees was spent as a farmer and he and his wife had nine children: Elizabeth, Margaret, Polly, Catherine, Anna, George, Henry S. and Daniel.
The late Henry S. Overlees, the last survivor of this family just mentioned, spent many years in Bartlesville during his retirement, and died at his home there March 19, 1916, at the venerable age of ninety years. He was born near Dayton, Ohio, in Montgomery County, May 26, 1826, spent the first thirty years of his life in that section of Ohio, was married there and had three children born before he moved to Elkhart County, Indiana. From Indiana he moved to Parsons, Kansas, was a farmer in these two states and about 1896 retired to Bartlesville, where for several years he assisted his son Frank in the general store. Later he acted as bailiff in the District Court until health compelled him to give up all regular duties. To a wide circle of people, both young and old, he was affectionately known as Grandpa Overlees. His was a face and figure much missed on the streets of Bartlesville during the last few months of his life, and he was a man who grew old gracefully, and all classes of people reciprocated his kindly and cheerful spirit. Though very old at the time of his death he had a remarkable memory and could talk entertainingly of a period covering almost three-quarters of a century. In 1848 Henry S. Overlees married Miss Mary Lentz, who was born in Pennsylvania May 9, 1829, was taken to Ohio when a child, and is still living at the venerable age of eighty-seven. For more than sixty-seven years Henry S. Overlees and wife traveled life’s highways together, and at the time of his death they were probably the oldest married couple in the State of Oklahoma. Their children are: George, who died at the age of twenty-one; Warren, who died at Bartlesville in 1912 leaving two daughters; Emma Van Horebeke, who lives at Joplin, Missouri, and has four children; William H., of Joplin, Missouri; Laura Frances, deceased; Mary Ann Forester, deceased; Milo H. of Bartlesville; Perry of Holmesville, Missouri; Jesse L., of Bartlesville; Frank M.; and Effie Wylie, of Portland, Oregon.
The eighth in this family of children, Frank M. Overlees when an infant was taken to Christian County, Illinois, and was twelve years old when the family moved to Parsons, Kansas. He lived there with his parents until 1888 and in the meantime attended public schools and had come to manhood with the sturdy discipline of a farm. His home has been in old Indian Territory in the State of Oklahoma since 1888. His first location was at Coody’s Bluff in the Cherokee Nation. A year later he moved to what is now Bartlesville, when only some half dozen white men lived in that community. For two years he was manager of a firm handling walnut timber, and he engaged in buying and selling walnut logs all over this section. Subsequently Colonel J. H. Bartles had him as manager of his store for three and a half years, and he also worked for Johnstone & Keeler, merchants, for two years, and then engaged in business for himself, conducting a general store eight years. That first store building is -still standing at the corner of Second Street and Johnstone Avenue, and was the first store structure on the present site of the City of Bartlesville. While merchandising Mr. Overlees also dealt extensively in cattle.
When the operations in the oil field were extended out from Kansas into Northern Indian Territory, Mr. Overlees owned the first set of drilling tools and put down the first wells around Bartlesville for the Cudahy Oil Company. He has been more or less identified with the oil industry ever since, both as a contractor and as a producer. A large amount of property has been developed through his enterprise, and he has bought and sold on an extensive scale. One of Oklahoma’s pioneer interurban electric lines reflects one phase of his enterprise. He was one of the original promoters and builders of the Bartlesville Interurban Railroad and was secretary of the company for three years until the property was sold to eastern parties. This is an electric line between Bartlesville and Dewey, and is also operated over the principal streets of Bartlesville. Mr. Overlees has built and still owns a number of business places in Bartlesville and takes a great deal of pride in the growth of the city as well as in his individual part in promoting local prosperity.
Since casting his first vote he has been a republican and served as a member of a number of delegations in the old Indian Territory. He was a delegate in 1896 to the republican convention held in Indian Territory at Fort Gibson. After Bartlesville became a town corporation, he received thirty-six out of the thirty-eight votes cast for the office of mayor, serving one term of two years, and starting the municipal machinery and thus gaining an initial honor which will always be associated with his name in the local history of this thriving city. Mr. Overlees is a member of the Baptist Church and is a thirty-second degree Scottish Rite Mason, a member of the Consistory at South McAlester. He took his first degree in the Scottish Rite at Wichita, Kansas, in 1896.
On November 12, 1891, Mr. Overlees married Miss Carrie V. Armstrong. Mrs. Overlees belongs to the distinguished Indian family whose head for many years was Chief Journeycake of the Delaware Tribe. Chief Journeycake was Mrs. Overlees’ grandfather. Chief Journeycake was a great figure in early history of Indian Territory, and further reference to him is found on other pages. Mr. and Mrs. Overlees have three sons: E. Ray, who lives in Angola, Kansas, and married Catherine Galbreath; William E., whose home is in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and by his marriage to Miriam E. Scott has one child named Frank M.; and Milo H., who is now a student in the William Jewell College at Liberty, Missouri.
Mr. Overlees himself is a graduate of the high school at Parsons, Kansas, but his best education came from the school of experience and by contact with men and affairs. It is said he arrived in old Indian Territory with only fifty cents in his pockets and a few cheap clothes. By steady industry and a liberal acceptance of opportunity he has made himself one of the leading citizens of Bartlesville. He was fortunate largely because he possessed qualities that make for success. He has had his share of what many men call luck, but that has not been the dominating factor in his life. In fact he has overcome obstacles, and everyone says that Frank M. Overlees has deserved all the good things that have come to him.