L. Sherman Skelton


L. Sherman Skelton, M. D. The development and upbuilding of an urban community of important order can never be looked upon as a matter of spontaneity, however great the natural resources and advantages of the locality may be. To achieve the result there must be brought to bear the dynamic energy of men of broad mental ken, mature judgment, progressive policies and indomitable perseverance. That the City of Okmulgee has thus risen to a status of special precedence as an industrial and commercial center and as a desirable place of residence has been due to the concerted efforts of men of fine initiative and constructive ability, and among those who have been foremost in directing and pressing forward the splendid work there is none whose influence and executive efficiency has exceeded, not to say equaled, that of Doctor Skelton, who has proved himself well constituted for leadership and who has played a large and beneficent part in the furtherance of the development of Okmulgee into one of the vigorous and important cities of the State of Oklahoma, the while his activities have been such as to promote not only this result but also to enable him to advance from financial obscurity to an established and secure position as one of the substantial capitalists and influential citizens of the state of his adoption. He has worked along normal and legitimate lines, has directed his course with full appreciation of his personal stewardship and with unswerving integrity of purpose, so that there are none to begrudge him the success which he has won through his own ability and well ordered endeavors, the while he had early found and improved the opportunity for winning distinct prestige in the profession for which he had carefully prepared himself.
At Princeton, the judicial center of Gibson County, Indiana, Doctor Skelton was born on the 10th of July, 1865, a son of James M. and Permelia (Long) Skelton, who passed their entire lives in Gibson County and who were representatives of sterling pioneer families of that now favored section of the Hoosier State. James M. Skelton acquired a good education in his youth, largely through his own efforts, and had become a successful and popular teacher in the public schools of his home county prior to the Civil war. When the integrity of the nation was thus jeopardized by armed rebellion he promptly laid aside the work of the pedagogic profession to tender his aid in defense of the Union, and he virtually sacrificed his life in the cause. In 1861, in response to President Lincoln’s first call, he enlisted as a member of Company B, Sixty-fifth Indiana Volunteer Infantry, in which he was made captain of his company. Proceeding with his gallant command to the front, he participated in innumerable engagements, including many important battles, and he continued in active service until the close of the war, when he received his honorable discharge. The hardships which he endured during his long and valiant service as a soldier so shattered his health that he survived only a few months after his return to his home, where his death occurred in the autumn of 1865, when he was but thirty-three years of age. He was with Sherman in the Atlanta campaign and in the subsequent and ever memorable march from Atlanta to the sea, and after the final surrender he took part in the Grand Review of the jaded but victorious troops, in the City of Washington. He went out as sergeant of his company and through his ability and gallantry won promotion to the office of captain. It is worthy of special note at this juncture that Doctor Skelton of this review had seven uncles who likewise were soldiers of the Union in the great conflict between the North and the South and that all of them lost their lives while at the front. The mother of Doctor Skelton still resides in the old home at Princeton, Indiana, secure in the affectionate regard of all who know her and now venerable in years, as she celebrated in 1915 her eighty-fifth birthday anniversary. Of the three children the eldest is Charles W., who is a prosperous agriculturist near the City of Hutchinson, Reno County, Kansas: James M., Jr., who was a farmer and baker, died in 1912, at Long Beach, California; and Doctor Skelton, who is the youngest of the number, was but a few months old at the time of his father’s death.
In his native town Doctor Skelton was reared to the age of sixteen years and there he profited duly by the advantages of the public schools. At the age noted he accompanied his eldest brother to Kansas, and at Hutchinson, that state, he continued his studies in the public schools until he had completed the curriculum of the high school. He early formulated plans for his future career and in consonance with his ambitious purpose he finally entered the Eclectic Medical College in the City of Cincinnati, Ohio, in which representative institution of the Eclectic School of Practice he was graduated as a member of the class of 1889 and with the well earned degree of Doctor of Medicine. After his graduation the doctor was engaged in the practice of his profession in the historic old City of Vincennes, Indiana, until 1893, when he came to Oklahoma Territory and established his residence on a pioneer farm near Blackwell, in the present Kay County. He became one of the founders of the Bank of Blackwell, which later was reorganized as the Blackwell State Bank and which, under the latter title, now figures as the oldest banking institution in the fine little city in which its business is established. Doctor Skelton became president of the bank and continued the efficient incumbent of this office until 1898, when he removed to Cherryvale, Kansas, where he became actively identified with the manufacturing of cement and brick, though still retaining his interests in the Bank at Blackwell. The doctor drilled the first oil well in the Cherryvale District of the Mid-continent oil field of Kansas, and sold the first oil produced in that eventually famous producing field. He initiated his activities in oil and gas development in 1898, and from small beginnings he advanced to operations of broad scope and importance, the while he gained a substantial fortune through this medium, as have many other progressive men of the West. The doctor established natural-gas plants at Altoona, Frederic and Fall River, Kansas, and at Sapulpa, Okmulgee and Morris, Oklahoma. At Fredonia, Wilson County, Kansas, he built and equipped plants for the manufacturing of glass, brick and cement, and eventually he was drawn entirely away from the work of his profession to become a prominent and influential figure in the field of industrial and commercial enterprise.
In 1905 Doctor Skelton established his residence at Okmulgee, judicial center of the county of the same name, and here he became the founder of the Okmulgee Window Glass Co., which he has developed into the largest establishment of its kind in the entire state and which he has made the most valuable of all specific contributions to the industrial prestige of Okmulgee, the while the extensive operations carried on in connection with this extensive manufacturing enterprise have brought to the city a large contingent of most desirable citizens. The glass factory thus founded by the doctor gives employment to a corps of 600 persons, including a large contingent of skilled artisans, and the result has been that through the influence of Doctor Skelton in the upbuilding of this admirable industrial enterprise fully 1,200 persons have been added to the population of Okmulgee, where many of the employes of the manufactory have established permanent homes for their families. The plant of the Okmulgee glass works is modern in its equipment and facilities, utilizes twenty acres of ground and its importance may be estimated when it is stated that it is the second largest establishment devoted to the manufacturing of window glass to be found in the entire area of the United States, and probably in the entire world. The enormous output of the plant finds ready demand, and the products are shipped not only into all parts of the United States but also into Europe, the Oriental countries, South America, Canada and Mexico. The Okmulgee factory is virtually an independent institution, but with his associates Doctor Skelton owns and operates four other well established glass factories. He is chairman of the board of directors of the First National Bank of Okmulgee and has other local capitalistic interests of important order.
Appreciative of the civic duties and responsibilities which success and influence impose, Doctor Skelton is essentially liberal, progressive and public-spirited as a citizen, and in politics he is one of the leaders of the Republican party in Oklahoma, which state he represented as a delegate at large to the Republican National Convention of 1912, in the City of Chicago. He is identified with representative fraternal and social organizations in his home city, and both he and his wife are zealous members of the Presbyterian Church, in which he has served as an elder for a score of years. He is the owner of one of the most beautiful of the many fine modern homes of Okmulgee and with Mrs. Skelton as its gracious and popular ch√Ętelaine it is the center of much of the social life of the community.
In 1891 was solemnized the marriage of Doctor Skelton to Miss Ella Rice, who was at the time residing at Vincennes, Indiana, but who was born in Kentucky, her father. Rev. William Rice, being a prominent clergyman of the Presbyterian Church. Doctor and Mrs. Skelton have three children: Laura Irene is the wife of James T. Pancost, of Okmulgee; Leland R. is a member of the class of 1917 in Leland Stanford, Jr., University, at Palo Alto, California; and Lester Marion is attending, in 1916, a preparatory school at Palo Alto, California.