Robert Galbreath


Robert Galbreath. Aside from the opening of the lands of old Indian Territory to white settlement and to the unlimited possibilities of progress which have followed that event, the most significant phase of Oklahoma’s industrial history has come from the uncovering and exploitation of its vast and seemingly limitless
mineral resources. First in point of time among these were oil and gas, and more recently, and probably with a longer promise of productiveness, come the basic minerals and metals found in different sections of the state.
One of the most conspicuous figures in this latter day development of Oklahoma is Robert Galbreath of Tulsa, who was one of the Oklahoma pioneers of 1889, and was identified with nearly all the successive land openings in the old territory. Perhaps his most important claim to distinction rests upon his successful efforts in bringing to the attention of the world the untold wealth of the famous Glenn Pool oil district near Tulsa. For the past ten years he has been one of the foremost oil operators in the Southwest, and his interests as a capitalist and promoter have also extended into other fields, and his name is also well known over the state and in the national councils of the democratic party as the present Oklahoma national committeeman.
Robert Galbreath was born in Pickaway County, Ohio, a son of Robert and Sarah A. (Hill) Galbreath. The ancestry is Scotch and Scotch Irish, the Galbreaths having lived in America about 300 years, their first place of settlement having been in Pennsylvania. Mr. Galbreath’s father located in Pickaway County, Ohio, in 1804, less than two years after the admission of Ohio to the Union. It was on a farm in that county that Robert Galbreath grew up, with a training in country schools and the discipline of farm labor, and since reaching his majority he has been almost continuously on the frontier of men’s civilized activities.
In 1888 he made a trip to Southern California, and returned in the fall of that year by way of the Missouri, Kansas & Texas Railway through old Indian Territory. At that time he became convinced of the fertility as well as the beauty of Eastern Oklahoma, and was particularly taken with the district about Eufaula and South McAlester and Muskogee. This gave him the incentive which caused him to take his station along the outer line when the day was set for the opening of the original Oklahoma region. He made the rush with other pioneers on April 22nd, and after a few days at Kingfisher, located at Edmond in Oklahoma County. He was postmaster at Edmond in 1893. He was engaged in the real estate and town site business, and in that capacity was connected with the various successive openings–the Sac and Fox, the Iowa and Pottawatomie reservations in 1891, the Cheyenne and Arapahoe in 1892, the Cherokee Strip in i893, and the Kickapoo Reservation in 1895. For several years his home was at Shawnee.
His enterprise was first drawn into the operations of oil production following the great strike at Spindletop near Beaumont, Texas, and later he was one of the first prospectors in the Creek Nation of Indian Territory, drilling some wells at Red Fork. His preeminent success has been well ascribed to the persistency with which he has followed up his prospects, and when once convinced as a matter of faith he has never let up until his faith was rewarded by practical results. Thus when he came to the vicinity of Tulsa he brought with him broad experience and some capital, though insufficient to accomplish what he set out to do. His prospecting at Glenn Fool was more expensive than his resources could bear, and he finally secured additional backing from Frank Chesley, a merchant at Keystone. A study of the country had caused him to select this spot for his prospecting operations four miles from where Kiefer, the renowned tent city, was later established. As soon as permission was gained from the Government’s representatives, drilling was begun on the allotment of Ida E. Glenn, a one-eighth Creek Indian. Having selected his location Mr. Galbreath went ahead with the persistency characteristic of the man, and was quite as ready to risk his own judgment and borrowed capital as his own money. Early in the morning of November 22, 1905, the drill sank into the oil sands, and the first well in that vicinity began producing at the rate of about 100 barrels a day. The name Glenn Pool, which was almost at once given the field, is in honor of the Glenn family on whose land the discovery was made. This strike at Glenn Pool produced commotion among oil operators all over the country. Purchase of land was impossible because of its native ownership, and restrictions in the transfer of titles. But in two years time a forest of derricks covered that section for miles around, some fifty or sixty flowing wells were in operation, the Prairie Oil & Gas Company had established an immense tank farm, pipe lines had been constructed, and yet with the daily production of about 100,000 barrels, as the figures stood in the fall of 1907, it was impossible to market more than a fourth of the oil owing to inadequate shipping facilities.
Mr. Galbreath and associates, among whom was C. F. Colcord, the well known Oklahoma City capitalist, secured leases on several hundred acres at Glenn Pool, and now for a number of years he has been one of the largest individual producers of oil and one of the wealthy men of the Southwest. It was his fixed policy during those years never to sell an oil property developed by him, and for that reason he was essentially a producer rather than a speculator. After his fortunate exploits at Glenn Pool, Mr. Galbreath took up the development of what is known as the Bald Hill district in Okmulgee County, about ten miles southwest from Haskell. He and his associates had the distinction of striking the first wild-cat well in the new State of Oklahoma at Bald Hill on Severs Ranch November 21, 1907, five days after the admission of the state.
In recent years the capital and enterprise of Mr. Galbreath have been directed in part to the development of the splendid mineral resources in that attractive and picturesque section of Oklahoma of which the Town of Bromide is now the center. The varied resources of that district are well described on other pages of this work, but among them it is said that probably the richest manganese ore beds in the entire country are found in that locality. Mr. Galbreath is doing a great deal to build up that section both as a health resort and as a center for mineral production.
For a quarter of a century Mr. Galbreath has been identified with democratic party politics in Oklahoma and was particularly prominent in that way before statehood. For some time he was county chairman of his party in Pottawatomie County, and in 1896 was chairman of the Territorial Democratic Central Committee. In that capacity he planned the campaign by which J. Y. Callahan was elected to Congress, defeating Dennis T. Flynn for the first time. As already stated Mr. Galbreath is now national committeeman of the democratic party from Oklahoma and is undoubtedly one of the strongest leaders of that party in the entire Southwest.
Mr. Galbreath was married at Edmond, Oklahoma, to Miss Mary E. Kivlehen. To this union were born four children: Robert Jr., Leona, George Francis and Glenn Pool. Mrs. Galbreath was born at Elmira, New York, and was a member of the first graduating class in the Territorial Normal College at Edmond.

Galbreath Mine

Here is illustrated an opening into the body of manganese and hematite iron ore uncovered by Robert Galbreath of Tulsa, who is seen in the foreground of the picture. This mine is located near Bromide, at the corners of Johnston and Coal counties, in Southern Oklahoma–a wonderful mineral section. Mr. Galbreath, who has been operating an oolitic stone quarry there for several years, in his investigations for minerals discovered evidences of manganese and hematite iron ore, and began working into it until he satisfied himself that the deposits were very extensive. An analysis by the Oklahoma School of Mines at Wilburton demonstrated that the ore carried 60 per cent of manganese and hematite, and samples have been examined–a carload–by representatives of the big steel interests at South Chicago. The Galbreath Iron and Mining Company of Tulsa has been organized to handle and operate the mines.
The United States steel mills use 365,000 tons annually of manganese, all but about 1,000 tons of which is imported, most of it from Germany and Belgium. War having demoralized this source of supply, the necessity for the home production becomes apparent. This ore is used exclusively, with other iron ores, to increase their strength and to harden steel used in the manufacture of armor plate, safes, cylinders, spark-plugs and many other finished iron and steel products. Just at this time the European war, calling for increased consumption of steel, is shutting off the dependable supply of manganese; hence the importance of the discovery of extensive deposits of the ore in Oklahoma.
Mr. Galbreath and his organization have proceeded very cautiously in investigating and exploiting these great quantities of minerals, and have employed expert advice to prove the high grade quality and the practicability of mining them economically and quickly. There has never been any question about the urgent demand for them. All the things that pertain to the mining and smelting of ores are at hand in Southern Oklahoma, forming an ideal place for smelters and mills, located in the center of the United States, convenient for distribution. Now that the value of the deposits is determined, all that remains is to provide for development and the utilization of the output for trade demands. The immense quantities of steel products consumed in the oil fields of Oklahoma would absorb a large output of steel mills. This is one of the most interesting discoveries ever made in the state and its development will be closely watched by many interests.