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GALBREATH, ROBERT (1863-1953)

Pioneer, wildcatter, and entrepreneur Robert Galbreath participated in five Oklahoma Territory land runs. Born in Pickaway County, Ohio, on December 22, 1863, he visited David Payne's Boomers at Kansas in 1884 and traveled to California in 1888, returning through Indian Territory. These trips encouraged Galbreath to join thousands of others in the 1889 race for the Unassigned Lands and to settle in Oklahoma. Along with his younger brother, Herman, Galbreath staked a claim near Hennessey, but they soon sold, relocating to Edmond. There, Robert Galbreath served as a deputy U.S. marshal, a mail carrier for the Star Route, and Edmond's postmaster. He also started a newspaper. He made subsequent runs in part to report for the paper and for land speculation. In 1893 he raced in the Cherokee Outlet Opening and relocated his family (he had married Mary Ellen Kivlehen in 1892) to Perry. There he initiated the Perry Evening Democrat before accepting a 1895 appointment as a United States Commissioner (these were examining judges who determined whether enough evidence existed to send a case through the federal court system), with his headquarters in Shawnee. In 1899 Galbreath moved to Oklahoma City to concentrate on real estate and partnered with Charles Colcord.

With the backing of Colcord and Charles "Gristmill" Jones, Galbreath began wildcatting in the Red Fork Field. Gaining experience and success, he decided to explore farther south. He collaborated with Frank Chesley and drilled a well on the Ida E. Glenn farm, hitting a large oil pool at 1,481 feet on November 22, 1905. As the state's first major oil field, the Glenn Pool ushered in a hectic oil boom period, creating Tulsa as an oil capital, where Galbreath again moved. In 1907 he drilled another successful well in the Bald Hill Field. In 1909 he sold most of his Glenn Pool leases to J. E. Crosbie. In 1912 Galbreath unseated Tate Brady as a Democratic National Committeeman. In 1914 he built the three-story Galbreath Hotel in Bromide, hoping to establish a health spa using the area's mineral water. He also mined for iron and manganese in the region. Robert Galbreath continued his oil activities until he died in Tulsa on December 12, 1953. He attended the Boston Avenue Methodist Church, affiliated with the Elks Lodge, and was a charter member of the 1889er Society, an organization of original participants in the 1889 Land Run.

SEE ALSO: EIGHTY-NINERS, LAND RUNS AND OPENINGS, PETROLEUM.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: Kenny Franks, The Rush Begins: A History of the Red Fork, Cleveland and Glenn Pool Oil Fields (Oklahoma City: Oklahoma Heritage Association, 1984). Frank Galbreath, Glenn Pool . . . and a Little Oil Town of Yesteryear ([Tulsa, Okla.]: Frank Galbreath, 1978). Joseph Thoburn, A Standard History of Oklahoma (Chicago: American Historical Society, 1916). Tulsa (Oklahoma) World, 13 December 1953.

Larry O'Dell

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