A rural Osage County community, Shidler is situated at the junction of State Highways 11 and 18, twenty-nine miles northwest of Pawhuska. Shidler was named for Eugene S. Shidler, a Pawhuska banker and rancher, who founded the town in December 1921. He developed the 160-acre townsite on his land, which was located east-northeast of the Burbank Field. Consequently, Shidler boomed as an oil town.
The Osage Railway, a branch of the Midland Valley Railroad, reached Shidler from Foraker in February 1922. Businesses were quickly built near the Shidler depot, and a post office was soon established. Within three months of its founding, the community had roughly fifteen hundred residents, a school, a bank, a commercial club, and a chamber of commerce. By November 1922 the population had increased to approximately five thousand; public utilities, sidewalks, and a "fire proof" theater had been added; and various civic clubs and fraternal orders (including the Ku Klux Klan) were active in the community. Incorporation and the first city elections had occurred in May.
Shidler had nineteen oil-well supply businesses in 1922. That same year the Phillips Petroleum Company constructed "the world's largest" absorption gasoline plant west of town (six gasoline plants were operating near Shidler in 1930). An estimated forty thousand workers were then employed in the adjacent oil fields. They crowded the community's restaurants and cafés and rented any available lodging. Unfortunately, prosperity attracted crime. Shidler's banks were frequently robbed, and highjackers were common along the roadways. In addition to the petroleum industry, farming and ranching were locally important as well.
Shidler declined with the Osage oil boom during the Great Depression. In 2000 it was a quiet community of 520 residents. In 1930 the first federal census recorded the town's highest population, which was 1,177. In 1940 and 1950 the numbers were 718 and 840, respectively. The population rose slightly to 870 in 1960 before reaching a low of 487 in 1990. At the turn of the twenty-first century Shidler had an aldermanic form of government, an elementary school and a high school, six churches, and the Review newspaper. Construction firms and the petroleum and natural gas industries helped support the economy. Area attractions included the Tall Grass Prairie Preserve.
SEE ALSO: SETTLEMENT PATTERNS.
BIBLIOGRAPHY: Kenny A. Franks, The Osage Oil Boom (Oklahoma City: Oklahoma Heritage Association, 1989). "Shidler, One of Oklahoma's Newly-born Towns," Harlow's Weekly 21 (28 October 1922)."Shidler," Vertical File, Research Division, Oklahoma Historical Society, Oklahoma City.
Jon D. May
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