|City/Town: • Slick|
|Location Class: • Disappearing Town • Railroad • School|
|Built: • 1920 | Abandoned: • N/A|
|Historic Designation: • National Register of Historic Places|
|Status: • Abandoned • Restored|
|Photojournalist: • Don Taylor • Emily Cowan • Erin Garrett|
Slick, Oklahoma is the truest example of an oil town if there ever was one. Starting as just a lone cottonfield it was the discovery of oil by Tom B. Slick that put it on the map. Within a short time, the oil rush commenced and tents and hastily constructed shacks became stores, cafes, pool halls and various kinds of businesses popped up. March 15, 1920, was groundbreaking day when the first construction work began on the townsite. A post office was established on April 28, 1920, Carroll W. Holmes serving as the first postmaster.
In the coming months, the Oklahoma Southwestern Railway Co. was organized and controlled in the town. A railroad was constructed from Bristow to Nuyaka and was officially complete on July 15, 1920. Within three years of the discovery, the town had gone from zero to a population of over two thousand, many seeking to get rich quick. The town had around 700 producing oil wells within the immediate vicinity. It was a prominent pecan, cotton, grain, and lumber shipping points. Three years passed and Slick boasted a live newspaper, two banks, seven lumber yards, a cotton gin, three wholesale and retail grain companies, an oil field machine shop, seven oil field supply houses, three churches, a firehouse, and masonic lodges.
A disastrous fire was the demise of ten buildings within the Slick Business District in September 1922. It happened at five in the morning when a drunk man in the Murray Rooming House was attempting to light his cigarette, accidentally dropping the lit match in the process. In the midst of the chaos, the man failed to get help in time to potentially put out the blaze before it grew stronger. The fire engulfed the following businesses; The Murray Rooming House, The Slick Mattress Factory, New Columbia Hotel, Harness Shop, The Day Restaurant, Dressmaking Establishment, The Elite Rooming House, and the Depot Cafe. The fire threatened to engulf all of the businesses of the town, the Slick Fire Department with quick thinking placed dynamite in the Dressmaking establishment and the Hudson Law Firm buildings to stop it in its tracks. Calls for help were sent out to Bristow, Beggs, and Sapulpa who all obliged and poured into the town ready to assist.
The oil boom didn’t last long, only a few years for the town and by 1930 they had lost their railway. The fire of 1923, loss of the oil boom and railway entering into the Great Depression were a recipe for a disappearing town. More businesses continued to leave due to the loss of its distribution and shipping point, further damaging the population of the town. By 1940 Slick only had about five hundred residents, as of 2020 the population has hovered around 150-200.
Slick High School
Built: 1921 Abandoned: 1969
During the establishment of Slick in 1920 a one-room schoolhouse was built to teach the small but growing population of students. It was constructed by citizens of Slick and materials to build it were donated from local businesses. But just two short years later there were around 2oo students in kindergarten through eighth grade within the Slick School District. Conditions became extremely crowded for the students and the two teachers. It became increasingly apparent that a new bigger and modern school would need to be built. Thus a $110,000 two-story, fourteen room, brick school was built and completed in 1922. The new Slick High School was the first of the schools in the district to offer a four-year course for students and employed nineteen teachers as opposed to just two. The school reached a total of 1,000 students enrolled within its first year of opening.
The Superintendent of Slick, Dan Baker, soon ran into legal trouble within the school. On April 23, 1926, W.H. Thomas and J.P. Aston were met in court by O.W. Bray who was suing them for allegedly conniving with Dan Baker and his wife as school officials at an exorbitant salary and to mess with the school board election. A criminal action pending against the three, they were charged with making false canvas and returns of the election held in school district 75 at Slick. The case was dismissed shortly after to which O.W. Bray rebutted with an election contest case against N.S. Kutch, whose board seat he claims he rightfully won. He then filed to have another trial later that year.
Like most oil towns the boom died out and the population dwindled, school costs became too high and attendance too low. The State Department of Education declined to renew the accreditation of Slick High School at the end of the 1969 school year. The remaining students would transfer to nearby Bristow, Kellyville and Sapulpa school districts. “We’ve lived right across the street from that school for 42 years. I just couldn’t stand to look out the window and not see it anymore,” said Ila Bryant. Slick residents rallied to try and save their school building forming a committee and raising funds in a motion to restore and preserve the school.
L’Ouverture Public School
Built: 1940’s Abandoned: 1960’s
By 1923 the African American population had grown to include a separate school, a Baptist church, and a hotel. Fall of 1939 rolled around and the Separate School of Slick was condemned by the Slick County Superintendent Charles W. Holcomb noting unsafe conditions as the reason. Ron Stephens, the state WPA administrator submitted approval for a new separate school. The construction of the school would pull $11,774 from the WPA and $6,468 from the Slick school district totaling $18,243. This would become L’Ouverture Public School, named after Haitian General and Revolutionist François-Dominique Toussaint Louverture. Construction would commence and be completed in the early 1940s with indoor bathrooms and a septic tank added in 1953.
L’Ouverture Public School brought up many kind, compassionate, and admirable students through its doors. One of those students being Phyllis Ann Henderson who made newspaper headlines in 1953. Thelma Eden was the executive secretary of the Sapulpa Tuberculosis Association at the time and was focused on selling the Christmas seals for the holidays. She had already had a few students selling them to raise funds for the association when she received a letter. That letter was from young Phyllis Henderson simply stating “Will you please send me some Christmas Seals to sell?” It was the first individual request she had received, and with that she packed her car with posters, stamps, brochures and a money collection box and headed to Slick. Phyllis showed initiative and it was because of her that they got the chance to participate in the Christmas seals activities.
Another one of those students was Nathan Hare, born in Slick on April 9, 1933. Moving around a lot during his childhood years he finally came back to Slick in time for high school. Nathan attended L’Ouverture School and had dreams of becoming a boxer. After graduation, he was persuaded to attend the historically Black college, Langston University. Since he could not box professionally until he was nineteen he obliged. Hare went on to become a “Black Power” activist publishing books, studies, and The Black Scholar. The Black Scholar is a journal of Black studies and research. He has since won dozens of awards, received two Ph.D’s, has degrees in sociology and psychology, as well as being an activist.
Slick Train Depot
Built: 1920 Status: Restored
The Oklahoma Southwestern Railroad Depot was built in 1920 allegedly built by Tom Slick himself and his father-in-law J.A. Frates. A railroad was constructed from Bristow to Nuyaka and was officially complete on July 15, 1920. The boom was short-lived and by January 1930 the railroad was abandoned and the population had fallen to less than 500 people.
By the 1970s, the depot was in use as the First Baptist Church of Slick. The depot is constructed of native stone, it is solid and has been well preserved. The roof is covered with composition shingle and a steeple has been added. The main entrance on the south is covered by the depot portico reading ‘Slick’ above it.
Article by AOK Photojournalist Emily Cowan.
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JR., JENK J. “FRIENDLY GHOSTS // Some Life Still Left in Slick, Shamrock.” Tulsa World, 25 Feb. 2019, tulsaworld.com/archive/friendly-ghosts-some-life-still-left-in-slick-shamrock/article_b5e2db4f-59f4-53a0-85a4-feb63280314e.html.[/accordion][/accordions]