Day 1: In Bartlesville, there’s one name you need to know: Frank Phillips. The founder of Phillips Petroleum ushered Oklahoma into the oil boom that lasted from 1900 through the1940s and almost single-handedly put the town on the map. A practical businessman, Phillips maintained peaceful relations with blue bloods and outlaws alike to get ahead. You can see Phillips’ legacy today at Bartlesville’s Discovery Park, where a reproduction of the Nellie Johnstone #1, the first oil well that gushed in 1897, comes alive on a regular schedule thanks to a high-pressured water system that recreates a blowout. The excellent Phillips Petroleum Company Museum is within walking distance of Discovery Park, and nearby eateries the Rolling Pin and Frank & Lola’s serve delicious grub. It’s hard to miss downtown’s Price Tower, a high-rise designed by Frank Lloyd Wright that soars above the prairie landscape.
Day 2: Twelve miles southwest of Bartlesville, the Frank Phillips Woolaroc Ranch is where Phillips entertained tycoons, statesmen, and the occasional outlaw. Today, the ranch is open to the public and tends herds of longhorns and bison and hosts a Mountain Man Rendezvous. The ranch museum includes an impressive Western art collection, with works by Frederic Remington, C.M. Russell, and Thomas Moran. Every year, the ranch hosts a Cow Thieves & Outlaws Reunion (a tradition started by Phillips himself) with country music, ranch-style fare, and a Western art show. Back in the day, everyone had to check their guns and their differences at the door to ensure a night of peaceful revelry.
Day 3: The town of Dewey, ten minutes north of Bartlesville, was home to cowboy and silent film star Tom Mix. Across the street from the old (restored) Dewey Hotel, the Tom Mix Museum is stuffed with Mix memorabilia and history, with exhibits on his horses, films, and his life in Oklahoma. East of Dewey, Prairie Song is the lifetime project of Kenneth Tate & Marilyn Moore-Tate. This lovingly recreated Old West town is much like many that dotted the Oklahoma landscape during the Sooner Land Rush days and includes a jail, bank, saloon, bordello, and livery stable. Prairie Song’s mission “to preserve and honor the heritage of Pioneers who crossed the plains to settle in Indian Territory” is well served.
Where to stay: The new Hilton Garden Inn is conveniently located and nestled among 1920s-era brick buildings on Frank Phillips Blvd. 918-336-0808, www.hiltongardeninn.com