Bartlesville was only a decade old in 1907. The town was on the verge of its big oil boom and the Bartlesville Commercial Club was focused on promoting the young town and attracting businesses. It used the slogan, "We can. We will. Bartlesville." as a way to build up community spirit.
A January 19, 1907 article in The Weekly Examiner says the motto “…describes Bartlesville and the spirit of her citizens.” James Easterly and Mrs. J. Gray are credited with coming up with the slogan and its emblem. They even split the $10 prize money for their efforts! This newspaper advertisement from 1907 shows how businesses in Bartlesville used the Commercial Club's new motto to promote themselves.
Advertisement in The Weekly Examiner, August 10, 1907
Thew Bartlesville Boosters baseball team also got into the community spirit by wearing the slogan on the front of their uniforms.
The Boosters played in the Oklahoma-Arkansas-Kansas League (O-A-K). Bartlesville won the league championship in 1907 and were winners of the the first section of the 1908 season. Bartlesville beat Tulsa in the championship series at the end of the ’08 season claiming two league titles in a row.
Here’s the team picture of the Boosters wearing their “We can. We will. Bartlesville.” uniforms. The caption doesn’t list the players first names but has the last names as:
Top Row L to R
McClintock, Hutchison, Love (Captain), St. John, Bradbury, Thomason
Bottom Row L to R
Bartley, Cheney, Campbell, White, Roth, Taylor
Even though the first names are not listed we do know two of them, Larry Cheney and Art Thomason. Both would go on to play in the Major Leagues.
Cheney had the best career by far. He was a right-handed spitball artist who debuted with the Chicago Cubs in 1911. his best year was in 1912 when he pitched in 42 games and went 26-10 with a 2.85 ERA. He would go on to win 20 or more games the next two seasons. In 1915 he was traded to the Brooklyn Robins (later they would be known as the Dodgers). Cheney pitched in the 1916 World Series against Babe Ruth and the Boston Red Sox. Boston won the series 4 games to 1. Cheney finished out his Major League career in 1919 playing for both the Boston Braves and Philadelphia Phillies.
Art Thomason didn’t have quite the MLB career as Cheney. He only played in 20 games with the 1910 Cleveland Naps. Thomason was very popular while he was playing in Bartlesville though. He was called a “fan idol” and went by the nickname of “Little Tom”. He was a left-handed pitcher who also played right field and was said to be the team’s best all around player, “…terrific speed with the biggest curves of any pitcher in the league.”
The Boosters home games were played on a baseball field that was located at what is now Hensley Blvd. and S. Osage Ave, behind where the Family YMCA is today. There are two pictures below. The first is a map of Bartlesville from 1907, you can see the ballpark in the bottom of the picture just a little above and to the left of the “B” in the word Bartlesville. It has empty spaces on two sides of it.
Bartlesville Boosters Ballpark- 1907
This is a picture of the ballpark from 1907 when it was hosting the C.W. Parker Carnival. The merry-go-round is on top of the pitcher’s mound. At the lower right, just on the other side the wooden fence, you can see the wood covered dugout.
The early 1900s was an exciting time for Bartlesville as the town was growing into a major player in the oil industry. The more people who came to town the more need there was for entertainment and I’m sure the Boosters filled that role proudly.
We’re celebrating the Boosters and early day Bartlesville with two of our vintage t-shirts. Click here to order the 1907 Bartlesville Boosters O-A-K League Championship shirt and click her to order the We can. We will. Bartlesville shirt.