BIG ANNOUNCEMENT: Test Read Part of Our Next Book
One-Hundred years ago today, Tulsa’s leadership unceremoniously broke ground on a beautiful new home for city hall. While exceptional in many ways, Tulsa’s new Municipal Building was not entirely unlike other elegant city halls and courthouses funded by Oklahoma’s oil boom. What made it exceptional—especially in the eyes of Tulsans—was that it was finally getting done.
The road leading to something as foundational and common as a city hall should have been a cake walk for Tulsa, the Magic City, the city that could do anything it set its mind to. Instead, the pursuit of a city hall became a long, difficult, and dramatic story burdened by too much success and complicated by bootlegged whisky, prostitution, murder, and corruption at the highest levels of Tulsa’s government.
Coming this Fall, Müllerhaus Legacy will release our latest book on Tulsa’s remarkable history, Seat of Power: Tulsa’s Arduous Pursuit of Governance and a House Strong Enough to Hold It. (That’s a working title. It may change ten times before the book is released. But that will do for now). More than just a centennial history of the Old Municipal Building at 5th & Cincinnati, it’s also the history of what it was like trying to manage the Magic City. It wasn’t easy.
Following is the first section of the first chapter. I hope you will take a moment to read it and share your opinions. I, Douglas Miller, am authoring this with the exceptional aid of our dynamite researcher, longtime Tulsa journalist John Hamill. Also, keep a look out. I will be asking for some public participation in identifying a few photos and hunting down a few facts.
I’m so very, very excited about this project. I hope you like it too.
Chapter One: The Wild Years
Andrew Perryman had been on one of his infamous tears for three solid days before accidentally killing himself in a spectacular fashion while the whole town watched. The drama unfolded along Tulsa’s Main Street on All Hallows’ Eve, 1894. The incident was reported in newspapers across the region, which was somewhat unusual given the profligate character of Tulsa’s early days. An intoxicated troublemaker meeting a violent end was so common in the rowdy little village that the incident might never have garnered special attention had Andrew Perryman not been the son of the chief of the Creek Nation—and had he not taken one of Tulsa’s most prominent and beloved citizens with him to the grave.
The twenty-one-year-old Perryman, along with a group of friends and fellow Creek Indians, had been drunk and disorderly for days. But the trouble in town didn’t start until the group ran across a gathering of boys near the train depot. Perryman was said to have taken a few shots at the boys’ toes just for the pleasure of seeing them jump. Then, vowing to “shoot up Main Street,” he and his friends stumbled over to the front porch of the Hall & Company store on the northwest corner of First & Main Streets. The porch at this establishment was a popular gathering place and Tulsa’s unofficial center of business and society. The proprietor of the store was J. M. Hall, a cordial shopkeeper considered by his peers to be the founding father of Tulsa. As was so often the case in such situations—of which there were many—the town had little more to rely on than Hall’s amiable and calming nature to defuse potentially violent situations. On this day, however, despite Hall’s best efforts to reason with the young men, Perryman and his friends proceeded to make Main Street their personal shooting gallery in a demonstration of drunken marksmanship that went on until the group ran out of ammunition.
Across Main Street and a little north from Hall & Company’s front porch stood a hardware and dry goods shop called the Archer Store. Established by an orphaned, mixed-blood Cherokee named Thomas Jefferson “Jeff” Archer, the store was credited by the modest Mr. Hall as being Tulsa’s first business. Truthfully, both Archer and Hall came to Tulsa at about the same time. Selling supplies out of their tent stores, both had followed the railroad construction crews as they cut their way deep into the heart of Indian Territory. In the summer of 1882, Archer found himself with Hall and a handful of other opportunity seekers at a newly established train depot that the Frisco Railroad identified as “Tulsa.” Archer put down roots, and, in friendly competition with Hall’s store on the west side of Main, he quickly grew his own successful business on the east side.
It was into the Archer Store that Andrew Perryman staggered in search of shells to reload his six-shooter. Archer and Perryman were known to be friends, but when Archer tried to talk the inebriated Perryman out of reloading his gun, Perryman threated to kill him. Archer sternly reminded Perryman of their friendship and assured him that Perryman wouldn’t want to kill a friend. Stories differ as to what exactly happened next, but all sources agree that Perryman somehow ended up with a loaded gun. And then, whether accidently or on purpose, he fired several shots inside the store, one of which hit the supply of black powder that Archer kept in kegs beneath the front counter.
A series of three nearly simultaneous explosions lifted the roof and blew out the side of the building. Archer was thrown through the heavy merchandise shelves along the side wall. In addition to the concussive damage his body took from the blast, his clothes also caught fire. He immediately freed himself from the wreckage, then proceeded to run down Main Street, consumed in a plume of smoke and fire. Perryman, having received the full force of the blast, was blown upward through the ceiling. He was eventually found on what was left of the roof. His body was so badly burned, lacerated, and broken that he was nearly unrecognizable. Within hours, he was dead.
Although Archer survived the initial explosion, his wounds also proved to be fatal. While friends and family gathered at his bedside, he lingered on in desperate agony at his home near Main & Easton for just over a month. But in early December of 1894, thirty-three-year-old Jeff Archer finally succumbed to his injuries, leaving behind two children—ages three and one—a wife who was five months’ pregnant, and a town utterly heartbroken.
 As related here, the story of the deaths of Jeff Archer and Andrew Perryman was compiled from the following sources:
1) J. M. Hall, The Beginning of Tulsa (Tulsa, c. 1933), 17–18.
2) Nina Lane Dunn, Tulsa’s Magic Roots (Tulsa: Oklahoma Publishing Company, 1979), 357–58.
3) Angie Debo, Tulsa: From Creek Town to Oil Capital (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1943), 73–74.
4) Susan Everly-Douze, Tulsa Times: A Pictorial History: The Early Years (Tulsa: World Publishing Company, 1986), 101.
5) Nancy Schallner, “Tulsa Pioneer: T. J. Archer,” Tulsa Gal, November 18, 2009 (accessed May 8, 2017) www.tulsagal.net.
6) Nancy Schallner, “T. J. Archer, Part 2,” Tulsa Gal, November 27, 2009 (accessed May 8, 2017) www.tulsagal.net.
7) “A Can of Powder Explodes at Tulsa, Killing the Chief’s Son,” The Indian Journal (Eufaula, Oklahoma), November 2, 1894.
8) “Killed by a Powder Explosion,” Muskogee Phoenix, November 3, 1894.
9) “Exploding Powder,” The Weekly Chieftain (Vinita, Oklahoma), November 8, 1894.