Did You Know…
This Week in Sapulpa History – End of the Line, Trolleys and Buses
Rachel Whitney, Curator, Sapulpa Historical Museum
This week in Sapulpa history, it was announced that the trolley system within city limits would discontinue. Buses would be operating the same routes within town. The Interurban Trolley would continue to Mounds. Kiefer, and Tulsa, however.
Trolley services in Sapulpa began in March 1908. It began with only one trolley car with particularly one destination. It ran from the intersection of the tracks on East Dewey, heading west, toward Main St. It turned south on South Main to Lee Ave. A year later, it expanded along Dewey, heading east toward Mission. It then went south to Lincoln, and east to Boyd.
By 1910, tracks connected Mission to Hobson to Adams, then north to Line St. It continued to Elizabeth to Cobb, and back to Mission, where it continued north to James St. It continued to grow on Lee Ave to Independence, south to Bryan, heading back west to Oklahoma, before heading south to Hastain, then east to reconnect with S Main St. This track would later drive directly south down Main and intersect with the Kelly Lane Park Line; it would also head towards Kiefer.
This was the start of the Sapulpa Interurban. It would connect from Sapulpa to Kiefer and Mounds and Sapulpa to Tulsa. The first line went to Kiefer in 1910. The line to Tulsa began in September 1918. The connection to Mounds began in September 1924.
The line to Tulsa needed to have a loop included to route the heavier, larger cars. The loop was built in the downtown area. The loop was built from Main and Dewey to Hobson and Park, then back to Dewey.
In October 1924, however, it was announced that the trolley in city limits would be closing. In its place would be buses. The interurban connections would continue. This week in history, on October 26th, 1924, passengers wanting to visit one side of the town to the other would use buses instead of the trolley.
The buses would take on the same trolley routes in town. The buses would leave every 30 minutes from around 6:30 am to around 11:30pm. Eastbound destinations included from Hastain on Independence to Dewey, to Linden, to McKinley, to Boyd, to Lincoln. Westbound destinations included Lincoln to Watchorn, to McKinley, to Linden, to Dewey, to Independence, to Bryan, to Oklahoma, to Hastain.
It was also stated that the bus fares would, for now, remain the same as the charges on the street cars. “A greater degree of comfort and pleasure will be afforded by the buses. It will endeavor to serve the public in a more pleasing manner than they could with the present street cars. A schedule that will meet the requirements of a majority of their patrons will be maintained.”
“‘That good, old-time, friendly feeling, the desire to be neighborly,’” was the reason the trolley system declined, stated a worker from Oklahoma Union. “Didn’t know there was that much neighborly feeling in Sapulpa, did you? Some morning when a fellow has nothing else to do, if he would hike out either streetcar line, he would see men and women driving their own cars to pick up those who would otherwise patronize the street cars.” In his opinion, carpooling may have been the reason for decline. “We have been losing money for the last several months. We have been operating street cars at a loss.”
The Interurban would slowly dwindle away. Passenger service on the Kiefer and Mounds lines were discontinued in August 1926. This was just two years after the Mounds connection began. It was said that lines were not making any profit and had to close. The only trolley remained was to Tulsa. In 1926, the compilation of Route 66 and the competition of the automobile began. The line to Tulsa ended in 1933, after the companies changed hands and many went bankrupt.
Sapulpa and Union Transportation Company ran the buses around town, to and from Tulsa, as well. The ownerships changed from time to time over the next decades. “James Lee bought the company in 1959 from Duncan McRae. The line had had a stormy history including a bankruptcy, and when Lee purchased the company, it was running a daily service to Tulsa with two ‘pretty nice buses.’”
In his efforts, Lee also began a new bus route. “‘It’s a gamble, but it will be good for my business and the people in the area, if the residents will support it,’” Lee stated as he began the route between Sapulpa to Kiefer and Mounds. The Union Transportation Company had fares to Kiefer at 41 cents, including tax. “Tickets to Okmulge are $1.01, formerly, there was no bus to Kiefer and Mounds, and to go to Okmulgee, the traveler was routed through Tulsa for $1.52.*”
*Note: with inflation from 1959 41 cents, $1.01, and $1.52 would be $4, $9.85, and $14.82 today.
By 1969, Lee would have at least five buses. The service makes use of a fleet of school-bus type buses, making ten round-trips a day to Tulsa from Sapulpa depot. One-way ticket from Sapulpa to Tulsa costs a passenger 70 cents plus tax, a round-trip fare is $1.30 plus tax.*”
*Note: with inflation from 1969 70 cents and $1.30 would be $5.41 and $10.05 today.
In June 1969, Lee had to make an announcement. He would either have to close the bus company or sell it. “‘It doesn’t show much of a profit, but it could be a real good deal for a young man who could work at it.’” Lee stated that he had spent nearly every day at the depot at 15 N Park for eight years working. The bus depot closed that month due to Lee’s illness.
In July, 1969, owner and operator of the H&H Cab Company, Darold Crawford stepped in and announced he would make the application for depot manager. He worked as Lee tried to recover. Buses had begun to cancel their routes. Mrs. Lee had begun to sell the buses, too. They announced the last routes would be soon.
Ultimately, the city buses ended their route in Sapulpa in 1969*.
*Note: Greyhound and coach buses would continue to Sapulpa Bus Station, on the corner of Hobson and Maple, for some time.
The information found on this page has been researched through Sapulpa (and area) newspapers, Sapulpa Historical Society archives, books, and photographs, Sapulpa yearbooks, city directories, and other local authors. Any other sources will be labeled and named as the research continues. Any mistakes will be noted and adjusted as needed.