Home > PublicationsEncyclopedia >  Walters, Colonel Ellsworth

WALTERS, COLONEL ELLSWORTH (1865–1946).

Colonel (his real name) Ellsworth Walters was known as "the official auctioneer of the Osage Nation" for his role in the petroleum industry in the early twentieth century. Born at Adrian, Illinois, on August 21, 1865, he was named in honor of Col. Elmer Ephraim Ellsworth, the first publicized Union casualty of the Civil War. Walters moved with his parents to the Cherokee Nation, Indian Territory, in 1866 and grew up near present Chouteau, Oklahoma, where his father worked among the Cherokee.

Walters became a deputy U.S. marshal at age nineteen, but he gained distinction as an auctioneer. Self-styled as "the world's champion auctioneer," he reportedly sold livestock, real estate, and mineral leases in some twenty states. In 1916 he was hired by Osage Indian agent J. George Wright to auction mineral leases within the Osage oil fields.

Walters conducted the public sales at Pawhuska beneath the Million Dollar Elm and inside the Constantine and Kiheka theaters. The auctions often lasted ten hours or more and were attended by such notable oilmen as Ernest W. Marland, Frank Phillips, L. E. (Lee Eldas) Phillips, and William G. Skelly. On March 18, 1924, Walters secured a bid of $1,995,000 from Josh Cosden, at that time the highest-paid price for a 160-acre tract. By 1928 Walters had earned around $157 million for the Osage tribe. He presided over the lease auctions throughout the 1930s.

The Osage expressed their appreciation for Walters by giving him a diamond-studded badge and a diamond ring. He repaid their kindness in 1926 by commissioning the Bond of Friendship, a life-size statue of Walters and Osage Chief Bacon Rind shaking hands. The monument is located in Walters's hometown, Skedee, Oklahoma. He died on February 15, 1946, and was buried at Fairfax, Oklahoma.

Jon D. May

See also: OSAGE OIL, PETROLEUM INDUSTRY

Bibliography

Bill Burchardt, "Osage Oil," The Chronicles of Oklahoma 41 (Autumn 1963).

Robert Gregory, Oil in Oklahoma (Muskogee, Okla.: Leake Industries, 1976).

Colonel E. Walters Interview, "Indian-Pioneer History," 48:392–396, Research Division, Oklahoma Historical Society, Oklahoma City.

Terry P. Wilson, The Underground Reservation: Osage Oil (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1985).

Copyright and Terms of Use

No part of this site may be construed as in the public domain.

Copyright to all articles and other content in the online and print Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History is held by the Oklahoma Historical Society. This includes individual articles (copyright to OHS by author assignment) and corporately (as a complete body of work), including web design, graphics, searching functions, and listing/browsing methods. Copyright to all of these materials is protected under United States and International law.

Users agree not to download, copy, modify, sell, lease, rent, reprint, or otherwise distribute these materials, or to link to these materials on another web site, without authorization of the Oklahoma Historical Society. Individual users must determine if their use of the Materials falls under United States copyright law's "Fair Use" guidelines and does not infringe on the proprietary rights of the Oklahoma Historical Society as the legal copyright holder of The Encyclopedia and part or in whole.

Photo credits: All photographs presented in the published and online Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture are the property of the Oklahoma Historical Society and are held in the agency's Research Division Photo Archives.


Citation

The following (as per The Chicago Manual of Style, 16th edition) is the preferred citation for articles:
Jon D. May, "Walters, Colonel Ellsworth," The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture, www.okhistory.org (accessed October 18, 2017).

About the Encyclopedia | Terms of Use | Using the Encyclopedia