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Oklahoma Family Tree Stories

This beautiful sculpture of three redbud trees with gold and silver leaves by artist Robin Starke is located just outside the Eleanor and John Kirkpatrick Research Center in the Oklahoma History Center. Each leaf of the Oklahoma Family Tree memorializes an Oklahoma family with the family surname, first name(s), and the town or county where they lived. In addition, a short family history will be preserved in the digital family history book at the base of the tree. This is a great way for your family to make history and benefit future generations at the same time. To find out how to honor your own family with a leaf visit the Oklahoma Family Tree Project page.

Champlin Family

When the Cherokee Strip was opened to non-Indian settlement in a land run on September 16, 1893, Illinois native and future Oklahoma oil pioneer Herbert Hiram (H. H.) Champlin (1867-1944) arrived at the bustling town of Enid on the Rock Island Railway to stake his claim. After proving up his claim, he returned to McPherson, Kansas to marry Airy Delight Noble. The couple returned to Enid in 1895, and H. H. promptly opened a hardware store. They established their home on North Independence Street and kept a cow in the back lot to provide milk for their four children.

Later, H. H. founded the First National Bank of Enid. He brought in his first oil well on Christmas Day, 1916, and he quickly came to understand the importance of controlling all aspects of petroleum production. Champlin expanded his holdings to include a refinery, pipelines, and ultimately gas stations extending from Texas to Iowa. Champlin's company constructed a pipeline to connect his numerous Oklahoma City wells to the Enid refinery. Another pipeline stretched six hundred miles from the refinery to a distribution point in Iowa.

Champlin was motivated by a passion for America's free-market economy. Even the Great Depression failed to dissuade him of his bedrock principles. While the Depression toppled banks and businesses across the land, Oklahoma Governor William "Alfalfa Bill" Murray ordered limits on oil production, a measure that Champlin vigorously opposed. Their relationship hit rock bottom when Governor Murray, alarmed by the prospect of frightened depositors seeking to withdraw their funds, fell in step with national policies and ordered banks to close. When Champlin refused, Governor Murray ordered national guardsmen to evict him from his bank. Oklahoma thus became the only state in American history where a bank was closed by force of arms.

When it went up for sale in 1954, Champlin Refining Company stood as the largest privately-owned, integrated oil company in the United States. H. H. and Airy held all the company's stock until H. H. died in 1944. At that time, stock ownership passed on to family members. H. H.'s son, Joe Roble Champlin, became president of the company.

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