By Gail Moore Woltkamp
Sinclair Pipeline Company 🦕❤️
One of my first toys as a child was an inflatable Sinclair Dinosaur. Many pictures of my early childhood years show me sprawled out on a blanket with that green dinosaur. Various Sinclair collectibles graced my home during those early years. This was because my mom worked for Sinclair Pipeline Company, (affiliate of Sinclair Oil Corporation), in Independence, Kansas.
By the time I was born in the mid-1960s, Mom was on her sixteenth year of working as an executive secretary for Sinclair. The company, itself, was on its sixtieth. Unique for a town that reached it’s peak in population at around 12,000, (and where, by the way, Harry Sinclair grew up), the headquarters in Independence, Kansas was a substantial operation employing a large percentage of Sinclair’s workforce.
Merger and ARCO Pipeline Company ❇️
When I turned three, in 1969, Atlantic Richfield Company (an already merged entity between Atlantic Refining Company and Richfield Oil Corporation) acquired the Sinclair holdings, becoming ARCO Pipeline Company/Subsidiary of Atlantic Richfield. For the next twenty-six years, this ARCO branch remained in the Independence office location.
Many of our close friends and family members held office jobs in the classic and now historic building located near the town’s downtown area. ARCO’s contribution to the overall health and wealth of the town’s economy was immeasurable.
Through the late eighties and early nineties, ARCO gradually transferred its Independence offices to new locations. By 1995, remaining departments moved to Houston, Texas, capping off nearly eighty years combined, through each company’s tenures, in our unique Kansas town.
Prairie Oil and Gas Company 🤎
The Prairie Oil and Gas Company was a rival of Harry Sinclair’s. Established in 1900, with roots from the Standard Oil Company of New Jersey, the company was bought by Standard Oil’s Prairie Pipeline System and then acquired by Sinclair in 1932. This, of course, is the abbreviated version of its early evolution, as pipeline companies traditionally and consistently endure mergers and acquisitions.
In its first four years, the Prairie Oil and Gas Company offices and refinery were located in Neodesha, Kansas, twenty miles north of Independence. According to “Oil And Independence” (Compiled by R.L. Wells), the Prairie Oil and Gas Company moved its offices from Neodesha to Independence in 1904 to a space inside the town’s Carl-Leon Hotel.
In 1916 a new office building was erected for the Prairie Oil and Gas Company on the corner of 9th and Myrtle in Independence. The company would operate in this location until becoming home to Sinclair Pipeline Company, later, ARCO Pipeline. The building would eventually undergo a more modern look as shown in my previous photos.
Original Pipeline in Oklahoma 🧡
Prairie Oil and Gas built its first pipeline in Northeast Oklahoma running from Bartlesville to Humboldt, Kansas. During its earliest days, the company extended a pipeline north into Copan, which was once Indian Territory.
This area, now Washington County, is where my dad’s family farm was located from the early 1900s through the early 1970s. My dad’s uncle was employed by the company when the original pipelines were being built through that area.
Information on the “History of Bartlesville and Washington County” website, reveals the company also initiated Oklahoma’s first storage tank that carried oil and gas by rail from the Bartlesville depot to the refinery in Kansas.
Find out more! 🦕 ❇️ ⛽️💙
My mom retired from ARCO in 1991 after forty years of service to the company. Although my green toy dinosaur is long gone, I still have a Sinclair ashtray, ARCO coffee mug, roadmaps and a brochure or two that are all part of my Independence, Kansas collections.
Sinclair and ARCO collections are on display at the Independence Historical Museum and Arts Center, located at 8th & Myrtle Streets in Independence, Kansas, a block away from the “ARCO Building.”
Many valuable sources relating to the petroleum and pipeline industry used for this piece can be found in my references.
A Great Name in Oil: Sinclair through Fifty Years; F.W. Dodge Company, 1966
History of Bartlesville and Washington County, Oklahoma website
Oil And Independence; Compiled by R.L. Wells; November 12, 1987