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Frank Dolton
By: Louis G. Dolton, Jr.
23 Jan 2010

      Frank was born February 13, 1864, in Nortonville, Kansas. His parents were Joseph Hahn Dolton, from Illinois, and Sarah Isabell Thornton, from Missouri. The Kansas State Census of 1865 indicates that on 26 Jul 1865 Frank was living in Jefferson, Jefferson County, Kansas, in the same household with his parents and two older siblings. By the 1880 US Census Frank’s parents had moved the family to Washington, DeKalb County, Missouri. He had five brothers and one sister living with him at that time.

      It was there in DeKalb County that Frank found and married Ida Olive Ford. In notes of conversations with Elza Dolton, (one of Frank's children), he records that Frank and Ida lived near Maysville, Kansas. Frank's bible indicates that his first four children were born in Amity, Missouri. Amity and Maysville were only about five miles apart in North-West Missouri. Since they were living on a farm it was probably somewhere between the two cities and it could easily be said they were from either one of them.

      Frank's family came to Oklahoma Territory in 1900 settling on a farm near Edmond. According to his obituary he moved to Oklahoma City in 1901 and began trading in real estate.

      In a pamphlet, "Mustang: It's Beginnings (MIB)," by Spence and Reding in celebration of America's Bicentennial 1776, the pamphlet indicates that in September 1901 Frank bought a 160 acre farm from Samuel Maxwell for $3200. Frank and Ida must have celebrated too because nine months later their first Mustang child, William, was born.

      Frank and Ida were married to each other their entire life. Together they had eight children. They were: William Jewel Dolton, Florence May Dolton, Nancy Isabell Dolton, Thomas Frank Dolton, Joseph Gilbert Dolton, Elza Garland Dolton, Ines Olive Dolton, and Daisy Irma Dolton. All of these children except Daisy were married and most had children of their own. Daisy had a birth defect and lived in a home all her life.

      The farm was the quarter section touching the northwest corner of Mustang. From this quarter section was carved the site for Mustang School when the 4 school districts combined to create a school of grades one through twelve, (discussed later). Frank also gave about 10 acres of this land located on Mustang Road to the city for a cemetery. For some reason, he later sued to recover this property but lost. An auto service station was built on the northeast corner at the intersection of Mustang Road and Highway 41. The station was operated by his son Thomas then later by Elza.

      From his first introduction to Mustang, Frank was active in every aspect of life in the growing town. Although he did raise crops on his farm, he became involved in trading and business ventures. In 1902 some merchants and farmers got together and formed the Mustang Commercial Club. Its purpose was to promote Mustang. Frank was on the committee that drew up the club's charter and at its second meeting July 29, 1902, Frank was elected a director of the club.

      Mustang was located near the intersection of four school districts and felt their needs would be better served if they had their own school district. All four surrounding districts and the County Superintendent of Public Schools had no objection and it was left to the Superintendent to set the boundaries. The Territorial Congress had set the original school district boundaries and granted the power to change or add school districts to the County Superintendent. After a few months, Mustang officials hadn't heard anything, so Frank and two others were dispatched to El Reno, (the county seat), to consult the Superintendent. He drew the boundaries and the Mustang School District was born July 1902. In September 1902, in the Modern Woodman Hall, the school board was elected with Frank as its first director.

      Most of the town meetings like those of the Commercial Club and School Board took place in the Modern Woodman of America Hall. This hall was on the second floor of the Forster Building above the Post Office and General Store. Modern Woodman of America, (a mutual insurance company) was a vital force in territorial Mustang. They supported all civic and business activities which would benefit the community.

      Frank was a Modern Woodman agent and a member of the Royal Neighbors Camp, (an auxiliary of Modern Woodman of America). Sometimes when there was something that needed to be done and no sponsors could be found in the community, Modern Woodman stepped in with their resources to help. This explains to me why the Dolton’s purchased and maintained Modern Woodman life insurance policies for generations.

      On July 14, 1902, Frank was one of a number of residents who formed the Mustang Oil & Gas Co. They never did any drilling but Frank believed in the project and helped put together the Mustang Valley Oil & Gas Co. with Frank as its chairman. A lot of stock was sold in Mustang and even in Oklahoma City. There is no record of any drilling being done, but I wonder if there are any records still in existence of that oil stock venture.

      The Mustang Mail, (a local periodical), had an article in February 1903 that noted the town's only wagon scale, office and coal bin in town had been sold by Frank Dolton to R. A. McNeilly.

      On September 25, 1903, Frank Dolton and Fred L. Mohr were two of the four directors chartered by the City to operate the Oklahoma Union Coverall Company of Mustang. This was an opportunity to secure jobs for the growing town. Such an overall and shirt factory would employ twenty to thirty, people. The machinery for the overall factory was in place sixteen powerful machines, powered by a six horsepower gasoline engine connected to an overhead pulley system, a button machine and other equipment. The capacity of the factory was sixteen to twenty dozen garments a day. They expected to employ twenty four people to start, mostly local girls who were to apply for work at the Mustang State Bank. The style of the garment was a popular one and there were already enough orders to operate one week.

     From time to time, the Oklahoma Union Overall Company was not able to operate full time because of a shortage of cloth. All they could do was wait for the orders of material to arrive.

      The size and brand tag of the overall was of unique design in that it was a cowboy and Indian pulling in opposite directions on lariat ropes attached to the legs of the overall. This was to show the strength of the overall.

     The factory continued in business and, in July 1905, moved to the building on the second lot north of the Mustang Mail office so the Shewey Hardware could occupy the premises. Shewey Hardware had burned down and needed space to operate. This was probable one of the inactive periods of the overall factory.

      There is no account of the sale and removal of the factory equipment from Mustang because of missing issues of the Mustang Mail, but, in 1906, the Yukon Sun reported that Mr. Knuts who had bought and moved the factory from Mustang had died.

      In the fall of 1904, it was announced that "the whole country from Union City to Dr. Spitlers is a web of telephones." (This was an area of about 500 square miles.) There were, in fact, four private houses with telephones. Frank's house was one of the first. Frank was a member of the committee who tried to get "long distance" service into Mustang and was the first to call "long distance" some 30 miles to Oklahoma City in June 1905.

      Frank was also a director/trustee of the Mustang Canning Co. chartered June 19, 1909. Frank went to Oklahoma City to negotiate with the Frisco Railroad to run a railroad spur to the factory. There is no evidence that the factory ever went into operation. In fact there was a note in the Mustang Enterprise (successor to the Mail) that in September 1912, the Hastings Industrial Co., suppliers of the heavy equipment to the Mustang Canning Co. had filed suit against "five local parties." This might have included Frank, as he was one of seven trustees whose name appears on the original articles of incorporation.

      In 1904 Frank promoted the organization of the "Anti Horse Thief Association. This was done and the group cooperated with other associations all over the country to locate stolen horses.

      The farmers surrounding Mustang grew a variety of crops and shipped some of them, including cans 5 gallon cans of cream and dozens of eggs, to Oklahoma City by train. Frank became closely associated with railroad personnel as owner /operator of the coaling shed and wagon scale.

      Other farmers, including Charles Mohr would load their wagon with produce one evening, then leave early the next morning to peddle their goods in Oklahoma City to stores or at the Farmer's Public Market. This trip of 10 hours or more often required them to take lodging or sleep under the wagon.

      A major crop being introduced was peach and other fruit orchards. Frank saw the potential of buying, packing and reselling produce from the peach orchards. After making proper contacts with metropolitan warehouses, Frank took a chance, purchased the peach crop while still on the tree and operated a peach marketing business for several years.

      The following is the text of an article on "Mustang Heritage" published in the Mustang Mirror (successor to the Enterprise) November 6, 1974:

      Literally tons of peaches were grown in the community of Mustang before the climate changed and the orchard growers became discouraged fighting the elements. According to Elza Dolton, (a life long resident of Mustang), freezing weather began to come earlier in the season so that more and more of the peach crops were severely damaged or killed.

      Frank Dolton would contract with the growers early in the spring when the peaches were only the size of a thimble. Later in the summer, he would return, when the peach crop was ripe to have the peaches picked by local crews and workers from Oklahoma City, taken to his sorting buildings to be packed and readied for rail shipment to markets in Oklahoma City, St Louis, Kansas City and other metropolitan areas. This venture lasted from about the time of statehood until after World War I.

     As many as 20 train carloads were shipped per day from Mustang with most being routed to the Harmon Evans Commission Company, St Louis, Missouri. It was not uncommon to see 10 to 15 train car loads roll out each day.

      Elza Dolton recalled how he would collect the ripest fruit which was called culls because the ripe fruit would not ship well, and sell them to passengers on trains as they made 10 minute stops in Mustang. He would peddle the baskets of fruit to passengers for fifty cents and his most lucrative customers were World War I soldiers who rode the troop trains.

      More than harvesting was involved throughout the growing season as the spraying process to prevent insect spoilage often took as long as six weeks. There were thousands of acres of orchards. The entire Modern Day "Mustang Heights" residential section was covered by the branching peach trees.

      Workers came from Oklahoma City and surrounding towns at peach picking time. They were needed in the fields, driving wagons, in the sheds, loading trains and of course, to supervise the work.

      Provision was made for those who came to share in the harvesting as they were fed at noon in an empty store building and slept in barn lofts in the community. Elza said that Frank, his father, would hire women to do the massive job of cooking for the crews. Foremen were selected from the local people to supervise the picking jobs. Elza, who was 10 or 11 years old during the peak of the growing time, ran an ice water wagon on a one horse drawn hack to provide ice water to the pickers.

      In addition to the peach packing endeavor, Frank and Ida's family of eight helped with the operation of their coal yard and grain elevator. Coal was then used to burn in the residential homes and to operate the threshing machines during wheat harvest.

      Other crops grown on the Frank Dolton farm, and sometimes packed and shipped as were the peaches, were watermelons, cantaloupes, wheat, corn, oats and cotton.

      In 1926, the teller at the Mustang bank stole all the money from the bank. It was uninsured. There was no bank insurance at that time. Frank Dolton lost a quarter of a million dollars. In 1927, a tornado came through South Mustang, kinda following the railroad tracks. Franks packing facilities and coal facility were located along the tracks and were destroyed along with his hotel. In 1928, Frank got caught in the middle of a railroad dispute and lost a trainload of fruit he was shipping to Kansas City for the Eastern market. In 1929, the stock market crashed. Frank had owned several farms but by this time he owed a lot of money and had to sell the farms to pay his debts. In spite of this, when Franks two eldest daughters, Florence and Bell, married, he gave their families horses, harness, plows, and the accoutrements necessary to make a living farming.

      Frank and Ida retired about 1935 moving to a Mustang location then finally to another house in Mustang about a half mile South of Highway 152, two blocks east of Mustang Road on the northeast side of Mustang across the street from his son Elza. He lived there until about 1948 helping Elza, his wife, Louisa (Mohr) Dolton, and their three sons farm 18 acres of truck crops on the Northeast edge of Mustang. He actively worked in the local farm fields, supervised the boys and passed along his farming skills directing most of the work on the truck farm. A major income was selling plants from the yearly sweet potato bed and working in the wheat harvest driving a wagon and team of mules with his grandson.

      His grandson vividly remembers the daily ritual of checking in at home after school crossing street to Grandfather Frank's house to read the Daily Oklahoman, then to be reminded that the animals had to be fed, watered, milked and in season, crops to be cultivated, then harvested and traded or stored.

      During this time, Frank took farm produce to Oklahoma City to sell wholesale to shopkeepers from the docks at the Farmers Public Market. Occasionally he worked his son Thomas' produce store (a rented stall inside the market building), while Thomas drove a truck to rural regions of Oklahoma, Texas, and Arkansas to buy produce to be sold in his shop. Frank attended local farm auctions and the Yukon Livestock Auction where he bought and sold farm animals. Other activities often found him serving as Master of the Mustang Masonic Lodge, presiding over Farmers Union meetings, or the annual pie suppers and the Old Settlers Picnic and he was active politically as an official of the Democratic Party.

      Frank continued to drive his car (a 1931 Model "A" Ford touring sedan even after his first stroke. During 1948, Frank and Ida moved to Oklahoma City to live with their widowed daughter, Florence Barefoot. He kept a garden, took care of the lawn and visited old friends at the Farmers Public Market.

      There were occasions when Frank and Ida's families visited from Kansas or California. His son, Thomas, even flew from California in his own airplane to visit about 1950 using Elza's north hay field for a landing strip. Thomas even landed once in the stock pond when the airplane wheels caught on telephone wires and lazily eased the plane over into the water.

      There was a constant flow of penny postcards from Ines (Dolton) Hammon and Bell (Dolton) Watson to keep their parents posted about life in California. There were occasional letters, with newspaper clippings, about the grandchildren and their social activities.

      Elza made regular weekly trips to see about his father and mother on his way to work at the Meadow Gold Dairy after they moved to Oklahoma City to live with their daughter, Florence. They had lived across the street in Mustang from Elza's in Mustang for ten years from 1938 to 1948. Elza's family often had Sunday dinner with his parents and his sister, Florence.

      Frank suffered a final stroke from cerebral thrombosis after driving across town in his ritual yearly visit to the Oklahoma State Fair. He died a few days later in a hospital in Oklahoma City. His wife, Ida, survived him only a few months as her job of taking care of him was finished.