Biography of H. V. Foster

No history of Oklahoma especially having to do with the development of the great oil industry in the state would be complete without extended reference to the Foster family. Their activities have been a most potent element in connection with the development of the natural resources of the southwest and I L and H. V. Foster maintains the family standard of activity, progressiveness, initiative, determination and sagacity in relation to business affairs. He is today President of the Indian Territory Illuminating Oil Company, with headquarters at Bartlesville and is the directing head of the company which controls the famous Foster lease in the Osage Nation. He entered actively upon the management of these interests in 1902 and in the passing years has become an outstanding figure in connection with the oil development of the southwest.

A native son of New England, he was born September 6, 1875, in Westerly, Washington County, Rhode Island, his parents being Henry and Gertrude (Daniels) Foster. The father was also born in Westerly, while the mother’s birth occurred in Paxton, Worcester County, Massachusetts. The name of Henry Foster is indelibly engraved upon the financial records of his native state, for he became one of the foremost financiers of Rhode Island, where he engaged in the banking business for many years. Attracted by the opportunities of the growing west, however, he made his way to Independence, Kansas, in 1882 and there centered his extensive financial operations to the time of his demise. He passed away February 25, 1896, at the comparatively early age of forty-seven years. Though his death seemed untimely he had accomplished much more than many men achieve in a lifetime of almost double length. His remarkable sagacity and discernment enabled him to foretell something of what the future had in store for the great southwest and he labored to meet not only the exigencies of the moment but the needs of the future. He was the builder of the Missouri Pacific Railroad from Leroy to Coffeyville, Kansas, and was also interested in mining, constructed a number of water-works plants in various parts of the southwest and was the owner of several ranches devoted to cattle raising. Watching the development of the oil industry he secured a lease for the production of oil on the Osage reservation and died about the time the government gave its final approval to the terms of that lease. His wife passed away at Independence, Kansas, about 1883, when thirty-two years of age, survived by a daughter and a son: Annie G., a resident of New York City , and H Foster a resident of New York City, and H. V. Foster of this review.

Liberal educational advantages and native ability have qualified H. V. Foster for the responsibilities which he assumed in early manhood, following the demise of his father. In his boy-hood days he was a pupil in the public schools of Rhode Island and of Massachusetts and following the removal of the family to Independence, Kansas, he continued his studies there. Later he became a student in the Westtown Boarding school at Westtown, Pennsylvania, which was maintained by the Society of Friends or Quakers, of which his parents were members. He next went abroad and matriculated in University College at London, England, where he was graduated in 1894, upon the completion of a course in engineering. Still he did not regard his education as finished and with his return to his native land he became a student in Columbia University at New York.

Mr. Foster then entered upon professional activities as an engineer in connection with a drainage project covering sixty thousand acres of land in Wisconsin. In the meantime, however, he had become interested in oil development and in 1902 he removed to Bartlesville to take charge of the Osage lease which had been secured by his father more than six years before. It was at this time that he became President of the Indian Territory Illuminating Oil Company and has since devoted the major part of his time and attention to the further development of the business. He is a man of marked executive ability and of notably keen discernment, recognizing at once the difficulties and the possibilities of a business situation, so that he bends his efforts to the elimination of the former and the utilization of the latter. Nor has he confined his attention solely to his oil interests, for he is the Vice President and director of the Union National Bank of Bartlesville and has his offices in the bank building.

The story of the Foster leases for oil production on the Osage lands is a most interesting one and is the story of marvelous business achievement and foresight. The Washington Star gave the following interesting account thereof: “A modern industry represented by the huge oil derricks and pipe lines of Oklahoma,” reads the article in question, “has brought at least one nation of Indians into its own as far as the individuals of its tribe are concerned, in being the original landlords of that part of this continent in which they have made their home. The red man pictured in his feathered , head-dress on the American penny is suggestive of flip former wealth of the nation being held by the Indian. Today when the white man’s dollar has developed a part of this country upon which the Indians still live, the Osages have received such large oil and gas royalties that they have been declared the richest nation in the world. Had the white man never come to this continent these Indians would” undoubtedly have been content in their original wild state, taking pleasure in their hunts and ceremonials, but since it is a fact that civilization has killed off their buffalo and so taken their livelihood from them, the Osage Nation may consider that the star of fortune rose about 1870.

“At that time the encroachment of settlers who were making their homes in Kansas was so evident to the Indian and to the government that later congress purchased the land upon which the Osages had been living and ceded them the territory they now occupy. By this deal the Indians unknowingly received lands worth millions of dollars on account of the oil lying beneath its surface. Today these resources are so extensive that the government in the capacity of guardian for the red man finds itself thrown in direct business relation with some of the greatest financial powers of the nation. It gains through this particular management of affairs a clearer knowledge of the business of producing and marketing oil, the most potential wealth making power of the present day.

“Nineteen years ago when James Bigheart was the principal chief of the Osage Nation, about one million, five hundred thou sand acres of land, or approximately two thousand square miles a tract many times as large as the District of Columbia was leased directly from the tribe, through the United States government, to Edward B. Foster of New York city. The development of a large part of the territory was made by the subtlessee, known as the Illuminating Company, engaged in producing oil. When the original blanket Foster lease and the subleases expired at the end of ten years they were renewed for another ten years, which will expire March 16, 1916. It was for this reason in March, 1915, one year previous to the expiration of the lease of the vast stretch of oil lands, the oil interests of the world were assembled in a great conference with the government, hoping to receive a share of consideration when the time comes for Uncle Sam and the Osage Indians to say who shall obtain the right to produce oil in the Foster lease land in the future.

“The terms by which the Foster lease has been carried are that of payment of one-eighth royalty on all oil produced is made to the Indians. One twenty-fourth royalty is retained by the Foster interests for their management and extensive development of the land. In years past it has been a common cry that the Indians always came out at the little end of the horn when dealing with the white man. The story of the Osage, however, is a contradiction to such a plaint, for by the Foster lease alone the Osage Indians have to date gained more wealth than the real producers of the oil.

“As these red men have not allied themselves with modern civilization in being able to fill a place in the industrial world, and as their incomes from tribal trust funds and oil leases are more than sufficient to keep them in idleness, there is but one answer to the question of whether the Osages as a nation are better Indians because of their independence through wealth. In all there are about two thousand, two hundred and thirty citizens of the Osage tribe. From oil royalties alone the average per capita, including children, is nearly seven hundred dollars per year. A family with two children received an average annual income of about twenty-seven hundred dollars from this one source, besides large sums from lands allotted to them, making the wealth of the people greater than that of any other nation in the world. As a matter of record to date, the one-eighth royalty paid the Indians on the Foster lease contract exceeds the profit which the actual operators have made during the seventeen years on their five-sixths working interest. Nearly five million dollars have been paid to the Indians.”

On the 1st of May, 1897, was celebrated the marriage of H. V. Foster and Miss Marie Dahlgren, a native of Chicago, Illinois, and a daughter of Carl John and Marie (Sierks) Dahlgren. They are now parents of two children: Ruth Daniels and Marie Dahlgren Foster. Fraternally Mr. Foster is a Mason, who has attained the thirty-second degree of the Scottish Rite in the consistory and has crossed the sands of the desert with the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine. He likewise belongs to the local lodges of the Benevolent Protective Order of Elks, the Knights of Pythias and the Modern Woodmen of America, and his business and social connections have made him prominently known in many of the larger cities of the country. In New York he has membership in the Lotus and Republican clubs, in Chicago in the Illinois Athletic Club and he likewise belongs to the Misquamicut Golf and Country Club at Watch Hill, Rhode Island, the Colonial Club at Westerly, Rhode Island, and the Country Club at Bartlesville. His political allegiance has always been given to the Republican Party and though never an aspirant for office he has contributed in notable measure to the welfare of the city in which he makes his home and to the advancement of the interests of the state. His influence is always on the side of progress and improvement and he utilizes his opportunities for promoting public welfare with the same thoroughness and effectiveness which he displays in the development of his business activities. He stands as a splendid type of the progressive American citizen and business man to whom opportunity is ever a call to action and whose fundamental plans and purposes find their fulfillment in successful achievement.



Benedict, John Downing. Muskogee and Northeastern Oklahoma: including the counties of Muskogee, McIntosh, Wagoner, Cherokee, Sequoyah, Adair, Delaware, Mayes, Rogers, Washington, Nowata, Craig, and Ottawa. Chicago: S.J. Clarke Pub. Co., 1922.

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