Symbolic of the impact oil had on the people of the Osage Indian Nation is the so-called "Million Dollar Elm." It was given this name because in its shade millions of dollars worth of Osage oil leases were auctioned. It was planted at this site sometime during the latter part of the 19th century as an ornament and for shade.
The name was not given by tribal leaders but by reporters and magazine writers who were dramatizing the events when important heads and founders of the world's greatest oil companies came in person to bid. The auctioneer himself, the histrionic Colonel Walters, became famous because of his success in getting top bids.
The story of oil and the Osages is one of the most glamorous facets of the oil industry in America. It began with the drilling of the first well in the Osage in October 1897.
On March 2, 1922, the first 160-acre tract to bring a million dollars or more was in the NE 25-27-5. Skelly Oil Company and Phillips Petroleum Company bid jointly on this tract. Highest bonus paid for a 160-acre tract was by Midland Oil Company, March 29, 1924 for $1,990,000. This was in the NW 14-27-5. A total of 18 tracts brought bonuses of $1,000,000 or more.
By November 1969 the Osage lands had produced a billion barrels of oil and it was estimated that two billion barrels remained in the area.