It was during the summer of 1890 that a woman named Dora Callaway Oliver first visited Amarillo to see her two merchant brothers. The wife of William Oliver, the head of Mississippi Mills, the South's largest textile manufacturer, Dora Oliver fell in love with the area and visited many times eventually purchasing a large area of land. When her husband died in 1895, she packed up and moved to Amarillo as a full-time resident.
The wealthy widow created quite the stir, what with her fine horses, carriage and household servants were the first black residents of the town. Mrs. Oliver liked to ride about town atop a fine Chestnut horse and clad in elegant English riding attire. She was said to be rather aloof to those she met out on the streets and was soon dubbed with the sarcastic title of "The Duchess."
But at the same time Mrs. Oliver was known among her friends as warm, gentle and generous.
In 1895, Amarillo was in the throes of economic depression, and Mrs. Oliver reportedly had more liquid assets than all the area banks combined. So she entered into the world of banking herself.
At that time women were scarce in the world of bankers and men were often skeptical of their abilities so most of her early debtors knew only that they were beholding to somebody named M. D. Oliver. I think it would have been interesting to see how many desperate men would have put aside their chauvinistic tendencies to borrow from a woman. Most, I'm guessing.
After 11 years of widowhood, Dora Oliver married a man named O. M. Eakle in 1902. He was also a banker, but their marriage was rocky from the start. By all accounts Dora had gotten used to her independence and preferred to make her own decisions. The couple was often estranged but did manage to see eye to eye often enough for them to have one child, a girl. O. M Eakle died in 1914.
Meanwhile, Mrs. Oliver-Eakle, as she was now went by continued to thrive as a shrewd business woman.
Over the years, she used the land she'd purchased in 1891 and started a subdivision which still stands today. Amarillo College and Memorial Park are located on part of her original acreage. Mrs. Oliver-Eakle also donated land to the the city for a park which bears her name to this day.
Operating in a more traditional woman's role Mrs. Oliver-Eakle also worked hard to bring culture to Amarillo. She aided in founding a town library, and she helped finance the Amarillo Opera House. She also was extremely vocal in the temperance movement, but we won't hold that against her. She held such influence that Chicago mobsters made several kidnapping and extortion attempts on Mrs. Oliver-Eakle, but she held her own by toting a pearl-handled revolver in her purse for protection.
In 1927, at the age of 63, she saw the completion of Amarillo's first office skyscraper. The 10-story Oliver-Eakle Building (later renamed the Barfield Building) was yet another successful example of her business sense.
Mrs. Oliver-Eakle died on Nov. 17, 1931 but no one can say she didn't live an full life and her touch can still be seen in the city to this day.
Don't forget to check out Barrie Summy's blog. Since I am away she is compiling the list of bloggers this week taking part in My Town Monday.