This Week in Sapulpa History: Tragedy Strikes the Meyer Family and Home

Rachel Whitney
Curator, Sapulpa Historical Museum

A mass of rubble is all that remained of the $100,000 home of Mr. and Mrs. Max Meyer, southwest of Sapulpa, after fire roared through it early Sunday, January 4, 1959. The fire also took the life of Mrs. Jeannette Meyer, wife of Max Meyer, who was from Kansas City. She had moved to Sapulpa after marrying Max eleven years prior.

Image of steps of the Meyer ranch home after the fire, Sapulpa Herald, January 5, 1959.

Mrs. Meyer had first discovered the fire as it broke out on the ground floor. She had awakened her husband and they both ran outside, safely leaving the inferno. Sadly, Jeannette broke away from her husband and ran back upstairs*.

Sponsored by:

Note: it is believed she may have gone back inside to retrieve memorabilia and jewelry.

“Mrs. Meyer is [a] victim of inferno” the headlines read the following morning. She passed away at the age of 70 in the home fire of the Meyer ranch, just five miles southwest of Sapulpa.

Workers digging through debris, Sapulpa Herald, January 5, 1959.

“Tenants of the 2,200-acre Meyer ranch carried [Mr.] Meyer to safety after he had been overcome by smoke and fumes as he tried to save his wife. He suffered second-degree burns and shock.”

Jack Wilson, Sapulpa Fire Chief, received an alarm at around midnight as Saturday rolled into Sunday. Firemen and the Highway Patrol were notified about the out-of-control fire. The Kellyville fire department also answered the call, and Sapulpa’s auxiliary fire department was on hand to help.

Don McMasters, Jr, auxiliary fire department chief, recalled that Max said his wife broke away from him and “that was the last time she was seen alive.”

“A large crowd of workers and sight-seers were on the spot most of the day. Law enforcement officers, firemen and county commissioner Lynn Roebuck’s employees joined in the search.” The grounds were searched thoroughly in hopes she made her way to safety through a back door.

It was not until late Sunday evening, about 8:00 pm, that the remains of Mrs. Jeannette Meyer were discovered “from the smoldering debris of the once elaborate home.”

It was believed that the blaze broke out in Max’s office, with an unknown cause. The ranch home was never rebuilt.

Described in Jeannette’s obituary, it states:

“Mrs. Meyer, who married the pioneer Sapulpan 11 years ago, is a member of a prominent Kansas City family, the Wolfbergs.

“She is survived by two sisters, Alice and Ida Wolfberg, and a brother, S.L. Wolfberg, all of Kansas City, and another brother, Edgar Wolfberg, Vista, California.

“In addition, she has two step-sons, Lewis and Morris Meyer, Tulsa; and two step-daughters, Mrs. R.L. Lobo, Tulsa, and Mrs. Ben Turner, St. Louis, Missouri.

“Mrs. Meyer was a member of the Congregation B’nai Emunah of Tulsa. She was active in the sisterhood there.

“Memorial services held at Buffington Funeral Home Chapel. Additional services scheduled in Kansas City at Rose Hill Mausoleum; burial will be at Kansas City.”

After recovering from the fire and death of Jeannette, Max Meyer moved to Tulsa. Max would later remarry a few years later in 1962. He passed away at the age of 84 in 1964.

“Mr. Meyer, who came to Sapulpa in 1906 to open a department store, was the inspiration for the book ‘Preposterous Papa’ [(1959)] written by his son Lewis Meyer, a Tulsa writer and book store owner. He was also the central figure in a ‘Preposterous Papa Day’ staged in Sapulpa soon after the book was published.

You can read a more detailed account of Meyer’s life and journey in our “Do You Remember Max Meyer?” story.

“He was a 32nd degree Mason, lifelong member of the Elks and Odd Fellows lodges, and a member of B’nai Emunah congregation, Tulsa.

“Other surviving are a son Morris Meyer, Tulsa; two daughters Mrs. R.L. Lobe, Tulsa, and Mrs. Ben F. Turner, St. Louis; six grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.”