The Woman Who Became One of Amarillo’s most Important Figures
Chances are that if you’ve lived in Amarillo for some time, you’ve seen the name Oliver Eakle at least a couple of times, whether it be in the name of the park of the same name, or an entire neighborhood that shares this name. As goes for every name embedded into Amarillo’s foundation, this name has a deep history and a deep connection with Amarillo. Although the name Oliver Eakle may sound like a man’s name, you will be surprised to learn that this name actually belonged to one of Amarillo’s most important businesswomen. Her full name, Melissa Dora Oliver-Eakle.
Oliver Eakle was born on September, 23, 1860, in Alabama where Eakle grew up and was raised by her parents Mr and Mrs. J.S. Callaway. On March 4th, 1884 Eakle married William Oliver, manufacturer and owner of Missippi Mills, one of the South’s largest textile manufacturers in her time. Eackel visited Amarillo for the first in 1890 by invitation of her brother’s and by this time, Amarillo was still a relatively young city, recently built in 1887. This new city must of had an impact on Eakle because in 1891, after her husband’s death she began to visit Amarillo more often, purchasing large plots of land in Potter county with her newfound wealth. And in 1895, Eakle finally moved to Amarillo, becoming one of the area’s wealthiest individuals.
Living in a time when it was a rarity for women to hold any kind of notable social status, Eakle went by the Alias M.D. Oliver-Eakle when in business dealings. Banks and businessmen at the time, assumed this was a man’s name, and did not question it when lending. Funding many of Amarillo’s developments and providing Amarillo with land, such as the land that Amarillo College would be built on, Eakle became an active member in Amarillo’s community. Some of Amarillo’s most notable features, such as the Oliver Eakle Building, now known as The Barfield Hotel, The Amarillo Opera House and The Tri-State fair were in large part funded by her.
Thanks to her, the foundations of many of Amarillo’s most important parts were built. Amarillo would not be the same city we see today without Eakle’s contributions and hopefully we as a city can continue to build and expand upon what she saw in this town.