Bartlesville, Oklahoma is named after Jacob Bartles, son-in-law of Delaware chief Charles Journeycake, who had moved from Wyandotte County, Kansas, to Indian Territory in 1873. He settled first at Silver Lake, a natural lake south of the present city of Bartlesville. In 1874, he opened a trading post and post office on Turkey Creek, in what is now East Bartlesville.
In the following year, he bought a grist mill on the Caney River and modified it to produce flour. Bartles then built a two-story general store and residence, and added a rooming house, a blacksmith shop and a livery stable. Other settlers soon moved into the immediate area, which was then called Bartles Town. In 1880, Bartles moved his Turkey Creek post office to this town. Bartles then provided the community with electricity, a telephone system and a water distribution system.
Development of the present city began after William Johnstone and George B. Keeler opened a general store on the south side of the Caney River in 1884. The town was incorporated in Indian Territory in January 1897. The town was surveyed and platted in 1898, and eighty acres were offered to the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad for a depot. The railroad reached the town in 1899. The post office was moved from "North Bartlesville" in 1899. Bypassed by the railroad, Jacob Bartles moved his store to Dewey, Oklahoma.
Bartlesville was originally a sundown town where African Americans were not allowed to live. By 1907, the restriction had been lifted, and newspapers noted the town's first natural death of an African American, a man named Robert McGee.
In 1957, Bartlesville was the test site for the first experiment in pay cable television. The Bartlesville Telemovie System debuted with the film "The Pajama Game", starring Doris Day, and aired it to an audience of 300 homes. The headline of the September 4, 1957, issue of Variety read, "First-Run Films Now at Home".