Claremore Daily Progress

Community News

August 20, 2012

Remembering: John M. Bayless

The American dream comes to Claremore

CLAREMORE — As one drives by the Belvidere Mansion located at 4th and Chickasaw, the beauty of the home that was built around 1907 would make one wonder about this man, John Melville Bayless.  It is interesting to learn why some people came to live in Claremore.

John M. Bayless was a banker, builder, and merchant.  While living in Cassville, Missouri, he worked as a tax collector and later had an interest in banking, retailing, and selling mules and ties to the railroad.  This led to being a contractor and building lines for the railroad. (1)
A major decision for Mr. Bayless to move to Claremore was the fact that two railroad lines were located here, and he believed the town had a promising future. 
His belief in Claremore changed its future. He built the Sequoyah Hotel which at that time was a showplace in this part of Oklahoma. The first “Opera House” was a three story building at the northwest corner of 3rd and Missouri.  A drug store was on the ground floor with the opera house on the top floor.  Many traveling troubadours performed there. (1) An athletic building, complete with an indoor swimming pool, was completed in the downtown area.
Bayless built the first light plant in Claremore, which was later sold to the city. (1) When the Belvidere was built, it was wired for electricity and had indoor plumbing.   
About 1906, he moved his family here and started the Belvidere. Before the home was finished, he took sick, and the attending physicians diagnosed the case as appendicitis and said that an operation was necessary to save his life. 
His condition became critical and family members were notified. His entire family was present and did everything possible to save his life.  He died June 2, 1907 in Claremore, Indian Territory. (2)
He was the son of Daniel Dearkin and Sarah Bayless and was born in Tennessee and moved with his family to Missouri in 1853.  Education was important to the family, as he graduated from the Cane Creek Academy and Hiawassee College, Tenn. He returned to Missouri with 40 cents in his pocket. (2)  

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