Endowed with an innate sense of entrepreneurship, Waite Phillips lived a true rags to riches story. Born on a Iowa farm January 19, 1883, Waite and his identical twin brother Wiate, set off on a journey to see the west at the young age of 16, traveling thousands of miles and taking small jobs along the way to support themselves. Their adventures came to a tragic end when Wiate died of a ruptured appendix along the way. A devastated Waite returned home to follow more practical pursuits. He worked as an accountant before moving to Oklahoma and entering the oil business initially with his two older brothers, who founded the Phillips Petroleum Company, and later on his own.
For several years, Waite bought oil leases throughout Oklahoma, and in 1918 he consolidated these holdings into the Waite Phillips Company. When he sold this company in 1925 for a reported $25 million, Waite had truly entered the realm of a self-made multimillionaire. Years later, he and his wife Genevieve, an extremely charitable couple, donated their Tulsa home, Villa Philbrook, to the city for use as an art museum, and their several thousand acre Philmont Ranch near Cimarron, New Mexico to the Boy Scouts of America.
Throughout his career, Waite owned several ranches from Montana to New Mexico. He purchased Sunland Ranch from Annie Springer and her husband Lafayette Hughes (no relation to Colonel William Hughes) in 1920 and used it as a breeding location for high grade horses and cattle. He consolidated the ranch with other nearby land purchases to create a prodigious spread called Phillips Highland Ranch (no s) named after the Highland Hereford cattle he raised here. Waite conducted a renovation at the former Springer/Hughes home which included the addition of a western wing. Although this was only one of several homes owned by the Phillips family, they visited often. A whimsical photograph taken of Waite’s son, Elliott Waite Chope, sitting atop a pony in the middle of the living room reveals a unique view into family life at Phillips Highland Ranch. Waite owned the ranch for six years before commitments in Oklahoma forced him to sell it in 1926.