Little Bits of History

Spindletop Comes In

Posted in History by patriciahysell on January 10, 2015


January 10, 1901: Spindletop comes in. The world’s first commercial oil well was established at Oil Springs, Ontario in 1858 with the first US oil well drilled in Titusville, Pennsylvania the next year. The need for the commodity increased and the search for more oil eventually led to Texas. In 1894 the Corsicana oil field in northeastern Texas was found. On this day, the Texas Oil Boom really began when the gusher came in. Located outside Beaumont, Texas, the Spindletop strike was a turning point for the state. No oil field in the world has ever been so productive. The exploration for more oil and the economic development spurred on great changes for the Lone Star State.

In August 1892, George W. O’Brien, George W. Carroll, Pattillo Higgins and others formed the Gladys City Oil, Gas, and Manufacturing Company to do exploratory drilling on Spindletop Hill. It had been suspected there was oil under the ground because of the large sulfur springs and the bubbling gas seepages which often ignited when lit. They were not immediately successful. Higgins left the company and partnered with Anthony Lucas, the leading US expert on salt dome formations. They drilled to 575 feet before running out of money. They got further funding to continue drilling and finally, at a depth of 1,139 feet, they struck oil.

What became known as the Lucas Gusher threw oil over 150 feet into the air at a rate of 100,000 barrels per day (4.2 million gallons).  It was the largest gusher the world had ever seen. It took nine days to bring it under control. Beaumont became a boom town and the population tripled to 30,000 in three months and eventually went to 50,000. By the end of 1902 there were more than 500 companies formed and 285 wells were in operation. Spindletop was the first oil field on the US Gulf Coast and it prompted more drilling and discovery of more fields. Many speculators sought out salt domes for drilling and were often successful.

Standard Oil had a near monopoly on petroleum in the eastern states and they were prevented from moving into the Texas fields by the state’s antitrust laws. Gulf Oil and Texaco (now part of Chevron Corporation) were created for the exploitation of Spindletop. After 1902, production sharply declined to only 10,000 barrels a day. In 1925, Yount-Lee Oil Company was able to bring in its McFaddin No. 2 at a depth of around 2,500 feet and sparked a second boom in the region. In 1927 they produced 21 million barrels, its best year. Over the next ten years, over 72 million barrels were produced. As oil production dropped the focus changed. In 1936 oil production ceased and between the 1950s and 1975 the region was mined for sulfur.

Formula for success: rise early, work hard, strike oil. – J. Paul Getty

A century ago, petroleum – what we call oil – was just an obscure commodity; today it is almost as vital to human existence as water. – James Buchan

The use of solar energy has not been opened up because the oil industry does not own the sun. – Ralph Nader

We aren’t addicted to oil, but our cars are. – James Woolsey

Also on this day: No. 5 – In 1971, Coco Chanel died.
Point of No Return – In 49 BC, Julius Caesar crossed the Rubicon.
The Tube – In 1863, London’s Metropolitan Underground Railroad opened for business.
Uncommon Sense – In 1776, a pamphlet was published anonymously.
Dedication to a Cause – In 1645, William Laud, Archbishop of Canterbury, was beheaded.

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