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The Oil Booms of Texas
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The Oil Booms of Texas

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The oil discoveries in East and Southeast Texas during the early 1900s changed the lives of Texas in numerous ways.

The oil discoveries in East and Southeast Texas during the early 1900s changed the lives of Texas in numerous ways.

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  • When the people of Texas found oil with the grounds of this great state, their lives changed in a way no one could have predicted. “Oil transformed Texas: from a poor state into a rich state, from a rural state into an urban state.” (Ennis, 1999) Many wells had been drilled in Texas since the time of the Civil War. Yet the start of the time of big oil finds in Texas happened when the Spindletop well in southeast Texas gushed with oil. January 10, 1901 was a life-changing day for the citizens living near or in Beaumont, Texas as Anthony Lucas, an Australian oilman found a lake of oil-a forty-acre lake to be exact! This well produced flowing oil for nine days straight, which equaled to the amount of oil the state had generated the previous year. “The find of the century, however, was the 43-mile-long East Texas Oil Field, a subterranean lake of oil discovered in 1930 when Columbus Marion “Dad” Joiner’s rickety timber rig, Daisy Bradford No. 3, struck pay dirt.” (Ennis, 1999)
  • Columbus Marion, a wildcatter, began his search for oil in an area south of Kilgore in 1929. His first two tries were unsuccessful, but his third location in Rusk county brought forth greatness. “It was not until Oct. 3, 1930 that a production test was done, resulting in a gusher – the discovery well, Daisy BradfordNo. 3.” (East Texas Oil Museum, 2000) Later, that very same year, on December 27, another oil discovery occurred just about nine miles away. The Lou Della Crim well, located on the Crim farm near Kilgore, produced oil-approximately 22,000 barrels a day! Finally the last of the oil discoveries of East Texas occurred on January 26, 1931. In Gregg County, the well on the J.K. Lathrop Lease generated 18,000 barrels of oil every day. These wells “were part of what was then a geological phenomenon – an incredible deposit of oil in the Woodbine formation had “pinched out” as it tilted upward against the Sabine Uplift creating the massive East Texas Oil Field.” (East Texas Oil Museum, 2000) Prior to these oil discoveries, it had been acceptable to strive for seven wells every other week. Yet, that quickly changed to seven wells each day. Some of these wells are pumping currently in East Texas!
  • The phrase “Perseverance pays off” definitely proved true to “Dad” Joiner and his crew. He had tried twice to locate oil within East Texas, and both of those attempts did not meet his goal. His third attempt, the Daisy Bradford No. 3, led him to a huge oil field that is still in use today.
  • In 1888, Captain George Washington O’Brien bought over 1,000 acres around the area known as “Spindletop Hill” because he felt there was oil located beneath the hill. Patillo Higgins who was a resident of Beaumont worked with O’Brien in searching for oil at this location. Higgins and George Washington Carroll created the Gladys City Oil, Gas, and Manufacturing Company after buying the rest of Spindletop Hill. Then O’Brien and J.F. Lanier joined with Carroll and Higgins’ company that was the very first company to drill on Spindletop Hill. The company faced aggravation when their numerous first attempts did not produce oil. “Patillo’s investors and partners became frustrated with the lack of oil and began to fight him about pouring more money into drilling.” (Spindletop-Gladys City Boomtown Museum, 2000)Anthony Lucas comes to town and works with Higgins after he left the company due to the company’s lack of oil production. However Higgins and Lucas did not have luck any better concerning oil. “When their first attempts were unsuccessful and their money was gone, Lucas carried the search for funding to John Galey and James Guffey from Pittsburgh.” (Spindletop-Gladys City Boomtown Museum, 2000) Unfortunately for Higgins, this agreement did not include him, and soon Lucas would find oil on Spindletop. This oil discovery on Spindltop occurred on January 10, 1901 and created a huge boom in the oil industry. “Near Beaumont, Texas, oil prospector Anthony F. Lucas drilled a well about 1,100 feet (335 m) deep. Oil shot more than 100 feet (30 m) into the air.” (James, 2010) The well ran for 9 days nonstop without being capped. In the year after the discovery of Spindletop, this field was generating more oil that every other oil field in the country added together. Oil field workers flocked to this field to find oil for themselves, and the field of Spindletop eventually was thought to no longer contain oil. However in 1926, the Yount-Lee Oil Company found a second gusher that started the second oil boom of southeast Texas which lasted until 1933. “Spindletop’s era as a booming oilfield came to a close in the 1950’s, when the field was mined for sulphur as its last gift to the world.” (Spindletop-Gladys City Boomtown Museum, 2000) Currently the field is not available for the public to visit as it consists of high weeds, broken pipes, and appears “forgotten. “
  • As more and more oil discoveries were made in Texas, the main source of industry shifted from agriculture and lumber to oil. People came from near and far to towns where oil had been discovered. “Sharecroppers left their tenant farms for the much better-paying work in the oil fields, leading a huge Depression-era exodus from the land.” (Ennis, 1999) Everyone had one common goal which was to get a chunk of the black gold happiness for their own self.
  • When studying the oil industry, the term “wildcatter” is mentioned numerous times. A wildcatter is a person who attempts to drill wells in an area that is not considered to exist. Wildcatters, as well as many entrepreneurs, workers, and business owners would flock to areas where oil was discovered for the first time in a town. These towns became known as “boomtowns” because the town’s population would increase in a very short amount of time, all because of oil! “Much like the California gold rush of the 1840s, people flocked to Texas to find oil.” (James, 2010). According to information given at the East Texas Oil Museum, the town of Kilgore expanded from less that 800 people to more than 8,000 people in 24 hours. The town of Spindletop not only grew from approximately 9,000 people to more than 50,000 over night, and stayed this size for years. As these fields became so productive, the economy of Texas transformed from agricultural to oil. Boomtowns were full of people striving in any possible way to earn a profitable piece of the Texas oil production.
  • At first Boomtowns were filled with hopeful people, energetic and excited, at the thought of striking it rich in the oil industry. But Boomtowns had some negative aspects for its citizens. “Boomtowns were also called ragtowns and tent cities because of their poor housing.” (James, 2010) Some people felt lucky to have the opportunity to pay a small fee and stay in a warehouse where cots lined the inside. Despite the fact that wareshouses were filled with poor strangers, it was still a place to sleep inside. The use of toilets and showers could also be purchased for a small fee for those that lacked their own home these essentials. If anyone had a needed service or item (such as an available toilet or shower), they became their own small business owner as customers would line up to use these things. As I viewed the exhibits, films, and plaques located at the East Texas Oil Museum in Kilgore, Texas, I learned so much about the strife that came with boomtowns. The overall attitude of the town of Kilgore declined after the influx of people. Before the oil discoveries and herds of people moving into the city, the town had been full of happy farmers that spent their time going to church even if they could barely make ends meet. After thousands of people invaded the small town, the town was full of poor strangers willing to do anything to make a buck. Unfortunately at the start of oil discoveries, there were no laws to prevent overpumping. Some fields, like Spindletop were drained dry during the times of big oil booms.
  • One must wonder, if it had not been for the oil discoveries on Spindletop Hill, would there even be a town of Beaumont? If the town of Beaumont did exist without the oil discoveries, would it be as productive as it is today? The same can be asked of Kilgore, as it had consisted of poor farmer before the oil discoveries. After the discoveries, business owners suddenly had a customer base of nearly ten times the original customer base. The town of Spindletop consisted of a barber shop, saloon, portrait studio, general store, and much more. Suddenly citizens did not have to travel for the supplies they needed as they were able to simply go into town and purchase whatever they needed. Business owners made more profit, and were able to hire more employees to keep up with the customer needs. Not only did the oil discoveries of Texas affect the economy of towns, it also affect the wealth of personal individuals. “The discoveries of oil fields led to the founding and flourishing of numerous Texas towns, to the establishment of companies that have become multinational conglomerates, and to the amassing of vast personal fortunes.” (Texas State Historical Association, 2000) Many of the people responsible for the drilling or that owned the oil drilling companies really did strike it rich when they struck oil. Another benefit of these oil discoveries is that the price of oil dropped drastically as more oil was found in Texas. Oil was produced so heavily at one time, that it pushed the price down to three cents per barrel. “When the price of oil dropped too low, a new law was passed. It stated that wells could not be open all of the time.” (Adams, 1983) The thought was that if regulations were placed on the times that oil could be pumped, less oil would be produced. Thereby, allowing the price of oil to rise slowly. However the price of oil was still decently cheap which encouraged it to be used for more things, such as transportation. Ships and trains had previously used steam or coal to run properly, but then changed to oil.
  • Quite a few of today’s oil companies started during the 1900s as oil was discovered in Texas. Even when the fields of Spindletop no longer contained oil, Americans could still look back on that time as a positive experience. “Among the companies that sprang up from the fields at Spindletop, many are well-known brands, such as Texaco, Chevron (now Clark, originally Guffey Oil Company), Mobil (originally Magnolia Oil Company), and Exxon (originally Humble Oil Company).” (Spindletop-Gladys City Boomtown Museum, 2000) If it had not been for the oil finds at Spindletop, it is questionable if these companies would be leaders in today’s oil industry.
  • To learn more about the oil discoveries in East Texas and Southeast Texas, there are two museums that offer an abundance of information on the topic. The East Texas Oil Museum located in Kilgore allows visitors to step back in time to an actual boomtown. Visitors can walk the muddy streets of the museum and listen to workers and citizens of the town recall the details of life in a boomtown. After traveling to the center of the earth in an elevator while watching a puppet show, museum tourists can view an educational film on the oil days of Texas. While walking in and out of boomtown businesses, museum visitors can read plaques, view photographs, and watch lifelike mannequins work in the oil field. The Spindletop-Gladys City Boomtown Museum in Beaumont, Texas offers a similar experience but without the technology aspect. Visitors view an outdoor boomtown by walking in and out of businesses such as the barbers shop, general store, photography studio and so on. While in the businesses, museum tourists can read plaques, view photographs and artifacts from that time period. Prior to starting the tour, and educational film on oil in southeast Texas is available for viewing.
  • Bluebonnet at the East Texas Oil Museum offers a look at the museum through the eyes’ of an armadillo family. While the characters of the armadillo family are fictional, the reader can still gain much information regarding the oil industry of Texas from the text. The other texts listed on this slide are nonfiction and offer at least an entire chapter focusing on the oil booms of Texas. Cattle and Oil offers the most detailed information regarding the oil industry and its effect on Texas out of all the texts listed.

Transcript

  • 1. Oil in texas
    The discovery of oil in Texas changed the lives of Texans drastically.
    Created by Vanessa Johnson
  • 2. Black Gold in East Texas
    On October 30, 1930, oil was discovered at the Daisy Bradford No. 3 located between Henderson and Tyler.
    The Lou Della Crim, located south of Kilgore, spewed oil on December 27, 1930.
    Oil was discovered at the Lathrop well, situated on the J.K. Lathrop lease of Gregg County, on January 26, 1931.
    The East Texas oil field was HUGE!
  • 3. Picture taken of exhibit by Vanessa Johnson at the East Texas Oil Museum
  • 4. Black Gold in Southeast Texas
    Spindletop: When at first you don’t succeed; try, try again!
    At Spindletop, the Lucas Gusher produced oil on January 10, 1901.
    In 1926, a second boom occurred at Spindletop when a gusher was struck the Yount-Lee Oil Company.
  • 5. Picture of exhibit taken by Vanessa Johnson at Spindletop-Gladys City Boomtown Museum
  • 6. How did the big boom of oil change the towns involved?
    Many new people flocked to the small towns.
    Spindletop: The town grew from about 9,000 to over 50,000 over night.
    Kilgore (Lou Della Crim): The town grew from under 800 people to about 8,000 people in 24 hours.
    The main industry of the towns changed to oil production.
  • 7. Problems with Boomtowns
    New townspeople faced lack of housing.
    People had to pay for showers and toilet usage.
    Warehouses became popular housing options.
    Prior to the oil boom, the town of Kilgore consisted of poor, but happy church-going farmers. After the oil boom, the town became overwhelmed with strangers, making housing scarce.
    Because there were no restrictions on oil production, many of the fields were pumped dry.
  • 8. Benefits of the oil boom
    Towns flourished and thrived economically.
    Individuals that played a part in the oil discoveries became wealthy quickly.
    As oil was produced so heavily, the price of oil dropped extremely low, causing its increase in use for transportation.
    Photographs taken by Vanessa Johnson at Spindletop-Gladys City Museum
  • 9. Oil Companies that were created from the Spindletop wells.
    Texaco
    Guffey Oil CompanyChevronClark
    Magnolia Oil CompanyMobil
    Humble Oil CompanyExxon
  • 10. Awesome Oil Museums
    The East Texas Oil Museum in Kilgore, Tx
    Spindletop-Gladys City Boomtown Museum in Beaumont, Texas
    The East Texas Oil Museum
    Spindletop-Gladys City Boomtown Museum
  • 11. Great books to read about the discovery of oil in Texas
    Stars Over Texas by Carolyn Adams
    Cattle and Oil (The Growth of Texas Industries by Trisha James
    TEXAS by Michael Ennis
    A Historical Album of TEXAS by Charles A. Willis
    BLUEBONNET at the East Texas Oil Museum by Mary Brooke Casad
  • 12. Resources that helped in finding the facts for this lesson:
    Adams, C. (1983). Stars over texas. Austin, Texas: Eakin Press.
    Ennis, M. (1999). Art of the state texas the spirit of america. New York, NY: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., Publishers.
    East Texas Oil Museum, . (2000). East texas oil museum online. Retrieved from http://www.easttexasoilmuseum.com/index.html
    James, T. (2010). Cattle and oil the growth of texas industries. New York, NY: The Rosen Publishing Group, Inc.
    Spindletop-Gladys City Boomtown Museum, . (2000). Spindletop-gladys city boomtown museum walking tour. Retrieved from http://www.spindletop.org/timeline/index.html
    Texas State Historical Association, . (2000). Oil and texas: a cultural history-texasalamanac. Retrieved from http://www.texasalmanac.com/topics/business/oil-and-texas-cultural-history
    Willis, C. (1995). A historical album of texas. Brookfield, CT: The Millbrook Press.