A March 1905 oil discovery at Caddo-Pines near Shreveport brought the first petroleum riches to northern Louisiana. A museum in Oil City today tells the story.

louisiana oil city museum

In 1911, Gulf Refining Company built drilling platforms to reach the oil beneath Caddo Lake in Louisiana. This early “offshore” technology worked. Production continues today out of sight for most vacationers, water enthusiasts and young fishermen.

The first public museum in Louisiana dedicated to the oil and gas industry opened in May 2004 in Oil City, 30 miles northwest of Shreveport.

The Louisiana State Oil and Gas Museum, originally the Caddo-Pine Island Oil and Historical Museum, includes transportation exhibits at the historic depot of the Kansas City Southern Railroad.

The museum preserves the stories of many Caddo Parish oil and natural gas discoveries – and the economic prosperity they brought to North Louisiana. The drilling boom began not long after the famous Spindletop gusher in Texas.

louisiana oil city museum

Chevron donated an oil derrick that stands beside the Louisiana State Oil Museum in Oil City, about a 20-minute drive from Shreveport.

Brothers J. S. and W. A. Savage of West Virginia completed the first well in the Caddo Parrish oilfield in 1905. Timbers for the derrick were hauled in by teams of oxen, according to historian Monica Pels.

“In May of 1904 Dr. Frank H. Morrical came from Jennings to help the brothers in their venture,” Paels explains. “Roughnecks were paid $2.50 a day for a twelve-hour work day. The crew hit natural gas, but continued to drill deeper. They first got oil on March 28, 1905 when they reached 1,556 feet.”

With the first oil wells drilled in the early 1900s, by 1910 almost 25,000 people are working in and around Oil City, which becomes the first “wildcat town” in the Arkansas-Louisiana-Texas region.

louisiana oil city museum

In 1955, the Shreveport Chamber of Commerce dedicated a 40-foot monument commemorating the 50th anniversary of the discovery of oil in Caddo Parish.

The museum documents the historical importance of the first oil discovery in 1905 – and the technology behind the May 1911 Ferry No. 1 well at Caddo Lake, one of the nation’s earliest over-water oil wells.

Gulf Refining Company completed the early “offshore” oil well on Caddo Lake, where production continues today.

The state’s first commercial natural gas was discovered in Shreveport in 1870 while drilling for water for the Shreveport Ice Factory.

“A night watchman struck a match to see if the wind he heard blowing from the site would blow it out, but it ignited,” notes a Caddo Parish-related website (which has links to a collection of photos). The 1870 Shreveport natural gas well was used to light the ice factory – the first documented use of natural gas in Louisiana.

First Oil Discovery

Just eight months after the giant discovery of January 10, 1901, on Spindletop Hill, Texas, oil was discovered 90 miles to the east in Louisiana, not far from Lake Charles.

louisiana oil city museum

A statue in Shreveport commemorates an 1870 well that provided the first known commercial use of natural gas in Louisiana.

On September 21, 1901, W. Scott Heywood – already successful at Spindletop – brought in a 7,000-barrel-a-day well. The Louisiana discovery well is on the Jules Clements farm six miles northeast of Jennings.

Although the Jules Clements No. 1 well was on only a small fraction of an acre lease, it marks the state’s first commercial oil production and opens the prolific Jennings Field, which Heywood developed by securing leases, building pipelines and storage tanks, and contracting buyers. Learn more in First Louisiana Oil Well.

Visitors learn petroleum heritage from photographs and full-sized replicas of early Oil City homes. They also view scaled down, functional oil and natural gas equipment as it once operated in the most famous oilfield of Northwest Louisiana.

Chevron donated a derrick and other oilfield equipment that help draw tourists to the museum, which is a 20-minute drive from Shreveport. Visit the Louisiana State Oil and Gas Museum to learn the Oil City region’s history, starting with the culture of Caddo Indians.

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