The East Texas oilfield remains the largest and most prolific oil reservoir ever discovered in the contiguous United States. Here is the story of Haroldson Lafayette “H.L.” Hunt – and “Dad” Joiner and “Doc” Lloyd – the Great Depression, and one of the U.S. petroleum industry’s greatest discoveries.
With a crowd of more than 4,000 landowners, leaseholders, stockholders, creditors and spectators watching – the Daisy Bradford No. 3 well erupts. It is on October 3, 1930, that a production test is done – resulting in a gusher of oil.
Incredible to most geologists, another wildcat well 10 miles to the north – the Lou Della Crim No. 1 – will begin flowing on December 28, 1930.
A month later and 15 miles still farther north, a third wildcat well, the Lathrop No. 1, comes in.
At first, the great distance between these discoveries convinced geologists, petroleum engineers – and virtually all of the major oil companies - that the wildcat wells had found separate oilfields. However, and to the delight of many small, struggling farmers, it will become apparent the wells are part of a massive oil-producing field.
In 1905, when Haroldson Lafayette “H.L.” Hunt was just 16 years old, he left his Illinois farm family and headed west. Along the way, he worked as a dishwasher, mule team driver, logger, farmhand, and even tried out for semi-pro baseball. In his travels, he learned to gamble and played cards in bunkhouses, hobo jungles and saloons.
The Busey-Armstrong No. 1 well came in on January 10, 1921, and quickly catapulted the population of El Dorado from 4,000 to over 25,000.
H.L. Hunt arrived with his borrowed $50 and joined the other lease traders, speculators, and gamblers at a popular hotel.
“A person literally had to shoulder his way through the lobby from early in the morning until late at night,” notes one account of El Dorado’s Garret Hotel. “The people, for the most part, were trying to make a fast dollar. It was a seething mass of humanity. More wells were drilled in its lobby than in the field.” Read the rest of this entry »