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Call them oilfield detectives, night riders of the hemlocks, or simply oil scouts. These early oil and gas well investigators separated fact from fiction.

oil scouts

Oil scouts like Justus McMullen often braved harsh winters (and sometimes armed guards) to visit well sites. Their intelligence debunked rumors and “demystified” reports about oil wells producing in early oil fields.

In the hard winter of 1888, famed 37-year-old oil scout Justus C. McMullen, succumbs to pneumonia – contracted while scouting production data from the Pittsburgh Manufacturers’ Gas Company’s well at Cannonsburg.

McMullen, publisher of the Bradford, Pennsylvania, “Petroleum Age” newspaper, already had contributed much to America’s early petroleum industry as a reliable oil field detective. Read the rest of this entry »


As is often the case, several petroleum companies have shared popular names, and this is the case with Evangeline Oil Company.

A circa 1920 certificate is for one Evangeline company that drilled in Texas’ world famous Burkburnett oilfield. It was a dry hole.

That North Texas field would lead to a 1940 Academy Award-winning movie with Spencer Tracy and Clark Gable. Read more in “Boom Town” of Burkburnett.”

This company also explored in Louisiana’s Clairborne Parish, drilling a well that produced a disappointing  30 barrels a day. The company established offices in Brockton, New York, and sold stock to fund drilling operations.

However, by July 1922, Evangeline Oil stock had “little or no value, unlisted brokers offering but a few cents a share and the price today being considerably under what it was six months or a year ago,” reported the United States Investor.

Today the certificate has collectible value and can be found on eBay.

In 1905, Detroit millionaire Leonard Frederick Benckenstein and others incorporated another Evangeline Oil Company in New Jersey, capitalized at $125,000 and operating out of Jennings, Louisiana – probably inspired by discovery of the state’s first commercial oil well near the Acadia Parish towns of Evangeline and Jennings in 1901.

As the newly discovered oilfield profited, investors and venture capitalists scrambled to get in on the “play.”

This Evangeline Oil Company was reported to be a “highly speculative promotion in oil.” It entered into receivership by 1912. Calcasieu Trust & Savings Bank was appointed receiver and recovered some damages from Gulf Oil and the Texas Oil Company (later Texaco).

Another Evangeline Oil Company was named in Standard Oil antitrust litigation, but this nominal Standard refinery competitor was also known as Central Asphalt Works located in Port Neches, Texas.

Note that this certificate includes a vignette of derricks commonly seen on those of other companies formed (and failed) in booming oil regions: Centralized Oil & Gas Company, the Double Standard Oil & Gas Company, the Evangeline Oil Company, the Texas Production Company and the Tulsa Producing and Refining Company! See Is my Old Oil Stock worth Anything?”

First Commercial Well in Louisiana

Just eight months after the giant 1901 discovery at Spindletop Hill, Texas, oil was discovered on September 21 just 90 miles to the east in Louisiana.

Already successful thanks to making strikes at Spindletop, independent oilman W. Scott Heywood brought in a 7,000-barrel-a-day producer six miles northeast of the town of Jennings.

Heywood’s Jules Clements No. 1 well marked the state’s first commercial oil production and opened the prolific Jennings Field. He followed up his success by securing leases, building pipelines and storage tanks, and contracting buyers.

Heywood’s discovery found oil at 1,700 feet. Some discouraged investors had sold their Jennings Oil Company stock when drilling reached 1,000 feet. By 1,500 feet, stock in the Jennings Oil Company sold for as little as 25 cents per share.

Patient investors were rewarded at 1,700 feet. The oilfield reaches peak production of more than nine million barrels in 1906.

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The U.S. petroleum industry was just a decade old. As oil discoveries spread from northwestern Pennsylvania, efficiently transporting the new resource became critical.

According to its 1867 prospectus, the Staveless Barrel and Tank Company was organized under the laws of New York and capitalized at $500,000 with 5,000 shares at $100 each. Read the rest of this entry »


Buck-Run Oil-and-Refining-Co-stock-AOGHS

Amidst World War I, the Buck Run Oil and Refining Company incorporated in Delaware on November 13, 1917.

After the war, on July 12, 1920, the company combined with the Republic Oil Company and the Oklahoma Oil and Gas Company to form the Fulton Group of Oil Companies.

At the time of consolidation into the Fulton Group, Buck Oil & Refining was contributing “the greater part of the oil,” but production soon fell off to less than 100 barrels a day.

Producing wells in remote locations and transportation costs compounded Buck Run Oil’s problems. Read the rest of this entry »



Although William S. Pratt entered the oil business in Wyoming in 1915, he soon moved to Kansas and organized the Wichita Eagle Oil Company.

Pratt started the Texas United Oil Company in July 1919. The Texas comptroller’s office reported his Dallas company produced more than 31,000 barrels of oil in the year’s last quarter.

Pratt solicited investment capital using newspaper advertisements placed across the country – in Troy, Syracuse, and Plattsburgh, New York; Spokane, Washington; El Paso, Texas, and Washington D.C.

From December 1919 through 1920, company advertisements promised: For Quick Returns and Unlimited Profits Invest With the Texas United Oil Company… 27 Wells Showing Initial Production of 8,700 Bbls. Daily.

However, one investment magazine described the company as unlikely to prosper. The assessment was accurate. By December 1920, Texas United Oil Company entered into receivership and did not emerge until April 27, 1921, reorganized and with a new president, Aldred S. Wright of Philadelphia.

Despite the reorganization, Texas United Oil Company did not survive long.

United States Investor reported a year later that Texas United Oil Company had very little value.

“It is of course not listed on any of the principal exchanges,” the magazine noted, adding that no dividends had been issued since 1920. “The company had about $1,300,000 stock outstanding and there was one public offering by people in Hartford, Connecticut, at $2 per share. Two cents per share is approximately the price now.”

Texas United Oil Company Chronology

October 1, 1919 – The Texas United Oil Company of Dallas produces 31,541 barrels of oil valued at $10,789 between October 1 and December 31, 1919, according to the Texas comptroller.

December 21, 1919 – In one of its first newspaper appearances, Texas United Oil Company President W. S. Pratt describes the company’s leases and production success in the Northwest Extension of the Burkburnett oilfield.

Pratt announces that the company’s trustees have resolved to increase capital to $5 million and he encourages potential investors to purchase Texas United Oil Company stock at $2 per share to enable “development of our many properties and the purchase of additional production.” – ad in Spokesman-Review, Spokane, Washington

January 3, 1920 – Texas-United Oil Company is promoted in an open letter advertisement sent from Electra, Texas, “to our stockholders and others” from J. R. Lucore, shareowner, of Olean, New York. Lucore reports very positive on-scene observations of drilling and production in progress. His endorsement follows:

“The Texas United is a sure and safe investment for anyone to buy stock in. No one need be in the least afraid to invest as large as one see fit and his investment will be the safest and surest of any company operating in the State…I expect to arrive home in a few days and will enlarge my stock order to you in the Texas United Oil Company on my arrival.” – ad in Gloversville, N.Y., Morning Herald

Texas-United-Oil-Ad-AOGHSJanuary 31, 1920 – Texas United Oil Company is reported as formed by a Declaration of Trust filed on July 2, 1919, with trustees L. W. Harrington, Herbert Bingham, H. C. Ralph and J. M. Davis. It receives a poor recommendation:

“Our information as to the management is that it is not as economical as it might be, and that operating costs are likely to be altogether too high because of rather poor judgment in planning the work.” – article in  United States Investor

February 21, 1920 – The Texas United Oil Company of 1209 Half Main Street, Dallas, Texas, asserts that the United States Investor’s bad recommendation refers to another company of the same name whose headquarters is in Wichita and not Dallas. Texas United Oil Company protests that “conclusions relative to the Wichita enterprise cannot fairly be applied.” Investigation planned. – article in  United States Investor

February 25, 1920 – Texas United Oil Company proclaims itself as “The King of the Oil Companies” and promises 30 percent dividends and $5 million in capital stock with 12 producing wells. – ad in Spokesman Review, Spokane, Washington

March 13, 1920 – Texas United Oil Company promotion continues, citing “12 producing oil wells – over 3,000 barrels daily” and “30 percent dividends have been paid in 7 months” Shares are offered at $2. Agent is J. S. Miramon, Rensselaer Hotel, Troy “Salesmen wanted: Liberal commission. Phone for appointment.” – ad in Troy (N. Y.) Times

April 17, 1920 – J. S. Miramon, now of Barows Company, 141 Broadway, New York City, advertises “Wise Investors, Increase your income” with Texas United Oil Company’s “2% monthly dividends, with record of 39% in dividends past nine months.” – ad in El Paso (Texas) Herald

April 10, 1920 – Analysts confirm poor recommendation after consulting with Texas United Company, the New York City based owners of Texas United Oil Company. “We cannot do otherwise than classify this as the ordinary type of oil gamble, a quite unproven enterprise, depending for its future upon the skill with which it is managed. – article in United States Investor

May 15, 1920 – Tex-Uni-Co. (trademark for Texas United Oil Company) advertises 18 producing wells, two ready to come in per April 30 telegram testimonial by Ralph P Reed, president National Investors Protective Corporation.

“These dividends will make a total of 43 ½ percent in cash and stock dividends paid in less than one year.” A. E. Roberts and Co., Washington, D.C. – ad in The Federal Employee, Washington D.C.

May 30, 1920 – Texas United Company promotes its Texas United Oil Company (Tex-Uni-Co.) as having rapidly grown from its origins in July, 1919 with 389 acres and two 2 producing wells, yielding about 42 barrels a day of production grown until. – ad in Syracuse Herald, Syracuse, New York

Jun 2, 1920 – “For Quick Returns and Unlimited Profits Invest With The Texas United Oil Company” upstate New York advertisement proclaims “27 Wells Showing Initial Production of 8,700 BBls. Daily.” – ad in Daily Republican, Plattsburgh,  New York

December 1920 – Texas United Oil Company enters into receivership.

February 25, 1921 – Advertising continues for twelve producing wells 30 percent dividends.” – ad in Spokesman-Review, Spokane, Washington

April 16, 1921 – Value of Texas United Oil Company plummets as it is reported to have “been the subject of much litigation of late…Texas United shares have declined to around five cents since their first appearance upon the market at $2 per share.” – article in  United States Investor

April 27, 1921 – Texas United Oil Company emerges from receivership reorganized and with a new president, Aldred S. Wright of Philadelphia.

November 11, 1922 – Texas United Oil Company “is of little value …two cents per share is approximately the price now.” – article in United States Investor

Please support the American Oil & Gas Historical Society with a donation.