Oil and Natural Gas History, Education Resources, Museum News, Exhibits and Events

 

 The Uinta Basin witnessed its first drilling boom following a 1948 oil discovery oil at 4,152 feet deep. The boom continue today - thanks to giant reserves of coalbed methane gas. Photo courtesy of the Utah State Historical Society.

The Uinta Basin witnessed Utah’s first drilling boom following a 1948 oil discovery. A modern boom would return  thanks to coalbed methane gas. Photo courtesy Utah State Historical Society.

After decades of expensive failed exploration attempts, the first Utah oil well finally was competed on September 18, 1948, in the Uinta Basin.

“The honor of bringing in the state’s first commercial oil well went not to the “Majors” but to an “Independent” – the Equity Oil Company,” notes Osmond Harline in a summer 1963 article in Utah Historical Quarterly.

The Ashley Valley No. 1, about 10 miles southeast of Vernal, Utah, produced about 300 barrels a day from 4,152 feet, Harline explains. “It is interesting to note that J.L. (Mike) Dougan, president and general manager of Equity Oil Company and a Salt Lake City resident, had been drilling for oil in Utah for over 25 years.”

Dougan beat out larger and better financed competitors, including  Standard Oil of California, Pure Oil, Continental and Union Oil. The Utah discovery launched a deep-drilling boom. Unlike the earlier attempts, Dougan had drilled beyond the basin’s typical depth of 1,000 feet to 2,000 feet. Read the rest of this entry »

 

Building a community oil museum is not for the faint of heart.

“Money and volunteers, volunteers and money,” are the biggest challenges, according to John Larrabee, board president for the Illinois Oil Field Museum and Resource Center on the outskirts of his hometown of Oblong, Illinois.

The Illinois Oil Field Museum is located in Oblong, Illinois, on Highway 33, southeast of Effingham. First opened in 1961, the community museum moved into a new building in 2001 and today continues to add new exhibits.

“The first thing you have to have is a goal and the determination to keep at it, no matter what. Don’t give up, whatever happens,” Larrabee explained in a 2004 interview with historical society Contributing Editor Kris Wells.

It helps to know something about the oil business, said the third generation Illinois Basin oilman. “The museum began way back in 1961 with a fellow named Enos Bloom, Larrabee noted. “In those days, the city of Oblong provided and maintained a building that housed donated artifacts.” Read the rest of this entry »

 

“Michigan Oil & Gas History,” a 2005 Clarke Historical Library exhibit at Central Michigan University, Mount Pleasant.

In 1860, Michigan State Geologist Alexander Winchell reported that oil and natural gas deposits lay under Michigan’s surface.

First commercial production was at Port Huron, where twenty-two wells were drilled, beginning in 1886.
Total output was small. Michigan’s first oil boom was at Saginaw, where production began about 1925.

About three hundred wells were drilled here by 1927, when Muskegon’s “Discovery Well” drew oil men from all over the country to that field.

The Mt. Pleasant field, opened in 1928, helped make Michigan one of the leading oil producers of the eastern United States. Mount Pleasant became known as the “Oil Capital of Michigan.”

Efforts of the industry itself resulted in excellent state laws regulating petroleum output. Well depths ranged from one thousand to six thousand feet.

New wells are constantly opened as exploration continues. – 1961 Michigan historical marker.

Frank Boles, director of the Clarke Historical Library, designed the petroleum history exhibit that creatively used documents and photographs to capture the attention of students.

Central Michigan University Oil Exhibit

In the summer of 2005, a special petroleum exhibit opened at Central Michigan University’s (CMU) Clarke Historical Library, Mount Pleasant.

“They work hard, take risks, prosper, and by and large benefit everybody,” noted Frank Boles, director of the Clarke Historical Library, about oil and natural gas producers. “What I didn’t understand about the industry is that these people all know each other.”

The library told their story with an “Oil and Natural Gas in Michigan” exhibit.

The state’s abundant oil production comes as a surprise to many, said Boles, who put the exhibit together with the cooperation of the Michigan Oil & Gas Association and the Michigan Oil & Gas Producers Educational Foundation.

Jack Westbrook, retired managing editor of Michigan Oil & Gas News magazine, marshaled the resources and worked tirelessly to ensure success, Boles said. “In a very real sense, there would be no exhibit if it were not for Jack.”

The exhibit was designed to designed to pique a visitor’s curiosity – and be transportable. The region’s students learned that Mount Pleasant, home to CMU, had its own oil boom in 1928 and today is known as the historical center of Michigan’s oil industry.

They were surprised to learn that more than 57,000 oil and gas wells had been drilled in their state since 1925 – and that Michigan ranks 17th in nationwide oil production and 11th in natural gas.

More surprises awaited those students who looked more closely, Boles said.

“We’re about usage,” he explained. “Our profit is people coming in, using our resources, and hopefully learning something. We want our exhibits to prompt them to dig deeper.”

For example, students learn that after decades of dry holes or small oil discoveries, the Houseknecht No. 1 discovery well on January 7, 1957, revealed Michigan’s largest oil field, 29-miles-long.

Ferne Houseknecht had convinced her uncle, Clifford Perry, to take time between his other farm projects to drill the historic well. Read more in “Michigan’s ‘Golden Gulch’ of Oil.”

For the exhibit, Boles used just six walls and eleven cabinets to tell this and other stories, so careful planning was essential. He said that from the project’s outset, pursuit of community support, resources, and partners was essential.

Proudly showing off his homemade miniature cable tool rig in 1932, Earl “Red” Perry Jr., age 12, is the nephew of Cliff Perry – who will discover Michigan’s largest oil field on January 7, 1957.

The exhibit began with storyboarding and the interactive process of writing and rewriting proposed text. Large photo formats with understandable text dominated the walls, while display cases featured unique artifacts and documents.

Visitors discovered a rich oil history and learned of the complex environmental issues Michigan has successfully addressed.

The 1970s “Pigeon River State Forest” ecological controversy was presented – along with its innovative solution. In 1976, Michigan became the first state in the nation to earmark state revenue generated through mineral, including oil and gas, activity for acquisition and improvement of environmentally sensitive or public recreation lands.

According to Jack Westbrook, all 83 Michigan counties have benefited from the fund’s $635 million collected from oil and gas revenues – and other states followed Michigan’s example.

His book, Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund 1976-2011: A 35 year Michigan investment heritage in Michigan’s public recreation future, is available at Amazon. See “Books & Artists.”

Visit the Clarke Historical Library.

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

 

Sound-Cities-Gas-and Oil Co-stock-aoghs

Washington is not a petroleum-producing state. Extended, significant commercial oil production has never occurred.

But in the mid-1930s, drilling about 40 miles south of Seattle, Sound Cities Gas & Oil Company, Inc., became one of the few companies to make a strike that excited interest.

The company, which had offices in Seattle and Tacoma (Puget Sound cities), wisely decided to drill where flaming gas seeped from the ground.

Using a cable-tool drilling rig near the town of Enumclaw, the company drilled the Bobb No. 1 well seeking a hillside anticline. Geologists had long recognized anticlines – created by the up-folding of rocks, similar to an arch – as potential oil and natural gas traps. Read the rest of this entry »

 

Midfields-Oil-Stock-Colorado-AOGHSIn 1918, a number prominent citizens of Yuma and Wray counties in Colorado got together to form the Midfields Oil Company, capitalized at $100,000 with H. F. Strangways as president.

The local newspaper, the Wray Rattler, followed the company’s progress and published advertisements. Stock was offered at $10 per share.

“The control of the company is in the hands of honest, capable, well known business men of Yuma County, and is in every way a home institution,” proclaimed one ad.

Although oil was the objective (natural gas pipeline infrastructure being nonexistent), Midfields Oil’s first drilling attempt 16 miles south of Wray produced “a showing” of gas in the “Black-Wolf Basin” and was abandoned.

A second well in 1919 proved to be the discovery well for the Beecher Island natural gas field in the Niobrara shale formation, which remains active today. Read the rest of this entry »

 

Texas Production Company was incorporated on June 18, 1917, with capitalization of $1 million.

By 1919, this company brought in the Renner No. 1 well at 475 barrels a day from the Waggoner oilfield, near Electra and the recent extension of the Burkburnett field.

According to the Texas Historical Commission, oil exploration and production in this area was minimal until April 17, 1919, when the Bob Waggoner Well No. 1 blew in at 4,800 barrels per day. It was the first well in what became known as the Northwest Extension Oilfield, comprised of approximately 27 square miles.

Oil had been found in 1912 west of Burkburnett in Wichita County, followed by another oilfield in the town itself in 1918. The Wichita Falls region’s drilling booms inspired a 1940 Academy award-winning movie. See “Boom Town of Burkburnett.”

The company also appears to have drilled productive oil wells in the in the Humble oilfield of Harris County, bringing in the Bissonnet Np. 1 well to a depth of over 4,000 feet, one of the deepest in the field at the time.

That well produced up to 2,000 barrels of oil a day in 1921. In the same year however, a Texas Production Company investor sought advice from a leading financial publication. The answer was not promising.

“So far as we can make out you bought into an oil production of little or no merit, which has simply gone the way of any number of such enterprises,” United States Investor noted.

“Shares of the Texas Production Company are now being offered at a few cents a share by unlisted brokers which would indicate that a sale of your stock would net you little,” the magazine added. “There is no way for you to get your money back.”

United States Investor encouraged its readers to avoid investing in any questionable petroleum-related bonds.

“This may be a time for strong companies to invest in oil at a low figure,” Investor  proclaims, “but a company which must bond itself to pull itself out of a hole can’t do much in the way of speculation on the future price of oil to get back for its stockholders what has been already taken by unscrupulous promoters.”

Note that the company’s certificate includes a vignette of derricks commonly seen on those of other companies formed (and failed) in 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?”

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

Oil-ads-Milwaukee-Journal-June-2-1918-AOGHS

In October 1917, Wyoming Peerless Oil Company stock promotions first appeared in the pages of the Cheyenne State Leader, Laramie Republican and Wyoming Tribune newspapers.

Within a year the new exploration company’s advertisements appeared in newspapers as far away as Milwaukee, Wisconsin: “Action Not Promises Our Motto,” noted one placed in the June 2, 1918, Milwaukee Journal (above).

Many U.S. newspapers at the time included similar promotions as oilfield discoveries proliferated from California to Kansas.

Oeerless-oil-stock-ad-AOGHSDemand for gasoline was skyrocketing, both for Model T Fords and World War I, which the United States would soon join. Oil companies proliferated.

Some used questionable claims to keep investors unaware of how risky and expensive the business finding and producing oil truly was.

Nine out of 10 exploratory well attempts proved to be dry holes – and drilling was expensive in such remote areas.

The Wyoming Peerless Oil Company set its sights on drilling a well six miles from the nearest producer in the Big Muddy oilfield east of Casper. Stock was initially offered at three cents per share. “Don’t wait for our first well to come in. You might not be able to get this stock then for less than 25-cents or 50-cents per share.”

Wyoming-big-muddy-oilfield-marker-AOGHSThe Big Muddy oilfield, located about four miles west of Glenrock in Converse County, was discovered in 1916, a discovery that touched off widespread drilling and brought about one of Wyoming’s famous oil booms. Today, a marker on the south side of Hwy. 230 at the junction with County Road 33 describes the historic field:

Big Muddy oil field is a typical Wyoming oil producing structure. The field, discovered in 1916, has produced over 30 million barrels of high quality oil.

Strata here were arched upward at the time the Rocky Mountains originated over 60 million years ago, to form anticline, or dome. Because oil is lighter than water, it rose to the crest of the dome where it was trapped in pore spaces between sand grains. The Wall Creek sand lies at a depth of near 3,000 feet and the Dakota sand at about 4,000 feet. The first oil well in Wyoming was drilled in 1884. There are now about 100 oil fields in the state.

Seeking more investors, advertisements reported Wyoming Peerless Oil ‘s drilling progress on its Big Muddy exploratory well: Down 1,475 feet by June of 1918; down 1,675 feet by July and down to 3,315 feet by August of 1919.

Although rumors of a dry hole began to circulate, the company continued to solicit more investors to fund deeper drilling. But after reaching 4,050 feet without finding oil, company officer Charles Straub announced the well would be abandoned.

If more funds could be secured, Wyoming Peerless Oil would drill a second well, Straub added.

“Efforts have been made to extend the limits of the (Big Muddy) field in every direction, but these efforts have all been failures and the area of the field is plainly marked,” reported the Oil and Gas News reported (this would change in 1950 with a discovery to the east of the field).

By February 1920, stockholders from Denver had petitioned a court to put the Wyoming Peerless Oil Company into receivership, alleging mismanagement by Straub and other company officers. Straub responded with a $50,000 libel suit, reported by the Casper Daily Tribune on March 5, 1920.

The results are obscured, but Wyoming Peerless Oil never drilled a second well and the company disappeared from newspaper accounts.

The Big Muddy oilfield now has produced more than 300 million barrels of oil and wells are still pumping.

The first record of oil in Wyoming came in 1832. An expedition led by Captain B.L.E. Bonneville took the first wagons through South Pass. Fifty years later, prospector Mike Murphy, bought an oil lease on the site of Capt. Bonneville’s “great tar spring” southeast of Lander.

Read more in Petroleum Pioneers of Wyoming.

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