This Week August 20 to August 26
August 24, 1892 – Gladys City Oil, Gas & Manufacturing Company founded
One of the earliest Texas oil companies – the Gladys City Oil, Gas & Manufacturing Company – is formed by Patillo Higgins and three partners. They lease 2,700 acres in Jefferson County, Texas.
Higgins is convinced that an area known as “Big Hill” – Spindletop Hill – four miles
south of Beaumont, has oil despite all conventional wisdom to the contrary.
“As geologists would soon learn, salt domes are surrounded by oil, and one of the largest was Spindletop Hill, south of Beaumont,” notes a local petroleum museum.
“Patillo Higgins had noticed oil seeps and gas flares on the hill while taking his Sunday school class on picnics. To get the necessary backing to drill, he approached George W. Carroll, George W. O’Brien, and J.F. Lanier,” explains the Spindletop-Gladys City Boomtown Museum at Lamar University in Beaumont.
“In 1892, they incorporated the Gladys City Oil, Gas & Manufacturing Company,” adds the museum. “It was Higgins’ dream to make Gladys City, named for a favorite Sunday school student, a perfect industrial city based on manufacturing and the production of oil.”
The new oil company will drill wells on Spindletop Hill in 1893, 1895 and 1896. All are dry holes. Although Higgins leaves the Gladys City venture in 1895, Capt. Anthony Lucas will bring in a gusher on January 10, 1901, that changes the petroleum industry forever.
The Spindletop field will produce more oil in one day than the rest of the world’s oilfields combined – and Texaco, Gulf, Mobile and Sun Oil will trace their roots to Patillo Higgins’ confidence in the Big Hill.
“Call him a dreamer, a visionary, a pioneer or ‘the millionaire’ – the life and exploits of oilman Patillo Higgins are the stuff of legend,” notes the Boomtown Museum.
“Besides his ability to locate oil throughout south Texas, Higgins, in the early days of exploration at Spindletop, oversaw the planning for an ‘industrial Utopia’ called Gladys City, including the design of a city map.”
The museum, which hosts “Wildcatter Weekends” that include lectures, special exhibits and family activities, is planning a special Patillo Higgins Day for December 8, 2012. “As we pay tribute to one of the more important – and colorful – historical Spindletop figures, families can learn about the craft of surveying and design their own perfect city,” the website explains.
Also visit the Texas Energy Museum in Beaumont.
August 25, 1922 – New Mexico’s First Commercial Oil Well
The first commercial oil well in New Mexico is spudded by the Midwest Refining Company — a wildcat well on the western edge of the Navajo reservation in San Juan County. Oil is discovered within a month, producing 375 barrels a day from the San Juan Basin. Midwest drills 11 more wells to establish the Hogback oilfield as a major producer.
Two years later, a pipeline to Farmington is completed and oil is shipped by rail to Salt Lake City, Utah, for refining. Visit the Farmington Museum, which features “Dinosaurs to Drill Bits” — an energy education exhibit that tells the oil and natural gas story of the prolific San Juan Basin.
Today, nine of New Mexico’s 33 counties produce oil or natural gas. The state is ranked fifth in U.S. oil production and sixth in natural gas production, according to the Independent Petroleum Association of New Mexico.
Please support the American Oil & Gas Historical Society with a donation.