Preserving Louisiana petroleum history at Caddo Lake.
A 1905 oil discovery at Caddo-Pines brought America’s rapidly growing petroleum industry to northwestern Louisiana. A state museum in appropriately named Oil City tells the story.
Originally the Caddo-Pine Island Oil and Historical Museum, in May 2004 the Louisiana State Oil and Gas Museum was dedicated as a state museum under the Louisiana Secretary of State.
Located about 20 miles north of Shreveport, the first public museum in Louisiana dedicated to the petroleum industry maintains an extensive local history library and collected photographic archives. Exterior exhibits include the former depot of the Kansas City Southern Railroad.
“Located in aptly-named Oil City, the Louisiana State Oil and Gas Museum interprets the fascinating drama of Louisiana’s early oil industry history though photographs, films and life-size dioramas,” according to the museum’s website.
“This part of Louisiana, of course, was built on the oil and gas industry and visitors interested in the technical aspects of oil field work will find the museum particularly appealing,” according to the site.
Across the street from the museum — next to the old train depot — oilfield rigs and other equipment educate visitors about early petroleum drilling and production technologies.
The earliest manufacturing plant in Caddo Parish was in Gas Center outside Shreveport, where Purified Petroleum Products Company of Louisiana patented a process for treating gasoline and kerosene. The earliest oil pipeline in the area was completed in 1910 by Standard Oil of Louisiana, connecting the oilfield to Standard’s Baton Rouge refinery.
Shreveport’s Spring Street Historical Museum includes petroleum-related exhibits — and the nearby statue at 90 Market Street commemorates the city’s historic 1870 natural gas well.
Oil City’s state museum preserves stories and artifacts from Caddo Parish oil and natural gas discoveries – and the early 20th century economic prosperity petroleum brought to North Louisiana.
Chevron donated a derrick and other oilfield equipment that help draw tourists to the museum. Visitors also learn about the region’s earlier history, starting with the culture of Caddo Indians.
Northern Louisiana Oil Discovery
Four years after oil had been found in southern Louisiana, brothers J.S. and W.A. Savage of West Virginia in 1905 completed the first well in the Caddo Parrish oilfield. Teams of oxen hauled the drilling equipment needed for their derrick. According to local historians, the well’s roughnecks were paid $2.50 for each 12-hour work day.
The Savage brothers’ well first showed signs of natural gas, but they decided to drill deeper, finding an oil-producing formation oil on March 28, 1905, after reaching 1,556 feet.
More northern Louisiana exploratory wells quickly followed and by 1910 almost 25,000 people were working in and around Oil City, which became the first “wildcat town” in the Arkansas-Louisiana-Texas region (also see First Arkansas Oil Wells and Arkansas Oil Ventures.)
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 an early “offshore” oil well on Caddo Lake, where production has continued. Heavy rains in 1887 caused an Ohio lake to rise, also creating offshore wells (learn more in Ohio Offshore Wells).
The first commercial natural gas field in Louisiana was discovered accidentally in 1870 by a water well drilled at the Shreveport Ice Factory, according to a petroleum industry trade association founded in 1923.
“A night watchman at an ice plant in Shreveport accidentally discovered natural gas emanating from a well drilled in search of artesian water when he struck a match. Gas from the well was piped to the plant to provide illumination — the first use in the state of the fuel that today heats the vast majority of Louisiana homes and places of business.” — Louisiana Mid-Continent Oil & Gas Association (LMOGA),
First Louisiana Oil Well
Just eight months after the January 10, 1901, “Lucas Gusher” at Spindletop Hill, Texas, oil was discovered just 90 miles to the east in Louisiana, not far from Lake Charles.
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 marked the state’s first commercial oil production and opened the prolific Jennings field, which Heywood further developed by building pipelines and storage tanks.
Learn more in First Louisiana Oil Wells.
Recommended Reading: Louisiana’s Oil Heritage, Images of America (2012); Early Louisiana and Arkansas Oil: A Photographic History, 1901-1946 (1982). Your Amazon purchase benefits the American Oil & Gas Historical Society. As an Amazon Associate, AOGHS earns a commission from qualifying purchases.
The American Oil & Gas Historical Society (AOGHS) preserves U.S. petroleum history. Become an AOGHS annual supporting member and help maintain this energy education website and expand historical research. Contact email@example.com. © 2023 Bruce A. Wells.
Citation Information – Article Title: “Louisiana Oil City Museum.” Authors: B.A. Wells and K.L. Wells. Website Name: American Oil & Gas Historical Society. URL: https://aoghs.org/energy-education-resources/louisiana-oil-and-gas-museum. Last Updated: May 7, 2023. Original Published Date: September 1, 2005.