Northwestern Louisiana oil discoveries expanded state’s young petroleum industry.

A 1905 oil discovery at Caddo-Pines brought America’s rapidly growing petroleum industry to northwestern Louisiana. A state museum in 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. 

louisiana oil city museum

Gulf Refining Company built drilling platforms in 1911 to reach the oil beneath Caddo Lake in Louisiana. This early “offshore” technology worked. Production continues today out of sight for most young fishermen.

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.” notes the museum 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.”

louisiana oil city museum

Chevron donated an oil derrick that stands beside the Louisiana State Oil Museum in Oil City, about a 20-minute drive from Shreveport.

Across the street from the museum – next to the old train depot – oilfield rigs and other equipment educate visitors about early petroleum exploration 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. The drilling boom began not long after the famous Spindletop gusher in Texas.

Louisiana 1955 oil monument in Shreveport

In 1955, the Shreveport Chamber of Commerce dedicated a 40-foot monument commemorating the 50th anniversary of oil in Caddo Parish. Photo by Bruce Wells.

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.

1905 Discovery

Four years after oil had been found in south Louisiana, brothers J. S. and W. A. Savage of West Virginia completed the first well in the Caddo Parrish oilfield in 1905. Timbers for the derrick were hauled in by teams of oxen.

According to local historians, in roughnecks were paid $2.50 a day for a 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 the early “offshore” oil well on Caddo Lake, where production continues today.

The state’s first commercial natural gas was discovered in Shreveport in 1870 while drilling for water for the Shreveport Ice Factory. “A night watchman struck a match to see if the wind he heard blowing from the site would blow it out, but it ignited,” notes a Caddo Parish website, which has links to a collection of photos.

louisiana oil city museum

A statue in Shreveport commemorates an 1870 well that provided the first known commercial use of natural gas in Louisiana.

The 1870 Shreveport natural gas well was used to light the ice factory – the first documented use of natural gas in Louisiana.

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 marks the state’s first commercial oil production and opens the prolific Jennings Field, which Heywood developed by securing leases, building pipelines and storage tanks, and contracting buyers.

Learn more in First Louisiana Oil Well.

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The American Oil & Gas Historical Society preserves U.S. petroleum history. Become an AOGHS supporting member and help maintain this energy education website and expand historical research. For more information, contact bawells@aoghs.org. © 2020 Bruce A. Wells.

Citation Information – Article Title: “Louisiana Oil City Museum.” Author: Aoghs.org Editors. Website Name: American Oil & Gas Historical Society. URL: https://aoghs.org/energy-education-resources/louisiana-oil-and-gas-museum. Last Updated: May 11, 2020. Original Published Date: September 1, 2005.

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