Kansas museum exhibits 1920s natural gas field and world’s greatest helium source.


A small museum in southwestern Kansas preserves the history of one of the largest natural gas fields in the world. The Stevens County Gas & Historical Museum in Hugoton opened in 1961 not far from a producing gas well drilled in 1945.

Hugoton’s museum, founded by Gladys Renfro and a group of dedicated volunteers, has served “as a memento of the Hugoton gas field and the progressive development of Stevens County.”

The farming community proclaimed as America’s “Natural Gas Capital” also hosts a Car Show & Rod Run every August.

Outdoor oilfield equipment exhibits at natural gas museum in Hugoton, Kansas.

The Stevens County Gas & Historical Museum in Hugoton, Kansas, includes early exploration and production equipment. Mid-1880s settlers originally named their town Hugo in honor of French writer Victor Hugo.

Covering more than 14-counties in western Kansas alone, the giant Hugoton natural gas field extends 8,500 square miles into the Oklahoma and Texas panhandles.

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In 2003, about 11,000 wells produced natural gas and oil in the Kansas portion of the Hugoton area, according to the Kansas Geological Survey (KGS). Thousands of miles of pipeline have carried Hugoton gas nationwide.

Natural Gas Museum welcome sign, "natural gas capital."

Natural gas had been discovered as early as 1922, but the potential of the Hugoton-Panhandle field was not revealed until a 1927 well southwest of Hugoton.

Hugoton natural gas fields in 2007 produced 358 billion cubic feet of gas, making it the 5th largest U.S. source of natural gas at the time.

Natural Gas Museum map of the Hugoton field and its geology.

In southwestern Kansas, the Stevens County Gas & Historical Museum in Hugoton is above a giant natural gas producing area (in red) that extends 8,500 square miles into the Oklahoma and Texas panhandles.

“Hugoton production is a major source of natural gas and oil for the state and the nation,” KGS explained, adding that the economic value produced in 14 counties of southwest Kansas exceeds 50 percent of all gas and oil produced in the state. “The major gas fields of this area have produced enough gas to supply every household in Kansas for 364 years.”

Although natural gas had been discovered as early as 1922, near Liberal, Kansas, that well did not produce oil – so it was considered of little value and remained unused for several years, noted KGS.

“In 1927, gas was discovered at the Independent Oil and Gas Company’s Crawford No. 1, about 2,600 feet below the surface southwest of Hugoton,” the KGS added. In 1929, Argus Pipe Line Company started construction of a pipeline to furnish gas to Dodge City.

Beginning in the 1930s, Phillips Petroleum Company produced Hugoton natural gas from 3,000 feet deep in Texas County, Oklahoma.

Kansas granite marker at Hugoton for the world's largest source of helium.

“Hugoton-Panhandle gas provides the world’s largest source of helium from which the U.S. Government has drawn a 40 year supply stockpile and spacecraft and other industries obtain current needs,” notes a monument in Guymon, Oklahoma.

“This field with subsequent deeper discoveries of oil and gas has provided landowners with royalty revenue and cheap fuel,” reports an historical marker in a Guymon, Oklahoma, park. “There are nearly 8,000 producing oil or gas wells in Texas County today,” the historic marker notes.

“For 75 years, the county has been one of the largest sources of revenue for the state of Oklahoma through taxes on oil and gas production.”

World’s Largest Helium Supply

Hugoton natural gas fields also have become a leading source of helium, thanks to a University of  Kansas professor who in 1905 discovered helium could be extracted from natural gas (learn more in Kansas “Wind Gas” Well). The Hugoton-Panhandle gas continues to be the world’s largest source of helium in the world.

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The Stevens County Gas & Historical Museum, 905 S. Adams Street in Hugoton, includes early oil patch equipment, restored buildings – including an historic Santa Fe Hugoton Train Depot – an 1887 school house and home, a grocery store, and a barber shop. A natural gas well drilled in 1945 is still producing at the museum.

A 2004 Hugoton Asset Management Project brought together KGS and eight industry partners in the Hugoton field – to build a “knowledge and technical base required for intelligent stewardship, identification of new opportunities, and continued improvement in recovery strategies.”

Natural gas shale discoveries (and advanced production technologies) have overtaken the Hugoton’s once dominant role. In 2009, the Hugoton gas area produced 328 billion cubic feet of natural gas, making it the ninth largest source of gas in America.

Natural gas shale discoveries in the Fayetteville, Arkansas, region (2004) and Haynesville, Louisiana, region (2008) have estimated production volumes of 517 billion cubic feet and 204 billion cubic feet respectively.

To learn about another massive U.S. natural gas formation, the Trenton Field of the 1880s, see Indiana Natural Gas Boom.


Recommended Reading:  The Extraction State, A History of Natural Gas in America (2021); The Natural Gas Revolution: At the Pivot of the World’s Energy Future (2013). 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. For more information, contact bawells@aoghs.org. Copyright © 2023 Bruce A. Wells. All rights reserved.

Citation Information – Article Title: “Natural Gas Museum” Authors: B.A. Wells and K.L. Wells. Website Name: American Oil & Gas Historical Society. URL: https://aoghs.org/energy-education-resources/natural-gas-museum. Last Updated: May 11, 2023. Original Published Date: May 12, 2013.


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