Chickaloon Oil Company sought to be part of Alaska petroleum history, which includes milestones beginning with the territory’s first oil well in 1902, an important oilfield discovery in July 1957, and completion of the 800-mile Trans-Alaska Pipeline in 2007. Many small, independent exploration companies tried to become part of state’s oil producing history, and many failed, including Chickaloon Oil.
Seeking investors, Chickaloon Oil’s first advertisement appeared in the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner of January 31, 1953. The new company proclaimed it had chosen an area near Chickaloon, about 75 miles northeast of Anchorage, “as one of the most promising drill sites” for petroleum exploration.
“Not only do our studies show a favorable structure in this area, but United States government geologists have marked this area as a probable oil producing land,” added the company, which claimed to have obtained leases for four sections of land, “where we can drill more than 300 wells if oil is found.”
Chickaloon was a coal-mining ghost town in the Alaska Territory. It had mostly perished in the 1920s after the U.S. Navy converted to oil-fired boilers for its ships (see Petroleum and Sea Power). The remains of Chickaloon were on federal property and later became part of Roosevelt’s New Deal community farming experiment, the “Matanuska Valley Colony.”
Around 1930, the U. S. Navy drilled an exploratory oil well in the Matanuska Valley. It was a “dry hole” and capped, but the U.S. Geological Survey cited reports on several other efforts. “A well drilled near Chickaloon in the Matanuska Valley is reported to have struck gas in association with coal,” the USGS noted. In 1929, the Peterson Oil Association had also drilled, but failed to find any oil.
Almost 25 years later, Chickaloon Oil and other exploration companies, returned to the Matanuska-Nelchina area in search of Alaska’s first major oilfield. To find investors for its highly speculative wildcat drilling, Chickaloon Oil advertised as far away as Oregon, offering $250,000 in stock to fund operations. In its ads, the company advised investors that the “veteran oilman from Texas,” Frank Dillard, would supervise the drilling of a 5,000-foot-deep test well in the summer of 1953.
In June 1953, a competitor, Alaska Oil & Gas Development Company, spudded a well just 50 miles down the Matanuska Valley near the Eureka Roadhouse. That well and several later ones would not strike oil.
However, Chickaloon Oil Company could find sufficient funds to actually launch drilling operations. The Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission has no record of the company and it would be another four-years before Richfield Oil Corporation (today’s ARCO) completed its Swanson River Unit No. 1 well, which produced 900 barrels of oil per day and changed Alaska’s future.
Chickaloon Oil Company, Alaska Oil & Gas Development Company, and many other small exploration ventures ultimately became small footnotes in Alaskan petroleum history.
The stories of exploration and production companies trying to join petroleum booms (and avoid busts) can be found updated in Is my Old Oil Stock worth Anything? The American Oil & Gas Historical Society preserves U.S. petroleum history. Please support this AOGHS.ORG energy education website. For membership information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org. © 2018 Bruce A. Wells.