The land around Bristow, Oklahoma, was once dismissed as “condemned territory” and deemed unproductive by geologists. Thirty-five dry holes had substantiated their judgement, despite the location between two of Oklahoma’s most productive oilfields, Cushing-Drumright and Glenn Pool.
The Cushing-Drumright field, about 30 miles northwest of Bristow, was discovered by Oklahoma’s “King of the Wildcatters,” Tom Slick, in 1912. Once known as “Dry Hole Slick,” his Wheeler No. 1 well revealed an oilfield that produced a lot of oil for the next 35 years, reaching 330,000 barrels of oil every day at its peak. With its pipelines and vast storage facilities, Cushing today is the trading hub for oil in North America.
Thirty miles east of Bristow, the Glenn Pool field was discovered on the Creek Indian Reservation south of Tulsa in 1905 – two years before Oklahoma statehood. Combined with the earlier “Red Fork Gusher,” Glenn Pool would help make Tulsa the “Oil Capital of the World.”
Despite the Bristow area’s dry holes between the giant oilfields, Continental Petroleum Company attempted an exploratory well just east of the town. On October 17, 1921, its Ben Sharper No. 1 well was completed with oil production of 1,000 barrels a day. It was the discovery well for what became known as the Continental Pool. The success soon drew many competitors and Bristow’s population soared.
Continental Petroleum had been formed as a Delaware corporation in January 1919, with former Colorado banker A.A. Rollestone as president. Rollestone had also purchased and was president of Continental Refining Company, which operated a 2,500 barrel-a-day refinery in Bristow, where both companies were located.
One Rollestone company was in the oil exploration business and the other was refining crude oil piped in from the Cushing-Drumright field. Moody’s Analyses of Investments reported Continental Petroleum had about 6,000 acres under lease in Oklahoma and another 3,000 acres in Texas.
Continental Petroleum’s success with the Continental Pool brought suitors. In January 1922, stockholders approved purchase of the company by Michael L. Benedum’s Transcontinental Oil Company.
Benedum, a successful independent oilman from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in 1924 formed the Big Lake Oil Company, which built the first oil company town in the Permian Basin in West Texas. A 1923 wildcat well there, the Santa Rita No. 1, had uncovered the 300-mile basin. He would also be known as “King of the Wildcatters.”
The Transcontinental Oil buyout of Continental Petroleum made A.A. Rollestone a wealthy man, according to the trade publication the Petroleum Age, which said the deal gave him an address “on a prominent Easy Street corner.”
In 1936, the Ohio Oil Company (later Marathon), acquired Transcontinental Oil Company. Although Continental Petroleum stock certificates, redeemed and canceled long ago, have no value as negotiable securities, the company’s Oklahoma oil patch history may help make them collectable.
The stories of exploration and production companies joining petroleum booms (and avoiding 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.