About 1,000 miles west of Minneapolis, the town of Shoshoni, Wyoming, and the potential of oil wealth in the nearby Lower Muskrat oilfield inspired “a syndicate of Minnesota men” to form Minnesota-Western Oil Company in the summer of 1918.

Shoshoni, population 600, was about 90 miles west of Casper and on the Chicago & Northwestern Railroad Line. The Minnesota State Securities Commission licensed 50,000 shares of the new company with a sales price of $10 per share.

Stock purchases would underwrite the risky venture, so drilling progress would likely be slow and sometimes intermittent. Securing the necessary Minnesota licenses from the state securities commission was problematic and bureaucratic with multiple applications, denials, denial rescission, licenses, and license cancellations.

By September 1919 the company’s first well was about 1,000 feet deep. By January 1920, it was down another 200 feet. In March, Petroleum Magazine noted the well had an encouraging “showing of oil” before weather intervened.

“Heavy snows have hampered work in the Muskrat region the last few weeks,” reported the trade magazine. In May, water intrusion was a problem and drilling was “tied up with cementing operations for several weeks.” In September, the well “has been held up by a long fishing job, but is about ready to drill again.”

Months of slow progress were rewarded in April 1921 when the well found a “considerable showing of gas” at 2,000 feet in the geological “first sand.” Drilling continued toward the second sand, expected at 3,000 feet.

By November 1921, drilling reached a depth of 2,750 feet. An article in the December National Petroleum News reported “The Minnesota-Western Oil Co. is running 4.75 inch casing at 2,775 feet in a test in this county (Fremont). The second sand is expected within 100 feet.”

Minnesota-Western Oil Company’s progress had been covered by industry trade publications since its 1918 incorporation, but it abruptly disappeared after December 1921. The company struggled with debt and tried to reorganize into the Interior Oil Company with stockholders’ subscriptions. But litigation was immediate and extended.

The Minnesota State Securities Commission revoked the Minnesota-Western Oil Company’s license for the final time on July 25, 1923. Four years and multiple appeals later, the Wyoming Supreme Court ruled against Minnesota-Western Oil’s appeal, saying that although out of business, the company “owes the debt and that it remains unpaid.”

To learn what attracted Minnesota speculators to the early oilfields of the Williston Basin, see First Wyoming Oil Wells and Buffalo Bill Shoshone Oil Company.


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 bawells@aoghs.org. © 2018 Bruce A. Wells.


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