Somerset, Texas, was a quiet farming community about 15 miles from San Antonio on the Artesian Belt Railroad in 1913 when one of the town founders, Carl Kurz, discovered oil while drilling for water. The same thing had happened at Corsicana in 1894, bringing the first Texas oil boom.
The Somerset oilfield, which would extend south of Pleasanton, became known as “the largest known shallow field in the world at that time.” It joined other Texas discoveries making headlines since the 1901 “Lucas Gusher” at Spindletop.
In Springfield, Massachusetts, almost 2,000 miles from Somerset, a group businessmen formed New England-Texas Oil Refining Syndicate, one of many companies to explore for oil southwest of San Antonio. Part of their incentive might have been a well owned by W.C. Steubing near the Somerset field.
Drilling the exploratory well with a rotary rig began on September 30, 1918, two miles southeast of Somerset. But three months and 1,688 feet deep later, Steubing’s well, the Sarah Smith No. 1, well proved to be an expensive “dry hole.” The New England-Texas Oil Refining Syndicate incorporated in Massachusetts with capitalization of $1 million and 200,000 shares of its stock with a nominal par value of $5.
“It is announced by Judge M.L. Barr, of Springfield, Mass., who recently arrived here to direct the oil operations of the New England-Texas Oil Refining Syndicate in the Somerset field, adjacent to San Antonio, that the company will proceed immediately to drill 100 wells on its leases,” noted Oil Paint and Drug Reporter in April 18, 1921.
The syndicate’s holdings included 330 acres from Glasscock Leasing Company, Clover Leaf Oil Company and others, the publication reported. Some 100 acres were leased near Fort Stockton and 30,000 acres of leases signed in Llano and Mason counties.
Back in Northampton, Massachusetts, more than 75 percent of shareholders were present personally or by proxy to elect their board of trustees for the New England-Texas Oil Refining Syndicate: Frederick L. Haskins, Thomas Brooks, and James E. Ryan.
The Petroleum Age trade publication added that syndicate trustee Frederick L. Haskins, “has taken over a considerable acreage in Somerset, and has announced that in addition to developing the shallow oil, a deep test will be started as soon as a contract can be made.”
At the time, the Somerset oilfield had nearly 300 shallow wells producing an aggregate of about 2,500 barrels of high-gravity crude oil daily.
But in January 1922, the United States Investor report the likely financial demise of the New England-Texas Oil Refining Syndicate. “We have seen nothing lately on this company and believe that very little market exists for the stock, as is the case of so many companies which have arisen within a year or two,” the business editors proclaimed.
Although New England-Texas Oil Refining Syndicate began rigging up to drill the Sarah Smith No. 2 well near the original W.C. Steubing well site, progress was slow. The Oil Weekly For several months, tracked the well’s status, but apparently nothing happened beyond erecting the drilling derrick.
The Texas Railroad Commission might have historical information about New England-Texas Oil Refining Syndicate. Another potential source is the Massachusetts Corporations Division.
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