Decades before the first oil discovery in the state of Washington, Pelican Petroleum Company tried and failed.

The search for oil in the state led to many dry holes for decades after Pelican’s 1930 wildcat well in the far northwest corner.

Despite much investment by companies such as Continental, Shell, Texas Company and a host of start-up ventures, Washington’s first and only commercial oil well did not arrive until the late 1950s.

Sunshine Mining Company’s Medina No. 1 well, near Ocean City in Gray Harbor County, found a producing oil sand in 1957. It produced 223 barrels of oil a day from a depth of 4,135 feet near Ocean City in Gray Harbor County.

In 1938, the Pelican Petroleum Company and partner Peoples Gas & Oil Development Company drilled the Pelican Dome No. 1 well to 5,500 feet in Whatcom County. It was an expensive dry hole.

Although Pelican soon disappeared from the records, some collectors value its old stock certificates at about $70.

Although the search for oil in Washington began as early as 1885 with the Tacoma Petroleum Company, the geology found in prolific California oilfields simply did not extend to the Northwest.

It would take years of investing in failed wells – and a turn of the century frenzied leasing speculation – before any change. Small commercial oil wells then appeared near the Washington coast in  the 1950s after a 1951 well produced 35 barrels a day.

About 600 oil and natural gas wells have been drilled in Washington through 2010, according to Washington’s commissioner of public lands.

“But large-scale commercial production has never occurred,” adds the commissioner. “The most recent production, which was from the Ocean City Gas and Oil Field west of Hoquiam, ceased in 1962, and no oil or gas have been produced since that time.”


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 © 2018 Bruce A. Wells.

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