1917 oil discovery brings new exploration companies, drillers, speculators, and bankruptcies.


Ranger Extension Oil & Gas Company got its start thanks to the “Roaring Ranger” oilfield discovery of October 1917 at Electra, Texas. When a wildcat well on the McCleskey farm produced 1,200 barrels of oil in a single day, newspaper stories worldwide excited interest in the region’s oil riches, encouraging highly speculative ventures.

After the McCleskey No. 1 well found oil ay a depth of 3,432 feet, “development progressed rapidly, resulting in the extension of the Ranger field over several square miles of territory,” according to Contributions To Economic Geology (1922, Part II.) Ranger’s population soon grew from less than 1,000 people to more than 30,000 people.

Meanwhile, in Roanoke, Virginia, a group of entrepreneurs registered a new oil exploration company, Ranger Extension Oil & Gas Company, on September 13, 1919. The company secured a permit to do business in Texas and established headquarters in Sweetwater. By July 1920, leases had been acquired drilling begun at two wells, the No. 1 Woodrum in Nolan County, and the No. 2 Renner about 200 miles north in another booming region, the northwest Burkburnett oilfield

Drilling with cable-tool technologies, the No. 1 Woodrum’s well bore soon “sanded in” at 780 feet deep, requiring a clean out. Operations were suspended and attention shifted to the No. 2 Renner. This exploratory well well fared better and was reported to be drilling beyond 1,500 feet by October 1920.

However, drilling deeper was not cheap, and  from October until Christmas, Ranger Extension Oil & Gas suspended operations. For many newly formed exploration companies, drilling interruptions often were linked to a lack of funding, which often prompted increasingly vigorous stock sales. The company’s No. 2 Renner was given up as a “dry hole” and abandoned in February 1921.

The future of Ranger Extension Oil & Gas now depended on its remaining well, the No. 1 Woodrum in Nolan County.  According to “The Oil Weekly,” drilling operations at the well restarted and had reached a depth of 2,485 feet by the end of April 1821. By mid-May, the well was reported to be 2,760 feet deep, reaching a depth of 2,835 feet by the end of the month.

Despite no sign of oil or natural gas, Ranger Extension Oil & Gas struggled along for months, drilling another 170 feet before giving up the No. 1 Woodrum well in November 1920. It was the end for the Roanoke, Virginia, entrepreneurs — and their stockholders’ investments. The company joined hundreds of other failed petroleum exploration ventures of the time, leaving behind paper stock certificates instead of dividends. 

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. © 2020 AOGHS.


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