A Nevada independent oil company made headlines just one month after it was formed in 1960. It would not bode well for Henderson and Las Vegas investors.

“Geologist Claims There’s Oil At Foot Of Black Mt.,” the Henderson Home News proclaimed in its February 4, 1960, edition. “Starts Drilling Operations Tomorrow,” the headline continued.

The Nevada newspaper quoted the newly formed Trans-World Oil Company and on-site petroleum expert A.J. (Arthur James) Bandy. The consulting geologist also owned Petroleum Engineering Company of Bakersfield, California, home to prolific Kern County oilfields.

Henderson, Nevada, Henderson newspaper headlines about oil wells nearby.

The Henderson, Nevada, newspaper added to the public’s oil fever with February 1960 headlines like “Well! Well! Well! City Might Try For Another.”

As Trans-World Oil began exploring for petroleum at Henderson, A.J. Bandy educated newspaper readers about geology.

“The oil found here is a gift of the sea, formed by deposits of marine mollusks and mammals, and still later by the hulks of enormous Saurians which stomped the earth in the Permian era,” Bandy proclaimed. His enthusiasm would prove misinformed.

Company officers J.K. Houssels, Leonard Wilson and Bill Boyd had leased 5,000 acres southeast of Las Vegas. They chose a drilling site in what later became O’Callaghan Park in Henderson.

As drilling continued nearby in 1960, the Henderson newspaper quoted enthusiastic reports form the company geologist.

As nearby drilling continued in 1960, the Henderson newspaper quoted enthusiastic reports form the company geologist.

With drilling of the Houssels-Wilson-Milka No. 1 well beginning on February 4, 1960, the Henderson Home News began periodic updates for its readership — which included potential investors in Trans-World Oil Company.

Making Hole

After a month of drilling with an obsolete cable-tool rig to reach 300 feet, the consulting geologist urged going deeper.

“I know that between seven hundred and eight hundred feet we will have a commercial showing – maybe even a gusher,” Bandy declared of the Clark County wildcat well. By March there indeed were intermittent showings of oil and natural gas.

“We’ve struck oil!” A.J. Bandy proclaimed on April 4, telling the Henderson Home News that he had drilled into commercial quality oil strata at 1,312 feet.

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“Henderson will have oil wells all over the place – there’s oil under the whole town,” the front page exulted. Bandy further explained that drilling had been stopped so an electric log could be run the next day.

“If you don’t believe it, go cut yourself a slice of sand up there which has been taken from the hole,” Bandy said. “Put the sand in a bottle and put ether in it. Then shake it. Oil will come out of it.”

However, at least one local oilman was skeptical. “I’ll drink every gallon of oil that’s found here,” said Mark Leff, who reportedly “laughed off any possibility of such a find.”

Newspaper headline about Trans-World Oil Company claim of finding oil.

Despite Leff’s doubts, “several Las Vegas people” invested in geologist Bandy and Trans-World Oil, which continued to drill until July 1960. There were no more showings of oil or natural gas, no Henderson oilfield.

When the total depth reached 2,155 feet, the company suspended drilling.

People vs. Bandy

The well remained idle for two years as Trans-World Oil’s fate became increasingly obscure — and “consulting geologist” Bandy discovered problems of his own. On August 9, 1961, a California court convicted A.J. Bandy of check fraud.

Court documents report that Petroleum Engineering Company was “a fictitious firm name adopted by defendant Bandy” and that the company’s address “was a telephone answering service.”

Bandy’s deceptive business checks were “a specially printed form containing a picture of a gushing oil well.” His final appeal was denied on May 21, 1963. People vs. Bandy documents note the defendant’s credibility was impeached by three prior convictions dating back to 1942, including one for federal criminal conspiracy. He ended up in San Quentin.

A map of Henderson, Nevada, today a Las Vegas suburb with the site of the 1960 Trans-World Oil Company failed wall.

A map of Henderson, Nevada, today a Las Vegas suburb. The blue dot is the 1960 drilling site of the Tans-World Oil Company exploratory well north of O’Callaghan Park. Map courtesy U.S. Geological Survey.

Former Trans-World Oil company officer Leonard Wilson took one last gamble on the Houssels-Wilson-Milka No. 1 well. In March 1962, he returned to the site and drilled another 145 feet over the next five months. The added depth still found no commercial quantities of petroleum.

Admitting defeat on August 6, 1962, Wilson plugged and abandoned the once headline-making well.

The last business days and fate of Trans-World Oil Company have been lost. The Henderson Home News quit reporting on the Nevada oil patch venture. The newspaper ceased publication in 2010 after being acquired by the Las Vegas Sun.

First Nevada Oil Well

On February 12, 1954, after decades of noncommercial wells — the first drilled 1,890 feet deep near Reno in 1907 — Nevada became an oil producing state.

Shell Oil Company’s second test of its Eagle Springs No. 1 well found oil in Railroad Valley, Nye County. The well, 260 miles north of Trans-World Oil’s attempt, revealed Nevada’s first oilfield, according to the Nevada Bureau of Mines and Geology.

The discovery well produced oil from a productive interval between 6,450 and 6,730 feet deep. About a dozen wells in the Eagle Springs oilfield produce 3.8 million barrels by 1987.

Learn more in First Nevada Oil Well.


Recommended Reading: Roadside Geology of Nevada (2017). Your Amazon purchase benefits the American Oil & Gas Historical Society. As an Amazon Associate, AOGHS earns a commission from qualifying purchases.


The American Oil & Gas Historical Society (AOGHS) preserves U.S. petroleum history. Become an AOGHS annual supporting member and help maintain this energy education website and expand historical research. For more information, contact bawells@aoghs.org. © 2023 Bruce A. Wells.

Citation Information – Article Title: “Trans-World Oil Company.” Authors: B.A. Wells and K.L. Wells. Website Name: American Oil & Gas Historical Society. URL: https://aoghs.org/old-oil-stocks/trans-world-oil-company. Last Updated: April 15, 2023. Original Published Date: May 15, 2015.

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