In October 1917, Wyoming Peerless Oil Company stock promotions first appeared in the pages of the Cheyenne State Leader, Laramie Republican and Wyoming Tribune newspapers.
Within a year the new exploration company’s advertisements appeared in newspapers as far away as Milwaukee, Wisconsin: “Action Not Promises Our Motto,” noted one placed in the June 2, 1918, Milwaukee Journal (above).
Many U.S. newspapers at the time included similar promotions as oilfield discoveries proliferated from California to Kansas.
Demand for gasoline was skyrocketing, both for Model T Fords and World War I, which the United States would soon join. Oil companies proliferated.
Some used questionable claims to keep investors unaware of how risky and expensive the business finding and producing oil truly was.
Nine out of 10 exploratory well attempts proved to be dry holes – and drilling was expensive in such remote areas.
The Wyoming Peerless Oil Company set its sights on drilling a well six miles from the nearest producer in the Big Muddy oilfield east of Casper. Stock was initially offered at three cents per share. “Don’t wait for our first well to come in. You might not be able to get this stock then for less than 25-cents or 50-cents per share.”
The Big Muddy oilfield, located about four miles west of Glenrock in Converse County, was discovered in 1916, a discovery that touched off widespread drilling and brought about one of Wyoming’s famous oil booms. Today, a marker on the south side of Hwy. 230 at the junction with County Road 33 describes the historic field:
Big Muddy oil field is a typical Wyoming oil producing structure. The field, discovered in 1916, has produced over 30 million barrels of high quality oil.
Strata here were arched upward at the time the Rocky Mountains originated over 60 million years ago, to form anticline, or dome. Because oil is lighter than water, it rose to the crest of the dome where it was trapped in pore spaces between sand grains. The Wall Creek sand lies at a depth of near 3,000 feet and the Dakota sand at about 4,000 feet. The first oil well in Wyoming was drilled in 1884. There are now about 100 oil fields in the state.
Seeking more investors, advertisements reported Wyoming Peerless Oil ‘s drilling progress on its Big Muddy exploratory well: Down 1,475 feet by June of 1918; down 1,675 feet by July and down to 3,315 feet by August of 1919.
Although rumors of a dry hole began to circulate, the company continued to solicit more investors to fund deeper drilling. But after reaching 4,050 feet without finding oil, company officer Charles Straub announced the well would be abandoned.
If more funds could be secured, Wyoming Peerless Oil would drill a second well, Straub added.
“Efforts have been made to extend the limits of the (Big Muddy) field in every direction, but these efforts have all been failures and the area of the field is plainly marked,” reported the Oil and Gas News reported (this would change in 1950 with a discovery to the east of the field).
By February 1920, stockholders from Denver had petitioned a court to put the Wyoming Peerless Oil Company into receivership, alleging mismanagement by Straub and other company officers. Straub responded with a $50,000 libel suit, reported by the Casper Daily Tribune on March 5, 1920.
The results are obscured, but Wyoming Peerless Oil never drilled a second well and the company disappeared from newspaper accounts.
The Big Muddy oilfield now has produced more than 300 million barrels of oil and wells are still pumping.
The first record of oil in Wyoming came in 1832. An expedition led by Captain B.L.E. Bonneville took the first wagons through South Pass. Fifty years later, prospector Mike Murphy, bought an oil lease on the site of Capt. Bonneville’s “great tar spring” southeast of Lander.
Learn more in First Wyoming Oil Wells.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. © 2018 Bruce A. Wells.