What began as a venture into Colorado’s risky petroleum exploration business ended even quicker than most. Boulder Petroleum Company had intended to repeat the success of a 1923 Union Oil Company discovery about 70 miles north of Boulder.

The Union Oil Company well revealed the prolific Wellington Dome field — and ignited a frenzy of Colorado oil and natural gas speculation. On a single day, five thousand spectators visited Union Oil’s well, a “gasser” that initially produced 1 million cubic feet of natural gas a day.

“Great excitement prevails, and land and leases have gone soaring sky high,” reported the Craig Courier newspaper as Boulder businessmen Julius Williams, S.E. Collier, H.A. Gibson and others incorporated Boulder Petroleum Company; they secured a 600-acre lease along Lyons Road on the Spurgeon farm, near the town of Altona. The company’s acreage, about nine miles north of Boulder, was 60 miles south of the Union Oil discovery.

By May 1925, after delays caused by equipment delivery problems, the cable-tool derrick was ready to spud (start drilling) an exploratory well. A crowd of about 300 people joined Boulder Petroleum officials for the spudding. The well was named the Spurgeon No. 1 (or the Haystack Well after a nearby landmark). As with similar speculative petroleum ventures, securing capital to finance drilling was a challenge. A lot depended on a successful first well.

A bad omen for investors came in October when Julius Williams, secretary-treasurer of Boulder Petroleum, was apprehended in Denver for “a short check charge.” The company had insufficient funds to pay $50 owed to the driller. The matter apparently was resolved, however, as Williams was was back at work by the end of 1925. As Christmas approached, the company well reported good news at its well.

According to newspaper accounts, the company had an encouraging “showing of gas at 1,300 feet.” In February 1926, even better news came with a healthy showing of oil at 2,100 feet – believed to be in commercial quantities. Such signs were encouraging to potential investors and good news usually had a positive affect on stock prices. Plus, according to reports in the Niwot Tribune, the company was pursuing additional leasing opportunities.

To complete the well and begin production, the intermediate step of cementing the casing in place had to be completed (see Halliburton Cements Wells). But bad luck struck Boulder Petroleum when the cementing job failed to properly harden, the casing split, and work had to be suspended. By June, the company had survived a tool (reamer lug) stuck in the borehole for six weeks (learn more in Fishing in Petroleum Wells).

Meanwhile, company debt continued to accumulate. Then it got worse.

In 1925, McAllister Lumber & Supply Company had sold lumber and supplies to Boulder Petroleum for construction of the Spurgeon No. 1 well. Boulder still owed then more than $1,000 ($14,350 in 2018 dollars.) McAllister sued and won, but Boulder Petroleum was broke and their only well no longer producing commercial quantities of petroleum.

In an April 1927 “Sheriff’s Sale,” McAllister Lumber & Supply was awarded all Boulder Petroleum Company assets. The well continued operating for another few months, but was shut down and abandoned by March 1928, leaving shareholders with worthless stock certificates instead of royalties.

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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. © 2019 Bruce A. Wells.

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