Interest in the Watchorn test well, seven miles northwest of Protection was greatly revived last week when a quantity of gas was struck at a depth of 5,308 feet, which is 28 feet more than a mile in depth. The Wichita Beacon of June 14 contained the following information in regard to the well:
"A new chapter was written last week in the log of Kansas' deepest gas well as a most interesting test for oil, the Watchorn Oil & Gas Company's operation on the Morrison Ranch in section 20-32-21, 12 miles from Ashland in Clark county.
"Thursday night during a terrific rain and electrical storm the derrick was struck by lightning and a flow of 10 million feet of gas, opened 48 hours before at 5,308 feet, more than a score of feet on the second mile, lighted up the whole countryside.
"The rig was burned and collapsing timbers allowed a string of tools and nearly 5,400 feet of drilling line to drop into the hole. That means a new rig and a fishing job that may mean weeks and weeks of delay.
"The bolt of lightning came after the boiler had been moved back and drilling was resumed after the gas show. It was reported that the first few jolts started a gas and oil spray and it was said the hole filled up with oil.
"To the old fraternity that was the most important thing about the hectic experience of the last week and drillers are hopeful that the test may prove to be a well altho it is pointed out that large production must come from that depth to pay to drill other wells.
"Geologists last spring made a temperature test of the hole and found that the reading at the bottom, which was then about a mile, was more than 150 degrees, Fahrenheit. Scientists have been watching this well with a great deal of interest since it is the first time strategraphy in that section of Kansas has been explored.
"The well, besides the show it had at its present depth, has had two other shows of oil and gas, one in lime at from 4,928 to 4,932 feet and the other at 5,025 feet.
"When the 5,160 foot level was reached a long under reaming job was started and the 5-inch casing set to that depth. A special, extra heavy string of casing was used because of the terrific weight at the top. Danger of parting casing has been a constant source of worry for the drillers.
"The well has been more than a year in drilling. It is located northeast of Ashland and seven miles northwest of Protection. Both towns are claiming the well. It is being drilled by the Frost Drilling Company of Wichita of which Bert Frost of Peabody and A. E. Lloyd of Wichita are the principal owners.
"The only other Kansas well ever drilled near the mile depth is that by the Wood Oil Company of Tulsa, which is now below 5,250 feet on the Ransom land in section 5-26-42, south of Syracuse in Hamilton county on the Kansas-Colorado state line."
From The Protection Post of July 2.
The events that have hampered the development and the completion of the Watchorn wildcat test on the Morrison lease are stale news except the developments of the last few days.
The new rig is now completed and is in every way a much better rig than the one that burned down, and as this work was completed last week, on Monday fishing for the tools, that is, the bit stem and cable that were lost in the well at the time of the fire, was begun.
The drillers easily recovered the 5000 foot cable and the drill stem, but on bringing the drill stem up, it was found that the bit had broken off just where the threads lead into the stem, and was still in the bottom of the hole.
Since Monday, led by Mr. Frost, the drilling contractor for the Watchorn company, the towermen have been fishing for the bit. Special fishing tools were brought in and every effort has been made that might possibly give results in lifting the drill from the hole, but as yet all the efforts of the company have been vain as two sets of fishing tools have been ruined in trying to lift the bit.
As this is written, Wednesday evening, reports are that, as all efforts to grapple the bit have been futile, the drillers are preparing to try and drill by the lodged bit and ascertain more of the quality or quantity of the well.
Gas is escaping from the well in large quantities estimated at three and one half million feet daily by the drillers. At times particles of mud or a tar substance are thrown from the five inch pipe that leads from the well. The well is capped and the gas piped off to the west wall of the canyon in which the well is located. Five inch pipe was used in piping the gas from the well to the side of the canyon where it is allowed to escape into the air, and comes out with a roar that can be heard for several rods from the well.
Ill luck has attended the fishing during the last days, but within a few hours unless the gods of fate again interpose with a calamity as was the fire that destroyed the tower, the drillers will be able to drill at least deep enough past the bit to either give it an upright position so that it may be snagged with a fishing tool or else will be deep enough into the sand that a more definite idea of the productiveness and the possibilities of the well may be at hand.
While almost two years have passed since the Morrison was spudded in, and many anxious moments have been in the air, and at times the rumors were abroad locally with all the fervor that accompanies the black gold craze, it seems that at last the tale will be told within a few days and whether the production of the well will be a pure gasser and limited at that, or whether only a small oiler, if any at all, or what the fates during the centuries and eons of time past have stored at the bottom of the mile wildcat on the Morrison will soon be revealed to those who can read all the portends and the lesson that the oil game teaches.
And the history of the Morrison carries with it the dogged determination of the men of the soil of the west whose undaunted work has pushed, pounded, punched and driven a hole a mile deep into the heart of the earth as if to wrest it from the profound secrets of the ages.
Quietly, if anxiously, are the watchers, the public of Comanche and Clark cos. waiting, while the consummate skill of lives devoted to deep well drilling, and versed in all the mumors of bit and sand buckets and the varieties of the earth's lode, the tower men and the Watchorn company with its untold millions are fighting steadily and with the consummate skill of trained battlers, conquerors of all discouragement's to solve the enigma that still enfolds the end of the Morrison wildcat.
The Hutchinson Herald of last Saturday contained the following news item in regard to the Watchorn test well:
Ashland, July 3 - Eighteen million feet of gas was shown on a test of the Watchorn wildcat well near Ashland today. Oil is showing much stronger than ever before in the wildcatter, which is on the Morrison ranch 12 miles of Ashland.
The gas is so strong that drilling is difficult. An old bit that was lost when the derrick burned three weeks ago has been pushed aside and the drill has been sent down about eight feet since the derrick was rebuilt. The hole is now 5,319 feet deep. Drilling will be pushed, according to officials of the company. Mr. Porter of the Watchorn Oil Co., Mr. Carpenter, company geologist, and Mr. Frost, drilling contractor, are all watching developments on the ground.
"A Forward Look", From The Ashland Clipper.
Ashland and vicinity have available a supply of natural gas and it is reasonable to expect that this supply is her in quantity to make it a commercial asset. It is also reasonable to predict that it is only a matter of a few years until there will be developed in this county a commercial field of petroleum. A lack of fuel supply has been one of the big obstacles in the development of the great plains country of the southwest. Who knows but that nature is now going to make up that lacking and bestow upon the southwest a supply of the richest and most convenient kinds of fuel now known to the world. This supply of fuel once assured will bring with it industrial development not yet thought of by the most visionary optimist. The industrial world is turning to these compact carbons for their fuel supply. The people of Clark-co. have been trained by their natural environments to think in terms of cattle, acres and bushels, and because of this as this new era draws upon them they will be inclined to be backward to see the possibilities of other industrial development that this new supply of cheap and convenient fuel is sure to bring to the county. These industries will come just as sure as the fuel supply comes. It will only be a matter of Ashland and vicinity being prepared to receive the riches that nature is about to bestow upon her. There is no unreasonableness in the visionary statement that Ashland should be to the Great Southwest what Pittsburg or Coffeyville are to the southeastern section of Kansas, and that he population can easily reach 18,000 or 20,000 in number. Here is hoping that the people of Ashland and Clark-co. will catch the vision and work incessantly and faithfully until the vision becomes a reality.
A great many people from Coldwater and vicinity have visited the Watchorn test well near Protection during the past two weeks. The well is located in a canon. The derrick can scarcely be seen a quarter of a mile away, as the top is about on a level with most of the surrounding country. The noise made by the escaping gas is tremendous, the flow being estimated at from 15 to 50 million cubic feet per day.
The report reached Coldwater Tuesday evening that the drillers at the Watchorn test well near Protection had on that day succeeded in fishing out the bit which was lost in the well about three weeks ago and which had greatly hindered the work of drilling. It is expected that it will soon be definitely known as to whether there is oil in sufficient quantity at the bottom of the well to justify further developments. Drilling is now being done in an extremely hard cap rock. There is still a good showing of oil, and the gas flow continues quite strong.
(From The Wichita Beacon)
A great contest has developed between two of Kansas' most interesting wildcats, not a contest of speed but one to determine which can go the deepest without running out of hole. Already these two test wells rank among the first and second deepest tests ever drilled in the Sunflower state. The deeper of these, and the one with the more drama in its nearly two year old history, is that of the Watchorn Oil & Gas Co. on the Morrison ranch in section 20-32-21w, in Clark-co., more than 150 miles west of Wichita in the cow country. The other is by the Wood Oil Co. of Tulsa and is on the Syracuse dome in Hamilton-co., in section 5-26-12w on the Ranson ranch.
The Watchorn well has a few feet on the odds on the Wood test. It is drilling at 5510 ft. in a hard lime with a bailer of water an hour. This test had 30,000,000 feet of gas at 5,318 feet and the pressure blew the tools out of the hole. The next night a lightning bolt set fire to the gas and the rig was consumed. A rig was built over the hole and when the gas flow had subsided, drilling was resumed. There was a spray of oil with the gas. Another oil show was had at 4812 feet in this test.
While the Watchorn officials have not announced how long they would continue drilling here, they have ordered a 7200 foot drilling line, indicating they would go to that depth if the hole holds out. The 5 inch casing, an extra heavy string, has been set to 5,248 feet. Drilling progress now is four feet a tower.
The Wood Oil Co. test is now 5490 feet and drilling. Neither gas nor oil has been found in the test which is on structure mapped years ago.
From The Ashland Clipper.
The drilling crew at the Watchorn test well resumed their operations last Saturday. The concrete plug has been drilled out. The drill is now pounding away on the top of the five inch casing at a depth of 4500 feet. It is hoped that the casing can be drilled open so that a fishing tool can get a hold on it and the five inch casing pulled. It is said that the concrete has stopped the caving that has been giving trouble.
From The Wichita Beacon of Feb. 12.
Kansas deepest test for oil is being abandoned at 5, 679 feet. This is Watchorn Oil and Gas Company's No. 1 Morrison in 20-32-21w. Clark-co. which has been a month over two years drilling and which has had hard battle with the elements, both above and below the earth's surface, and which has cost its owners somewhere in the neighborhood of $200,000.
At one time, nearly a year ago, it created much excitement and interest in western Kansas when it ran into 25 million feet of gas in sand from 5,301 to 5,313 feet where it was shut down when it threw the drilling line and tools up the hole and bridged. Two days later in a heavy electrical storm the derrick was hit by a bolt of lighting, which, aided by the flow of gas, destroyed the rig.
Drilling ahead after a new rig was built, this test exhausted its gas flow after muddling off at 5,339 feet. Steady progress was made until the hole started making some water from line at 5,679 feet and it was shut down to under ream the long string of seamless 5 inch pipe. While pulling on pipe, the string parted at the 3,900 foot level. Water bothered and attempt was made to cement off this trouble at around the 4,200 foot level but without avail.
After fishing longer for the lost pipe, it was finally decided to give up the hole. It stands as a mark of perseverance and good drilling in the wildest of Kansas wildcat territory.
The log of this test will be of inestimable value to geologists in the years to come, although the identity of the deep formation found in this well will remain a mystery until others are drilled nearby to serve for correlation purposes.
Raymond C. Moore, state geologist, examined cuttings and declared the Mississippi lime was encountered in this test at around 4000 feet. To make this conclusion he used his knowledge of paleontology. Petroleum geologists doubt that this lime marker was had this high up the hole and are inclined to believe the hole is now bottomed in that formation which is topped around Wichita at 3,650 feet. The Frost Drilling Company of Wichita drilled this test.
Mineral Resources of Comanche County
The Western Star, February 18, 1938.
Coal & Salt Deposits, 1884 - 1888 articles, Comanche County, Kansas
Hell's Half Acre - Comanche County, Kansas.
Photos from Comanche County, Kansas - Kansas Geological Survey.
Data from Comanche County - Kansas Geological Survey
Thanks to Shirley Brier for finding, transcribing and contributing the above news articles to this web site!
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