Gregg County's Oil Field
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East Texas Oilfield

In the late 20's, early 30's, East Texas was deep in the greatest depression that the United States has known. Times were bad everywhere, and East Texas was no exception. Everyone was looking for something, anything, to happen that would help to dig out from underneath it all. Then a name popped up.....Dad Joiner with his oil well drilling over in Rusk County, near the Smith County line. This was big news that was floating around from gossip to gossip.....the search for oil. Then it happened. Dad Joiner brought in his well and launched the great East Texas oil field, bringing with it an unprecedented boom to this depressed farming area. Almost overnight East Texas became the "action capital" of America, and people by the thousands began to converge on America's newest oil field. Everyone wanted his share of the pie....roughnecks, pipeliners, rig builders, teamsters, pipefitters, lease brokers, engineers, geologists, anyone with an idea of how to cash in on the sudden boom.

Along with this influx of thousands of people, commodities became a sudden premium. Food, housing, supplies of all sorts were instantly needed. Buildings began to spring up everywhere, businesses were booming. Fame and wealth came to some almost overnight, farmers quit talking about crops and cattle and began talking leasing and royalties. People opened up their homes and took in boarders. This new boom left no one hungry. No matter what "walk of life" you were from, you were able to profit from the new black gold in some way.

Columbus Marion "Dad" Joiner was born in Lauderdale County, Ala. in 1860. Over the years he had developed an avid interest in drilling to find oil. The Geologists in 1930 had acquired much knowledge, but this taught them that not all oil is found on top of a structure....that you had to drill deep inside the earths structure to pull it out. "Dad" leased 10,000 acres of land in Rusk and Smith counties in 1927-1929. One of these leases just happened to be the 975 acre farm of Daisy Bradford. "Dad" started drilling the first hole in August of 1927....but then abandoned it in Feb. of 1928 at the depth of 1.098 feet. He drilled a second time....but then abandoned it in 1929 at the depth of 2,518 feet. So he tried once again...a third time....and we all know what they say....the third time is the charm. The #3, Daisy Bradford, in January of 1930 was drilled to 1,530 feet and by October 3, 1930, with a loan from Daisy Bradford for $5,000, it had reached a depth of 3,592 feet when oil showed. On October 5, 1930, with a crowd of 4,000 landowners, leaseholders, stockholders, creditors and spectators standing around watching all day, the oil began to spurt......oil that put the well in the class of 300 barrels a day.

October 20, 1930, Ed W. Bateman and others spudded the Lou Della Crim well in the Eldridge Sevier Survey, in Rusk County, about 4 miles southwest of Kilgore......and about 10 miles due north of the Daisy Bradford. On December 28, 1930, this well was drilled in, flowing 308 barrels of oil in 20 minutes and got a potential rating of 15,000 barrels of oil per day.

February 1931 the well of the Arkansas Fuel Oil Company was drilled by Fosters and Jefferys. Others interested in this well were F.K. Lathrop, B.A. Skipper, W.W. Leckner, Ray Hubbard of Dallas and John E. Farrell & W.A. Moncrief of Ft. Worth. It was drilled on the Lathrop farm northwest of Longview in Gregg County and was completed with a potential of 17,346 barrels of oil per day.

The #1 Ashbey was drilled one mile west of the Daisy Bradford well in Rusk County. This made the 4 discovery wells of the East Texas field and they were all completed in the Woodbine Formation.

By February 9, 1031, 4 main pipelines had been completed. The Panola & Rusk Pipeline,Iinland Waterways, Petroleum Marketing and The Magnolia Pipeline from Arkansas to Neches, Texas.

November 30, 1930, "Dad" sold 400 acres of his Rusk County holdings to H.L. Hunt for $1,250,000. February 1931, Humble purchased the lease on which the Crim well was drilled for $2,100,000. Three of their early managers of the Humble Pipeline Company were Cap Foley, George Lee and Hick Hensley.

Some of the merchants of the East Texas area, mainly Longview and Kilgore, were: O.L. Norton, Tom Richardson, G.W. Tate, Walter H. Cunningham, E.H. Brawley, T.X. Reynolds (M System Stores), Charlie Chaffin (Big Groceries), and Fred Stuckey (Ladies ready-to-wear & general dry goods and shoe store). There was Turpie Slade, Mr. Landers (insurance), Crim Mercantile, W. B. Goyne & Sons, Trip Elders (garage), Wylie Crim (City Grocery, with son Conley and daughter Aleene), Saxton Grocery, Brown's Drug Store (operated by Sam Ross, the brother of Mrs. Brown), Kilgore National Bank (a subsidiary of the Commercial National Bank of Shreveport) run by George Hays.

In Kilgore, the block of buildings where the bank was located ( Browns Drug, Saxton Grocery & the bank) were removed in order to drill 24 oil wells on one city block. This became known as the richest block in the world.

Sam Ross later became on of the substantial oil interest owners in the East Texas field, being responsible and assisted Joe Zappa, Sam Dorfman, Sam Sklar and Sonell Felsenthal in developing their Hughey Ross Lease which they had bought in the early days and had come to East Texas seeking their fortune. Sam Ross was instrumental in financing the drilling of this lease by making a loan of $7500 per well turnkey and to receive back from the sale of the oil $15,000 which looked like a tremendous deal. Each of these wells have produced hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of oil and played a great part in the development of the Delta Drilling Company which is one of America's outstanding drilling organizations.

For Kilgore, the Laird's, Ben & Shack, were instrumental in helping organize the Kilgore College, along with  Roy Laird who was Mayor of the City of Kilgore. He also had a large part in the development of the Laird Memorial Hospital. There were Malcom & John T. Crim who ran the Crim Mercantile Store. John & Ben Peterson who were outstanding farmers in the area. They expanded their ranch holdings into Harrison County. After their death, it was sold to O.W. Fox, and in drilling it for Lignite, it was found to contain substantial deposits.

There was quite a flurry of lease buying in the city of Kilgore. When the Miss Lou Della Crim well came in it was a town of 800. One week later the population had swelled to 8,000. You could buy a loaf of bread or a quart of milk for 5 cents, a dozen eggs for 12 cents and you could chow down on 6 hamburgers for a quarter. Then on the other hand, if you wanted to take a real bath, it would cost you 50 cents. People lived in tents, in their cars, even in cardboard boxes shaped into shelters.

One particular place of interest was Mattie's Ballroom. There were plenty of ladies to entertain you at that time. Before the end of the prohibition, while Mattie did not sell any liquor or was in no way involved with illegal liquor, there was plenty of it available and some good homebrew was made on most every corner around the area.

In late 1930, early 1931, the rain in East Texas was relentless. During the month of June it rained non stop for 30 days. The Sabine River was out of its banks, roads were complete washed out between Longview & Kilgore. In order to get to Henderson, it was necessary to leave Longview and go to Marshall, down Hwy. 43, into Tatum and back to Henderson.  Wagons, teams, pipe, oilfield trucks, any and all equipment was in the mud up to the bed of a wagon. Some trucks were stuck so deep in the mud so deep that only the tops of the radiators could be seen on some of the big oilfield trucks.

The Gregg County Court House lawn was a sight to behold at times. With all the influx of the thousands of people flowing into the area, the jail was far from being big enough. That was the time that Gregg County had the famous picket line on the court house lawn.........they had to handcuff the prisoners and chain them to the picket line.

The County Clerk, A.G. Dush Shaw, employed a corps of Deputies & Abstractors to help with land transactions; and lawyers and stenographers overran the court house. County maps were almost as common as handkerchiefs, and probably used more.
By December 31, 1931, East Texas had 3732 wells completed and in the next year the figure rose by 5652 wells.  In April of 1931 the Railroad Commission issued its first order restricting production of oil. The East Texas field was now the state proving ground for experimental laws and methods. As one law was cast aside, a new one was enacted; as one regulation was invalidated, a new one was drawn up; as one weakness was remedied, a new one was found.

By the close of 1931, the Joinerville, Kilgore & Longview areas produced 107,727,912 barrels of oil for a daily average of 295,145 barrels. When "Dad" Joiner's well was brought in, oil was $1.10 a barrel. One year later it was 25 cents a barrel. This necessitated some kind of control. Conversation was a problem so Article No.V was passed for the sole purpose of conserving oil and gas and preventing the avoidable waste thereof within reasonable limitations.



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