Oct. 5 marks 100 years of oil in El Dorado
In 1915, about 3,000 people called the rural agricultural community of El Dorado home. They had no idea events toward the end of that year would begin something that would forever change not just El Dorado, but the state and an entire industry.
But the story begins before oil was struck in El Dorado. In 1912-13 an Oklahoma geologist, Charles Gould, was brought to Augusta to make some engineering drawings of the area. Drilling began in Augusta in 1914. There were seven sites where Gould said there would be gas.
"Six of the seven hit gas, which was absolutely unheard of at that point and time," said Kansas Oil Museum Director Warren Martin. "The one well, which didn't hit gas, Gould encouraged them to continue drilling deeper. They drilled down below 2,000 feet and hit oil. One hundred percent success rate on seven wells was absolutely mind boggling."
Also in 1914, the city of El Dorado was in desperate need of gas, so they drilled several test wells all around El Dorado, but was not having any success. But because Gould had mapped out all of Butler County, there was hope for El Dorado. Cities Services bought the lease from the city of El Dorado, coming to an agreement they would give the city back their $15,000 they paid for the land, as well as royalties off of any oil, and they began drilling.
"So the idea from that point forward, no oil company in the world would go and drill a well without seeking the advice of a geologist first," Warren said. "Before 1915, geologists were seen in the same vein as witching and doodlebugs. They were just charlatans. It fundamentally transformed it from that point going forward. Geology was established as one of the great science industries."
According to an article 30 years ago in the El Dorado Times by K.V. Brooks, "Many people did not believe there was any possibility of striking gas or oil in the El Dorado area. In 1909 and 1010, drilling had occurred on the Holdeman tract. At 1,557 feet there were no oil or gas shows, so the hole was plugged. In the spring of 1911 the city of El Dorado had drilled the nearby city park on the east bank of the Walnut River, and it was abandoned at 1,695 feet."
According to the article, in 1914 the city needed gas and passed a $15,000 bond issue. They also leased 750 acres west of the city and started drilling that summer.
The article states: "On August 15, when they reached a depth of 2,650 feet, they found it dry and abandoned the hole."
Cities Services still agreed to lease 30,000 acres surrounding the last El Dorado well and drilled an exploratory well.
On Sept. 1, 1915, H.R. Straight from the Bartlesville, Okla., office and F.L. Frankenberger, superintendent of the Augusta operations, staked the location of Stapleton No. 1.
Then on Oct. 5, 1915 oil was struck in the El Dorado Oil Field at Stapleton No. 1, with 96 barrels of oil per day. The headline on the Oct. 6, 1915 edition of the El Dorado Daily Republican was "Strike Traces of Oil at Test Well," and on Oct. 7 the headline read "Drillers Down to 705 Feet; Put in New Casing Today."
"There wasn't a whole lot that was put into the paper about it because no one knew how big it was," said Martin. "The Kafir Corn Festival was what was going on that was in the paper. Everyone was talking about that as well as the World Series."
This was evident in the Oct. 9 paper, which had a large headline of "Boston Takes Second Game," with a smaller headline off to the side reading "Leases on 9,120 Acres Near City Have Been Filed." On Oct. 11, Boston was again the focus of the front page, with just a smaller mention of "Bidding is Strong For Leases Near Prospect Well." It also was reported that day people could see "real oil" at The Republican. The story states, "Have you ever seen oil right fresh out of the ground? The Republican went out to the field Saturday and got a bottle and it is now to be seen here in this office and we invite any one to call who cares to see what we are all spouting over and feeling like a million dollars – nearly. It is deemed first class oil and there is not a drop of water in it. Some gas sand at the bottom is the only thing in the bottle besides the real stuff."
On Oct. 13, 1915 it was reported the "excitement about the oil situation is becoming quite intense, each day adds to the belief that we have an oil field here and there is a scramble going on for leases."
The news on the oil continued to find a place on the front page, although still not garnering a large headline. Oct. 14 stated "Oil From Well tests 35 Percent" and "New Oil Rig Is Going Up; Wichita Natural Will Start Another Well in a Few Days."
The next days' papers continue to report of the scramble for oil leases.
On Oct. 25, it was reported "Tulsa Oil Man Opens Up Office Here; Will Develop On Leases Near This City" and Oct. 26 reported "Oil Boom Continues; Rumor of New Drilling Afloat; $20,000 Paid For One Lease." On Oct. 27 The El Dorado Republican reported a bid deal on the land of Frank Robison was closed, then a few days later it was reported, "Rumor Has it That El Dorado Company Has Been Formed and Developments Will Soon Begin."
On Nov. 4 it was announced a local company was to start drilling at once, as well as the arrival of a new drilling rig.
Updates continued nearly daily, with such headlines as "Tulsa Rig is Expected Here Very Soon" and "Rig For Stapleton No. 5 Here; Many More on the Road" in early November.
On Nov. 9 it was reported "Wichita Drillers Lease the A.W. Graper Farm: It is Rumored They Will Drill" and on Nov. 12, "Drillers Expect Heavy Oil Strike on Varner Farm."
The price of oil was from 30 to 40 cents in 1914, going up to to $1.55 by 1916 and reaching $3.50 a barrel, according to Jay M. Price's book, "Images of America: El Dorado Legacy of an Oil Boom."
Talk of a refinery began in December 1915. Butler also was leading in the production of gas.
Oil headlines began to be more frequent on the front page by the end of 1915, with one paper containing the following: "Good Oil Flow Struck on Hill's," "Oil Goes Up One More Dime," "Big Paying Oil Flow Found in the Deep Test Well: Oil Raises in Casing; Flows Out" and "Drill Strikes Varner Sand in Deep Well."
The oil frenzy continued in 1916, with early headlines declaring "Varner Well Flows 1,800 Barrels" on Jan. 11, 1916; "Carter Company Open Up Office" on Jan. 12; "Lee Scott Has an Oil Office," "Denton Well is 75 Barrel Producer" and "Oil Goes Up to $1.25," all on the front page Jan. 20; and on Jan. 26, an article stated: "Buliding Fever in El Dorado at its Height Now: People are buying residence properties which would have been slow in selling before the oil boom, merely as investments and others are buying lots and will erect modern home for rental."
In March, it was reported the Chanute Refining Company had leased a tract of land in north El Dorado.
According to Brooks, Stapleton No. 1 was finally bottomed out at 2,497 feet in the Wilcox sand on Feb. 5, 1916. Tubing was run and test pumping brought 110 barrels of oil per day.
During this time, Stapleton No. 2 was flowing 120 barrels per day, Stapleton No. 3 flowed 50 barrels a day, while Stapleton No. 4 flowed 100 barrels per day.
Brooks said in his article, "There was no doubt about it, Cities Service had struck a bonanza. The word spread across the nation, the mad rush was on, and the quiet little town of El Dorado was soon turned into a madhouse. It would be several years before the pandemonium of an oil boom town would subside, and the town could return to a more stable way of life."
Read more about the oil boom towns Thursday.
Julie Clements can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.