Friday 10 January 2014


Patillo Higgins, a one-armed mechanic and self-taught geologist, was convinced that oil lay under the salt dome near Beaumont, Texas.  In the early 1890's, he started drilling there, but without success.  In 1899, he leased the land to Austrian Navy Captain Anthony Lucas.  Two years later, Anthony Lucas struck gold, black gold.  

Previous to 1901, the most oil rich state had been Pennsylvania.  However, all that changed in 1901 when Lucas's drilling derrick discovered crude oil 1000 feet below the surface.  The "Lucas Gusher" lasted nine days and produced 100,000 barrels of oil per day.  

Petroleum, which had previously been used as a lubricant or in kerosene lamps, would become North America's main fuel.  The oil was produced by hundreds of hydrocarbons.  Tiny aquatic plants and animals died and settled on the bottom of ancient waterways forming a thick layer of organic material.  

Texas businessman Patillo Higgins wanted to capitalize on the crude oil he suspected was under the salt dome.  He fomred the Gladys City Oil and Manufacturing Company and went to work drilling.  But as his money dwindled, so too did his prospects.  By the time Anthony Lucas struck black gold a few years later, Mr. Higgins had already lost his stake in the land.  

Spindletop, as the surrounding town came to be known, formed almost overnight, with its population tripling in a three month period.  Within a year, the area boasted 285 active wells and 500 oil and land companies, including Humble (Exxon), Texas Company (Texaco) and Magnolia Petroleum Company (Mobil).  

Arriving on the heels of the oil drillers were the wheelers and dealers.  Everyone wanted to make a buck.  In time, Spindletop became "Swindletop".

No comments:

Post a Comment