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The discovery of oil in East Texas was a long-held dream fueled by early geological reports indicating the existence of a layer of oil-producing sands known as the Woodbine formation. As early as 1911, production attempts began with the forming of the Millville Oil Company. The attempt failed. Other oil exploration followed; mostly centered in the northeastern portion of the county. By 1925, there had been 17 failed attempts. Only an occasional wildcatter looked over the field geological reports before moving on.
However, one man, Columbus Marion (Dad) Joiner, a native of Alabama, believed in the dream of oil in East Texas. Joiner was 70 years old when he came to East Texas, but he followed a dream of discovering a giant field of "black gold," and, as a wildcatter, he sought that dream in places where others did not believe oil existed. East Texas was such a place.
After several oil ventures in Oklahoma, Joiner moved to Dallas in 1925, where he bought up several thousand East Texas oil leases. In 1926, he came to Rusk County to look over his leases. Dr. A.D. Lloyd, a self-proclaimed geologist of dubious qualifications, but who had an enviable record of locating successful well sites, joined him. Joiner's drilling rig consisted of rusty pipes, a sawmill boiler for power, and old tires and cordwood for fuel. His crew consisted of one experienced, and imaginative driller, Ed Laster, and a crew of out-of-work farm hands.
Joiner leased the 975-acre farm of widow Daisy (Miller) Bradford, near present day Joinerville, and promised to drill the first well on her property. In 1927, the first well, the Daisy Miller Bradford No. 1, was abandoned when a drill bit jammed and could not be dislodged. In April, the derrick was moved 100 feet and drilling began again. This well site was abandoned because of equipment failure also. For the third try, an experienced driller, Ed Laster, was employed to oversee drilling operations. The derrick had been moved about 300 feet when, during skidding operations, one of the beams supporting the derrick broke. A decision was made to spud the well at that location, and drilling began in May 1929 on the Daisy Bradford No. 3. Had the derrick been moved to the selected spot, Joiner would have drilled another dry hole.
On Sept. 5, 1930, at 3,536 feet, drillers reached the oil-saturated sand of the Woodbine strata. Then, on Oct. 3, 1930, 8,000 people went to a spot on the widow Daisy Bradford's farm to see Dad Joiner strike oil. The experts were skeptical; they knew Joiner as a dreamer, a promoter, a sometime poet, and a failed wildcatter who operated on his wits and borrowed money. He was 70 years old and stooped with pain. Experts were also convinced that there was no oil to be found in East Texas. They pointed out that Joiner had tried twice before and had come up dry. But he wouldn't give up. The old man's drilling rig consisted of rusty pipe, a sawmill boiler for power, and old tires and cordwood for fuel. His driller, Ed Laster, was a skilled and imaginative professional, though, and somehow Laster and a crew of farmhands kept the bit biting deeper into the rusty red earth.
But no oil came forth. The crowds of well-wishers who hoped Dad would find oil and save East Texas from penury, were disappointed. But they had a good outing anyway. Hamburger stands among the pines did a brisk business; just beyond the official view of the law, a little corn whiskey was passed around; for $2 a barnstormer from Dallas would take you for an airplane ride. Later that night, after most of the crowd had left, drillers brought in the first East Texas oil well, the Daisy Bradford Number 3, soon followed by two others within the field, marking the boundaries of the largest area of oil deposits known at that time.
Joiner had seriously oversold shares in the well to continue financing his efforts, and within months after the initial discovery of oil on the Daisy Miller Bradford farm, he was embroiled in numerous lawsuits. Another Texas oil man, H.L. Hunt, bought out Joiner's interest in the wells, and although the giant East Texas Oilfield made many millionaires, "Dad" Joiner was not one of them. He did leave a legacy of social and economic change in East Texas, and brought to life a community named in his honor - Joinerville.

A few weeks later, on Dec. 28, 1930, the Lou Della Crim No. 1 sprouted oil in a little valley nine miles north of the Joiner well. A fortune teller had told J. Malcolm Crim, a Kilgore merchant, that he'd find oil there. He did, at a rate of 22,000 barrels a day.

Not quite a month later, on January 26, 1931, the Lathrop No. 1 near Longview blew in at 20,000 barrels a day, with an audience of 18,000 farmers and townsfolk cheering. The Lathrop site was 27 miles north of the Daisy Bradford No. 3.

No one connected the three strikes for a while. Then the preposterous fact dawned: Below the pine-velveted hills and red surface soil, down about 3,500 feet, there lay a single monstrous ocean of oil. It wasn't just a dab here and a dab there. It was a black giant. It stretched 45 miles long and from 3 to 12 miles wide, a total of over 140,000 acres.
East Texas changed overnight. In less than a month, Kilgore grew from a sleepy town of 700 to a bustling city of 10,000. The entire area became a mecca for frantic fortune-seekers. Oilmen of every stripe converged at the spot. Camp followers came in waves. Prices shot higher than gushers - prices, that is, for everything but oil. At one point, a barrel of oil cost a mere dime while a gallon of water cost a dollar. Buildings were leveled to make room for drilling rigs. One downtown block in Kilgore was spiked with 44 live oil wells. Eventually, 31,000 wells would be drilled into the black giant.
It was also an orgy of waste. The field was being drained without sense or purpose. By August 1931, production was headed toward one million barrels of oil a day, roughly 26 times more oil than the world could use from East Texas. Governor Ross Sterling issued a shutdown order and sent 1,300 troops of the Texas National Guard's 112th Cavalry Brigade to enforce it. A long and bitter fight over energy conservation had begun.

The freewheeling oil operators fought regulation, and sold "hot oil," the name coined for crude produced illegally on the sly. A "hot oil" producer might tap into someone else's flow line, or put a by-pass on his own. A daredevil might install a "left-hand" valve so that when the troopers turned it off, and padlocked it, they were actually sealing it open. A Gladewater operator built a concrete blockhouse around his well to confound the soldiers. In New London, the "Tower of London," as they called it, arose. An ingenious resident erected a penthouse over his derrick, registered it as his homestead, and pulled up the portable steps any time the authorities appeared below.

Crime and violence exceeded the control of local police. Kilgore's mayor placed a call to the Texas Rangers. The stage was set for a superhero.
He was "Lone Wolf" Gonzaullas, the most famous of the world-famed Texas Rangers. Handsome, powerful, wearing two pearl-handled pistols, he rode a prancing black stallion with lordly grace. No one was sure how many desperadoes he had dispatched. InTexas lingo, he was "much man."
One stormy night Lone Wolf arrived in Kilgore and met secretly with the mayor. He then went "underground," disguised, to learn the whereabouts of the dangerous criminals in the area. Two weeks later, he shucked the disguise and led a raid of other rangers and Kilgore police that netted 300 badmen. Marching them down the main street of the town, he herded them into the Baptist church - Kilgore's jail was unfinished - and hooked them to a long heavy chain. Many were wanted by authorities elsewhere; they were held for transfer. Others were given four hours to leave town; most left instantly. For almost a month, Gonzaullas averaged 100 arrests a day. The townspeople called the chain "Lone Wolf's trot-line."

By the mid-1930s, the Market Demand Law, the Confiscation Law, the Refinery Control and Tender Bill, and other legislation had taken control of the once-rampaging output. Conservation measures worked out amid the turmoil of the East Texas field by responsible firms such as Humble Oil & Refining Company, Exxon's progenitor, prevented the loss of huge volumes of natural gas and crude oil. If the pell-mell conditions had continued, only one billion barrels of oil could have been taken from a field too quickly exhausted. Experts now say the field will ultimately yield six billion barrels of oil and its life will be extended into the next century. Conservation principles born at East Texas became models for other fields around the world. That was a huge step toward maturity.
Then, as order came out of chaos, another event shook the people of East Texas. On March 19, 1937, just 10 minutes before classes were to be dismissed for the day, the public school in New London blew apart, killing 298 children and teachers. Leaking natural gas had filled the walls and basement of the school building. It blew up with the force of a World War II blockbuster.
In horror and sorrow, East Texans converged on the spot. Every oil company released all employees from work to help remove rubble from the bodies. Food, clothing, ambulance service, shelter, and help in every possible way flooded into the town from the oil firms. Arthur Shaw, now an Exxon employee of 36 years, remembers the arrival of a Humble Oil & Refining Company airplane with a contingent of doctors, nurses, and a supply of cash for the families of victims. Shaw was a student in a math class at the time of the explosion; 12 of his 16 classmates were killed. A dentist and a hairdresser sewed up wounds in his head.
It was perhaps the greatest outpouring of unselfish concern and generosity that East Texas had ever seen. The tragedy emphasized to both the industry and the people it served that safety measures cannot be overlooked in the handling of petroleum and its products.

A third dramatic point in the maturing of the industry came in the early years of World War II. German U-boats were crippling the Allied war effort; by sinking oil-laden tankers bound for East Coast refineries from Texas and Louisiana. The industry met the challenge by building the "Big Inch," a 1,400-mile-long pipeline from Longview to the refineries of the East Coast. They did it in a phenomenal 12 months. In August 1943, 300,000 barrels of East Texas crude oil began flowing each day to the Northeast, a volume equal to 70 tanker loads. Another, smaller-bore pipeline called the "Little Inch" was constructed the following year from Spindletop near Beaumont.

The next generation of East Texans will enjoy economic benefits from the East Texas field's production, as secondary recovery methods have extended its useful life to a second half-century.


Oil's Economic Impact on Education

The discovery of oil brought a great increase in the scholastic population. The small rural common school districts were overwhelmed. Enrollment at Gaston School went from 231 in1929 to 850 by 1932. Gladewater 's superintendent asked every company for an advance on taxes, which would be due later. Many solved the problem by creating independent school districts there-by keeping the taxes generated in a specific district. Common schools share the taxes generated by the entire county. For the first time, black schools were merged into these independent districts.
New schools were built and others were enlarged and improved. These oil field schools became some of the wealthiest schools in the nation. Educational opportunities for the children, both black and white, increased significantly. Most of the districts created during the boom still exist. Look for these educational plants as you drive the tour.

Photo of wildcatters, including: Joyner, Lloyd, Hunt and Laster
Oil Industry plaque
East Texas Oil Field Map



Topic: Oil Field - "Who is Joe Roughneck?"

Grade: 1-2

Curriculum Connections: Reading, Art, and Social Studies

TEKS: Grade 1: (1); (17AB); (18); (19)
Grade 2: (1B); (4); (17); (18B); (19)

Objectives: The student will: use critical thinking skills to create visual picture to express knowledge; understand how historical figures and ordinary people help to shape our community, state, and nation.

Vocabulary: roughneck, oil boom, oil field, rig, petroleum

Background Materials: Briefly discuss oil boom in Rusk County; also discuss what it was like to be an oil field worker-(show pictures if possible)

Lesson Activities:
1. Read "Who is Joe Roughneck?" to students.
2. Have them to think about what Joe Roughneck might look like (brainstorm together).
3. Activity: Have students to draw a picture of what they think "Joe Roughneck" looks like. Display.

Material Needed: paper, markers, map colors, crayons

References: Internet
Depot museum



Topic: Oil Boom

Grade: 4

Curriculum Connections: Math



Vocabulary: oil well

Background Material: Discuss oil boom in East Texas

Lesson Activities:
Math Word Problem-
The Daisy Bradford #3 was producing 300 barrels of oil a day at $1.10 price per barrel. Which shows #3 was making $330.00 a day. In 30 days they earned $9900.00. Using the information above state how much money did the Hathrop well make in 30 days if the well produced 18,000 barrels a day?

Material Needed: calculator

This site has a graph to look at and analyze


Topic: Oil Boom (Fields)

Grade: 1-4

Curriculum Connections: Social Studies, Geography, and Reading

TEKS: Grade 1: (4B); (6A); (19)
Grade 2: (4C); (5); (19)
Grade 3: (1); (5); (18)
Grade 4: (4B); (5); (6); (24)

Objectives: The student will: explain the growth and development of the oil industry in Rusk County; apply geographic tools including legends, symbols and scales to construct and interpret maps.

Vocabulary: derricks, pumping jack; wild catter; roughneck; Christmas tree; gusher; boomtown; black gold

Background Materials: Review the Oil Field vocabulary terms with the students; show pictures if possible.

Lesson Activities:
1. Activity: Have student complete the "Oil Field Match-Up" worksheet. When completed discuss as a class.
2. Extra: Have students make flashcards with terms. Draw pictures of the word on one side and write the definition on the other.

Materials Needed: "Oil Field Match-Up" worksheet, index cards, markers, pencils, map pencils

References: Internet
Depot museum



Lease Hound: A landman who obtains leases of tracts of land for exploration and development of petroleum and brine products.

Hot Oil: Oil production that exceeded state allowances.

Pumping Jack: A surface production device similar to a pumping unit but having no individual power supply. Usually several of these were operated from an eccentric wheel central power source.

Rod Line: A line of "string" of metal rods, which connect as eccentric wheel power unit to an individual pump jack.

Rotary Drilling: A drilling method which bores a hole with a rotating bit using exterior applied downward pressure. Additional joints of drilling pipe are added as drilling progresses.

Rotary Table: A machine used to turn the drill stem and support the drilling assembly. It has a gear arrangement that creates the rotational motion in the bit.

Roughneck: A worker on oil well crew other than the driller.

Slant-hole Drilling: Wells that were drilled with a slant hole to steal oil from another lease.

Stripper Well: A well nearing depletion that produces a very small amount of oil or gas.

Tank Battery: A group of production tanks located in the oil fields that store crude oil. They were sometimes called tank farms.

Walking Beam: The horizontal member of a "beam-pumping unit", which pumps the well with a rocking motion.

Wellbore: The hole drilled by the drilling unit.

Wellhead: The equipment used to maintain surface control of a well and complete the production process.

Wildcat: A well drilled in an area where no oil or gas production presently exist.


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