October 26, 1970 – Joe Roughneck Statue dedicated in Texas – 

Texas Governor Preston Smith dedicated a “Joe Roughneck” memorial in Boonsville to mark the 20th anniversary of a giant natural gas field discovery there. In 1950, the Lone Star Gas Company Vaught No. 1 well had discovered the Boonsville field, which produced 2.5 billion cubic feet of natural gas over the next 20 years. By 2001 the Boonsville field in East Texas reached production of 3.1 trillion cubic feet of gas from 3,500 wells.

Joe Roughneck plaque and statue on oil pipe in Boonsville, Texas.

“Joe Roughneck” in Boonsville, Texas. Photo, courtesy Mike Price.

“Joe Roughneck” began as a character in Lone Star Steel Company advertising in the 1950s. A bronze bust has been awarded every year since 1955 at the annual Chief Roughneck Award ceremony of the Independent Petroleum Association of America (IPAA). In addition to the Boonsville monument, Joe’s bust sits atop three different Texas oilfield monuments:  Joinerville (1957), Conroe (1957) and Kilgore (1986). Learn more in Meet Joe Roughneck.

October 27, 1763 – Birth of the “Father of American Geology”

William Maclure, who would become a renowned American geologist and “stratigrapher,” was born in Ayr, Scotland. He created the earliest geological maps of North America in 1809.

A rare 1818 geologic map of the United States by William Maclure.

“Map of the United States of America, Designed to Illustrate the Geological Memoir of Wm. Maclure, Esqr.” This 1818 version is more detailed than the first geological map he published in 1809. Image courtesy the Historic Maps Collection, Princeton Library.

After settling in the United States in 1797, Maclure explored the eastern part of North America to prepare the first geological map of the United States. His travels from Maine to Georgia in 1808 resulted in the first geological map of the new United States, published in the Transactions of the American Philosophical Society. “Here, in broad strokes, he identifies six different geological classes,” a Princeton historian reported later. “Note that the chain of the Appalachian Mountains is correctly labeled as containing the most primitive, or oldest, rock.”

When Benjamin Silliman, a Yale chemist, organized the American Geological Society in 1819, Maclure was elected its first president. Most geologists consider Maclure (1763-1840) the “Father of American Geology.” In the 1850s, Silliman’s son, also a Yale chemist, analyzed samples of  Pennsylvania “rock oil” for refining into kerosene. His report led to drilling America’s first oil well in 1859.

October 27, 1923 – Lion Oil Refining Company founded in Arkansas

Lion Oil Company was founded as a refining Company in El Dorado, Arkansas, by Texan Thomas Harry Barton. He earlier had organized the El Dorado Natural Gas Company and acquired a 2,000-barrel-a-day refinery in 1922.

Lion Oil Company gas pump and truck, El Dorado, Arkansas.

Founded in 1923 in El Dorado, Arkansas, Lion Oil will operate about 2,000 service stations in the south in the 1950s. Photo courtesy Lion Oil.

Production from the nearby Smackover oilfield helped the Lion Oil Refining Company’s refining capacity grow to 10,000 barrels a day. By 1925, the company acquired oil wells producing 1.4 million barrels of oil. A merger with Monsanto Chemical in 1955 brought the gradual disappearance of the once familiar “Beauregard Lion” logo.

Lion Oil today markets petroleum products, including gasoline, low-sulfur diesel, solvents, propane and asphalt. Learn more Arkansas history in Arkansas Oil and Gas Boom Towns.

October 28, 1926 – Yates Field discovered West of the Pecos in Texas

The giant, 26,400-acre Yates oilfield was discovered in a remote area of Pecos County, Texas, in the increasingly prolific Permian Basin. Drilled in 1926 with a $15,000 cable-tool rig, the Ira Yates 1-A produced 450 barrels of oil a day from just under 1,000 feet. Prior to the discovery, Ira Yates had struggled to keep his ranch, located on the northern border of the Chihuahua Desert. “Drought and predators nearly did him in” noted one historian’s account, until Yates convinced a San Angelo company to explore for oil west of the Pecos River.

With the discovery well 30 miles from the nearest oil pipeline, a 55,000-barrel steel storage tank was under construction when four more Yates wells began yielding an additional 12,000 barrels of oil daily. Ira Yates would receive an $18 million oil royalty check on his 67th birthday. Also see Alley Oop’s Oil Roots and Santa Rita taps Permian Basin.

October 30, 1894 – “Golden Rule” Jones patents a Better Sucker Rod

Samuel Jones patented a sucker rod design for his Acme Sucker Rod Company, which he had founded in 1892 in Toledo, Ohio. With his “Coupling for Pipes or Rods,” Jones applied his oilfield experience in mechanics to solve the frequent and time-consuming problem of broken sucker rods. His sucker rod would soon make him a millionaire.

Samuel Jones oilfield sucker rod patent of 1894.

Samuel Jones had worked as a potboiler, pumper, tool dresser, blacksmith, and pipe layer.

Jones had worked in Pennsylvania’s oil region as a potboiler, pumper, tool dresser, blacksmith, and pipe layer. He became known as “Golden Rule” Jones of Ohio by creating a better workplace for employees at his factory, where he shortened the work day and started a revenue-sharing program for his workers. In 1887, Jones ran for Toledo mayor as a progressive Republican and was elected. He was reelected three times and served until dying on the job in 1904.

October 31, 1871 – Modern Refinery Method patented

Petroleum refining would become far more efficient thanks to an invention by Henry Rogers of Brooklyn, New York. In 1871 he patented an “apparatus for separating volatile hydrocarbons by repeated vaporization and condensation.”

Henry Rogers patent drawing for refinery process to produce kerosene.

Henry Rogers improved the refining of “lamp oil.”

Rogers introduced many elements of modern refineries, including “fractionating” towers that improved earlier processes of extracting kerosene by simple distillation in kettle stills. “The apparatus which I use is, in many respects, similar to what is known as the column-still for distilling alcoholic spirits, but modified in all the details, so as to make it available for distilling oils,” Rogers noted in his 1871 patent application.

Improved technologies would lead to massive refineries like the 1890s Standard Oil of Indiana Whiting Refinery.

October 31, 1903 – Salt-Dome Oilfield discovered in Texas

One mile north of Batson, Texas, a discovery well drilled by W.L. Douglas’ Paraffine Oil Company produced 600 barrels of oil a day from a depth of 790 feet. A second well drilled two months later produced 4,000 barrels of oil a day from 1,000 feet deep. Combined with three other recently discovered salt-dome fields, Spindletop (1901), Sour Lake (1901), and Humble (1905), “Batson helped to establish the basis of the Texas oil industry when these shallow fields gave up the first Texas Gulf Coast oil,” noted the Texas State Historical Association in 2010.

October 31, 1913 – First U.S. Highway dedicated

The Lincoln Highway, the first automobile road across America, was dedicated in 1913 with nationwide celebrations. The 3,389-mile-long roadway connected Times Square in New York City to San Francisco’s Lincoln Park. Conceived in 1912 and dedicated the next year, the highway was the first national memorial to President Abraham Lincoln, predating the 1922 dedication of the Lincoln Memorial by nine years. Soon known as “The Main Street Across America,” the highway brought prosperity to the hundreds of cities and towns along the way.

October 31, 1924 – Former Olinda Oil Wells Pitcher plays Exhibition Game 

Former oilfield worker Walter “Big Train” Johnson returned to his California oil patch roots for an exhibition game with Babe Ruth in Brea, California. Ruth swatted two home runs off the future Hall of Fame pitcher. Three decades earlier, Johnson had started his baseball career as a 16-year-old pitcher for the Olinda Oil Wells.

Poster for Babe Ruth and Walter Johnson 1924 baseball exhibition game.

The former star player for the Olinda Oil Wells pitched against Babe Ruth in a 1924 exhibition game in nearby Brea.

Playing for the Washington Senators, the former roustabout became major league baseball’s all-time career leader in shutouts with 110. Many oilfield towns once fielded teams with names proudly reflecting their communities’ livelihood. Learn more in Oilfields of Dreams – Gassers and Drillers Baseball Teams.

October 31, 1930 – Properties of Columbus “Dad” Joiner placed into Receivership

After it was learned 70-year-old wildcatter Columbus Marion “Dad” Joiner had oversold his East Texas oilfield leases in Rusk County, District Judge R.T. Brown placed the properties into receivership.

Post card of  Baker Hotel in Dallas, circa 1930.

Columbus “Dad” Joiner, discoverer of the East Texas oilfield, met with H.L. Hunt at the Baker Hotel in Dallas and sold 5,580 acres for $1.34 million. Built in 1925, the hotel was torn down in 1980

With even the field’s discovery well, Daisy Bradford No. 3, also tied up in conflicting claims, Joiner took refuge from creditors in the Baker Hotel in Dallas, where Haroldson Lafayette (H.L.) Hunt Jr. negotiated a $1.34 million deal with him for the famous well and 5,580 acres of leases. In the 300 lawsuits and 10 years of litigation that followed, Hunt sustained every title.

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The American Oil & Gas Historical Society preserves U.S. petroleum history. Become an AOGHS supporting member and help maintain this energy education website and expand historical research. For more information, contact bawells@aoghs.org. Copyright © 2020 Bruce A. Wells. All rights reserved.

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