Early Louisiana and Arkansas Oil: A Photographic History, 1901-1946

Early Louisiana and Arkansas Oil: A Photographic History, 1901-1946

Early Louisiana and Arkansas Oil: A Photographic History, 1901-1946

Early Louisiana and Arkansas Oil: A Photographic History, 1901-1946

Excerpt

Louisiana is a land of varied geography, its terrain ranging from bayous and coastal marshes to deltas and hills. In its 50,820 square miles can be found saltwater lagoons and lakes, tidal islands covered with sedge and rushes, a mighty river that drains the heartland of America, longleaf pines and magnolias, and bayous teeming with wildlife. Louisiana is a land rich in people, its citizens speaking a colorful mixture of Cajun French, English, and Spanish. It is a land equally rich in natural resources: salt, sulfur, fish, fertile soil, and, perhaps most important in terms of dollar value, oil and natural gas. Freebooters stalking Spanish galleons along the coast of Louisiana little realized that beneath their keels was petroleum of greater value than all the gold and silver ever taken out of the New World. Yet from the earliest records of man's tenure in rich and beautiful Louisiana there have been attempts to use that resource. Only in the twentieth century, however, would its full potential be realized.

For centuries the Indians of Louisiana used the state's natural oil springs as a source of medicine for both themselves and their animals. However, Louisiana's vast reservoir of crude oil was first discovered by non-Indians when survivors of Hernando DeSoto's ill-fated expedition passed through the region in the early 1540s. While making their way to Spanish settlements in Mexico in several small ships, the remnants of that party of explorers were struck by bad weather and driven onto the Louisiana shore on July 25, 1542. As they struggled to regroup their scattered band, they gathered their ships at a creek where they located an oil spring and used the oil, which they called stone pitch, to make their ships more watertight.

A century and one-half later, in 1698, an Englishman named Daniel Coxe led an expedition to the Gulf Coast region, and he likewise reported locating several petroleum deposits oozing from the ground. Still other early adventurers recorded a "strong smell" as they sailed along the Louisiana coast. In 1812, Major Amos Stoddard in his book on Louisiana described an island to the west of the Atchafalaya River (probably one of the Five--or Fire--Islands along Louisiana's Gulf Coast) which had burned for at least . . .

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