The Century Club: Thomas Gilcrease, Okla. Oil Tycoon Who Used His Wealth to Benefit Others

Article excerpt

Though Thomas Gilcrease could have been the epitome of the profit- driven oil tycoon, his exploration efforts led him instead into the worlds of art, education and cultural relations. He used his wealth - and debt - for the benefit of others.

Born in Robilene, La., in 1890, Gilcrease was brought as an infant by his parents to the Creek Nation lands in Indian Territory only a few months after his birth.

The family settled about 20 miles south of Tulsa. Gilcrease's father took his son to the father of Creek poet Alexander Posey so he could learn to read and write. It was this experience that led Gilcrease into his lifelong passion for learning.

But work came first. Gilcrease helped his father on the farm - feeding hogs, harnessing horses, milking the cows. When he was 12 years old, he helped with a flour and corn milling operation. Two years later, he worked with his father in a general merchandise business.

In the meantime, and because of his Creek Indian blood, Gilcrease had been allotted 160 acres of land southwest of Tulsa in the Osage Hills. In 1905, the first well in what would become the famed Glenn Pool was discovered near Gilcrease's land. As the oil field expanded, his allotted land also proved to be a valuable resource.

He began dealing in oil leases in 1908. In 1910, he procured drilling tools and became an oilman. However, he was uneducated in the technicalities of the oil business and this hurt him in his early dealings.

But Gilcrease learned quickly and became a major player in the industry. Only seven years after he started, he had 32 producing wells on his land.

In 1922, he created the Gilcrease Oil Co. and established its headquarters in San Antonio. By the time he was 21 years old, Thomas Gilcrease was a multimillionaire. …


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