5
Texas in Transit

AT ABOUT 700 FEET
OR A LITTLE OVER IT,
WHY THE DRILLING
MUD COMMENCED TO
BOIL UP THROUGH
THE ROTARY, AND
IT GOT HIGHER AND
HIGHER AND HIGHER
UP THROUGH THE TOP
OF THE DERRICK AND
WITH SUCH PRESSURE,
WHY, THE DRILL PIPE
COMMENCED TO MOVE
UP. IT MOVED UP AND
STARTED TO GOING
OUT THROUGH THE
TOP OF THE DERRICK.
… IT DIDN’T LAST
SO AWFUL LONG, BUT
IT DIED DOWN VERY
GRADUALLY. WELL
WE THREE BOYS
THEN SNEAKED BACK
DOWN TO THE WELL
AFTER IT QUIETED
DOWN AND SURVEYED
THE SITUATION.
… I WALKED OVER
AND LOOKED DOWN
THE HOLE THERE. I
HEARD—SORTA HEARD
SOMETHING KINDA
BUBBLING JUST A LIT-
TLE BIT AND LOOKED
DOWN THERE AND
HERE THIS FROTHY

The single most important event in modern Texas history is the discovery of oil and the related global dependence on oil. During bygone geologic eras the sea advanced and retreated over Texas at least nine times. The results were vast sedimentary layers of sand, gravel, and decaying vegetable matter that formed pressurized pockets of petroleum. In Southeast Texas around Houston large plugs of rock salt punched upward through the sedimentary deposits, and into the fractures of stone along the sides of the plug seeped gas and oil. On the surface salt domes usually looked like small hills. These natural resources—salt, gas, oil, and sulfur—combined with the technology and ambition of the twentieth century to establish the economic foundation of the state.

In North America and Europe there was a growing demand for petroleum products to fuel the gasoline engines of the street, grease the machinery of the factory, and light the lanterns of the home. Oil was cheaper than coal. To evaporate 1,000 pounds of water a test in 1913 revealed a cost of thirty cents for coal and half that amount for fuel oil. As a consequence, Texas coal mining declined after that year. The presence of petroleum in the state had long been known. Seepage into the Gulf of Mexico created balls of tar that washed onto the beaches. Indians and early explorers such as de Soto used this natural asphalt for caulking pots and boats. Settlers used oil from springs for medicine, but the first well did not come until 1866.

At Melrose, near Nacogdoches, Lyne T. Barret used an auger clamped to a joint of pipe and rotated by a steam engine to drill 106 feet. He found oil, but this well and another the following year had little impact because of the poor market at the time. Other shallow wells produced oil in Brown and Shackelford counties, but the first development of consequence came in Corsicana in 1894. The city wanted artesian water, and the driller became annoyed when oil seeped into his well at 1,030 feet. He had to go on to 2,470 feet to find the water. A modest oil field of 350 wells developed by 1900 with a production of 836,000 barrels per year.

-118-

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Texas, a Modern History
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Maps vi
  • Preface vii
  • 1- Land and Nature 1
  • 2- The Spanish Legacy 23
  • 3- Texas and the United States 47
  • 4- Settlement 79
  • 5- Texas in Transit 118
  • 6- The Texas Mystique 149
  • 7- [God Bless Texas] 188
  • 8- Afterword Books and Themes 216
  • Appendix I Presidents and Governors of Texas 219
  • Appendix II Counties of Texas 220
  • References 223
  • Index 231
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