Oklahoma Celebrates Century of Petroleum Production

By Pagel, Jean | THE JOURNAL RECORD, April 14, 1997 | Go to article overview

Oklahoma Celebrates Century of Petroleum Production


Pagel, Jean, THE JOURNAL RECORD


BARTLESVILLE -- The landscape of Indian Territory changed forever on April 15, 1897, when the earth heaved out a geyser from the Nellie Johnstone No. 1.

Oil.

Former President George Bush will help pay tribute this week to the wildcatters, roughnecks, researchers and others who gave Oklahoma its foothold on the global oil scene in the 100 years since the state's first commercial oil discovery. "Oil is to Oklahoma what movie stars are to Hollywood. What Bourbon Street is to New Orleans. What Wall Street is to New York," said Gov. Frank Keating. "It's a vital part of our soul." Sweet crude brought good times to Oklahoma -- birthplace to major oil companies, home to millionaire barons, site of industry innovations. But it also provided plenty of hurt when oil booms turned to bust. Petroleum shaped everything in Oklahoma from the economy and boom towns to railroads, universities and the arts. Tulsa claimed the title "Oil Capital of the World." The six-day centennial celebration kicks off Monday in Bartlesville near the site of the Nellie Johnstone No. 1. Forums throughout the week will examine the world impact of Oklahoma oil technology, Oklahoma's role in energy education and the fuel outlook. The theme is "Discover Oil Again!" Festivities organizer Tom Sears Jr. said the theme goes beyond raw materials to embrace the people and institutions that made Oklahoma a petroleum leader. "It doesn't mean find new reserves," Sears said. "It means appreciate the breadth of what those resources are and what it means for the future." A highlight of the celebration happens Saturday when high school students and the Bartlesville Fire Department re-enact how the Nellie Johnstone No. 1 came in. They will use water and a wooden derrick set up downtown. That well, named for the 6-year-old daughter of one of its financiers, struck oil at 1,303 feet on the bank of the Caney River near Bartlesville. It was soon temporarily plugged because no tanks or pipelines were in place. Deep sedimentary basins and rocks conducive to the formation of oil and gas made Oklahoma an "ideal cooking spot" for conversion of organic matter into hydrocarbons. Charles Mankin, director of the Oklahoma Geological Survey, said sweet crude from Oklahoma is light and easy to refine. Its annual value at the wellhead is $5 billion, Mankin said. The Mid-Continent Oil & Gas Association reports that 45,000 people worked in Oklahoma oil and gas extraction, refining, field machinery and with petroleum and coal products in 1995. Royalty owners also benefit, as do state coffers enlarged by the gross-production tax, which supports teacher retirement, schools and roads. …

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