The Spindletop oilfield was discovered on a salt dome formation south of Beaumont on January 10, 1901. It marked the birth of the modern petroleum industry. The Gladys City Oil, Gas, and Manufacturing Company was the first company to drill on Spindletop Hill. The first three attempts to find oil had been unsuccessful. Anthony F. Lucas made a lease with the Gladys City Company in 1899. With Lucas in charge of the drilling operation, another attempt was made. He was able to drill deeper, to a depth of 575 feet before running out of money. In 1900 Lucas dug a well using a heavier, more efficient rotary bit. On January 10 mud began bubbling from the hole. The startled roughnecks fled as six tons of drilling pipe came shooting up out of the ground. After several minutes, mud, then gas, then oil spurted out. The Lucas geyser, found at a depth of 1,139 feet, blew a stream of oil over 100 feet high until it was capped nine days later and flowed an estimated 100,000 barrels a day. When they finally controlled the geyser, a huge pool of oil surrounded it. Oilmen, speculators, and onlookers poured into Beaumont. By September 1901 there were at least six successful wells on the Gladys City Company lands. Speculation drove land prices way up around Spindletop. An estimated $235 million was invested in oil that year in Texas. Some investors made fortunes, others lost everything.
Too many wells at Spindletop led to a rapid decline in production. A second boom came when oil was found on the flanks of the dome. By 1927 Spindletop production reached its all-time annual high of 21,000,000 barrels. Within five years 60,000,000 barrels had been produced, largely from the newly found deeper flank wells.
The discovery of the Spindletop oilfield had a huge effect on world and Texas history. Investors spent billions of dollars throughout Texas in search of oil and natural gas. The cheap fuel they found helped to revolutionize American transportation and industry. Storage facilities, pipelines, and major refining units were built in the Beaumont, Port Arthur, Sabine Pass, and Orange areas. Many of the major oil companies were born at Spindletop or grew to major corporate size as a result of their involvement at Spindletop.
Source: Spindletop Oil Field
Copyright © Texas State Historical Association