Sunday, August 29, 2010



'You Are There' -
"Spindletop - The First Texas Oil Strike (January 10, 1901)"

Robert Bray

Edited from Wikipedia:
Pattillo Higgins (December 5, 1863-June 5, 1955) was a businessman as well as a self-taught geologist. He earned the nickname the "Prophet of Spindletop" for his endeavors in the oil business, which accrued a fortune for many. He partnered to form the Gladys City Oil Gas and Manufacturing Company and later, established the Higgins Standard Oil Company.

In his youth, he was a violent troublemaker, pulling pranks and harassing African Americans. When he was seventeen, he pulled a prank on a black Baptist church that got the attention of a sheriff deputy. The deputy fired a warning shot over Higgins' head, after which Higgins fired back and delivered what would later turn out to be a fatal hit. The wounded deputy managed to fire again, striking Higgins lower left arm. Higgins' arm would later become severely infected, requiring amputation from the elbow down. Higgins was put on trial for the murder of the deputy, but he would be found not guilty by a jury that perceived his act as self-defense. Studying geology on his own, he dedicated himself to finding these clues [for finding the presence of underground oil] by reading all the United States Geological Survey reports and books that he could find. The details he learned reminded him of what some Beaumont locals back home referred to as "Sour Hill Mound", a place where he frequently brought his Sunday school students for outings. This mound was described as "sour" due to the unpleasant sulfur smell that came out of the springs around it.

Convinced that this salt dome mound had oil below it, Higgins first partnered with George O'Brien, George Carroll, Emma John, and J.F. Lanier to form the Gladys City Oil, Gas, and Manufacturing Company in 1892. It was during this time that other formally trained geologists dismissed the idea of finding oil along the gulf coast region of the United States. Higgins' personal integrity was even challenged by the local newspaper.

However, his informal training in geology influenced his belief that the Spindletop field contained oil below due to the presence of mineral water and gas seepage, and he managed to convince the partners to proceed with the venture. Work began the following year, but all three of the shallow drilling attempts failed to locate oil due to the shifting sands and unstable clay under the hill. Higgins held onto his ownership and leases of land over the salt dome, but resigned from the company.

On January 10, 1901, the six tons of four-inch (102 mm) drilling pipe began to shoot up out of the hole, sending the roughnecks fleeing for safety. The geyser shot oil over 150 feet (46 m) high and flowed an estimated 100,000 barrels per day (16,000 m3/d). The well was at a depth of 1,020 feet (310 m), and as it turns out, was at the precise location as initially predicted by Higgins.

Higgins sued [Captain Anthony] Lucas and Gladys City Oil, Gas and Manufacturing Company for royalties, using the basis that the second lease was invalid due to the fact the first lease had not yet expired when the second was enacted. After the parties settled out of court, Higgins formed the Higgins Oil and Fuel Company located at the center of Spindletop. Higgins maintained his leasing rights to his land, and would establish the Higgins Standard Oil Company.

In addition to residing in Beaumont, he owned estates in Houston and San Antonio. He remained a bachelor until the age of 45. In 1905, he adopted a young woman named Annie Johns, who at the time was fifteen. Three years later Higgins married her, and later had three children with her, despite the scandal. Higgins died in San Antonio, Texas on June 5, 1955.

He died the day before I was born....


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