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Growth and Advancement of Oil in Oklahoma
Oil provided a base from which to start many of Oklahoma's towns, such as Tulsa, Oklahoma City, and Seminole. Many small towns like Roxana were near small oil fields that over-produced the field and soon ran out of oil. (Angie Debo, p.55) Mr. Art Carmer related that much of the progress in the oil industry has been from inventions used for other purposes and applied to the oil industry. He continued to say that a few Oklahomans that went on to make a living out of state returned to try to prosper in the Oklahoma oil industry. He also stated that Hennessey has benefited from the surrounding oil towns like Tulsa and Oklahoma City, though Hennessey is no longer an oil producing city itself.
Oil was first discovered in Oklahoma in 1846. In 1859, there was organized drilling in the Indian Territory. Edward Byrd began drilling in the Cherokee Nation in 1889. 1896 brought oil to the Muskogee and Eufaula area. By 1904, there were five hundred wells in the "Twin Territories." The Glenn Pool was discovered south of Tulsa in 1905. Ponca City was opened to oil in 1912. (Angie Debo, p. 56-57)
Hennessey's history in oil begins with the first oil exploration just west of the town. According to Mr. Art Carmer, the first well in Oklahoma around the Hennessey area was located in the township eighteen north, range eight west, in the southwest quarter of section one. He recalled that the well was drilled around 1915 to 1920 to a depth of fifteen hundred to two thousand feet.
Since this well did not produce oil, Mr. Carmer believes that in 1925 there was a well drilled eight miles east of Hennessey. It is located in township nineteen north, range five west, on the northwest quarter of section twenty one. The land was owned by Mr. Brady Henry. The well reached a depth of 6,709 feet and produced enough oil and gas to be profitable. Around the same time, Mr. Carmer said, there was another well drilled in the same area, north of highway 51. It was located in the southwest quarter of section sixteen, which wa owned by the state. The well ranged around 6,400 feet deep and produced 5,000 barrels a day. For its time, this well was known for having the longest string of six inch casing in the world, close to six thousand feet long.
The largest oil field near Hennessey would be the Roxana oil fields. The town Roxana, as Mr. Carmer remembers, was named after the company that started drilling in the area around 1927. Roxana was located twenty miles south and one mile west of Marshall. The numerous wells around Roxana ranged from 6,000 to 6,500 feet deep. The Roxana oil field was diminished in importance by the discovery of the Oklahoma City and Edmonmd oil fields in 1930 to 1931. These fields sometimes produced ten to fifteen thousand barrels a day.
Mr. Carmer, a long time geologist, said Roxana and Oklahoma City oil fields are located along the Nemaha Mountain Range. The mountain range was buried by the oceans that once covered Oklahoma.
Mr. Art Carmer recalls that many of the first oil fields were spotted and drilled by luck and superstition. Such tools as the "Witching Stick" were used to find oil as well as water. (Angie Debo, p. 35). Then, later, Mr. Carmer remembers the invention of the seismograph and how it came to be used in the oil field. The seismograph sends vibrations into the earth and records the type of vibrations and how long it takes them to return. This decides whether the area is compatible for a well site. This process was used along the Nemaha Range where a well drilled at the top of the ridge would be a dry well and a well drilled near the base or along the slope of the mountain had a chance of hitting oil. The oil pools near the base were filtering through the sands left by the oceans and hit the solid rock in the mountain range.
Mr. Carmer remembers Clarence Karcher, a graduate of Hennessey High School in 1912. Mr. Karcher received his bachelor's degree in physics from the University of Oklahoma in 1916. He transferred to the University of Pennsylvania for his doctorate studies. Mr. Carmer remembers how Mr. Karcher worked for Thomas Edison to help find a way to locate German 75mm cannons. They found a way to use the seismograph to track the vibrations caused by the cannons going off. Later, when he returned to Oklahoma, he was able to apply this process to finding oil field locations.
Mr. O. D. Ramey remembers that before tractors were used, the drilling pit and surrounding area were landscaped by horse and wagon and men with shovels and picks. Comparatively old well sites were operated manually and needed crews of eight to ten men, whereas once they started using hydraulics, only three to four crew members were needed.
Mr. Ramey said that once the well site had been located, an oil derrick was brought in. At first the derricks were put together on location and were a permanent fixture. Later jack knife rigs, mobile derricks on chain driven trucks, were used. The old standard derricks were made of wood, tubing, or angle iron. The actual drilling process started out as a cable piounding the pipe into the ground. Once steam and diesel engines were introduced, they started using a rotary process. This utilized a sharp, three pointed bit to grind its way into the earth. This wasn't used until the 1930's.
Mr. O. D. Ramey went on to say that once the oil was pumped to the surface, it would be hauled by truck to the distribution points. Natural gas, on the other hand, was moved through pipelines. From these points the oil and gas were removed to refineries to be separated into their different components: propane, butane, gasoline, lubricating oils and paraffin, to name a few. Many common products have oil as an ingredient, such as stains, paints, asphalts, vaseline, oil-based cattle serums. Some early penicillans also had small amounts of oil-bases in them.
The history of many Oklahoma towns reveals that they were started by oil booms. Many industrieal companies were started by funds gained from oil royalties. Though many people were made millionaires, many also lost millions when oil fields went from boom to bust. Oklahoma was built on an oil industry and will prosper as long as the oil lasts.