116 years ago today, Spindletop changed course of Texas history

The Spindletop oil field quickly became crowded after the Lucas gusher in 1901. Photo from Library of Congress.

The Spindletop oil field quickly became crowded after the Lucas gusher in 1901. Photo from Library of Congress.

The men had spent three months south of Beaumont, drilling on a hill formed by an underground salt dome.

It was the end of 1900 and the Texas oil industry was in its infancy. There were wells in Corsicana and outside Nacogdoches, but the amounts of oil they were bringing in were relatively small (as little as 25 barrels a day) compared to what was found in the East.

Then on Jan. 10, 1901, just as the men had passed a depth of 1,020 feet, everything changed. What would be called the Lucas gusher shot up 150 feet in the air spilled out 100,000 barrels of oil a day — more, according to history.com, than the rest of America’s oil wells combined.

The Texas oil boom was born, re-setting the course of the Lone Star state and the world.

The Spindletop oil field. Photo from the Library of Congress.

The Spindletop oil field. Photo from the Library of Congress.

Here are three quick facts about Spindletop …

  1. The Texas oil fields gave birth to companies such as Gulf Oil (later Chevron), Texaco and Humble Oil (later Exxon). These companies helped pry the oil business from the monopoly held by John D. Rockefeller and his Standard Oil Co.
  2. The practice of using mud to pump out what was displaced by the drilling was invented at Spindletop — necessitated by the fine sand they were drilling through. The practice is still in use today.
  3. The population of Beaumont jumped from 10,000 to 50,000 in just a few months after the oil strike and Spindletop become the epicenter of wild speculation. The Texas State Historical Association tells of “one man who had been trying to sell his tract there for $150 for three years sold his land for $20,000; the buyer promptly sold to another investor within fifteen minutes for $50,000.”

View Comments 0