Minerva oil field history dates back 100 years

Joy Graham

On April 10, 1913, Joe Dessen and Charles Doss were digging a water well in the Doss pasture.

They got down about 40 feet when their picks and shovels struck something hard that had a “ring” to it.

They must have thought it was a large rock. Doss ran to the house to get a hand auger and in a little the auger drilled a hole in the rock. To their surprise gas blew out of the hole. It was mixed with mud, water and rock.

By May 15, 1913 the first oil development company was organized in Rockdale. Over 25 wells were drilled on the Doss place, but none produced enough oil to pump and sell. Six years later, in 1919, the Rockdale-Tracy oil field was discovered. Several companies dug wells in the Tracy field but none succeeded in getting more than a few gallons of oil a day per well.

Two years later, on July 26, 1921, on the W. P. Henry farm, eight miles north of Rockdale, a well producing 25 barrels of oil per day came in. This was the birth of the Rockdale-Minerva O il fi eld. B y December the yield was two hundred barrels daily. Oil was not in demand at that time and much of the oil was stored or shipped out in rail cars.

Owens Refinery of Ardmore, Oklahoma, began negotiations for constructing a refinery at Minerva. Jan.15, 1922, the refinery, with a 2,000-barrel capacity, opened.

For the next 23 years Owens Refinery sold at a steady market. By 1928 the oil field had seven hundred producers.

Average price per barrel ranged from $1.50 to $1.80 per barrel in 1921 to $1.30 to $1.45 in 1927. Highest yield was in 1926 when the average was $2 to $2.55.

Beginning in 1927, production declined. By 1935 total production was 73,390 and by 1948 the total had decreased to 63,869 barrels.

Fast forward for those who remember the Minerva Oil fields.

Drive out north of Rockdale and take FM 487 and just past Murray Cemetery look to the right.

Oil wells line the county road all the way to Minerva. History repeats itself.


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2013-04-18 digital edition

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