Last updated

Spindle Top History
Lucas gusher.jpg
The Lucas gusher at Spindletop, January 10, 1901: This was the first major gusher of the Texas oil boom.
Relief map of Texas.png
Red pog.svg
Lucas Gusher, Spindletop Oil Field
Usa edcp relief location map.png
Red pog.svg
Lucas Gusher, Spindletop Oil Field
Location3 mi south of Beaumont, Texas on Spindletop Ave.
Coordinates 30°1′12″N94°4′31″W / 30.02000°N 94.07528°W / 30.02000; -94.07528 Coordinates: 30°1′12″N94°4′31″W / 30.02000°N 94.07528°W / 30.02000; -94.07528
Area1,130.4 acres (457.5 ha)
Built1901 (1901)
NRHP reference No. 66000818 [1]
Significant dates
Added to NRHPNovember 13, 1966
Designated NHLNovember 13, 1966

Spindletop is an oil field located in the southern portion of Beaumont, Texas in the United States. The Spindletop dome was derived from the Louann Salt evaporite layer of the Jurassic geologic period. [2] On January 10, 1901, a well at Spindletop struck oil ("came in"). The Spindletop gusher blew for 9 days at a rate estimated at 100,000 barrels (16,000 m3) of oil per day. [3] Gulf Oil and Texaco, now part of Chevron Corporation, were formed to develop production at Spindletop. [4] According to Daniel Yergin, the Spindletop discovery led the United States into the oil age. Prior to Spindletop, oil was primarily used for lighting and as a lubricant. Because of the quantity of oil discovered, burning petroleum as a fuel for mass consumption suddenly became economically feasible.


The frenzy of oil exploration and the economic development it generated in the state became known as the Texas oil boom. The United States soon became the world's leading oil producer.


There had long been suspicions that oil might be under "Spindletop Hill." The area was known for its vast sulfur springs and bubbling gas seepages that would ignite if lit. In August 1892, George W. O'Brien, George W. Carroll, Pattillo Higgins, and others formed the Gladys City Oil, Gas, and Manufacturing Company to do exploratory drilling on Spindletop Hill. The company drilled many dry holes and ran into trouble, as investors began to balk at pouring more money into drilling with no oil to show for it.[ citation needed ]

Pattillo Higgins left the company and teamed with Captain Anthony F. Lucas, the leading expert in the U.S. on salt-dome formations. Lucas made a lease agreement in 1899 with the Gladys City Company and a subsequent agreement with Higgins. Lucas drilled to 575 feet (180 m) before running out of money. He secured additional funding from John H. Galey and James M. Guffey of Pittsburgh, but the deal left Lucas with only an eighth share of the lease and Higgins with nothing. [5]

Lucas continued drilling, and on January 10, 1901, at a depth of 1,139 ft (347 m), what is known as the Lucas Gusher or the Lucas Geyser blew oil over 150 feet (50 m) in the air at a rate of 100,000 barrels per day (16,000 m3/d)(4,200,000 gallons). Nine days passed before the well was brought under control. [3]

Spindletop was the largest gusher the world had seen and catapulted Beaumont into an oil-fueled boomtown. Beaumont's population of 10,000 tripled in 3 months and eventually rose to 50,000. [6] Speculation led land prices to increase rapidly. By the end of 1902, more than 500 companies had been formed and 285 wells were in operation. [3]

Spindletop was the first oilfield found on the US Gulf Coast, and prompted further drilling, and further oil-field discoveries. Oil drillers looking for another Spindletop particularly sought out other salt domes, and were often successful. The Gulf Coast turned into a major oil region.[ citation needed ]

Standard Oil, which then had a monopoly or near-monopoly on the petroleum industry in the eastern states, was prevented from moving aggressively into the new oilfield by state antitrust laws. Populist sentiment against Standard Oil was particularly strong at the time of the Spindletop discovery. In 1900, an oil-products marketing company affiliated with Standard Oil had been banned from the state for its cutthroat business practices. Although Standard built refineries in the area, it was unable to dominate the new Gulf Coast oil fields the way it had in the eastern states. As a result, a number of startup oil companies at Spindletop, such as Texaco and Gulf Oil, grew into formidable competitors to Standard Oil. [7]

Among those drilling at Spindletop was W. Scott Heywood, a native of Cleveland, Ohio, who in 1901 made the first oil discovery in nearby Jeff Davis Parish in southwestern Louisiana. In 1932, Heywood was elected to a single term in the Louisiana State Senate. [8]

Production at Spindletop began to decline rapidly after 1902, and the wells produced only 10,000 barrels per day (1,600 m3/d) by 1904. [3] Unfortunately the developers had signed a 20-year contract to sell 25,000 barrels per day at $0.25 per barrel to Shell Oil. When the price climbed above $0.35 per barrel, the operation was stressed and Mellon who had lent money for Spindle Top’s development took control of the company, won a lawsuit allowing Mellon to renege on the contract, and created Gulf Oil. On November 14, 1925, the Yount-Lee Oil Company brought in its McFaddin No. 2 at a depth around 2,500 feet (800 m), sparking a second boom, which culminated in the field's peak production year of 1927, during which 21 million barrels (3.3 GL) were produced. [3] Over the 10 years following the McFaddin discovery, more than 72 million barrels (11.4 GL) of oil were produced, mostly from the newer areas of the field.[ citation needed ] Spindletop continued as a productive source of oil until about 1936. It was then mined for sulfur from the 1950s to about 1975. [9]

Spindletop-Gladys City Boomtown Museum

The Spindletop-Gladys City Boomtown Museum The Spindletop-Gladys City Boomtown Museum.jpg
The Spindletop-Gladys City Boomtown Museum
A replica of the Lucas Spindletop Gusher that gushes water on occasion A replica of the Lucas Spindletop Gusher.jpg
A replica of the Lucas Spindletop Gusher that gushes water on occasion
Spindletop Park, the actual location of the famous well. This obscure park is 1.5 miles from Gladys City where the Spindletop marker, monument & museum are located. Spindletop Park.jpg
Spindletop Park, the actual location of the famous well. This obscure park is 1.5 miles from Gladys City where the Spindletop marker, monument & museum are located.

In 1976, Lamar University dedicated the Spindletop-Gladys City Boomtown Museum to preserve the history of the Spindletop oil gusher era in Beaumont. The museum features an oil derrick and many reconstructed Gladys City building interiors furnished with authentic artifacts from the Spindletop boomtown period. [10]

The Lucas Gusher Monument is located at the museum. The monument, erected at the wellhead in July, 1941, was moved to the Spindletop-Gladys City Museum after it became unstable due to ground subsidence. According to an article by Nedra Foster, LS in the July/August, 2000 issue of the Professional Surveyor Magazine, the monument was originally located within 4 ft of the site of the Spindletop well. [11]

Today, the wellhead is marked at Spindletop Park by a flagpole flying the Texas flag. It is located about 1.5 miles south of the museum, off West Port Arthur Road/Spur 93. The site includes a viewing platform with information placards, about a quarter mile from the flagpole. The wellhead site is in the middle of swampland on private land and is not accessible. Directions to the park and viewing platform are available at the museum.[ citation needed ]

On December 4, 1955, the Spindletop story was dramatized in "Spindletop – The First Great Texas Oil Strike (January 10, 1901)" on the CBS history series, You Are There . Robert Bray was cast as Pattillo Higgins, Mike Ragan as Marion Fletcher, Parley Baer as Captain Lucas, Jean Byron as Caroline Lucas, DeForest Kelley as Al Hammill, Tyler McVey as Mayor Wheat, and William Fawcett as a farmer. [12]

See also

Related Research Articles

History of the petroleum industry in the United States

The first successful oil well in North America was established in Oil Springs, Ontario, Canada in 1858. The field is still in production although quantities are low.

Sour Lake, Texas City in Texas, United States

Sour Lake is a city in Hardin County, Texas, United States. The population was 1,813 at the 2010 census. It was originally named "Sour Lake Springs", after the sulphurous spring water that flowed into the nearby lake. The city is part of the Beaumont–Port Arthur Metropolitan Statistical Area. Sour Lake is the oldest surviving town in Hardin County. It is called by some the "Gateway to the Big Thicket".

Beaumont, Texas City in Texas, United States

Beaumont is a city in and the county seat of Jefferson County, Texas, in the United States, within the Beaumont–Port Arthur Metropolitan Statistical Area. Located in Southeast Texas on the Neches River about 85 miles (137 km) east of Houston, Beaumont had a population of 117,267 at the time of the 2010 census, making it the 30th most populous city in the state of Texas.

Anthony Francis Lucas Croatian oil explorer

Anthony Francis Lucas was an American Croatian-born oil explorer. With Pattillo Higgins he organized the drilling of an oil well near Beaumont, Texas, that became known as Spindletop. This led to the widespread exploitation of oil and the start of the petroleum age.

Mid-Continent oil province oil-rich area in the United States

The Mid-continent oil field is a broad area containing hundreds of oil fields in Arkansas, Kansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas. The area, which consists of various geological strata and diverse trap types, was discovered and exploited during the first half of the 20th century. Most of the crude oil found in the onshore mid-continent oil field is considered to be of the mixed base or intermediate type.

East Texas Oil Field

The East Texas Oil Field is a large oil and gas field in east Texas. Covering 140,000 acres (57,000 ha) and parts of five counties, and having 30,340 historic and active oil wells, it is the second-largest oil field in the United States outside Alaska, and first in total volume of oil recovered since its discovery in 1930. Over 5.42 billion barrels of oil have been produced from it to-date. It is a component of the Mid-Continent Oil Province, the huge region of petroleum deposits extending from Kansas to New Mexico to the Gulf of Mexico.

Blowout (well drilling) uncontrolled release of crude oil and/or natural gas from a well

A blowout is the uncontrolled release of crude oil and/or natural gas from an oil well or gas well after pressure control systems have failed. Modern wells have blowout preventers intended to prevent such an occurrence. An accidental spark during a blowout can lead to a catastrophic oil or gas fire.

Saratoga, Texas Unincorporated community in Texas, United States

Saratoga is an unincorporated community in Hardin County, Texas, United States. It is located 36 miles (58 km) northwest of Beaumont. The ZIP code is 77585.

Pattillo Higgins Businessman and geologist

Pattillo Higgins 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.

Joseph S. Cullinan American businessman

Joseph Stephen Cullinan was a U.S. oil industrialist. Although he was a native of Pennsylvania, his lifetime business endeavors would help shape the early phase of the oil industry in Texas. He founded The Texas Company, which would eventually be known as Texaco Incorporated.

Miles Franklin "Frank" Yount eventually came to head up one of the most successful private oil companies in the United States.

Beaumont station train station in Beaumont, Texas

Beaumont is an Amtrak station in Beaumont, Texas, served by the Sunset Limited service.

Goose Creek Oil Field one of major oil fields that created the Texas Oil Boom

The Goose Creek Oil Field is a large oil field in Baytown, Texas, on Galveston Bay. Discovered in 1903, and reaching maximum production in 1918 after a series of spectacular gushers, it was one of the fields that contributed to the Texas Oil Boom of the early 20th century. The field was also the location of the first offshore wells in Texas, and the second group of offshore wells in the United States. Consequences of the development of the Goose Creek field included an economic boom and associated influx of workers, the founding and fast growth of Baytown, and the building of the adjacent Baytown Refinery, which is now the 2nd largest oil refinery in the United States with a capacity of 584,000 barrels per day. The field remains active, having produced over 150 million barrels (24,000,000 m3) of oil in its 100-year history.

Texas oil boom Period of change and economic growth in Texas

The Texas oil boom, sometimes called the gusher age, was a period of dramatic change and economic growth in the U.S. state of Texas during the early 20th century that began with the discovery of a large petroleum reserve near Beaumont, Texas. The find was unprecedented in its size (worldwide) and ushered in an age of rapid regional development and industrialization that has few parallels in U.S. history. Texas quickly became one of the leading oil-producing states in the U.S., along with Oklahoma and California; soon the nation overtook the Russian Empire as the top producer of petroleum. By 1940 Texas had come to dominate U.S. production. Some historians even define the beginning of the world's Oil Age as the beginning of this era in Texas.

The Gusher Marathon is an annual spring marathon held in Beaumont, Texas. It was founded in 2010 by the local nonprofit organization Sports Society for American Health and sponsored by Exygon Gym and Baptist Hospitals. The Gusher in Gusher Marathon refers to the 1901 discovery of oil at the spindletop salt dome in Beaumont. The course is a flat, fast USATF Sanctioned and Certified, Boston Qualifier. The course begins at the Montagne Center of Lamar University and tours much of Downtown Beaumont before returning to Lamar University. The Gusher also offers 5K and half marathon distances in addition to the full marathon. The 2011 marathon was moved to mid march to take advantage of cooler weather.

Spindletop-Gladys City Boomtown Museum History Museum in Beaumont, TX

The Spindletop-Gladys City Boomtown Museum is located in Beaumont, Texas, to commemorate the discovery of oil at the Spindletop Hill salt dome in Beaumont on Jan. 10, 1901. The discovery sparked an oil boom in Texas that continues today. Along with a gift shop with commemorative gifts, the museum features historical, period reenactments by area performers. A replica of the wooden oil derricks that once dotted the landscape of Spindletop Hill in the early 1900s has been erected near the museum. For special occasions and anniversaries, the museum staff “blows the gusher” with a plume of water and provides a historical narrative and sound effects to simulate the discovery of oil at Spindletop.

George Washington Carroll American politician

George Washington Carroll was an American politician and businessman. During the 1904 presidential election he was given the vice presidential nomination of the Prohibition Party and ran alongside Silas C. Swallow.

Melody Maids were an all-girl singing group from Beaumont, Texas that toured the world from 1942 to 1972. Dick Dowling Junior High School music teacher Eloise Rush Milam was asked to help arrange entertainment for a bond rally at the Jefferson Theatre in Beaumont. Milam also gave private voice lessons to junior high and high school-aged girls, so she presented her students as a choral group, all dressed in white. Since the newspaper insisted on having a name for the group, they decided to call themselves the Melody Maids. This first performance was on July 4, 1942.

Texas Energy Museum Technology museum in Beaumont, Texas

The Texas Energy Museum is a museum in Beaumont, Texas in the United States. The museum was formed in 1987 to tell the story of oil through state of the art exhibits including talking robotic characters. The museum opened on January 10, 1990, the anniversary of the Spindletop gusher.


  1. "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places . National Park Service. November 2, 2013.
  2. Hyne, Norman J., Nontechnical guide to petroleum geology, exploration, drilling, and production, Pennwell Books, 2nd ed. p. 193 ISBN   978-0-87814-823-3
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 Wooster, Robert; Sanders, Christine Moor: Spindletop Oilfield from the Handbook of Texas Online. Retrieved October 18, 2009., Texas State Historical Association
  4. Daniel Yergin, The Prize, New York: Simon & Schuster, 1991, pp.75–78.
  5. Daniel Yergin, The Prize, New York: Simon & Schuster, 1991, p.75.
  6. Daniel Yergin, The Prize, New York: Simon & Schuster, 1991, p.69.
  7. Ron Chernow, Titan: the Life of John D. Rockefeller {New York: Random House, 1998} 431.
  8. "Heywood, Walter Scott". Louisiana Historical Association, A Dictionary of Louisiana Biography. Archived from the original on February 25, 2010. Retrieved January 30, 2011.
  9. "Spindletop History". Lamar University. Lamar University. December 12, 2015. Retrieved October 26, 2019.
  10. "Spindletop Gladys City Boomtown Museum". Lamar.edu.
  11. "Magazine Archives". xyHt.
  12. "Spindletop – The First Great Texas Oil Strike (January 10, 1901)(4 Dec. 1955), You Are There". Internet Movie Data Base . Retrieved April 20, 2014.