And Now You Know: Orange Oil Field, the Early Years

Published 12:34 pm Saturday, October 6, 2018

By Mike Louviere

On January 21, 1901 on the hill south of Beaumont, a lone drilling rig stood.

It looked to some like a spindle on top of the hill, so it was named “Spindletop”.

For months, the rig had been drilling into the hill, which was a salt dome. That morning it struck oil, a huge amount of oil, and the first Texas oil boom started.

After that “gusher”, it was only natural that there would be many people looking to hit an oil pocket along the Gulf coast. One of the places that speculators started drilling was six miles west of Orange near Cow Bayou.

There was a small settlement there, people trying to make a living off of the land. Speculators had noticed that the land appeared to be some sort of upheaval and hoped it would be a salt dome like Spindletop.

In 1913, the Rio Bravo Oil Company brought in the Bland No. 1 well. It produced 1,300 barrels per day from a depth of 3,180 feet. It was the deepest producing well in Texas, Oklahoma, and Louisiana at the time.

More drilling followed, but it took a while before other wells began producing.

By the end of 1921, there was a good amount of activity and production in what was now called “The Orange Oil Field”.

Oil Weekly reported in September 1921 that the Edgerly Oil Company had drilled into the old Terry Pool and brought in a well that was producing 7,000 barrels per day at a depth of 3,600 feet, the deepest well in the field.

By November, the field had become the busiest on the Gulf coast with 29 producing wells. Pierce Junction was next with 19 producing wells.

Gulf Oil was building an eight-inch pipeline to their Lucas station. The line would tie into lines from North Texas and Oklahoma and carry oil to the refinery at Port Arthur.

Gulf had been transporting oil by barge from the field to Port Arthur.

Humble Oil Company was building a two-inch line to their earthen storage facility at the St. Germain Tank Farm. (Earthen Storage was an open area like a lake, uncovered, and often mistaken for water by waterfowl)

J.W. Link, a former Orange mayor, had left Orange and moved to Houston. By 1921, he had entered the oil business and was in the Orange field. Link Oil Company was rigging up to drill the Michail No. 1 well.

In November, the Retail Merchants Association of Orange was asking the county commissioners court to appropriate funds for the maintenance and repair of the road leading to the oil field.

By the end of November, production in the field had increased to 33 wells.

The Humble Oil Aaronson No. 1 and the Link             Hart- Adams No. 1 had both encountered unusually hard rock in layers 25 deep. Link had only been able to drill 5 feet in 25 hours. In 1300 feet, Link had changed drill cones seven times. Humble had changed 11 times in drilling 1,100 feet.

By May 1922, there were about 200 rigs in the field with 70 producing 20,000 barrels per day from a depth between 1,700 and 4,000 feet.

Production from the field since the first well in 1913 totaled 1,257,000 barrels.

gas blowout in Orange Field

The Orange Oil Field was a good producer. It was not on a salt dome, but there was an upheaval. The field was 1½ miles long and 1¼ miles wide. It was thought that this field was the edge of a larger field. Later, they found it was.

In 1923, production in the Orange field would explode and make the sleepy community a boomtown.

That year, the “Wonder Well” on the Chesson farm drilled by Humble Oil would come in at 15,000 barrels per day and bring in 10,000 speculators and roughnecks. Stores, hotels, cafes, barbershops and more would open in the community.

The Orange mayor would send in 50 deputies to control “lawlessness and violence”.

The community would take its name from the field and become “Orangefield”.

Production would eventually slack off. The price of oil dropped to $1 per barrel. It was not worth the cost to drill deeper to try to find new pockets. By 1925, most of the crews were gone and, by 1927, only one remained in the field drilling.

One well was drilled deeper and a new pocket was hit in 1937, starting a new, smaller boom that lasted until the World War II years.

There is still production in the field and Orangefield has become a thriving community. A few derricks remain as reminders of the days when the Orange Oil Field had an impact on the world.

“And now you know.”