The Magic of Petroleum
to enlarge |Artist: Wayne
Sponsor: ONEOK, Inc.
Size: 72" x 96"
Type: Oil on Canvas
Location: 2nd Floor, Outside
Before the drilling and production
of oil for consumer use, Native Americans were using petroleum
found in Oklahoma for medicinal purposes. Petroleum was
evident on the outcroppings of many water springs and streams.
A report made by a Chickasaw Agent in 1853 stated:
The oil springs in this
nation are attracting considerable attention, as they
are said to be a remedy for all chronic diseases. Rheumatism
stands no chance at all, and the worst cases of dropsy
yield to its effects. The fact is, that it cures anything
that has been tried. A great many Texans visit these
springs, and some from Arkansas . . . There is one
or two of great medical properties.
A well-known spring was at New
Spring Place, north of Tahlequah in the Cherokee Nation,
and another at Boyd Springs, northeast of present-day Ardmore
in the Chickasaw Nation. The Indians often gathered at Boyd
Springs in great numbers and lighted their camps with the
gas by placing a tube or gun barrel in the ground. There
was also a natural oil spring at Maytubby Springs near Caddo
in Bryan County, where a hotel was opened and became popular
as a resort in the area.
In 1859, Lewis Ross, a brother
of Chief John Ross of the Cherokees, found a pocket of oil
that produced about ten barrels a day for nearly a year.
He was drilling for saltwater on the Grand River near Salina
in what is now Mayes County, Oklahoma, and decided to sink
a deeper well for greater production. Ross found oil instead
and the news spread of this potential source of tribal revenue.
Oklahoma’s first oil company,
the Chickasaw Oil Company, was organized in 1872 and encouraged
individual citizens to develop natural resources.
Industry emphasis at the time
centered on coal production, however, both the Cherokee and
Choctaw nations passed laws in 1884 creating organizations
for the “purpose of finding petroleum or rock oil .
Five years later in 1889, a wildcatter
named Edward Byrd secured mineral leases from the Cherokee
Nation. He drilled his first well near present-day Chelsea
in Rogers County in 1890, and found oil at a depth of only
36 feet. His well produced about a half a barrel a day but
his efforts were hampered severely by government regulation,
inadequate transportation facilities and the lack of a readily
accessible market. His Chelsea well is still celebrated as
Oklahoma's first oil well.
Images are copyright
of The Oklahoma State Senate Historical Preservation Fund,
Inc. and the artist. Please contact Sandra Shelton at 521-5663
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