Boom to Bust
Updated: Aug 24
Before the early 1920s, Archer County was referred to as the oil man's graveyard. Many had drilled and the majority had been unsuccessful resulting in dry holes.
Archer County's luck quickly turned around and in 1925 produced 13,000,000 barrels of oil. For a few years in the mid-'20s, Archer County was the third largest oil producer in Texas.
Early Wells in the County
Andrews Well No 1
The Andrews Well No 1 was the first discovery of oil in the County and was drilled in 1911. This well is the longest to steadily produce oil in the county.
Land on the Wilson 66 Ranch had previously been improperly tested for oil and therefore determined to be dry holes. However, in 1916, Panther Oil Co came and retested and discovered a pool of 1,630 feet.
In 1922, the Freeman-Hampton Field was discovered through the No 1 Ferguson well. Wells ranged from 1,400 to 1,700 feet deep. This discovery of this field increased production from 49,850 barrels to 422,205 barrels the following year.
The discovery well was drilled in 1924 and 30 new wells were drilled within the next year. By 1927 production began to decline in the county and companies were looking for ways to increase output. One experiment used in the Harmel Pool was to push air or gas into the sands to force oil into the wells. The daily production was 600 barrels. After pressurizing the sand, the daily output was 900 barrels.
Jack Loftin's passion to document historical events and places within Archer County resulted in an over 500-page book, Trails Through Archer: A Centennial History, 1880-1980, and over 300 hand-carved stone markers he placed around Archer and surrounding counties.
He created at least 3 historical markers to document significant wells and oil discoveries in Archer County.
Tools of the Trade
Wichita Falls Spudders were often used to drill for oil or water at shallow depths. Here the spudder is folded, which made them convenient to move and travel between sites.
Holes were drilled by using a blunt bit that raised and dropped with the motion of pulleys and cables. Operators would have to stop frequently to remove loosened rock out of the way.
Another tool in early oil discovery was the fishtail bit. The fishtail bit would scrap the surface and would quickly wear down, needing to be replaced frequently.
Today's drill bits are constructed of multi-cones, which crush and grind the rock. This bit completes the work faster and doesn't need to be replaced as frequently as the early fishtail bits.
Another example of a tool used in the oil field is the oil thief. The oil thief is used to evaluate the quality of the oil drawn.
The thief is dropped into a tank and gathers a sample of the oil at the bottom. The sample is then evaluated for color, texture, and ratio of water to oil.
Today's oil thieves are circular and made of acrylic, brass, or aluminum.