County to celebrate oil centennial; volunteers sought
Plans are underway to make the centennial of the first oil well in Orange County a countywide event. Harvey Wilson, one of the volunteers of the Orangefield Cormier Museum said Orangefield didn’t even exist yet when the Rio Bravo Oil Company brought in the first well on Aug. 17, 1913.
The Orange County Oil Centennial will be held Friday, Aug. 17 and Saturday, Aug. 18 with most activities central to the Cormier Museum, but plans may include a scavenger hunt that will route participants to other museums and sites around Orange County.
Orange County Economic Development Corp. and area chambers of commerce are involved in the planning. Volunteers are being sought to chair committees in several areas and help in general. The committee is welcoming all ideas.
Some of the other activities being discussed are: Dress up pictures in the Cormier Museum, a barbecue cook-off, carnival, street dance, mystery dinner theater at the new Orange County Convention and Expo Center, washer tournament, pie eating contest, rag-ball tournament, vendor booths, live music and entertainment and more. Sponsors are also sought for the event.
According to Wilson, the first attempt to drill for oil was in 1903 when natural gas was seeping into water wells and sulfur springs were detected along with paraffin dirt in the area. There were high hopes that the land six miles west of Orange and 14 miles east of Spindle Top was filled with oil.
The J.W. Link Co. drilled the Josh Bland #1 to 1900 feet, a very deep hole in those days. It was plugged as a dry hole.
Ten years later the Rio Bravo Oil Company decided to drill deeper. Oil was struck at a depth between 3,209 and 3,227 feet. No. 1 Bland produced 150 barrels of top grade petroleum a day. “The well was said to ‘head’ like Old Faithful every 50 minutes and was the deepest well drilled in Texas at this time,” said Wilson.
“Alpert Phenis, a writer for the Fuel Oil Journal, 10 years later labeled the Orange County field as possibly the most astonishing oil development the world has ever known,” said Wilson.
“Those of us from the Orangefield Museum agree with Mr. Phenis. Oil and gas has been a tremendous part of the history in Orange County and it all started right here. One-half mile northwest of us and one-half mile southeast of us the oil industry was big through the 20s, 30s, into the 50s, 60s and surviving even today,” said Wilson. “Recently a new oil well was discovered only a mile down 105 towards Orange.”
Wilson said there are also plans to dedicate a historical marker that should be in place by the time the celebration begins. He said the location of museum is almost exactly where the first well was located.
If you are interested in helping with the festival, would like to be a sponsor, have ideas, need to rent a booth or just want more information call Wilson at 409-670-8992 or 409-670-7703.
The Record will keep Orange County updated on celebration plans as they occur.
Harvey Wilson recites some of the history of the first oil well in Orange County at the Bridge City Chamber of Commerce monthly coffee held Tuesday at the Orangefield Cormier Museum. RECORD PHOTO: Penny LeLeux