Thursday, March 14, 2013

Weeell Doggies!

From the Don Jackson Collection, Lincoln, Lawrence, Franklin Library -- Date and Location Unknown
The lumber boom of the early 1900s and the riches it brought to the residents of the Piney Woods was one thing.

The oil boom?  Well, that was the next chapter in the History of Wealth and Prosperity for Southwest Mississippi.

It began late on a Wednesday afternoon, December 30, 1942: The first oil of Lincoln County gushed to the surface at the Garland T. Smith well in the Lloyd Star community.

The California Oil Company had hit pay dirt.

Several other companies were in hot pursuit of liquid gold -- Roeser and Pendleton, Sun Oil, and Humble.

A "discovery well" in West Mallalieu "opened the floodgates for rapid drilling" in that area, according to Durr Walker, author of Lincoln County, Mississippi, A Pictorial History.

Just five years almost to the day after that first black geyser filled the sky in Lloyd Star, Brookhaven was "on the oil map," according to Walker.

Drilling activity was "spirited," and by September of 1947, Lincoln had become the leading oil producing county in the state.

The boom was huge, and those who were smart enough -- or lucky enough -- to find themselves in the midst of the economic chain of events, profited greatly.

The rush slowed considerably by the 1950s, and by the 1960s, the crude oil river of riches had slowed to a trickle.

But the story doesn't end there.

In the 1970s, a world ever thirsty for oil spurred a rise in crude oil prices, which in turn spurred new drilling in the area, leading to a series of small, but profitable, discoveries in Lincoln County, bringing new wealth to a group of local men who owned the rights.

(One man, who went from rags to riches overnight, sold his tiny clapboard home, built a beautiful mansion, replete with flickering gas lanterns adorning the entry, and purchased seven shiny new cars, one for each day of the week.)

A Boomlet Redux
Today, with crude oil prices ever on the rise, big oil companies -- with plans on fracking* for oil and gas -- have snapped up every available rent house and booked up any number of hotel rooms into the near future to return operations to an area that once produced more than 135 million barrels of oil from 416 wells.

And that chapter has only just begun.
*Simply put: a different but more complex way of extracting trapped oil and gas from the earth below. I learned some time back that the method is not "new," as some folks believe -- it was first used in 1947 in Texas.  See the turquoise link for more on the history and how it works.
Humble's Randall #1, undated.
White writing across the bottom of the photograph identifies this derrick as "Humble's Randall #1, Doris Ballew Dr. Co." "Art Studio, Brookhaven, Miss." in lower right corner.


  1. Molly, my dad and his best bud, Tommie Jones, dabbled in oil and gas...some of the papers have the name, Sammie Carruth, on them. Could this be your brother?

  2. Yep, he moved back to Brookhaven and tried his hand in the oil bidness in the very early 1980s.