for sheer bad manners, was the worst oil boom town in Texas history, according
to those myth-making experts who followed oil booms,” A.C. Greene wrote of the
town. Tales of Hogtown during the wicked oil days are too lurid for these pages
but we can say that its debauchery might be so well remembered because so much
of it supposedly took place in broad daylight and sometimes not in private.
discovery of oil near Desdemona
came as no great surprise to residents of the community. In 1914, the entire town,
all 100 people, met at the Hog Creek School and formed the Hog Creek Oil Co. Hog
Creek itself often had oil scum on it and the wells gave off the same whiff as
the shallow oil wells that had been found at Strawn,
but the first four years of drilling yielded nothing.
Finally, after a
new Hog Creek Oil Company was formed, oil was struck on the night of Sept. 2,
1918. The well promptly caught fire and burned for three days before it could
be extinguished. Even with this inauspicious beginning, the Desdemona
oil field was soon producing 20,000 barrels a day. The producing well was just
100 yards from where the first of several dry holes had been drilled.
even took a walk on what might be widely viewed as the wild side of political
life as the Texas socialist movement flourished there; oil made some of those
socialists downright rich. The socialists even had their own baseball team, the
Desdemona Socialists. The other town team was known as the Desdemona Democrats.
We’re not sure how the rivalry turned out on the baseball diamond but in terms
of real estate dealings, the Socialists scored a decisive victory.
Hickey, one of the country’s leading socialist’s orators and writers, had moved
to Texas in 1907 and began publishing “The Rebel,” a socialist newspaper,
in Hallettsville. The government
suppressed it by not allowing it into the post office system during World
That was about the point where Hickey and some other socialists
did something that most socialists did not do in those days; they invested in
the oil fields of Eastland County, including Desdemona.
They formed the National Workers Drilling and Production Company and flaunted
their politics on the baseball diamond, which wason land owned by an ardent antisocialist
by the name of S.E. Snodgrass.
Though the Socialists and the Democrats
apparently had a friendly rivalry on the field, off the field Snodgrass’ antipathy
toward the Socialists was more than he could bear; he banned them from playing
on the field. The Socialists offered to buy it and Snodgrass said they could have
the acre-and-a-half for the exorbitant sum of $50. The Socialists raised the money
through the Desdemona Oil News, where Hickey was the advertising manager.
oil was discovered near where the pitcher’s mound used to be, that $50 piece of
land was worth $40,000. The infield and outfield and beyond soon sprouted oil
wells and many of Hickey’s socialist comrades became quite rich.
however, withdrew from the National Workers Drilling and Production Company and
moved to a farm near Stamford
and continued traveling the state, writing stories about oil workers, for the
rest of his life.
The Desdemona field turned out to be shallow and only
about three feet by three feet; it was quickly pumped dry. When the oil was gone,
so was the lawless and lascivious element that had followed it. Hogtown became
"Letters from Central Texas"