East Texans remember Lyne Taliaferro Barret, but they should: Barret
drilled the first oil well in Texas.
also struggle to remember when oil reigned as king of Texas industries,
but from the Spindletop
field discovered near Beaumont
in 1901, to the EasTex field around Kilgore
in 1930 and the expansion of the business to West Texas, oil was
THE industry associated with the state for most of the 20th century.
Barret was born
in Virginia in 1832 and a decade later his family moved west, settling
first in San
Augustine County and later on a plantation near Melrose in Nacogdoches
County. Barret's interest in oil exploration predated the Civil
War. As early as December 1859, he leased 297 acres from Lucy W.
Skillern in an area known as Oil Springs. Barret selected that site
because crude oil seeped out along with spring water there.
The Civil War
kept Barret from pursuing his search for oil. Meantime, he clerked
for the Harademan mercantile firm and became a partner by 1862.
He also served as quartermaster for the Nacogdoches District in
Confederate service between 1863 and 1865.
21, 1865, Barret joined Benjamin Hollingsworth, Charles Hamilton,
John Flint, and John Earle in organizing the Melrose Petroleum Oil
Company. Drilling began on the Skillern tract in the summer of 1866,
and on September 12 they struck oil at a depth of 106 feet. The
well produced only ten barrels per day, but it proved that oil was
beneath Texas soil.
It is ironic that the first oil well in Texas was drilled in Nacogdoches
County, which then led to the first surface storage tanks and
the first pipeline for oil in Texas, but these "firsts" never produced
great wealth there as did later discoveries at Spindletop
to the south and the EasTexas field to the north.
can drive to the site of Texas' first well but they won't find much
there. For years former Nacogdoches Fire Chief Delbert Teutsch labored
to preserve the well area and several others, among them the late
Lucille Fain, tried in vain to get Texas Parks & Wildlife to develop
a state historical park there.
should be renewed by any legislator who represents Nacogdoches
Countywhere oil was discovered first in Texas.
All Things Historical
4-10 , 2001
A syndicated column in over 40 East Texas newspapers
Published by permission.