ON JANUARY 10, 1901, an event occurred which was destined
to transform the economic life of Texas and, to a lesser
degree, affect the history of America and the world, for it was
on that day that the Lucas gusher roared in.
But for the beginning of the story, one must go back, far
back, of the time that Captain Anthony F. Lucas began drilling
his well at Spindletop. For it is a story of Spanish adven-
turers, of a mysterious pool of oil out in the Gulf of Mexico,
of a pioneer geologist with a queer contraption, of "sour wells,"
of Pattillo Higgins, a home-made scientist. There is even a
suggestion of or a touch of the supernatural.
The first known use of petroleum by the white man in North
America occurred not far from Spindletop in 1543, when sur-
vivors of the DeSoto Expedition, sailing along the coast, were
forced ashore by a storm and took advantage of the delay to
caulk their boats with tar which they found near the beach.
The substance doubtless was the residue of petroleum after the
evaporation of volatile elements. The tar could have been the
result of seepage from Spindletop.
There was such a seepage, for centuries probably, as evi-
denced by the "oil pond," or lake of oil, in the Gulf. In 1901,
a statement, signed by six shipmasters and the harbor master
of Sabine Pass, declared: "From time immemorial, there has
existed directly off and along the Gulf beach of this section an
immense oil pool, about a mile and a half in width and four
miles in length."
The statement declared that, after the storm of 1886, the pool
shifted some distance eastward toward Sabine Pass, because of
accretions of mud and sand. The document relates: "We the
undersigned, have always made this 'oil pool' a place of safety
which we sought with our sea-going vessels in times of peril
from severe gales or storms, for when we anchored our vessels
in this oil sea, we were safe and everything was calm."
=After 1902, the "oil pond" vanished. Perhaps the supply of
petroleum that had coursed underground to flow out under the
coast into the Gulf and rise to the surface was intercepted as
the result of the drilling of the Lucas and other gushers. At
Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 50, July 1946 - April, 1947. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101117/. Accessed August 28, 2014.