Zhe Red Riaer boudaqy Controversy
ALTHOUGH various phases of the Texas oil industry have been
/ the subjects of innumerable books, articles, and pam-
Sphlets, the Red River boundary controversy resulting
from the discovery of oil in North Texas has received scant atten-
tion. Only two articles on the subject have appeared in scholarly
journals, and both of these, dealing with limited aspects of the
dispute, were written before the struggle was finally settled., A
controversial and colorful phase of the Texas oil development, the
boundary struggle and its ultimate settlement is briefly sur-
When the fabulous Burkburnett oil boom began in 1918, the
new field rapidly expanded northward to the Red River. By 1919
several companies were exploring along the low banks of the
river, on the dry bed, and in some instances actually in the stream
itself." Shortly after drilling in the area began, a dispute arose over
the ownership of the river bed.3 Texas assumed the land lay
within her borders, but because of changes in the course of
the stream, both Oklahoma and the United States government
claimed ownership of the bed.4 Under these circumstances Texas
and Oklahoma granted their citizens the right to explore for oil,
while several individuals took out placer mining rights from the
federal government. Friction quickly developed as oil men rushed
in to stake out claims and to sink wells in or near the river.
Texas had an injunction issued against nearly sixty persons to
halt boring in the river bed, while judges in district courts of
iThe geographical and geological phases are discussed by Isaiah Bowman, "An
American Boundary Dispute: Decision of the Supreme Court of the United States
with Respect to the Texas-Oklahoma Boundary," Geographical Review, XIII, 161-
189. The legal complications are recorded by W. Clayton Carpenter, "The Red
River Boundary Dispute," American Journal of International Law, XIX, 517-529.
2Wichita Fails Daily Times, August 12, 1919.
slbid., August 11, 1919.
4Ibid., August 18, 1919; November 8, 1919; January 26, 192o; Oklahoma City
Daily Oklahoman, January 21, 1919; March 18, gig9.
Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 62, July 1958 - April, 1959. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101173/. Accessed January 30, 2015.