The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 50, July 1946 - April, 1947 Page: 37
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any rate, the miraculous stretch of calm, "oil on the troubled
waters," disappeared. Numerous geologists do hold that the
disappearance of the oil seepage in the Gulf was purely coinci-
dental with the discovery of Spindletop. Bituminous deposits
washed up on the beach near Sabine Pass are still in evidence
and can be seen clearly from an airplane.
As far back as the 1860's, there were sour wells on "the Hill,"
as Spindletop was first known. The water was regarded as
possessing medicinal value, and tiny bubbles formed on the
surface. A year after the Civil War ended, Dr. B. T. Kava-
naugh arrived in Beaumont with an odd-looking contrivance
in his hack. The device was the invention of his brother, the
Reverend W. B. Kavanaugh, and was designed to discover oil.
In a letter written in 1878, B. T. Kavanaugh told of his visit:
"Here I found some fine veins, one passing under the sour
wells some mile or two southwest of Beaumont. ... Also I vis-
ited Sour Lake, where I found oil upon the surface in greater
quantity than at any other point." Near Sour Lake, he drilled
to a depth of 142 feet before quitting because of the quicksand
and the expense.
Kavanaugh's letter states further, "On the Gulf coast, near
Sabine Pass, there is a substance found in lumps like wax,
which the people call 'sea wax.' When examined, this wax is
found to consist of bitumin and paraffin. The petroleum, being
a thin liquid, is washed out from the mixture, leaving the
bitumen and paraffin as a wax or gum which is found on the
beach." This was the same kind of substance, no doubt, that
the Spaniards had used in 1543.
In 1890, Pattillo Higgins began asserting that there was oil
under "the Hill." Higgins was born in Beaumont in 1863,
worked.in a shingle mill and a lumberyard, and then began to
ran a brickyard. He visited Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Indiana
to study brick-making machinery and found that many plants
used natural gas or fuel oil. So he began to study the subject
of petroleum, reading all the United States government geo-
logical reports and other documents that he could lay hands on.
He evolved his own system of geology and, from the surface
indications, concluded there was oil under the Hill. He went so
far as to declare that "gushers" would be drilled, producing
thousands of barrels a day. When this prediction was first
uttered, the entire output of Texas for the year was forty-eight
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 50, July 1946 - April, 1947, periodical, 1947; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101117/m1/53/: accessed June 22, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.