The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 86, July 1982 - April, 1983 Page: 280
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Southwestern Historical Quarterly
shacks were a humiliation to the University and an eyesore to the citi-
zens, but no one could figure out a way to finance more appropriate
This situation would change, and the University itself would play a
decisive, if indirect, part in the change. In June of 1916, Dr. Johan A.
Udden, director of the University's Bureau of Economic Geology and
Technology, wrote a letter to Major George W. Littlefield, chairman
of the board of regents, suggesting cautiously that there might be oil in
West Texas. A year later he published a paper concerning the Glass
Mountains, pointing out somewhat more optimistically that parts of
the Comanchean limestone of what is today known as the Permian
Basin "are entirely impervious and would make an excellent cover for
an oil pool."8
Despite Udden's research, however, wildcatters were not eager to go
prospecting in western Texas. Exploratory borings had disclosed enor-
mous buried salt deposits throughout the region, and it was at that
time the conventional wisdom that oil could not be found below salt.
As a result, that area of the state was known in the folklore of the indus-
try as "the petroleum graveyard of Texas," and was avoided by all but
the most audacious explorers.9
Udden's report was read, however, by just such a man, a rancher in
Reagan County named Rupert P. Ricker. In late 1918 he and a group
of investors filed in four West Texas counties 171 applications for ex-
ploration permits on 431,360 acres near his ranch. All of these were
University property. The filing of the applications for permits was the
first step in a process that Ricker hoped would lead to his acquiring oil
leases. According to the 1917 Mineral Act, he then had to take the ap-
plications and file them with the General Land Office within thirty
days, together with a filing fee of one dollar per application and an ac-
quisition fee of lo an acre. If all was in order, he would receive from
the land commissioner the appropriate number of exploration permits.
With these, he could apply to the land office for oil and gas leases.10
7Clark, "The Permanent University Fund," 3; William J. Battle, "A Concise History of
the University of Texas, 1883-1950," Southwestern Historical Quarterly, LIV (Apr., 1951),
397; Houston Press, Nov. 26, 1927.
sW. Keene Ferguson, History of the Bureau of Economic Geology (Austin, 1977), 33,
9Campbell Osborn, "Pioneering for Deep Oil in Southwest Texas," Petroleum Investor
(Dec., 1938), copy in "Oil Lands-UT, 1938-1961"; Ruth Sheldon Knowles, The Greatest
Gamblers: The Epic of American Oil Exploration (2nd ed.; Norman, Okla., 1978), 220o.
lOTexas, Legislature, General Laws of the State of Texas Passed by the Thirty-fifth
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 86, July 1982 - April, 1983, periodical, 1982/1983; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101209/m1/316/: accessed September 25, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.