Heritage, Volume 12, Number 3, Summer 1994 Page: 11
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Shown right are the oil
derricks at Yellow Pine
District on Spindletop.
later under the d
name of the Gulf
of 1900 with the
Gladys City Company.
The first major
well on Gladys
City lands was
brought in on April
3,1901. Many more
followed in rapid
town of Gladys City began to flourish,
indeed the Gladys City Company continued
to collect rent from the occupants of
businesses and residences into the 1940s.
The company's main revenues have all
been from production.
Pattillo Higgins founded his own company
and on April 6, 1901, the Higgins
Company brought in its first major well on
Spindletop. John Henry Kirby of Tyler
County owned 60 percent of the Higgins Oil
& Fuel Company by January 1902. Production
slowed after the first few years until the
second boom in the 1920s. The Gladys City
Company participated with the Yount-Lee
Oil Company and others in this production.
A young Beaumont engineer, Marrs
McLean, had visions of oil to be found at
a much deeper level around the flank of the
salt dome. He enlisted the financial help of
Frank Yount, known as a successful deep
driller having secured deep flank production
at Sour Lake. The first successful deep
well at 5,400 feet was brought in at
Spindletop by the Yount-Lee Oil Company
on November 13, 1925.
The news staggered the oil industry.
The rush was on to lease every available
acre and drill deeper around the flanks of
the old dome. Production increased dramatically.
Beaumont was shocked into a
frenzy of excitement. The second
Spindletop boom had begun. Once again
the Gladys City Company became a beehive
of activity. Production at Spindletop
rose from 412,000 barrels for the year of
1915 to more than 15,000,000 for 1926.
There was a flow of more than 8,000,000
barrels in the first four months of 1927.
Beaumont was on another roller coaster
attracting renewed interest.
John Henry Kirby, "The Prince of the
Pines", was variously viewed as a captain of
industry and major philanthropist, or a
wealthy and power-seeking negotiator. His
dream was to amass his vast timber holdings,
lumber mills, interests in railroads, oil interests,
and deep water ports into a corporate
giant. He began to form many giant
companies and also take over the Gladys
City Company. George W. Carroll began
to have severe financial difficulties about
1917, and by February of 1929, John Henry
Kirby had acquired all of Carroll's stock.
Thus for a short period the Gladys City
Company stock was almost evenly divided
between the O'Brien family and the Kirby
interests. Kirby served as president of the
company in 1934.
By 1935 John Henry Kirby was in financial
trouble. His stock in the Gladys
City Company was auctioned off in Chicago
in 1935. Kirby tried to retain control
but was thwarted by a French woman,
Zelie Marie Willson, the widow of Kirby's
nephew. In fact, Mrs. Willson's family has
continued to own approximately half of
the Gladys City Company shares since
Production on the old dome began to
decrease again during this period. The
company, which had been infused through
the second boom, was sometimes barely
able to maintain itself. The lean years had
By 1931, Chilton O'Brien, grandson of
Captain O'Brien, had begun to practice
law in the Beaumont firm and later took
over the management of the company. In
1936 a lease was made to Edmund G.
Bartlett working for Texas Gulf Sulphur
Company to produce sulphur. When Texas
Gulf Sulphur began
the third really
the Frasch Process,
million tons of
sulphur were produced
j ^ _^t end of 1970. The
<E- t ,- old Spindletop
Hill was giving its
treasures to the
world again. B.T.
Kavanaugh's report of 1866 was verified.
On March 20, 1957, a contract was let
with Texas Brine Corporation for the production
of salt brine. Successful production
of salt brine from Gladys City Company
lands was begun in 1959.
In 1963 even deeper wells were drilled
on Spindletop Hill. Production occurred
at the average depth of 9,000 feet. This
deeper production lasted through 1966.
The Gladys City Company did not participate.
The O'Brien family and heirs have retained
their original interest throughout
this 102-year period. Indeed during a great
portion of this time they have run the
company. This management position has
been held by four generations of the family.
The Gladys City Company has gone
through many lean years as well as profitable
ones as it continues its operations on
the hill. While no one knows for sure,
perhaps the old Spindletop Hill will yet
bloom again under new guidance and revolutionary
Beaumont must never forget its place
in history, forever tied to those men of
vision, who lived life with zest and intrigue.
The pioneering spirit and entrepreneurship
of all those early oil field workers must
never be forgotten. What fear and joy
must have struck their hearts when the
Lucas Gusher roared forth on January 10,
1901, bringing forth a new era.
Christine Moor Sanders, of Woodville, is author
of the book "Captain George Washington
O'Brien and The History of the Gladys
City Company at Spindletop".
HERITAGE * SUMMER 1994 11
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Texas Historical Foundation. Heritage, Volume 12, Number 3, Summer 1994, periodical, Summer 1994; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth45412/m1/11/: accessed August 19, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas Historical Foundation.