Heritage, Volume 12, Number 3, Summer 1994 Page: 23
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The Gladys City Company was the first
oil company to drill on Spindletop Hill in
1893, with no success. They tried again in
1895 and in 1896, failing each time because
of the lack of adequate equipment.
Higgins left the company in 1895. Although
Higgins had promised to make his partners
wealthy, they began to lose faith in the
whole project. Higgins became known
jokingly as the "millionaire".
An Austrian-born mining engineer,
Capt. Anthony F. Lucas, had heard of
Spindletop Hill while developing salt mines
in Louisiana. After travelling to Beaumont
he became convinced that there was oil at
Spindletop and leased land from the Gladys
City Company in 1899. When his first
attempt failed, Lucas was ready to quit until
his wife urged him to seek outside financing
and try again. Lucas went to the famous
Pittsburgh wildcatting team of James Guffey
and John Galey. They were interested in
Lucas' prospects and approached Andrew
Mellon for money to continue.
Guffey and Galey hired the Hamill
Brothers of Corsicana, the best rotary drillers
available. Al and Curt Hamill arrived in
Beaumont and began drilling on the adjoining
McFaddin-Weiss & Kyle tract of
land in October 1900. In spite of tremendous
difficulties they reached 1,000 feet by
Christmas. After returning from the holidays
they encountered new problems. Upon
reaching solid rock their drill lodged in a
crevice at 1,006 feet. At approximately
10:30 a.m. on January 10, 1901, while attempting
to free their drill from the crevice,
the famous Lucas Gusher blew in. Oil
sprayed more than 100 feet above the derrick
for nine days until the well was capped.
It was the greatest oil well ever seen.
Although Lucas estimated its flow at 6,000
barrels per day, it was actually flowing
80,000 to 100,000 per day. No longer was
Higgins laughingly called the "millionaire".
Practically overnight, thousands of
sightseers, speculators, promoters, fortune
seekers, and "boomers" poured into Beaumont
as news of the discovery spread. Gladys
City was only one of several concentrations
of buildings that sprang up on the Spindletop
Hill. Businesses and residences were also
located in the Spindletop, Hogg-Swayne,
Keith-Ward, and Yellow Pine districts.
By 1902, 285 active wells were operating
on Spindletop Hill. More than 600 oil
companies had been chartered. Although
most vanished overnight, some such as the
Texas Company (Texaco), J.M. Guffey
Petroleum Company (Gulf), Magnolia
Top: Oil field fires at Spindletop, circa 1903; bottom: view of Gladys City boomtown and oil fields at Spindletop
during that same year.
Petroleum Company (Mobil), and Sun Oil
Company became industry giants.
The boom at Spindletop was short lived.
Overproduction depleted the oil and ruined
many wells. By 1903, the field had begun to
decline and within 10 years Spindletop
Hill was virtually a ghost town. In 1926,
Spindletop boomed again when new
technology led to discovery of oil on the
flanks of the dome through deeper drilling.
Better conservation methods prolonged
Spindletop's second life, and the little
Gladys City community remained active
until the site was cleared during sulphur
mining activities in the 1950s. The Gladys
City Oil Company still exists and continues
its involvement at Spindletop today.
The Lucas Gusher marked the beginning
of a new age for the world - the Petroleum
Age. Although Pennsylvania was the location
of the first commercial oil well and
Russia could claim the first gushers, the vast
quantities of oil discovered at Spindletop
first made possible the use of oil as an inexpensive,
lightweight, and efficient fuel to
propel the world into the 20th century.
A 50-foot Texas granite obelisk erected
in 1941 is located on the grounds of the
museum and commemorates the Spindletop
Gladys City and the Lucas Gusher
Monument are located on University Drive
at Highways 69-96-287 in Beaumont. The
museum is open for self-guided tours Tuesday-Saturday,
1:00-5:00 p.m. Group tours
may be arranged in advance by calling (409)
835-0823. Admission is $2 for adults, $1 for
children and senior citizens.
Christy Marino is the executive director of The
Gladys City/Boomtown Museum.
HERITAGE * SUMMER 1994 23
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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/m1/23/: accessed October 18, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas Historical Foundation.