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Oklahoma Journeys

Oklahoma City Discovery Well


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E. K. Gaylord called it the greatest Christmas gift in the history of Oklahoma City when on Dec. 4, 1928, the ITIO Discovery Well Number One hit oil. That brought about the opening of the Oklahoma City Oil field, the largest oil field ever discovered in our state, and that's out story this week on Oklahoma Journeys from the Oklahoma History Center.

From the Oklahoma History Center, this is Oklahoma Journeys. I'm Michael Dean.

Less than a year after Oklahoma City came into being in April of 1889, a wildcatter began drilling the first oil well in the new city. It was near what is today NE 4th Street and the Santa Fe tracks. A local minister held a prayer service for him; the minister asked for blessings on the well. The wildcatter drilled to about 600 feet then abandoned the project. In 1919 two geologists observed what they thought were favorable geological features, and over the next several years more geologists mapped out what would become the Oklahoma City field. More test wells were drilled in the Capitol Hill area, and one just north of the state capitol went to a depth of more than 7,000 feet. But all the wildcatters found were traces of oil but no large amounts of oil.

Meanwhile the chief geologist for the Phillips Brothers in Bartlesville left that company to form his own oil company. H.V. Foster named his new enterprise the Indian Territory Illuminating Oil Company, or ITIO for short. He was successful. He drilled some of the first wells in the Glen Pool, south of Tulsa. ITIO opened the Seminole Field, the largest oil field to that date in Oklahoma.

H.V. Foster, and his partner Burdette Blue, were aware of all the activity around Oklahoma City, and as were other oil men, they were convinced there was oil under Oklahoma County. It was just a matter of finding where it was, and Foster thought he knew. That location was what is today Southeast 59th and Bryant in far southeast Oklahoma City.

Drilling began on June 12, 1928. In late November the drilling crew encountered some Arbuckle limestone. It was saturated with oil, a casing was set. While drilling the plug with cable tools, gas pressure sent the tools up in the hole where they became lodged. Work continued for two weeks, and at 3 p.m. on December 4, 1928, gas pressure broke through sending everything up into the derrick followed by a massive flow of oil proving H.V. Foster and his ITIO crew were correct. There was oil under Oklahoma County. In the first 27 days the Number One produced more than 110-thousand barrels at a $1.56 a barrel. The mother lode was tapped.

Many city leaders at the time credited the discovery of the Oklahoma City oil field for shielding Central Oklahoma from the worst effects of the great depression. The Oklahoma Oil field was the largest oil field ever discovered in Oklahoma.

It was 81 years ago December 4, 1928, that the ITIO Oklahoma City Discovery Well Number One hit oil and opened the Oklahoma City oil field, the largest oil field ever discovered in Oklahoma. You can learn more about the natural resources of Oklahoma and their part in the history of our state by visiting the Oklahoma History Center on NE 23rd Street, just east of the state capitol in Oklahoma City. Oklahoma Journeys is a production of the Oklahoma History Center, dedicated to collecting, preserving, and sharing our state's past. I'm Michael Dean.