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The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture


Long before the arrival of the Five Tribes, Plains Indians were attracted to Oklahoma's oil springs and seeps, because crude petroleum outcropped into bodies of water or upon land. The oily liquids and deposits were collected and used as lubricants and cure-alls. Reports of "medicine springs" by Chickasaw agents during the 1840s and 1850s attracted Texans, Arkansans, and others seeking to relieve rheumatism and other ailments. The springs also focused outside attention upon Oklahoma's potential as an oil-producing region. Such interest led to the formation of the Chickasaw Oil Company in 1872.

Members of the Five Tribes established commercial spas to accommodate those who wished to soak in the oil springs' supposed healing waters. A popular Cherokee Nation resort was New Spring Place near Oaks in present Delaware County. Maytubby Springs and Boyd Springs were two of the many Chickasaw Nation sites. Maytubby Springs, located in present Atoka County northwest of Caddo, included a hotel that was built circa 1889. Boyd Springs was a favorite camping place along Oil Creek in Johnston County. There natural gas was tapped by simply driving a tube into the ground. The escaping gas was ignited to provide illumination and warmth.

Jon D. May


Kenny A. Franks, The Oklahoma Petroleum Industry (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1980).

Carl Coke Rister, Oil! Titan of the Southwest (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1949).

Muriel H. Wright, "First Oklahoma Oil Was Produced in 1859," The Chronicles of Oklahoma 4 (December 1926).

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The following (as per The Chicago Manual of Style, 17th edition) is the preferred citation for articles:
Jon D. May, “Oil Springs,” The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture, https://www.okhistory.org/publications/enc/entry?entry=OI004.

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