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The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture


The Uncle Bill Number One was the discovery oil well of the Cleveland Field. In 1904 the Minnetonka Oil and Gas Company acquired leases near Cleveland in present Pawnee County. On May 27, 1904, a well designated the "Uncle Bill Number One" was drilled along Cedar Creek on the farm of William "Uncle Bill" Lowery, and petroleum was indicated at a shallow depth.

Despite the promise of oil, the rig produced natural gas in profusion. By July some fifteen million cubic feet of gas spewed from the well daily. Soon thereafter oil was again detected and pumped at a rate of ten barrels per day. On July 23, 1904, the well was shot with nitroglycerine, increasing its daily production to approximately 250 barrels before stabilizing at near fifty.

The returns of the Uncle Bill Number One led to the development of the Cleveland Field and the growth of the Cleveland community. Locals considered the rig to be Oklahoma's first commercial oil well, but that honor belongs to Bartlesville's Nellie Johnstone Number One.

Jon D. May


Kenny A. Franks, The Rush Begins: A History of the Red Fork, Cleveland and Glenn Pool Oil Fields (Oklahoma City: Oklahoma Heritage Association, 1984).

Kenny A. Franks and Paul Lambert, Pawnee Pride: A History of Pawnee County (Oklahoma City: Oklahoma Heritage Association, 1994).

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

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The following (as per The Chicago Manual of Style, 17th edition) is the preferred citation for articles:
Jon D. May, “Uncle Bill Number One,” The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture, https://www.okhistory.org/publications/enc/entry.php?entry=UN002.

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