Land of Black Gold

Posted by Richard Ellwanger on 10/01/2013

During statehood in 1907, the lands that were the Seminole Nation, Indian Territory essentially became Seminole County, Oklahoma. No one had any idea of the tremendous wealth that lay under the thickets and scrub oaks that covered most of the land. In fact, most people believed the land to be worthless. Thus, it was with great irony that the region to which the Seminoles were removed after arduous physical and political strife eventually became the center of the Greater Seminole Field, a conglomeration of thirty-nine separate oil pools which produced hundreds of millions of dollars worth of crude. 
Although minor production had been trickling out of the Wewoka area for several years, the rush to the Greater Seminole Field was not ignited until R. H. Smith, a Pennsylvanian by origin, brought in the Betsy Foster No. 1 on March 17, 1923. Headlines in the Wewoka Capital Democrat screamed “Wewoka Oil Filed Comes Into Its Own.” Added details disclosed that the zone had been penetrated a few inches when the well came in with a gush, and that initial production was 20,000,000 cubic feet of gas and 500 barrels of oil. After he was able to obtain adequate storage for the crude, Smith drilled deeper and ultimately secured production of 2,800 barrels a day. The well was located approximately two miles southeast of town and was drilled in what later became known as the “Smith Sand.” 
Such news generated considerable excitement among oil people, who came rapidly in increasing numbers to Wewoka. Additional wells were drilled and soon oil was flowing from seven different producing horizons, often referred to as “The Wewoka Pool.” By the spring of 1927, it was estimated that the total recovery from just four of these zones was over 15 million barrels. Some wells had initial flow as high as 4,000 barrels per day. By Thanksgiving 1927, the Wewoka Pool boasted 215 wells with a daily output of 10,326 barrels. 
The discovery of additional pools, those that would eventually comprise the Greater Seminole Field, came with astonishing rapidity. Initially, the Cromwell Field and the Bethel Pool were developed within a year of the Wewoka Pool. At their peak, the combined production of those fields was 65,000 barrels per day. The Earlsboro Pool, Seminole City Field, Bowlegs Field, Searight Pool, and Little River Pool were all developed in 1926-27, and still, the finds were not over. 
Additional pools were uncovered until thirty-nine individual reservoirs were located. The sheer magnitude of the crude oil produced from the conglomeration of pools was amazing. So great was the outpouring of petroleum that by September 1929, the Greater Seminole Field was the nation’s premier producer of high-gravity oil. Between July 16, 1926 and September 1, 1929, a quarter of a billion barrels had flowed from the pool’s wells.