Milam County Texas Archives
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  Contributed by: Milam County Genealogical Society

Oil and Gas
(Written by Mra. Ida Jo Marshall)
Information received through personal interview with Bill Howell, manager of Minerva Oil Fleld.
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Minerva was the center of oil production in Milam County. The Minerva Oil Field was discovered in 1921. The production of the field from discovery to January 1, 1948 was 3?827,132 barrels. Depth of the wells in this field ranged from 700 to 1,700 feet, and the oil had a gravity of from 36 to 40. In 1949 an average of 29 persons were employed at the field.

In the immediate Rockdale area oil production was confined to approximately 25 small shallow wells which produced from a gallon to a few gallons of oil a day per well. There were a few other oil wells in Milam County, but most of these were of the shallow type and produced relatively little oil.

The oil field stretched in a broad belt in a general north-south direction for about fourteen miles across central Milam County.

The wells ranged from 600 feet to sometimes more than 1400 feet in depth. Production varied. Some of the older wells dating bac} to the 1920's produced only one-fourth to one-half barrel a day; others as much as 20 barrels. It was a good grade of oil, 38.5 to 39.5 gravity, and in the oilman's vernacular was a "sweet crude".

Anyone who drove along the farm-to-market road that wound for miles through the oil field was struck by the mixture of the old and the new. A shiny new storage tank on a lease would contrast with an older weather-beaten one that had done duty for years. And the units that transferred the oil from the wells to the tanks varied even more.

There was the "grasshopper jack" pump of the old days. It was usually connected in pairs or fours by cables hundreds of yards long which operated it, and had a gas engine located in the middle for power.

Most of the modern pumping units used electricity if a power line was available. On at least one lease the operator experimented with the new aircompressor method instead of a pump.

The field had no pipeline connection. Its output had to be hauled to market. One purchaser, Minerva Refining Company, owned by H. H. Coffield, relied on railroad tank cars, and had a small pipeline in the field to gather oil from his wells. A. W. McCullin, the other purchaser, used tank trucks which collected the crude from storage tanks located on the different leases and hauled it to Houston for delivery to the Eastern States refinery.

Several years before, a new area a few miles east of the old Minerva field attracted the attention of several of the companies. Using the new "Sand-frac process') a method said to make the oil-bearing formation more porous and increasing the flow, two dozen or more good producing wells were brought in, and for a time it appeared that a boom might be starting.

One of the wells was drilled on the grounds of the Griffin Chapel Church and the congregation had the unusual experience of having oil royalty checks in the collection plate.

As the activity increased, one nearby landowner was reported to have said optimistically that soon he would be able to have "the biggest, finest, most expensive automobile in Milam County." But the boom failed to materialize.

The shallow field productive as it had been, was considered by a great many oilmen and geologists as only an indication of a much better deep oil pay somewhere in Milam County.

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