Eastland County History 1922, part 2
Eastland County History Written in 1922 (part 2)
Continued from Part 1
Go ahead to Part 3
Until 1917 Eastland County was a typical West Texas county, with a population of about 25,000 people, and almost wholly a pastoral and agricultural county, with a preponderating rural population. Then, almost in a night, came a dramatic and spectacular change. The discovery of oil in October, 1917, in the McCleskey well west of Ranger, precipitated an economic revolution in the county and ushered in the biggest and most quickly-developed oil field in the Southwest, if not in the United States.
Some ten years ago the Texas & Pacific Coal Company drilled a number of test wells with a diamond drill in the eastern part of Eastland County, with a view of extending their coal operations. Near the little village of Staff, about twelve miles east of Eastland, at a depth of some six hundred feet, they found traces of oil and gas. This discovery aroused little local interest, but induced W. K. Gordon, the general manager of the coal company, to pursue drilling operations with a view of developing an oil field in the vicinity. For several years and at an expense of several hundred thousand dollars the T. & P. Coal Company prospected various parts of Eastland, Stephens, Palo Pinto and Erath counties within a radius of perhaps fifteen or twenty miles of the town of Thurber, in all instances drilling only comparatively shallow wells, most of them not over a thousand or fifteen hundred feet in depth. They found nothing specially encouraging until their No. 1 well west of Strawn, which afforded small production at a depth of something like eight hundred feet, which was then assumed to be the approximate depth of the producing oil sand in this territory.
A number of other tests failed to develop this sand into paying production, and it was not until a deep test of approximately 3,300 feet was made in the McCleskey well west of Ranger that the possibilities of the Eastland-Stephens county oil fields were seriously considered. At a depth of approximately 3,300 feet, when it seemed that hope of finding oil in paying quantities must be abandoned, and when preparation in fact had been made for abandoning the test, the McCleskey well was brought in with a flush production of something like one thousand barrels. Within a month nearly all of the important concerns in the Southwest were in the field and millions of dollars were spent in leases, and by the 1st of January, 1918, something like a hundred wells were being drilled.
As now defined by actual drilling operations, practically every part of Eastland and Stephens counties seems to be within the proven oil territory and, geographically speaking, within the Pennsylvania formation. Further tests have extended the field into the western part of Palo Pinto County, the southern part of Young and several miles into Erath and Comanche counties, to make no mention of the shallow field near Brownwood in Brown County, and the small production around Moran in Shackelford County.
The immediate results of this discovery were the building of several important small cities upon the sites of what had once been but small towns. Ranger has a present population of about 16,000, when prior to the discovery of oil it was a village of four or five hundred. Eastland. the county seat, has a population of about 10,000, where it had a population of only 1,000 prior to 1917. Cisco has grown from a population of 2,500 to a population of between 7,000 and 8,000. Desdemona has a population of about 4,000, when it had a population of about 200 before the discovery of oil. Gorman and Rising Star are each active and growing cities with populations of approximately 3,000. when prior to the discovery of oil they had considerably less than a thousand.
The county has grown within the last three years from a population' of approximately 25,000 to a population of approximately 60,000, with taxable values increased from eleven million to fifty-five million.
An insistent demand for better transportation facilities followed close on the heels of this oil development.
A bond issue of four and one-half million dollars for the construction of a good roads system has been voted and the bonds sold and contracted to be sold. This amount, together with state and federal aid, renders available now and in the immediate future nearly five million dollars. which amount is being expended in the construction of approximately two hundred miles of hard-surfaced highways in the county, and will result in connecting every part of the county with first-class improved highways of the latest type and will also make connection at the county borders with the trunk highways running through the county north. south, east and west, in which this county is a unit. This bond issue, by the way, is understood to be the second largest in the state for this purpose, being exceeded only by Dallas County.