A panoramic photograph of the Yarhola Farm oilfield in Drumright, Oklahoma.
The image contains multiple oil derricks operated by the Tidal Gasoline Company, providing a visual insight into the industry's operations at that time. E.J. Barnes, a Wichita, Kansas-based photographer who took the photograph from an oil derrick, was a significant figure in capturing early oil activities in Oklahoma and Kansas.
The earliest reports of exploration on the Yarhola Farm begin in the summer of 1912, with R.E. Fuller starting exploration and the firm of Slick & Jones beginning to drill by August 1912. Tidal Oil was active in the area as early as about 1916, beginning with its name change from Okla Oil to Tidal Oil Company in June 1916.
Oil History of Drumright, Oklahoma
Drumright, Oklahoma, situated in the heart of the state, played a significant role in American oil exploration history, particularly in the early 20th century. Its tale is intertwined with the larger-than-life character of Thomas Baker Slick Sr. (1883-1930) (aka Tom Slick), a Pennsylvanian who became known as the "King of the Wildcatters."
Determined to make his fortune, Slick arrived in Oklahoma during the winter of 1911, seeking to find "the big one." His early efforts were marked by failures and "dusters" (dry holes), but Slick's determination led him to the farm of Frank Wheeler, located approximately 12 miles east of Cushing, Oklahoma, in what would soon become Drumright. Wheeler had acquired his land for sixty-five cents an acre in 1907, amidst allotments forced upon reluctant Creek Indians. Slick's successful strike on Wheeler's farm not only made Wheeler a wealthy man but also marked the discovery of Oklahoma's largest oil field up until about 1920.
The discovery led to an oil boom in Drumright, transforming the area into a bustling hub of the oil industry. By 1915, more than 30 oil companies were operating in the vicinity. However, the prosperity was not long-lasting. The wells began to deplete by the late 1920s, and the local economy suffered subsequent setbacks, including the impact of the Great Depression.
Despite the decline, Drumright's importance in the oil industry remained, particularly in education and training. The Oklahoma State University Institute of Technology in Drumright became a center for industry-related learning.