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Oil Find Was City-Fortune Maker

Glenn Pool's Impact Still Felt a Century Later

It was 5 a.m. on Nov. 22, 1905, and partners Robert Galbreath and Frank Chesley had been alternating shifts on the floor of a cable tool drilling rig in the Oklahoma Creek Indian Reservation.

The night before, they had made the irrational decision to drill a little bit deeper into the unknown.

The well they were drilling was named the Ida E. Glenn No. 1, after the Creek Indian woman who owned the land on the banks of a creek 10 miles south of an unimpressive, small town on the Frisco railroad and Arkansas River by the name of Tulsa.

The partners already had drilled through the deepest known oil-producing reservoir in the area, the Red Fork Sand, at about 1,400 feet with a slight show of gas. They were out of money and they should have stopped there.

But drilling was cheap.

Some small oil discoveries had been found earlier in the Tulsa area and to the north near Bartlesville. Those discoveries were just enough to raise some excitement -- and attract Ohioan Galbreath to come to Oklahoma four years before in search of wealth. But so far, there was no luck for Galbreath and Chesley.

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It was 5 a.m. on Nov. 22, 1905, and partners Robert Galbreath and Frank Chesley had been alternating shifts on the floor of a cable tool drilling rig in the Oklahoma Creek Indian Reservation.

The night before, they had made the irrational decision to drill a little bit deeper into the unknown.

The well they were drilling was named the Ida E. Glenn No. 1, after the Creek Indian woman who owned the land on the banks of a creek 10 miles south of an unimpressive, small town on the Frisco railroad and Arkansas River by the name of Tulsa.

The partners already had drilled through the deepest known oil-producing reservoir in the area, the Red Fork Sand, at about 1,400 feet with a slight show of gas. They were out of money and they should have stopped there.

But drilling was cheap.

Some small oil discoveries had been found earlier in the Tulsa area and to the north near Bartlesville. Those discoveries were just enough to raise some excitement -- and attract Ohioan Galbreath to come to Oklahoma four years before in search of wealth. But so far, there was no luck for Galbreath and Chesley.

They were using only surface casing. The well was not taking water and was not sluffing. The boilers were being fed by coal dug off a nearby hill.

Frank had just changed shifts with Bob who went to bed -- on the rig, where they were living. A couple of feet below the Red Fork Sand, the bit pierced a previously-unknown sandstone in that area, the Bartlesville Sand. Frank noticed a stain on the bit and ran a bailer that came up with oil.

Frank woke up Bob saying "Oil! Oil! My God, Bob. We got an oil well!"

The well started to make gurgling noises and then blew in over the derrick with a "gusher" flowing 75 bbls of oil per day. It was Oklahoma's first major oil field and the richest field the world had yet seen.

Unlike the thick, sour oil from Spindletop, the famed 1901 Texas discovery that had already played out, this oil was light and sweet -- just right to refine into gasoline and kerosene. The reservoir was shallow, less than 1,500 feet deep, well within the range of the cable tool drilling rigs of that day.

And the field covered a large area that was soon well defined after drilling just a couple of dry holes.

Sweet Success

The discovery brought hordes of boom followers: lease buyers, producers, tool suppliers, laborers, millionaires and newsmen. The news reached international proportions.

The Oklahoma oil boom was on.

Galbreath went from practically penniless to millionaire. He hired shotgun-toting guards to keep interlopers a mile from his claim. As one story goes, he drilled only one dry hole in the Glenn Pool and only 2 percent of the Glenn Pool Field wells were dry holes.

Families from the older and then-developed oil fields of Illinois and Pennsylvania rushed into the booming area. Many young men such as Harry Sinclair and J. Paul Getty learned the business and made their first millions in the Glenn Pool. Another included Thomas Gilcrease, who founded Tulsa's famed museum that carries his name.

As one of the largest fields in Oklahoma history, it would produce 325.5 million barrels of crude by 1986. Royalties of almost a million dollars a year were being paid to some Creek Indians who held 160-acre allotments in the field.

It is said that more money was made on the Glenn Pool oil field than the California gold rush and Colorado silver rush combined.

Within two years, pipelines had been built from the Texaco and Gulf refineries on the Gulf Coast and down from the Standard Oil refinery in Whiting, Ind., to access the high-quality crude. Numerous other refineries were built in the Glenn Pool area.

Oklahoma became a state in 1907, and during that year Oklahoma produced more oil than any other state in the United States and any other country in the world. The small, railroad stop town of Tulsa had become the undisputed "Oil Capital of the World." It remains the headquarters of AAPG, founded in 1917.

There is no apparent geological reason on the surface of the Glenn Pool to drill a well where Bob and Frank drilled. But they did, and they forever changed the American oil industry. The Glenn Pool is now under waterflood and producing primarily from stripper wells. The Glenn No. 1 was plugged and abandoned in 1964 and the major oil companies have gone from Tulsa. But large tank farms still decorate the adjacent area.

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the Ida E. Glenn discovery, and the cities of Glenpool and Tulsa will be celebrating this great event.

A November celebration is being planned along with the publishing of a book on the history of the field and a video is being prepared and will be provided to junior and senior high school and public libraries in Oklahoma. Check www.glennpoolcentennial.comwywqfesyewbadqrauxw as other activities are announced.

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