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One of Oklahoma's first oil discoveries of any magnitude developed around the town of Cleveland in Pawnee County. In 1904 Cleveland was a well-established town settled comfortably in a bend of the Arkansas River when the Minnetonka Oil and Gas Company began leasing in the area. Their first well was drilled on the William Lowery farm along Cedar Creek, located at the edge of the town. That well, dubbed the Uncle Bill Number One after the name by which Lowery was known to local citizens, was spudded in on May 27, 1904. A month and a day later, on June 28 a light showing of gas developed at the 900- to 1,000-foot level. By July 21 the well bottomed out at 1,625 feet after having been drilled through at least three gas zones and two oil zones. Two days later when the owners had the well shot with nitroglycerin it began flowing at a rate of 250 barrels per day and later settled into a steady, fifty-barrel rate. The boom was on, and the field began to develop to the south and west until by July 1905, 220 wells were producing a total of eleven thousand barrels of oil per day. The field eventually covered fifty square miles in eastern Pawnee County. The Prairie Oil and Gas Company built a pipeline connecting the field to the Red Fork area and thereby provided a commercial outlet for their oil. Unfortunately, there was no market for the gas produced from the Cleveland wells, and it was vented to the atmosphere in tremendous amounts. This practice, combined with close well spacing, especially within the Cleveland townsite, soon caused field production to lessen and greatly inhibited more significant recovery from the field.

Cleveland, which boasted a preboom population of less than one thousand, grew to over seven thousand within sixty days of the discovery. The community became the first of many oil boom towns in Oklahoma, and the pattern that developed there became the norm for future such towns. Because it was already an established entity, Cleveland was somewhat able to control the crush of people descending on the oil field, although gambling, bootlegging, prostitution, and other illegal activities developed in abundance. Rapid growth also wreaked havoc with the local economy as hundreds of shacks, tents, and ramshackle rooming establishments sprang up, and a variety of eating and drinking emporiums opened to a twenty-four-hour-per-day operation. Several tent towns also developed in the field, but none of them survived the boom, which ran its course in a couple of years.


BIBLIOGRAPHY: Kenny A. Franks, The Oklahoma Petroleum Industry (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1980). Kenny A. Franks, The Rush Begins: A History of the Red Fork, Cleveland and Glenn Pool Oil Fields (Oklahoma City: Oklahoma Heritage Association, 1984). Bess Mills-Bullard, comp., "Digest of Oil and Gas Fields," in Oil and Gas in Oklahoma, Oklahoma Geological Survey Bulletin 40, Vol. 1 (Norman: Oklahoma Geological Survey, 1928). Carl Coke Rister, Oil! Titan of the Southwest (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1949).

Bobby D. Weaver

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