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Oklahomaís Earliest Oil Boom

December 10, 2003

Almanac Transcript

Oklahomaís earliest oil boom this week on the Oklahoma Audio Almanac.

Hello, Iím Steven Knoche Kite.

The oil booms of the late Nineteen and early Twentieth Centuries established Oklahomaís reputation as an oil state, but most people arenít aware that the first incorporated oil business in the state began in the 1850s. It appears that most early day inhabitants of the land that now makes up Oklahoma knew of the existence of petroleum in the area. Indigenous tribes knew to keep their livestock away from creeks containing large amounts of oil, and they knew that the substance helped lubricate moving parts and at times seemed to help with certain physical ailments.

In the early 1800s oil was most often found when it leaked into creeks or rivers. The oil on these waterways was referred to as "green oil" due to the color of the oil slick. By the 1850s it was considered beneficial to have easy access to green oil, and the known uses for the product were increasing. Still there was, as yet, no commercial development of the petroleum industry. By the mid to late 1800s the interest in Indian Territory oil reserves began to grow. Oddly enough, it was the health aspects of the product that attracted the most attention. A dip in the oil-laden waters of Indian Territory, it was claimed, could and would cure everything from rheumatism to the dropsy, and rubbing a little on your arthritic joints would bring wondrous relief. Beginning with the Choctaws, Native American nations began creating corporations to handle the extraction of the natural resource.

It was in this week of 1884 that the Cherokee Tribe became the last of the big three Native American oil-producing concerns. Along with the Choctaws and Chickasaws, the Cherokee Tribe hoped that by organizing early enough they might be able to maintain control of the oil and the wealth that it produced. The tribes did manage to attract a small amount of East Coast interest in capital, including the cooperation of Dr. H. W. Faucett, the man responsible for drilling in Pennsylvania the nationís first commercial oil well. Dr. Faucett worked with the various tribes but only with only sporadic success. The lack of substantial markets for the product, the failure to produce a real gusher, and the sudden death of Dr. Faucett in 1888 ended this first attempt at incorporated commercial oil production in Indian Territory.

The Chickasaws, Choctaws, and Cherokees getting down to business, this week on the Almanac.

The Oklahoma Audio Almanac is a joint production of Oklahoma's Public Radio and the Oklahoma State University Library.


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