The discovery and development of the El Dorado (Kansas) oil field

Northeastern Geology and Environmental Sciences


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Pioneers named El Dorado, Kansas, in 1857 for the beauty of the site and the promise of future riches but not until 58 years later was black rather than mythical yellow gold discovered when the Stapleton No. 1 oil well came in on October 5, 1915. El Dorado's leaders were envious when nearby towns found huge gas fields and thrived. John Donley, an El Dorado barber, had tried to find either gas or oil in 1878 at a nearby site selected by a spiritualist. He staked out a townsite, spudded a well and drilled 200 feet before running out of money. Wells in 1879 and 1882 produced only brine. In June, 1914, chafed over discovery of oil in nearby Augusta, El Dorado city fathers contracted with Erasmus Haworth, soon to retire from his position as State Geologist, to perform a geological study of the area. His field work outlined the El Dorado Anticline, which unsuccessfully was drilled first in August, 1915. On abandonment, the Wichita Natural Gas Company purchased the lease and drilled the Stapleton No. 1 oil well. More success followed and by 1918, the El Dorado produced 29 million barrels, almost 9% of the nation's oil. Entrepreneurs came and prospered: the Cities Service Oil Company, A.L. Derby, Jack Vickers, and Bill Skelly all became familiar names in Midcontinent oil marketing. Earlier giant fields had hurt the price of crude oil but the El Dorado came in as both World War I and the rapid popularization of motor transport made a market for both light and heavy ends of the refinery stream. The giant gas field never materialized as hoped but in late 1995, the El Dorado Field produced its 300 millionth barrel of oil.
Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title The discovery and development of the El Dorado (Kansas) oil field
Series title Northeastern Geology and Environmental Sciences
Volume 19
Issue 1-2
Year Published 1997
Language English
Larger Work Type Article
Larger Work Subtype Journal Article
Larger Work Title Northeastern Geology and Environmental Sciences
First page 48
Last page 53
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