Fueling the rise of the automobile era
— Tulsa's Historic Route 66 —
With the growing popularity of the automobile and the internal
combustion engine in the early twentieth century, gasoline became the
primary product derived from crude oil, rather than earlier products
such as kerosene and lubricants. To produce gasoline, raw petroleum
was refined to distill a more useful material. Because it was not easy
to transport crude oil, small independent oil companies built refineries
next to their oil fields. Just prior to 1920, West Tulsa was home to 18
mostly small independent refineries. As petroleum production
stabilized in the 1930s, larger oil companies conglomerated smaller
independent companies and consolidated the refinery process at larger,
more expansive facilities.
Tulsa's First Oil Strike: Sue Bland No. 1
Indian Territory (prior to Oklahoma Statehood in 1907) attracted the
attention of "Eastern oil interests" when a commercially producing
well, the Nellie Johnstone No. 1, was drilled near Bartlesville in 1897.
In the spring of 1901, Jesse A. Heydrick arrived in the small
railroad/cattle town of Red Fork representing such "Eastern investors"
prospecting for a possible petroleum producing site. He hired a drilling
crew which had been active in the Sapulpa area and they shipped their
drilling equipment to Red Fork on the Frisco. The Frisco refused to
their gear until shipping charges were paid. Two Red Fork
promoters and physicians, Dr. Fred S. Clinton and Dr. J.C.W. Bland paid
the charges to release their equipment. The two doctors steered
Heydrick and the crew to a parcel of un-allotted land just east of platted
Red Fork at the foot of Red Fork Hill (now called Lookout Mountain).
The drilling began in late May. When the "gusher" came in the early
morning hours of June 25, 1901, Dr. Clinton wasted no time in obtaining
a power of attorney from Sue A. Bland, the wife of Dr. Bland and a
Muscogee-Creek citizen, and taking the train to Muscogee where he
persuaded the U.S. Indian Agent to designate the site of the well as the
Homestead Allotment of Sue Bland, thereby making her the land owner
and recipient of royalties for production from the well.
News of the gusher brought more than 2,000 people to Red Fork to
witness this discovery, including Oklahoma City businessman Robert
Galbreath who moved to Red Fork and leaped to fame and fortune with
his drilling of the Ida Glenn No. 1 discovery well and the opening of the
hugely productive Glenn Pool, starting on November 22, 1905
Red Fork, Sapulpa and Tulsa became hubs for the distribution and
banking of this industry, which would make Tulsa the 20th Century oil
Capital of the World.