While most of the economy in Southeast Texas depended on agriculture, cattle ranching, and the lumber business in the 19th century, things were about to change. The presence of oil was known, but untapped until 1901 when the oil industry would change the landscape of the region. Uses for oil date back many years. In the 1500s, the Spanish used oil from seeps near Sabine Pass for caulking their ships, and to the north, settlers near Nacogdoches used seeping oil for lubricants before 1800. There were numerous discoveries in east and central Texas in the later 1800s, especially at Corsicana in 1896. Attempts were made to drill wells at Spindletop 1893 and 1896 and at Sour Lake in 1896, but they had no successful oil production along the Gulf Coast until the Lucas Gusher came in on Spindletop Hill on January 10, 1901.
Spindletop Hill was a salt dome oil field, that was located in the southern portion of Beaumont, Texas. People had long suspected that oil might be under the hill as the area had been known for its sulfur springs and bubbling gas seepages that would ignite if lit. Then in August, 1892, several men including George W. O’Brien, George W. Carroll, and Pattillo Higgins formed the Gladys City Oil, Gas, and Manufacturing Company to do exploratory drilling on Spindletop Hill.
By September 1901, there were at least six successful wells on Gladys City Company lands. Wild speculation drove land prices around Spindletop to incredible heights. One man who had been trying to sell his tract there for $150 for three years sold his land for $20,000; the buyer promptly sold to another investor within fifteen minutes for $50,000. One well, representing an initial investment of under $10,000, was sold for $1,250,000. Legal entanglements and multimillion-dollar deals became almost commonplace. An estimated $235 million had been invested in oil that year in Texas; while some had made fortunes, others lost everything.
Following the success of the oil industry at Spindletop Hill, many people, including my grandparents, Allen and Anna Spencer would make their way to Texas in search of a better life. They would settle on the oilfields near Ranger, Texas. They didn’t find any oil fields, so their income came from his work for other people in the oilfields. These days people working in the oilfield business make good money, but as near as I can tell oilfield workers averaged about 90 cents an hour in 1919, which would be about $11.74 an hour today. That’s pretty poor wages, especially for the oilfield, but I suppose people didn’t realize how valuable they really were. Needless to say, the oilfield was not the place my grandfather would choose to make his living, and eventually they returned to Wisconsin where he went to work for the railroad.
With the decline of the oil business, comes the inevitable change of the face of oil companies. In Wyoming, that decline means layoffs and transfers to many of the people who worked for the oil companies. I really don’t know of a family that hasn’t been affected by the decline. Our family has experienced layoffs, and as in the case of my nephew, Eric Parmely, a job that is saved, by way of Texas. Eric and his wife, Ashley aren’t moving to Texas, but his job will take him to Texas for two weeks and then home for a week. I think the week at home will be really nice, but it comes at the expense of the two weeks in Texas. I know that this has been a hard change to swallow for Eric, his wife, Ashley, and their girls, Reagan and Hattie.
Eric and Ashley live in the country, where they have chickens, goats, rabbits, and next door, at her parents house, horses. They are all totally in their element there. Of course, Ashley was raised there, so being around the animals is second nature to her. The girls also take to it like little pros, and the animals love them all. Eric and Ashley’s parents, Albert and Kari Eighmy did all the remodeling of their fixer upper home. They wouldn’t let Ashley be there, because she was pregnant, but Eric’s mom, Jennifer Parmely, who loves to clean, came and cleaned up all the construction dust, and they have a beautiful home now…all the more reason not to move to Texas. Eric has become quite handy with the things he makes. If Ashley shows him something she wants, he can probably pull it off. A good example of that is the bedroom set he made for his girls. It is the perfect setup for two little girls, and I know that they will love it for a long time. Eric is getting…or maybe he always was…very handy at building things. His work is beautiful and solid. The workmanship of the things he makes is amazing. I think that if he wanted to, he could sell his work and make money at it…but that is another story.
Eric is a family man. His wife and daughters mean the world to him. Eric wants nothing more than to be at home with them, or spend time with them doing just about anything they want to do. They love being outdoors, and it doesn’t matter what season it is. Eric will make things fun for his girls. That is the sign of a good husband and dad. Today is Eric’s birthday. Happy birthday Eric!! Have a great day!! We love you!!
My brother-in-law, Mike Stevens has been in the oilfield business for many years. He is a hard working man, who is often quiet, and so people sometimes wonder if he is mad or just doesn’t like them. His kids boyfriends and girlfriends can attest to that, but nothing could be further from the truth, when it comes to Mike. Mike is a man who firmly believes that life should not be taken too seriously. He likes to laugh, and he likes to have those around him be happy too. One of his favorite things growing up and probably still today was to prank his sisters. I’m sure their house was one filled with laughter, as Mike scared, teased, and joked with his sisters. And of course, I’m equally sure that there was as much payback as the sisters to muster up, because as we all know, if you don’t pay it back, then they get to have all the fun.
When it comes to games, sports, and playing, Mike has never, and will never grow up. In the years that he and my sister Alena have been married, there has always been Family Game Night. Every week the family would play board games and eat fun food, as a way to connect with each other and build a great family bond. Sometimes, instead of board games, they would go play miniature golf or go to the video arcades. Mike just loves games. He loves the competition, but in a healthy way…never making it something to get mad about, win or lose. It was the perfect way to teach sportsmanship to the family. My niece, Michelle tells me that she and her brother, Garrett are both quite competitive, but because of game night, they have been able to learn sportsmanship too. They love winning, but it’s not the end of the world to lose either, because someone else got to win. Lacey, on the other hand, reminds me a lot of her dad, in her quiet mannerisms, and I think she is probably the least competitive of the bunch, or maybe as the youngest, she just figured she didn’t stand much of a chance, with all that competition going on at their house.
Mike played basketball in school, and several other sports, including baseball at different times, and he loves to watch sports. Mike is what you would have to call a sports fanatic, and if Alena didn’t like sports, she would be the proverbial sports widow, but she doesn’t seem to mind it either. Mike loves games…I guess you got that…and he doesn’t care if it is golf with the family, basketball of television, going to the video arcade, or playing his favorite phone game, which for now anyway is Poker. He doesn’t want to spend his whole like slaving away at his job, or feeling all depressed about the tougher parts of life. He likes to laugh, and he thinks everyone should find something in life to laugh about…every day. And, I for one, have to agree. I’m going to do that…find something to laugh about. Today is Mike’s birthday. Have a silly, laughing, happy birthday Mike!! We love you!!