In 1920, Texas & Pacific Railway official William H. Abrams (1843-1926) of Dallas owned this old plantation land, then considered fit only for pasture. He leased mineral rights to the Texas Company (now Texaco, Inc.), whose drilling reached a climax on July 20, 1920. At 7:45 that evening a massive jet of oil and gas erupted from a 2,754-foot depth, heralding a major discovery now known as West Columbia Field. W. H. Abrams No. 1 was a gusher. Three pipe lines were laid at once to draw the oil to earthen tanks, filled by powerful steam pumps with over 20,000 barrels daily. For Abrams, this wildcat well was a second bonus, as land he owned in Mitchell County produced the first oil in the Permian Basin in June 1920. Locally, land that sold for 10 cents an acre in 1840 and $5 an acre in 1888 now brought $96,000 an acre for mineral rights, irrespective of surface values. Yet the boom days were hazardous. Brazoria County oldtimers suffered along with oilfield workers, all living precariously and dangerously until the flow of oil money led to better schools, roads and general social conditions. Half a century later, the socio-economic significance of the West Columbia discovery could be acknowledged as a nationwide contribution. (1977)
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