early inhabitants remain undocumented, it is likely that Paleo-Indians
lived on the land that became Reagan
County. Spanish expeditions probably traversed the area; local Jumano Indians
encouraged the Spanish
to establish missions
there on several occasions in the
seventeenth century. Kiowa
and Comanche Indians
used the area as a hunting ground
and later raided local ranches, but it remained largely unsettled
country until the nineteenth century. An important source of water
for prehistoric peoples and early travelers was Grierson Springs
, which once flowed substantially
in southwestern Reagan County. Spaniards probably discovered the
springs in January 1684, when the expedition of Juan Domínguez de Mendoza
arrived there and camped
for two days. The Comanches also used the springs as a campsite. In
1858 the Butterfield Overland Mail missed the springs when planners
drew its stage route along Centralia Draw across the center of the
county, but a source of fresh water was the first consideration when
an outpost for Fort Concho
was selected on April 30, 1878. Both
the springs and the camp were named in honor of Col. Benjamin H.
Grierson, who located the camp at the site. Camp Grierson
was part of the army's plan to
protect white society in the area from Indian attack and ultimately
to eliminate the Indians from Texas. At different times, companies
D, E, and F of the Tenth
, Company K of the Twenty-fifth Infantry
, and Company K of the Twenty-fourth Infantry
were stationed there. The
camp was abandoned in 1882 when Grierson and his Tenth Cavalry were
transferred from Fort
to Fort Davis
. On May 26, 1885, George W. Wedemeyer
stopped at the springs and described the camp as in ruins. P. H.
Coates, whose family arrived in a train of seventeen wagons in 1885,
also camped at the springs. By the 1890s sheep and goat ranchers had
moved into the central area of the county near the homesite of
another early settler, Gordon Stiles, on Centralia Draw.
Santa Rita #1 was spudded shortly before midnight on August 17,1921,
on the last day before the 18-month drilling permit was to expire.
Progress was slow for driller Carl Cromwell, who also worked as a
tool dresser, derrick hand, roustabout, and fireman. Crews, when
available, consisted mostly of cowboy roustabouts who disliked the
work and were distinguished for high absenteeism and steady
Twenty-one slow-moving months were required to
bring the well to production. There were many delays common to
cable-tool drilling at the time. The slowness with which essential
materials arrived coupled with limited resources of the Texon
Company also caused many delays. On more than one occasion, the well
was shut down and the crew laid off because money was not available
to pay salaries or buy casing and other needed
Several months after drilling began, Frank Pickrell
climbed to the top of the derrick. He threw out the petals of a rose
that a group of Catholic women investors back in New York had given
him. He christened the well in the name of the patron Saint of the
Impossible --- Santa Rita.
On May 25,1923, oil and gas began
to show on the surface. On May 28, 1923, a loud roar was heard and
the Santa Rita #1 blew in. The well would continue to head up daily,
unloading about 100 bbls of oil each time. People from surrounding
towns as far away as Fort Worth would travel to watch the well blow
oil over the derrick.
After a month, casing and a packer
finally arrived and the first commercial
well in the Permian Basin
was put on production.
The Santa Rita #1 was
eventually found to be on the edge of the reservoir and future wells
in the Big Lake Field produced at rates of over 5,000 BOPD per
Santa Rita # 1 produced its first gusher on May 28,
1923. The well sprayed oil over a 250-yard area around the site.
After producing oil for 67 years, the well in Reagan County, West
Texas, was capped in May 1990.
CN# 00324, the Center for
here is a replica of Santa Rita # 1 standing in the Reagan County
Park in Big Lake. The original rig was moved to the University
of Texas at Austin.This has been a short history on
the Santa Rita #1. The information on this well was received from
Marathon Oil Company. Both a brochure and information from the Field
Foreman was used.