On Jan. 10, 1901, what began as a discovery of oil at Spindletop Hill, a salt dome formation south of Beaumont, would soon transform Texas into a major petroleum producer and industrial power.
This moment in Texas history would later be considered the birth of the modern American petroleum industry.
The fortuitous find came after years of failed attempts to draw oil from the location. Convinced that the salt domes of the Gulf Coast contained oil, Austrian Anthony F. Lucas, the foremost expert on salt dome formations in the United States, relocated to Beaumont and began drilling at Spindletop in June 1900.
Despite disappointing results and negative reports from geologists, Lucas persisted in drilling and some six months later on Jan, 10, 1901, his efforts were validated. Mud began bubbling from a well he had spudded months earlier. Six tons of drilling pipe shot up out of the ground, forcing the crew to flee the site. After several minutes of silence, a stream of oil blew over 100 feet into the air until and continued to spew oil until it was finally capped nine days later.
The Handbook of Texas described the impact of Spindletop this way: “The discovery of the Spindletop oil field had an almost incalculable effect on world history, as well as Texas history. Eager to find similar deposits, investors spent billions of dollars throughout the Lone Star State in search of oil and natural gas. The cheap fuel they found helped to revolutionize American transportation and industry. The cheap fuel they found helped to revolutionize American transportation and industry. Many of the major oil companies were born at Spindletop or grew to major corporate size as a result of their involvement at Spindletop, including Texaco, Gulf Oil Corporation, Magnolia Petroleum Company, and Exxon Company, U.S.A.”
Briana Zamora-Nipper joined the KPRC 2 digital team as a community associate producer in 2019. During her time in H-Town, she's covered everything from fancy Houston homes to tropical storms. Previously, she worked at Austin Monthly Magazine and KAGS TV, where she earned a Regional Edward R. Murrow award for her work as a digital producer.