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Tulsa; 1904

Glenn Pool, courtesy Tulsa Historical Society.

Oil was first discovered outside Tulsa in 1901 by a fella named Bland but it was not until 1905 that the first major oil field in Oklahoma was discovered in what would become the famous, Glenn Pool Oil Field, discovered by Galbreath and Chelsey, in adjoining Creek County. Glenn Pool (485MM BO UR to date) led to other discoveries in the area, and some big wells. Tulsa boomed and eventually became known as the Oil Capital of the World. Harry Sinclair and J. Paul Getty both got their boots muddy in the Glenn Pool Field.

Glenn Pool Field is completed in Pennsylvanian, Bartlesville sands and these wells often needed 'stimulation' using torpedoes containing nitro glycerin. Tulsa soon became the torpedo shooting capital of the Mid-Continent. Famous well shooter and oil well firefighter, Ford Alexander, from Los Angeles, moved into Tulsa and soon there were four or five major well shooters in the area, including Osage, Mid-Continent, Western and Standard Torpedo Companies.

Myron Kinley helped his dad, Karl, and Alexander extinguish the first oil well fire using explosives in Taft, California in 1915. Myron worked for Alexander after Kinley returned from WW I and was moved to Tulsa to manage Alexanders torpedo business there in 1925. Kinley left Alexander in 1927 and formed the MM Kinley Company, also based in Tulsa. Kinley shot nitro torpedoes, then in 1927 blew out an enormous fire in Cromwell, Oklahoma using nitro glycerin, his historic role as the grandfather of oil well firefighting blossomed from there.


We have written many times on OSB about hauling nitro glycerin ("soup") to oil wells on rough, dirt roads back in the early 1900's; so dangerous it was to haul the stuff, most torpedo shooting companies would only hire unmarried men, with no families.

So it was in 1904 when a fella named Robert McDonald delivered 375 quarts of nitro glycerin to a little storage shack owned by the Western Torpedo Company on Edison Street in Tulsa. He made a mistake of some unknown nature, vaporized himself, his horses, and broke windows in homes nearly a half mile away. The crater he left behind was over 35 feet deep.

About the explosion, the Tulsa newspaper wrote there was not enough left of McDonald to fill a "shoebox" and pieces of horse flesh landed on lawns six blocks away from where the blast occurred.

The crater was actually damed up on the low end, and enlarged by the land owner. It was filled with water from the nearby river. Two years later the nearly 18 acres surrounding the crater was sold to the city of Tulsa, the pond was enlarged again and became known as Owen Park Lake. It was a swimming hole for Tulsa folks until 1921 and in the winter was used for ice skating.

Today Mr. McDonald's "gift" to the city of Tulsa is known as Owen Park Pond and is a nice place to sit on a warm, spring day and feed ducks. Its doubtful than many visitors to the pond know of its origins.


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