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West Columbia; 1919

The Texas Company's Abrams No. 1 well became known as the "Wonder Well Of the Texas Gulf Coast"

After the great Spindletop discovery in Beaumont in 1901 any "hill" that rose above an otherwise flat coastal plain in very southeast Texas became a potential target for an oil well. These hills were actually little more than large bumps that could be seen by the naked eye and certainly surveyed with an alidade table. The apex of these bumps were often less than 10-12 feet above ground level but were believed to mirror sub-surface salt features. If these mounds oozed gas or tar from nearby creek beds, land was bought for $5 an acre, or at the minimum leased for 5 cents an acre, all over and around the surface anomaly.

So it was with Kaiser's Mound near the town of West Columbia in Brazoria County in late 1904. The Equitable Mining Company drilled a 500 foot well on top of the mound and encountered a pressured sand that blew gas and heavy oil for several days. Others drilled shallow wells on the mound, with encouraging results, but no commercial oil and Brazos Oil Company pushed the envelope in 1908 to confirm the existence of salt at a depth of 940 feet. Subsequent wells were drilled off the structural apex of the mound and deeper. Shows were encountered, gas and oil blew over the tops of wooden derricks then pooped out; drillers began circling the mound looking for pay.

Tyndall Wyoming Oil and Development Co found 200 BOPD on the Hogg Plantation in 1918 and the majors like Humble, Gulf and the Texas Co. bird-dogged their way into the play. The Texas Company found 6,500 BOPD on its Arnold lease and Humble found numerous big wells in Miocene sands below 3000 feet pinched ups against the salt wall.

Then on a hot, mosquito infested evening in July, in 1920, the Texas Company hit the honey hole at 2,754 feet on the north end of mound, almost a mile from its existing production. The well came in with such force that windows rattled in the post office down in West Columbia, 6 miles to the south. Rig hands were able to cap the drill pipe and divert the flow to a large earthen pit where flow rates were gauged at 26,000 BOPD.

In 76 days the 'wonder well of the Texas Gulf Coast' produced 1,278,000 BO with an average BS&W content of 4/10ths of 1%. All of that went into a giant earthen pits.

The Abrams 1 well in West Columbia Field, Brazoria County, Texas

Within weeks West Columbia oil field was covered up with drilling rigs. Texaco had the north end of the dome pretty much blocked up, including the Hogg Plantation that is now a State Park. Good wells were also made to deeper depths on the SE flank.

West Columbia turned in a typical boom town with the usual outlaws running around with guns, prostitution, gambling and whiskey making. A local chapter of the Brazoria County Ku Klux Klan actually helped keep the peace around West Columbia, often throwing roughnecks, pipe liners, roustabouts and whiskey distillers into local jails and assisting the sheriff's department, none of which had anything to do whatsoever with race, color or creed. If you misbehaved, the Klan took you down.

West Columbia; 1921

In 1920 West Columbia oil field produced over 20 MM BO and in 1921 that went up to nearly 22 MM BO.

The field declined over the years until a resurgence in drilling activity occurred to deeper depths in 1940 and annual production then rose to 16 MM BO. By 1951 the field had produced almost a 100 MM BO.

The Abrams 1 well, 2009

Note, once again, how tubing strings and well heads were clamped to casing to keep from being pushed out of the ground from high BHP. In this case the length between the turnbuckles and clamp was managed with links of drive chains.

The well of course has been plugged for many decades and this is simply a sort of monument to a great well and an important field along the Texas Gulf Coast,


Other salt related domes exist in Brazoria County including Stratton Dome near Freeport. In 1930 Stratton Dome was being mined for 2,000 tons of sulfur daily. Lumber mills in the town of Sweeny made live oak nails for wooden ships built in Freeport and sent to the European theatre during WWI. Freeport is one of the largest producers of magnesium in the US, all of which comes from Gulf of Mexico sea water.

Brazoria County is often referred to as the 'place where Texas began.' Columbia, now called West Columbia, was Stephen F. Austin's headquarters in the early 1830s and was his jumping off point for the capture of Santa Ana at the Battle of San Jacinto in 1936. Santa Ana surrendered and signed the Treaty of Velasco in Brazoria County and the first interim capital of the new Republic of Texas was in a small wooden cabin outside West Columbia. Stephen F. Austin is buried nearby. Temple Houston, the son of Sam Houston, was the Brazoria County attorney for decades.

The Texas capitol building, 1836

James Stephen "Big Jim" Hogg owned the Hogg Plantation where much of the production off Kaiser Dome was located and he and his family became fabulously wealthy from oil, gas, cotton and rice farming. Big Jim became the first Texas born Governor of Texas from 1891 1895. As governor of Texas he created the Texas Railroad Commission. His only daughter, Ima, became a world renown collector and curator of art masterpieces and dedicated philanthropist. She founded the Hogg Foundation For Mental Health.

Its the West Columbia High School Roughnecks, by the way; their yearbook is called The Gusher !


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