By:  Alene Tucker Drinkard

In early 1926, Jim Quinn of Coleman, Bert Ehorn of Wisconsin and William R. Lester of Dallas leased drilling rights on the land of three Fry brothers on the Grosvenor side of the Jim Ned Creek in Brown County, Texas.  C. W. Hoffman and K. F. Page had a new National Drilling Machine on location by June i, the day that they "spudded in."  After nineteen reasonably uneventful days, the fireworks started on the morning of the 20th.

James II. Day, a Brown county native and a Professor of English at the University of Texas at Fl Paso, described what happened.  "The new National rig was drilling at 1,276 feet when it encountered a new strata of sand.  Six more inches and the hole began to fill with oil.  As it was being bailed out, three hundred and fifty feet of the open hole caved in; then, the crude shot to the surface, was geysered high into the air, and settled into a flow.  It 'made a head', so the reports stated, and when it did, some of it landed on the rig's boiler.  Immediately, all was ablaze at the well, and, although the fire was extinguished, the new National rig was destroyed."

And so, the great but short-lived Fry Oil Boom began.  Oil scouts leased other acreage in the vicinity.  The Fry, Pugh, Shore and Lowe families were its main producers. Cow pastures and fields were turned into an oilfield where 3,000 people worked, in shifts, day and night.

Will and Jenny Pugh are my grandparents on my Mother's side of the family.  Although I was born after oil was discovered on their land, I remember my family talking about how their life changed.  Before the oil was discovered, they had barely enough money to buy food. Then, all of a sudden, they had enough money to buy anything they wanted to buy.

The town of Fry sprang up from nothing in June, 1926, to a post office in February, 1927.  There were two streets, named Brown Coleman and Jim Ned, that intersected at the comer of the Pugh and the Lowe land.  The community was on the south side of the Jim Ned Creek, on the road that stretched from Brownwood through Thrifty to Santa Anna.  Business houses included grocery stores, dry good stores, drug stores, barber shops, meat markets, restaurants, garages and filling stations.

Production in the Fry field was so great that oil transportation became a critical problem.  Consequently several pipelines were laid to the field, among them lines carrying petroleum to other pipeline connections at Cross Cut and to the railroad at Bangs.  So much natural gas was produced along with the oil that, in 1928, Mockley Petroleum Corporation built a gasoline refinery for the Amerada Petroleum Corporation on the Shore land, south of the Jim Ned Creek that had a capacity to process 26,000 gallons daily.

Mockley Petroleum Corporation's gasoline extraction plant at Fry suspended operations December 1, 1940, and the plant lease and equipment was sold to Anchor Gasoline Corporation of Tulsa, Oklahoma.  An inventory of the appurtenance appended to the bill of sale listed 11 buildings, nine boilers and burner sets, 16 engines
and compressors, 29 pumps, one generator, one turbine, A Kohler light plant, 61 tanks, office equipment distillation equipment, one stabilizer, numerous meters and other miscellaneous items.  A large amount of pipe was included in the transfer.

I have a photo taken about 1935, which shows the employees of the Amerada Plant:  Willard Gage, Orville Allen, Wilford Roberts, Bill Knowles, Emmit Hodge, Marshall Harrell, Walter Mitchell and Babe Thompson, the Plant Superintendent.  These men and their families were moved to Eola, Louisiana in 1940. All except
Waiter Mitchell, who chose to stay in Brown County.

The tax from the Fry Oil Field helped to build a new building for Buffalo School, just over the Brown County line in Coleman County.  I attended Buffalo School all my school years except my senior year, which I spent at Early High School. Even now when we meet for the Buffalo School Reunion, the children whose parents worked for the Amerada Plant, call themselves "the Camp Kids", with a certain amount of pride.

Because of the unrestrained drilling and production the Fry Oil Field subsided almost as quickly as it began.  By 1934. only eight years after the discovery, the annual production had declined so greatly that it equaled only
one month in 1927.  Today little is left of the Fry Oil Field except the foundation posts of the refinery, some old pipe and rusty cable, and some stone foundations of houses. The land has long since gone back to what it was before the boom, crops and cattle.

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