Luling philanthropist celebrates oil deal with huge barbecue
On this day in 1926, Luling oilman Edgar Byram Davis threw a free barbecue for friends, associates, and employees to celebrate the sale of his leases to Magnolia Petroleum in what may have been the biggest oil deal in Texas to that time. Davis, born in Massachusetts in 1873, made millions in the shoe business and as an investor in the rubber industry, but gave much of his fortune away. He came to Texas in 1919 to manage his brother's oil leases in Caldwell County. A deeply religious man, Davis believed that he was directed by God to deliver Luling and Caldwell County from the oppressive one-crop (cotton) economy that dominated the area. He believed he would do this by finding oil, though geologists claimed there was none there. In 1922, Davis was proven correct with the discovery of the Luling oilfield. Four years later, he sold out to Magnolia for $12 million, half in cash. In addition to the barbecue, which was attended by thousands, Davis gave his employees from 25 to 100 percent of their total salaries as bonuses. He also gave the citizens of Luling a golf course, an athletic clubhouse for local blacks, various other facilities, and endowments for each. He established the Luling Foundation for the teaching of improved agricultural methods. In all, Davis donated at least $5 million to charity. Davis died in 1951 and was buried in Luling.