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Julia Cauble Smith

WHEAT OILFIELD. Wheat oilfield, located in southwestern Loving County surrounding Mentone, Texas, began permanent commercial production on September 1, 1925, when the Pecos Valley Petroleum Company brought in the J. J. Wheat No. 1. In 1919 James Jackson Wheat, Sr., a native of Arkansas, moved to Loving and Ward counties and bought several thousand acres of land. From October 1919 to 1925 Wheat leased minerals and sold tracts to investors in the Southwest. Early in 1921 Wheat and Bladen Ramsey organized the Toyah-Bell Oil Company. The company leased acreage on the Russell Ranch one mile east of the site of Mentone in southwestern Loving County. In the summer of 1921 they spudded two Russell wells. By December Russell No. 1 reported an oil show and flowed enough oil to promise returns. Toyah-Bell changed its name to Ramsey Oil Company and contracted with the Rio Grande Oil and Refining Company of El Paso to deliver oil at three dollars a barrel. However, the casing collapsed, and efforts to get the well into production were abandoned by November 1924. Russell No. 2 was abandoned in 1923 without reaching oil.

In the spring of 1924 Wheat leased acreage east of Russell No. 1 from N. W. Chapman and raised money to drill by organizing a stock company, Wheat Guarantee Company. By 1925 the junk well and the forty-acre lease were sold to Pecos Valley Petroleum Company. The Chapman No. 1-A, later the Wheat No. l, was spudded in February 1925. On September 1, 1925, the Wheat No. 1 reached 4,272 feet and quietly began a modest initial production of twenty-five barrels of oil a day. Production declined to five barrels of oil a day, and the well was shut down from October 1925 until April 1926, when Lockhart and Company, a subsidiary of Rio Grande Oil Company, bought it. Lockhart deepened the well to 4,718 feet, plugged it back, and shot it. Production increased to more than 100 barrels a day before it began another decline.

Wheat field developed slowly. The one producer was small, and there was no drilling in Loving County from March until June 1926. Lockhart and Company spudded its first offset, the R. L. Allen No. 1, in June with a rig powered by fuel from the fading Wheat No. 1. By December 1926 the well began flowing forty barrels of oil a day by heads. In 1927 Wheat field had two producers, an average production of ninety barrels of oil a day, and no drilling. At the end of September 1928 the field reported five wells producing an average of 250 barrels of oil a day. At the beginning of 1929 it had eight producing wells and an average daily production of 400 barrels of oil. That number increased to fourteen producers and an average daily output of 913 barrels of oil by September 1929. Peak production for the field was reached in 1931 with 1,233,801 barrels of oil. Oil from Wheat field varied from 39 to 42 gravity and was free of sulphur. Most of the production from the field flowed through the four-inch pipeline laid by Rio Grande Oil Company to the loading rack at Arno. The railroad delivered it to the Rio Grande refinery in El Paso. As the field matured, two separate secondary recovery projects were introduced. In the 1950s and in the 1970s water flooding was attempted in the field with no noticeable increase in production. Most of the oil companies that operated in isolated Wheat field provided camps near the field as living quarters for their employees.

As of January 1989 Wheat field reported a cumulative crude oil production of 21,704,769 barrels of oil. Production for 1988 was 289,791 mcf of casinghead gas and 100,935 barrels of oil from 134 producing wells. Wheat is a small oilfield for West Texas, but it has made a lasting impact on Loving County. Oil production in Wheat field brought an increased population to Loving County for a few years. The larger population resulted in the second organization of Loving County and the establishment of Ramsey, Texas, which was renamed Mentone and became the county seat. The field made Rio Grande a strong independent oil company and several mineral owners wealthy from sixty-five years of royalty checks. Oil production from Wheat and other fields gave the small population of Loving County the highest county per capita income in the country at $34,173. At the end of 1994 there were 184 wells producing oil or gas. There were 235,204 barrels of oil produced, increasing the lifetime amount produced to 22,828,828 barrels of oil.

Robert W. Dunn, The History of Loving County, Texas (M.A. thesis, University of Texas, 1948; condensed in West Texas Historical Association Year Book, 1948). Samuel D. Myres, The Permian Basin: Petroleum Empire of the Southwest (2 vols., El Paso: Permian, 1973, 1977). Oil Weekly, February 17, April 13, 1928, May 24, 1929, January 17, 1930. Thomas H. Smith, "Unpublicized Loving County Holds Important Place in Oil History," Drill Bit 1 (October 1953).

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The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Handbook of Texas Online, Julia Cauble Smith, "WHEAT OILFIELD," accessed March 28, 2020, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/dow06.

Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
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