From Wooden Rigs to Test Tube Methods

Oil has played a valuable and important part in the history of Ardmore and will continue to do so in the future as new sources of supply of petroleum continue to be found in the southern Oklahoma area.

An unknown prospector is credited with first finding oil in the Healdton area in 1888. He drilled a shallow test in SE% of 5-4S-3W, but capped the well and disappeared into the pages of history—unknown but not forgotten.

The search for crude really started in this area when H. B. Goodrich, geologist for Santa Fe Railway Company, looked over the possibilities for oil in the Wheeler sector of Carter County. Goodrich came here from Houston, Texas, in 1903 and was the first commercial geologist in this territory.

As a result of his work, the Wheeler Field was discovered. Some of the first wells in that area are still producing, and new wells are still being drilled in the field.

However, the big boom didn’t start until the fabulous Healdton Field was brought in on Wirt Franklin’s land in 8-4S-3W in August of 1913. The well was drilled by J. M. Critchlow of Titusville, PA. It produced 25 barrels of oil daily from 920 feet. Others associated in the venture were Roy M. Johnson and Edward Galt.

Although it was a small producer, it started frenzied activity in the Healdton area. The second well, located one-half mile north of the pool opener, produced 300 barrels of oil a day and by November of 1914, there were over 275 producing wells in the Healdton sector.

The second-largest field yet found in Carter County is the Hewitt pool. The Texas Company’s No. 1 A. E. Denny, in NE NW NW NW of 27-4S-2W, produced 410 barrels of oil daily from pay sand at 2,100 to 3,134 feet to be the discovery well on June 5, 1919.

One of the largest wells actually gauged in the state was in the Hewitt Field. In 1924, the well located in 21-3S-2W flowed 12,800 barrels of oil daily. Total depth at the site was 2,940 feet.

Oil Rig with trucks
Oil Rig with trucks

Other early fields that have helped make Ardmore one of the important oil centers in the state are Fox, Graham, Bayou, and Brock.

In recent years, much of the oil activities in this area has been created by companies going back into the old fields and finding new horizons at lower depths.

Around 11 percent of all the oil wells in the state are located in Carter County. There are over 7,750 producing wells in this county which means that there are 10 producing wells to the square mile on average.

Ardmore, besides housing numerous independent and major oil company offices, is the site of the Ben Franklin Refinery. It has the largest payroll in Carter County, with the exception of the Ardmore Air Force Base.

Around 180 men and women are employed at the refinery.


The history of Carter County : a pictorial history of Carter County, covering both the old and new, Fort Worth, Texas : University Supply and Equipment, 1957.

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