Part 7 — End of one era, beginning of another

Staff Writer
Pawhuska Journal-Capital
Part 7 — End of one era, beginning of another

(Editor’s Note: What follows is a portion of the book, “Oil in the Osage,” originally published in 1996 by the Pawhuska Journal-Capital. Much of the book’s content was produced by writer Libby Meyer. However, the section examining the infamous Osage Reign of Terror was taken in part from a 1972 article by Bill Burchardt. As a tribute to that book and the rich story it told, the newspaper is serializing the content over a period of seven weeks. This is the seventh and final installment.)

Depression Ends the Boom Days

By the end of the 1920’s, the boom days of Oil in the Osage were over. Oil was still being recovered, but the price had gone from $3.50 a barrel in 1920, to the all time low of $0.18 per barrel in 1931. The Great Depression was a cause of the slump, as well as an outpouring of oil in other areas of Oklahoma.

The Oil Industry Matures

In the 1950’s, as the nation recovered financially, the oil industry also recovered.

Despite the decrease in price and production, the Osage oil industry continued, but without the zeal of the boom times. The direction of growth was steadfast with a new type of oilman. This new oilman was highly skilled, usually a man with family, wanting long-term employment. The oil industry had matured.

In November 1949, a blanket lease on 18,000 acres was approved by the Secretary of Interior, reducing royalty on this block from one-sixth to one-eighth. It was an incentive to promote water flooding of the Burbank sand, one of the great oil producing formations of all time.

This was done with full concurrence of the Osage Tribal Council, which over the years, has done it’s best to cooperate on the theory that in the main, what is good good for the oil industry is good for the tribe.

Oil Embargo Brings Boost in Oil Prices

In the early 1980’s, a new heyday of oil came, and through 1986, the price of oil ranged from $38 to $40 per barrel. This price increase was brought on by the Middle East oil embargo and demand for more fuel.

In 1986, the price of oil was down to $15 per barrel. Applications made to the Osage Nation for drilling went from 100 per month in 1980, to 100 per year in 1996.

In this 10 years, the price of oil has remained consistently low and many independent oil producers and companies providing related service have vanished. It is only the frugal and long-term planners who have maintained during this period.

The Future of Oil in the Osage

Yet in any story, there is a hope for a brighter future. As technology continues to advance, the possibility of more recovery is inevitable. Three-dimensional seismographic tools developed in the late 1980’s give the geologists a more exact location for finding a vein of oil or gas.

Exploration for coal bed methane gas is a possibility for creating another oil boom. As tax credit is given on such discoveries, it is to the oilman’s advantage to explore this.

There will never be any more oil under the surface of Osage County than what was developed millions of years ago in the shallow prehistoric inland sea. However, in the same way John N. Florer squeezed the oil found on the surface of the creek bed from the Indian’s blanket, so technology will continue to squeeze the underground trails drilled under the earth’s surface during this century, and release oil for use into the 21st century as men continue to recover more Oil in the Osage.

The complete story of “Oil in the Osage” is available for sale in photo-illustrated soft cover book. The book can be purchased at the Journal-Capital office, 700 Kihekah, in downtown Pawhuska.