The Oil Field Camps
of Western Harvey County & Eastern Reno County
Burrton's Oil (by Clarence Hoskinson)
Primarily a wheat-growing community, Burrton became oil conscious in 1932 when the first well, the M.B. Blake No. 1, was brought in west of the grocery store in the Olson field on January 1, 1932. The well was drilled by Olson Oil Company, to which the Shell Oil Company had farmed out some of the leases it had acquired in the '20s. Leases were obtained in this section as early as 1920, following the oil trend from the north.
The oil boom hit here during the worst of the depression, and did a good deal to soften the depression, and the blow the community had received by the closing of its bank. As soon as the Blake came in, Olson put down more wells and other oil companies hurried into Burrton to lease land and drill.
The greatest activity in Burrton occurred in 1934 with gushers coming in on many sections and everyone excited over the drilling and the construction. During the peak years from 1932 to 1937, Burrtonites cleaned out their spare rooms, sold their chickens and made their chicken houses into apartments, let their cars set out and rented their garages to the drillers and their families who descended on the community. However, the rent was never high, and the merchants didn't boom their prices as other communities might have.
Camps sprang up immediately in the section built by Olson (S&K Oil Co. pictured at left), Shell, Cities Service, Amerada, Gulf, Texas, and other companies, and well over 1,000 new citizens became a part of the Burrton community. Many of these entered eagerly into Burrton's life and quickly made a place for themselves, and although they later moved on, their children married and remained in Burrton.
The Burrton oil field, one of the largest in the State, extends from the Arkansas river on the south in a rough half circle on the west and north of Burrton about three miles in width from east to west and about 13 miles from the southwest corner to the northeast corner. Naturally, the farmers of the Burrton community, especially those with land to the southwest and northeast of Burrton, benefited greatly from the oil development in this section. Some obtained lease money for as long as 15 years before their land was drilled for oil, after which they were given royalties. The most recent oil activity is a few miles northwest of Burrton where wells have been drilled on the N.P Wiley, Ren Wilson, Mel Howell, and Bert Hensley (Botts) farms.
One of the largest oil holdings was that of M.E. Sabin, whose land north of Burrton produced 60 wells. Other productive sections were owned by Krehbiel, Blake, R.C. Roberts, Downey, Ackley, and Goering. Some of these wells were in the Hunton lime, which produces the biggest wells, but which do not produce over such a long period of time. The Hunton is the lime which brings in gushers, and there were several gushers in the Burrton field, some of them producing as much as 5,000 barrels a day.
Primarily, however, Burrton is a chat field, and the wells have a longer life. Chat wells produce gas as well as oil, and the J.H. Goering A No 1, which was drilled in April 1932, produced 128,000,000 feet daily, and was at that time the largest gas well in the State. Some of these chat wells are still producing today.
J.L. "Mac" McMannis, shown on the right, came to live in the Olson Camp with his wife & children from Oklahoma in 1933. He eventually became the State Superintendent for S&K Oil Company. He continued to live on the camp property west of Burrton until his death in 1986. His son, Donald, lives there today.
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