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Tom Chaney: No. R704. McKinney No. 1 - 400 barrels a day

Of Writers and Their Books No.R704: McKinney No. 1 - 400 barrels a day . First published in the Hart Co. News-Herald Sunday, 2 April 2006.
The next earlier column: Friday night at the strand

By Tom Chaney

Davis and Norris, oil drillers from Glasgow, brought in a gusher on September 18, 1930 in the vicinity of Legrand. This Louis McKinney well Number 1, when capped and pumped, produced oil at the rate of 400 barrels per day.

This was the beginning of the Legrand oil boom which was on the upswing as Willard Rouse Jillson published The Legrande Oil Pool a scant two months later. At the time of publication in November of 1930, Jillson, Kentucky State Geologist, listed thirty-nine oil wells, six gas wells in production and fifteen dry holes. Fifty wells were being drilled.

Twenty-three 100 barrel tanks on the McKinney lease could not hold the oil for long. With the drilling of the Nannie McKinney well Number 1 a two inch pipeline was laid to Horse Cave via Seymour and Bear Wallow, across the Jackson Highway along the county road to the Louisville and Nashville Railroad where the Stoll Oil Refining Company of Louisville had a 'six car' loading rack to transport the black gold to its refinery.

By November 17 Jillson reports that the Stoll pipeline was carrying 700 barrels per day to Horse Cave. Jillson estimates that 33,000 barrels of oil had been pumped from the Legrand field with a potential of ten times that amount.

The discovery of oil in southeastern Hart County made a major financial difference to the area.

Jillson writes, "Today the unheard of is well known, the isolated is readily accessible, for the once barren cherty farms around Legrande are producing thousands of barrels of petroleum daily. . . . That universally despised racketeering pair -- Business Depression and Flattened Pocket-book -- stalking unopposed through the land as political empires rise and fall, has meant nothing at all to the new Legrande oil pool. As one nears its borders in any direction something of the old-time buoyant spirit of oil field prosperity and sparkling adventure begins to permeate the atmosphere. Legrande, with Horse Cave as a distributing center, is now and will continue for some time to be the one bright bustling spot on a broad and otherwise rather drab agricultural landscape drained by the Green river."

That November leases nearest the pool were being sold for as much as $600 per acre. To the northeast and southwest farms could be leased for from $2 to $5 per acre. Oil was selling at the time for one dollar per barrel.

This little book is primarily a geological survey of the Legrand pool -- its stratigraphy and structure. Jillson had long been interested in the geology of Kentucky when he published The Legrande Oil Pool. His work as State Geologist of Kentucky, Curator of the State Museum and Lecturer in Geology at the University of Kentucky has made him the standard setter for Kentucky geology.

While Jillson predicts a productive future for the Legrand pool, he does offer some cautionary notes. In the book he observes that the Center gas pool was prospering prior to Legrand. Gas from Center was being piped to customers in Bowling Green.

Of the Legrand field he writes, "The drilling-up of the principal acreage in the Legrande oil pool has been accompanied, it must be noted, by the willful waste of uncounted millions of feet of valuable natural gas. Practically every well within the proven limits of this district has produced some gas and most of the wells have been of commercial size. . . .

"In passing, it is to be lamented, that in a day of prolific and prodigal operation of mineral resources, a normally intelligent people instinctively careful about economic factors important to the orderly progress and continuance of National prosperity and comfort would fail to take cognizance of and put a stop to such unnecessary wastes. . . . Natural gas. . . has a market value both present and potential.

"Operators in the Legrande pool in their haste to throw onto an already over-produced domestic petroleum market additional thousands of barrels of crude oil, should properly give some reasonable attention to those devices . . . for the saving of natural gas produced and produceable [sic] from oil wells. 'Waste makes want.' Though uttered in a day of mineral resource abundance, as natural gas a priceless heritage is willfully thrown to the winds, this old saying will echo and resound far down the oncoming years to chill and astound our prosperity."

One needs but to listen to the tales of prosperity and decline from the Legrand area in the 1930's to see the wisdom of Jillson's caution. Drive slowly with the windows down past the Legrand School on Ky. 218. Inhale deeply as you round the curve at Oilfield Road just past the old McKinney lease. The smell is that of oil, or that of prosperity gained and lost three quarters of a century gone.

Or do the math. There is a considerable difference between 33,000 barrels of one dollar oil in 1930 and 33,000 barrels of 2006 oil.

Tom Chaney can be found telling stories, planning his next meal, and occasionally selling books at
Box 73 / 111 Water Street
Horse Cave, Kentucky 42749 (270) 786-3084
Email: Tom Chaney

This story was posted on 2011-03-27 05:18:00
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