Category Archives: Jennings

1902: Oil is discovered in Louisiana


Circa 1905 shot of a geyser in Jennings, the site of the first successful oil well in the state, in 1902. Photo courtesy New Orleans Public Library

By The Times-Picayune

The first successful oil well in Louisiana was drilled in Jennings in late 1901, spawning an industry that dominated the state for decades. The strike came about nine months after the massive Spindletop find in nearby Beaumont, Texas, set off oil fever throughout the Southwest.

A group of Jefferson Davis Parish businessmen went to Beaumont to recruit oilman W. Scott Heyward to drill a well at the site of a natural gas seep. The plan was to quit after drilling 1,000 feet. But undeterred by nervous investors, Heyward kept going until he was down to his last piece of drill pipe at 1,700 feet. Soon a four-inch geyser spewed from the well and Jennings was in full production by 1902.

By the late 1920s, the oil rush turned to south Louisiana. Tens of thousands of workers descended on the area from across the country, digging pipelines, erecting rigs and servicing wells.

Louisiana production nearly matched that of Texas just before World War II. Refineries sprung up, including the Humble Oil Co. refinery in Baton Rouge, still one of the largest in the world.

After fevered drilling in west and north Louisiana, the shallow marshes of South Louisiana became the center of the nation’s oil production in the 1930s. Oil production on land and in state-controlled waters peaked in 1969. The state is the sixth largest producer today.

To get to the oil fields, canals were dredged through the marshes. Today, those canals are seen as a huge environmental blunder, as the spoil banks interrupt the natural flow of the water and the canals channel grass-killing salt water inland.

Timeline of Louisiana History – Jennings

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