Natural Gas.Legendary and historical records show that natural gas has been known in Kansas almost from the earliest white settlement. In 1865 tar springs were reported to exist near Paola, and in the same year borings were made for oil in that locality, resulting in the discovery of some gas. In 1871 a well driven by Nelson F. Acres near Iola showed an intermittent flow of mineral water, which was thrown into the air by escaping gas. The gas became lighted and much damage was done before it could be subdued. Gas as a fuel was not fully appreciated at that time and the discovery was regarded with some curiosity but with no significance as to its value.
In 1882 gas was found in wells drilled near Paola in quantities sufficient to be used commercially, and for a time Paola was regarded as the center of a large oil and gas belt. A glass plant was located at considerable expense to the citizens of the town, but an insufficient amount of gas for fuel caused the enterprise to be abandoned. Drilling for gas was carried on with a fair degree of success at Kansas City, Mound City and Fort Scott, but these wells did not have a large enough production to make it of great practical value. In 1884 gas was discovered at Findlay, Ohio, and by 1886 great gas excitement had spread through Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Indiana. In Kansas the people remembered the old traditions and discoveries and made an earnest search for gas. Drillings at Lyons, Kanopolis, Hutchinson and Kingman failed to find gas, but revealed the deposits of rock salt, starting the salt industry of that region. In Iola the Acres mineral well was recalled, and a local company, known as the Iola Gas and Coal company, was organized with a capital of $50,000 for the purpose of prospecting for gas. At the end of a year the money was all spent and gas had been found in small quantities only. The city was still hopeful that gas would be found and voted bonds to the amount of $3,000 for further prospecting. Two or three more wells were drilled, each showing a small quantity of gas. In 1889 a new company was organized which agreed to drill six wells, unless enough gas to supply the town should sooner be found. The six wells were drilled from 400 to 500 feet deep and produced only a little gas. The new company felt confident there was gas in the vicinity and in 1893 drilled deeper than it had previously. On Christmas day it "brought in" what is termed a "big gasser." At the depth of 850 feet the long-sought for gas was found. The well had a flow of 3,000,000 cubic feet in 24 hours. It was one of the first large gas wells in Kansas.
Early in 1894 the Palmer Oil and Gas company came in from Ohio and opened a large number of wells, their daily flow ranging from 3,000,000 to 10,000,000 cubic feet. In the Iola district gas was found at a depth of from 810 to 996 feet. The success of the Palmer company attracted other investors and within four years the Iola fields had been practically outlined.
In the meantime, gas companies were organized in the southern part of the state. In 1888 bonds were voted by the town of Cherryvale to prospect for coal near the town, and in 1889 gas was struck at a depth of 650 feet. Between 1889 and 1895 a number of wells were drilled which produced from 1,500,000 to 3,000,000 cubic feet daily. In 1892 gas was found at Independence, Neodesha, Paola and Coffeyville. The first prospecting at Independence was done in 1890 by McBride & Bloom, and gas was found in small quantities in four wells. In 1892 wells were drilled with a daily flow of 3,000,000 cubic feet. The Independence Oil and Gas company was formed to supply the town and its various industries with gas. This company leased 80,000 acres near Independence,
The territory producing gas begins 40 miles south of Kansas City, at Paola, and extends 110 miles to the Oklahoma line, with a width of over 80 miles at the south. The rapid development of the gas region in southeastern Kansas met with such quick industrial results that in 1895 Kansas reached fifth place among fourteen producing states in amount of gas utilized. Gas has been found at Paola, Osawatomie, Greeley, Iola, LaHarpe, Gas City, Humboldt, Cherryvale, Erie, Chanute, Coffeyville, Independence, Neodesha, Sycamore, Chetopa, Caney, Peru, Niotaze, Neosho Falls, Dexter, Benedict, Buffalo, Havana, Vilas, Guilford, Mound Valley, Moline, Elk Falls and Toronto. The value in 1903 was estimated as $800,000.
The importance of gas and oil in economic and commercial growth of the counties where it was discovered led people in remote districts to organize companies for the purpose of drilling for gas. Some counties received permission from the legislature of 1900 to vote bonds for gas speculation, among these were Pawnee and Hodgeman. In 1906 a few good gas wells were drilled near Arkansas City. But no important amount of gas was found outside the "Mid-continental field" which term applies to gas and oil fields previously outlined in Kansas and Oklahoma. From 1895 to 1905 the gas production greatly increased, gas and oil companies being organized in nearly every town of the gas district.
Early in the year 1905 the Kansas Natural Gas company began buying property, and has continued that policy to the present. It now owns all leases formerly possessed by the big gas companies of the state. It acquired nearly all the producing territory of Montgomery and Wilson counties, the two richest gas fields in the Mid-continental area. From Independence south to the state line wells with a daily capacity of 15,000,000 cubic feet are comparatively common, and some produce 30,000,000. The Kansas Natural Gas company laid a pipe line to Kansas City, Mo., St. Joseph, Mo., Atchison, Topeka, Leavenworth and Lawrence, and supplies these cities with natural gas. Another pipe line belonging to the same company carries gas to Parsons, Oswego, Columbus and Pittsburg, and still another goes westward to Wichita and intermediate towns. Kansas in 1907 had more than 125 towns and cities using natural gas. The Kansas Natural Gas company is the largest retail dealer, but by no means the only one. In Independence, where the main office of the Kansas company is located, the Kasegian Oil and Gas company does a profitable business and several towns have similar local companies.
Gas is sold from 3 to 25 cents per 1,000 cubic feet. The lowest rate was given to corporations in the development of the field to induce them to establish glass plants, cement plants, and factories of different kinds. Many of the manufacturing plants later were charged 10 cents per 1,000 cubic feet. Many customers pay 25 cents per 1,000 cubic feet. In some localities, usually the older ones, a flat rate is charged10 to 15 cents a light, $1 to $2 a stove for one month. Every effort is being made to put all consumers on the meter system. The value of gas is difficult to determine because of its varying retail prices, but for 1907 a rough estimate from $7,000,000 to $15,000,000 is given. (See Also Geology.)Pages 336-338 from volume II of Kansas: a cyclopedia of state history, embracing events, institutions, industries, counties, cities, towns, prominent persons, etc. ... / with a supplementary volume devoted to selected personal history and reminiscence. Standard Pub. Co. Chicago : 1912. 3 v. in 4. : front., ill., ports.; 28 cm. Vols. I-II edited by Frank W. Blackmar. Transcribed July 2002 by Carolyn Ward.
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