On This Date In History: One man prospered on another man’s given up dream. In Southeast Texas, near the present city of Beaumont, there was a large rise in the otherwise flat landscape. It was known to the locals as Big Hill. It was known for its natural gas that seeped from it. People would have fun striking matches and igniting small, brief infernos. When it rained the puddles would bubble. In 1888, Captain George Washington O’Brien bought up much of the land surrounding and including the hill because he thought there was oil there.
Beaumont resident Patillo Higgins went to Pennsylvania to study the oil business there and became convinced that there was oil under the hill, then designated as Spindletop Hill. Higgins was looking for ways to fuel his brick factory and knew that in Pennsylvania that brickmakers used oil. George Washington Carroll believed in Higgins and the two formed a partnership. Higgins and Carroll bought the remaining land around Spindletop and eventually partnered up with O’Brien and JF Lanier to form the Gladys City Oil Company and had dreams of Gladys City becoming a booming industrial town.
To make a long story short, Gladys Oil didn’t find oil and they gave up, signing a lease-sell agreement with Anthony F. Lucas. After two years of failure, on this date in 1901, Spindletop blew. After spewing all of the drillpipe and mud skyward, a 6 inch wide stream of oil flowed 200 feet in the air. There had never been a gusher like that before and it took them 9 days to cap it. The 800,000 barrels of oil formed a lake of oil…I don’t remember how many acres wide it was or how many feet deep. And remember, a barrel of oil is 30 some-odd gallons. Beaumont tripled its population in 3 months and the modern oil business took off. Exxon, Texaco, Chevron and Mobil all have their roots in Spindletop. On that date America’s annual oil output was 64 million barrels a day. By 1909, because of Spindletop, it was near 200 million per day. Today, some call Spindletop the Boom the Shook the World.
Lucas died in 1921, but his legacy lives on. The Anthony F. Lucas Gold Medal was established in 1936 “to recognize distinguished achievements in improving the technique and practice of finding and producing petroleum.” Not only is Lucas credited by some as being most responsible for changing civilization, he also invented many tools and methods that are still used in petroleum exploration and recovery today.
O’Brien, Carrol, Higgins and the rest gave up on their dream. Don’t you make the same mistake.
Don’t Hang with this Plummer: Cyrus Skinner was released from San Quentin Prison in California for the first time on August 18, 1853. Skinner isn’t a well known desperado from the old west but he certainly was notorious.
He grew up in Ohio and began robbing people at an early age. He moved to California with the Gold Rush in 1850 where he continued his robbing ways. He was caught and went to San Quentin. After he got out on this date in 1853, he started robbing again and got caught and sent back again. This time he escaped, started robbing and was caught again and sentenced to 15 years in San Quentin. This time, he met up with a guy named Henry Plummer. Plummer was released and Skinner escaped again in 1860 and this time went to Idaho to meet up with Plummer.
Now, Plummer had actually been a sheriff in Nevada City, CA. But, he was having an affair with a miner’s wife and when confronted by the miner, Plummer shot him dead in a duel. Plummer was sent to prison where he met Skinner. Plummer got out due to tuberculosis or due to people asking for a pardon, depending on the source you believe. Anyway, when Plummer got out, he
turned to the other side of the law and he formed a road gang that robbed and murdered about 100 people in Idaho and Montana. When Plummer arrived in Bannack, Montana he killed the one man in town that was aware of his hoodlum past. Henry must have been quite the smooth talker because, not only was he acquitted of the murder, the town went and elected him Sherrif. By day he enforced the law and by night, he and his gang robbed and killed people at will. The gang became known as the Innocents because their not so secret password was “I am innocent.” Skinner was part of that group and was said to have been one of the worst offenders, killing people for no reason. The town folk got tired of it all and formed a vigilante group that one by one, rounded up the bad guys, held street trials and hung them. During this process, one of the bad guys ratted out Plummer.
The evidence mounted and the town vigilantes went after their two-timing sherrif and they eventually captured Plummer and two of his henchmen. With the winds howling on a bitter cold winter day, on this date in 1864, Plummer got hung on a gallows. The builder of the gallows that brought an end to Henry Plummer was none other than Henry Plummer himself. When confronted, Skinner tried to avoid the noose by running away, hoping to get shot….but the vigilante’s wouldn’t oblige. Nope, they caught him alive and then they hung him. It’s good for a rampaging vigilante mob to have principals. I suppose the lesson here is to not follow in the footsteps of a Plummer! Certainly not this one, whom you can read more about here.
Weather Bottom Line: It’s Saturday and light snow continues to fall. I was amazed that after the sun went down we still had persistent flurry activity with intermittent light snowfall on Friday night. Now, the clouds are hanging tough….but, I”m tellin’ ya..if the clouds break in time late Saturday night, then we fall to near zero. Most models do not show this and have us in the low teens. But, the GFS now suddenly takes us to the low single digits prior to sunrise on Sunday. That would be a result of that particular model showing the clouds breaking. We’ll see. Now, the longwave pattern is going to change and we will come out of the deep freeze. But, there will be one final assault. Not big, but still interesting. Rolling down the eastern flank of the ridge will be a shortwave. That will approach us on Monday afternoon into Monday night. It will bring another round of snow. The GFS isn’t so bullish on snow amounts but does have several hours of duration of light snow or flurries. The NAM wants to toss out something like 3/4″ of an inch. This feature will also hold off the warm up. I’ve seen some public forecasts of highs above freezing on Monday with the idea being that there will be a surge of warmer air ahead of the approaching shortwave trof. I don’t buy it. Maybe Tuesday afternoon in the wake of the vorticity maxima we get above freezing. If not, it will be Wednesday. We get back to closer to seasonal averages for the rest of the week and then next Sunday, there is a potential interesting scenario unfolding, but the solutions are in flux so at this point nothing concrete can be determined.
On January 9, 2010, 62.7 percent of the lower 48 is covered by snow with an average depth of 6.3 inches (National Snow Depth). The analytical output claims there is a maximum of over 900 inch snow depth some place, but I cannot locate that spot. I question the veracity of the claim.