Predictions had the ’22 as “Orange’s Banner Year.” After all, 1921 ended with a scene described as a “miracle.” Cow Bayou had turned into a river of oil.
The Orange Daily Leader on January 31, 1921, was full of stories about the biggest gusher found yet in the Orange Oil Field outside of town along Cow Bayou. Ed Cahill, president of the Orange Chamber of Commerce predicted the “banner year” as the city would grow with the oil discoveries.
The full banner headline of the daily newspaper read “Gulf Will Drill On East Bank Of Cow Bayou.” Four wells were planned with a levee to save the oil waste.
The levee would be handy. “Cow Bayou Once Stream Of Water Is Now River Of Oil,” read another headline.
The Humble (Oil Company) Chesson No. 5 was the cause of all the excitement. It was sending 30,000 barrels a day of “liquid gold” spurting out. The gusher on December 31 was not under control and “pure pipeline oil” was going into the bayou.
“Changing from a river of water into a surging stream of oil over night may sound like a fairy story,” the news story read. “Such a miracle has happened in the Orange oil field.”
The Oil Field Buss (sic) Line had open air buses leaving Orange for the oil field four times a day. The line also had four returning trips to take workers.
The gusher had been a nice Christmas holiday gift for Orange. The city had a 1920 population of 9,212. That was a 66.7 percent increase from the 5,572 people ten years earlier, thanks to a shipbuilding boom in World War I. The oil discovery would lead to more people.
Christmas had been prosperous for most of Orange. Children’s toys like “trains, drums, Ouija boards” and “dolls, dolls, dolls” were at Orange Variety Store, “The Red Front Store on Fifth Street.”
Joe Lucas Jewelers and Optician offered a women’s 15-ruby wristwatch for “only $15.” (About $220 in 2020) Another downtown jeweler and optician was H.L. Cohenour, who sold items like watches, diamonds, and ivory.
Griggs’ Book Store on Fifth Street had stationery, novelties, and Christmas cards. Sabine Supply Company at Fourth and Front was the “store of practical gifts.” A basketball was $15, an electric chafing dish was $19.50, a flash light was $3.10, and an “automatic Remington shotgun” was $75.50.
For those less fortunate at the holidays, the Leader newspaper had an Empty Stocking drive and listed donors. Orange Rotary Club gave $400, the Elks donated $25, and the Orange Ku Klux Klan No. 51 sent $100.
Two days after Christmas, the Orange school board presented the 12 members of the Orange High School football team sweaters with team Captain “Speedy” Wilson thanking the board.
1922 ended up the biggest oil year for Orange. Joshua Bland had first seen oil in that area in 1903, but it was another decade, in 1913, when he hit oil. Other small successful wells came in 1918, but it was in 1921 when gushers were hit.
The Orange Oil Field grew into a boom town and the community known as Orangefield.
The USGS Geological Survey Bulletin No. 845 reported a few years later that by the end of 1930, only 86 wells were in the Orange oil field producing a total of 790,000 barrels a year, less than half the amount that flowed in 1921-22.
A century later, eyes in Orange are still looking toward an oil company for a banner year. Will 2022 be the year Chevron Phillips announces the construction for a new petrochemical plant here?
-Margaret Toal, KOGT-