On October 27, 1900, an Austrian-born mining engineer named Anthony F. Lucas spudded in an oil well on a hill near Beaumont. He’d drilled a previous well in the vicinity to a depth of 575 feet before running out of money and giving up, but this time he’d secured financing and brought in the Hamill brothers, a pair of expert drillers from Corsicana. Over the next few months the Hamills struggled through the oil sands without much success. By January 10, 1901, all they had to show for their efforts was a 1,139-foot-deep hole.
That morning, after breaking through some hard rock, they found their bit would no longer turn. They pulled it out and put on a sharper bit and were only partway back down the hole when mud began to bubble up and the well blew out. Six tons of four-inch drilling pipe shot out of the hole, terrifying the roughnecks, who ran for their lives. There was a brief pause in the action, followed by a massive eruption that blasted a black plume one hundred feet in the air. For the next week and a half, a giant pool of oil collected around the site as the geyser spewed