Corsicana
by Corsicana Chamber of Commerce - abt 1922
Navarro County, Texas


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CORSICANA
By Corsicana Chamber of Commerce

[From The Encyclopedia of Texas, compiled and edited by Ellis A. Davis and Edwin H. Grobe, published by Texas Development Bureau, Dallas, Texas, no date (ca. 1922), vol. 1, pp. 81-82]

CORSICANA, located in the center of what is said to be the greatest oil field yet discovered in the mid-continent, offers an exceptionally fine opportunity for unprecedented growth at this time. The oil developments south, north, east and west, which extend for distance of thirty miles in each of these directions, can be conveniently reached from this center, and therefore, this city is fast becoming the recognized headquarters point of this territory. With many locations and drilling wells in Navarro County, and with practically all of the large mid-continent companies represented in the field, many pools are expected to be discovered.

This city, with thirty-one manufacturing plants, twenty-five wholesale houses, and seventy-five district agencies, offers an excellent opportunity for commercial and industrial development, for the reason that it is a recognized shipping point, being located on the main line of the Southern Pacific, north and south, Cotton Belt, east and west, T. & B. V., north and south, and a branch line of the Cotton Belt to Hillsboro, in addition to hourly interurban service north, both freight and passenger; and being on the main highways, north and south, and east and west, through the south.

The annual factory output of Corsicana is $15,000,000; goods sold at wholesale, $25,000,000; and a payroll from all sources of $4,780,000. These together with the fifty oil companies located in this city make it an important commercial, industrial, agricultural and oil center. Bank deposits, December call, 1921, show an increase of $307,000 over similar call 1920, and is within one hundred thousand dollars of the peak of general financial circumstances, which was December, 1919. Postal receipts in 1921 were $52,000.

It might be interesting to review a little of the oil development history of this section of the state. It may be recalled that it was at Nacogdoches that the first oil drilling experiment in Texas was made in 1889. Geologists had previously indicated oil deposits in that section. Those who put up the money and those that did the drilling of the first Texas oil well were untrained men, but were willing to take a chance. Of course, the people ridiculed this experiment.

The next step in the history of oil development in Texas was in 1895, at the time Corsicana was suffering from an insufficient water supply. The local citizens organized a water developing project, the capital of the company being $30,000, and their only desire being to develop artesian water for the city's use.

H. F. Johnston, of Corsicana, was at that time a successful artesian well driller. Jack Davidson, a practical well driller from Pennsylvania, was employed to do the actual drilling. The well was spudded in on the outskirts of the town, and at a depth of 950 feet oil was struck. Davidson having had considerable experience in the drilling of oil wells in Pennsylvania, recognized the oil indications and possibilities and reported the same to Ralph Beaton and the other stockholders. The citizens of Corsicana were disappointed in the find, for they believed that the oil would injure the quality of the desired artesian water. The directors of the company ordered the driller to go deeper.

Ralph Beaton, Henry Damon and Jack Davidson became interested in the oil find and began plans to develop the field. They secured leases covering ten thousand acres in the neighborhood. Mr. Beaton then began a search for a practical oil man to assist in the development. Some time later he succeeded in interesting Colonel Guffey of Pennsylvania. At that time Guffey was one of the big oil men of Pennsylvania. Colonel Guffey and John Galey, his field man and business associate, visited Corsicana and made an examination of the oil indications here. It is now recalled that Guffey was not impressed with the prospects, but Galey stated at that time, twenty-seven years ago, that he believed he was standing within fifty miles of a great oil pool. Arrangements were made whereby Guffey and Galey agreed to test the field on a fifty-fifty basis, Beaton and his associates agreeing to secure an additional block of acreage. The land owners leased their farms then for one-tenth royalty. The first well drilled produced two and one-half barrels per day, the second one was dry and the third produced twenty-two barrels per day.

It is interesting to note that the last well is still producing. At that time there were no refineries in Texas, nor were there any means by which oil products could be handles, so this oil was sold for fuel purposes to factories in Dallas, Waxahachie, Tyler and other places.

Some time later, Messrs. Guffey and Galey made an offer to Beaton and his associates to buy or sell the entire Corsicana field for $30,000. Ralph Beaton, Henry Damon, H. W. White, S. W. Johnson, Aaron Ferguson and Fred Fleming bought the Guffey-Galey interest. J. S. Cullinan, Pennsylvania oil man, was then interested in a plan of developing these fields. Beaton and his associates agreed to sell him five hundred thousand (500,000) barrels of oil at fifty cents (50c) per barrel, under the condition that he would erect the refinery at Corsicana. This refinery was the first oil refinery built west of the Mississippi River, and was an outstanding factor in the oil development in Texas.

The local men interested in the Corsicana fields, later sold their interests to the company whose properties were later secured by the Magnolia Petroleum Company. The Magnolia and the Texas Company were the outgrowth of the Corsicana operations, and J. S. Cullinan was the leading spirit in these two organizations.

The recent growth of Corsicana in the oil activities has been very large. The census of 1920 gave Corsicana a population of 11,356. The city now claims a population of approximately 20,000 people. The business activities, public utilities, educational facilities, etc., have increased pro rata with the growth of population.

With the coming of people, additional hotel facilities and cafes have been established and are doing a flourishing business. The transfer facilities have also been provided by additional trains from Dallas and the oil fields and automobile service with a large number of cars has greatly increased. There are twenty-four steam trains and thirty interurban trains between Corsicana and Dallas.

Corsicana has been a great freight exchange center, as the result of the growing service to and from the oil fields. Manufacturing plants have been crowded with work and additional ones built. The annual factory output is estimated over $15,000,000.00, while the wholesale business is estimated over $25,000,000.00 annually and the payroll of the city is estimated between four and five million dollars.

Although the oil industry is one of the latest assets to Corsicana's business and progress, the city has had a conservative and substantial growth and is assured a permanent future as an agriculture and commercial center.

Corsicana is the County Seat of Navarro County. The County was created from Robinson [Robertson] County in 1846 and was named for Col. Jose Navarro, then a member of the State Senate. In 1849 a large section of the County was cut off, out of which the Counties of Ellis and Tarrant were formed, reducing Navarro County to its present size. Before the sub-division, the County Seat was located at Forrest Store, twenty-five miles Northwest of Corsicana on Chambers Creek and what is now Ellis County.

The city of Corsicana was laid out in 1849 and is one of the oldest cities in the State of Texas. The Chamber of Commerce is one of the liveliest organizations of the city and has done much in advancing the interest of the town. Its membership includes virtually all of the progressive business men of the city.

One notable fact about the growth and progress of Corsicana is that the city has not become the victim of confusion like most nearly all boom oil fields, but instead has had a sane and conservative growth. The city being the largest place in the vicinity of the Central Texas oil fields, it has not only become the commercial shipping center for this district, but a residence of a large number of oil men who have either rented or built homes and commute to and from the oil fields daily. The city has a splendid library, fine schools and a splendid Young Men's Christian Association Building and other advantages which tend to make Corsicana an attractive place in which to live. 

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Navarro County TXGenWeb
Copyright March, 2009
Edward L. Williams & Barbara Knox