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Texas Forts Trail Region

Participant in the Texas Historical Commission's
Texas Heritage Trails Program

Roaring Ranger


Oil rig at sunset

The Ranger Oil Field shares its name with the nearby Forts Trail Region community known as Ranger, a moniker that arrived by way of the early frontier. In the 1870’s the Texas Rangers, an organized military force along the frontier, maintained a camp near the site of the community and, in fact, provided the genesis of its population and businesses. Ranger spent its early years as beneficiary of the surrounding agricultural economy until the onset of the 1917 drought. The community suffered the strain along with the rest of the state but not for long. The Texas Pacific Coal Company, a coal-mining production company whose profits were declining as oil began to dominate industries once driven by coal-burning processes, figured out a way to alleviate the problem. The Ranger region, part of the Great Plains province, is composed of eroded broad valleys braiding a plateau populated with escarpments, ridges and buttes. The soil is composed chiefly of sand and clay, with the sandy areas dominated by scrubland cleared for crops and the clay regions left to mesquite, live oak, and grazing. But below the surface of this pastoral acreage, Texas Pacific discovered a completely different reality.

Owner William Knox Gordon, with encouragement from Ranger locals, began drilling deep test wells near the community. After only two drilled wells, he hit the jackpot on the second try. The McClesky No. 1 brought in over 1600 barrels of oil per day and signaled the start of a Ranger oil boom (and the transition of Texas Pacific to the Texas Pacific Coal and Oil Company). Gordon continued to poke holes in the ground, coming up with gusher after gusher. Ranger quickly grew from a quiet rural farming community suffering a drought to a boomtown. Tent cities and hastily-built housing sprang up around the field, increasing the Ranger population over ten times its original 586 by the 1920 census. Estimates, however, equal twice that. The oil found a ready market as the nation’s engagement in World War I grew. Neighboring communities benefited as well, including Thurber, home to the Texas Pacific’s headquarters, jumpstarting a construction boom that provided homes to management, local train transport between the community and the oil field for workers and supplies, and a surge of new Model T Fords on the roads. By coincidence the drought broke about the same time, although the inundation of rain in Ranger had the opposite effect as that of the oil, transforming the haphazardly-constructed town into an incubator for typhoid and influenza. By 1921, however, the boom ended and agriculture returned as the primary economic driver in this rural Forts Trail Region. And the Ranger Field? Although not the producer it once was, the field continues to yield oil today.


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Comments

My grandfather built wooden dericks and wooden tanks in Ranger my mother was born in Ranger and all attended schoolin a one room schoolhouse
Glad I ran across this article
Thanks

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