Violet Blakeley, mother of Roy J. Blakeley; East Texas (circa 1941)
Samuel and Mattie Blakeley (circa 1930), parents of James Louise Blakeley
Today, December 10, 1992 is the birth date of my darling. As I sit here today, I am trying to recall a scene from 64 years past and a woman is giving birth to a baby boy. It was December 10, 1928. The mother's name was Violet Mae Blakeley and the father was James Louis Blakeley. The birth was at home in Wink, Texas with Great Grandmother [Mattie] Blakeley attending her. They named the baby Roy James Blakeley. Violet's mother passed away when she was twelve so she grew up without a mother. That is why Grandmother Blakeley was there with her instead of her own mother.
The day will be special in my heart for the rest of my life for the birth of this baby boy would in later years change my life forever. It would have such an impact on my life that I would be changed forever. You see I was not even born yet, not even thought of yet....seven years later I arrived; born at home to John Lewis and Edna Louise (Gideon) Ashton in Rotan, Texas. I am eternally grateful for having these two parent who loved me so much. I will not know love like this ever again since they have passed on.
At the age of 18 and 25 we were married after a three year romance. This love affair was to be one that took me from "sheer ecstasy" to "despair".
Our three children will not be able to know how it was, for he is no longer here nor the father and mother. When his mother passed on it was like my last link to him and the past was gone; except, for my children and they will only know what I can tell them.
- "My Darling"; Johnnye Blakeley, December 10, 1992.
Roy James Blakeley, newborn son of James Louis and Violet Blakeley (1929)
Roy James Blakeley was born on December 10, 1928 in the newly found oil field town, Wink, in Winkler County, Texas. His parents were James Louis, born in McCaulley, Fisher County, Texas, and Violet Mae, née Vickrey, born in rural Collingsworth County, Texas. His father worked the oil fields as a roustabout. The workers called him "Blackie" due to his dark, black hair.
A roustabout is "any unskilled manual laborer on the rigsite. A roustabout may be part of the drilling contractor's employee workforce, or may be on location temporarily for special operations. Roustabouts are commonly hired to ensure that the skilled personnel that run an expensive drilling rig are not distracted by peripheral tasks, ranging from cleaning up location to cleaning threads to digging trenches to scraping and painting rig components. Although roustabouts typically work long hard days, this type of work can lead to more steady employment on a rig crew."
Source: (Oilfield Glossary: Schlumberger)
"Roustabouts painting an oil well, Seminole oil fields, Oklahoma"; Russell Lee, photographer; Farm Security Administration - Office of War Information Photograph Collection; Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, Washington, D.C. (1939); https://www.loc.gov/item/2017740866/
"Roustabouts during a lull in painting of derrick. Seminole oil field, Oklahoma"; Russell Lee, photographer; Farm Security Administration - Office of War Information Photograph Collection; Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, Washington, D.C. (1939); https://www.loc.gov/resource/fsa.8a26942/
"Roustabouts during a lull in painting of derrick. Seminole oil field, Oklahoma"; Russell Lee, photographer; Farm Security Administration - Office of War Information Photograph Collection; Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, Washington, D.C. (1939); https://www.loc.gov/item/2017740863/
"Home and family of oil field roustabout. Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. During periods of unemployment the woman takes in washing and ironing"; Russell Lee, photographer; Farm Security Administration - Office of War Information Photograph Collection; Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, Washington, D.C. (1939); https://www.loc.gov/item/2017784113
"Wink is on Monument Draw, State Highway 115, and Farm Road 1232, seven miles southwest of Kermit in southwestern Winkler County. It began in 1926, when oil was discovered in Hendrick oilfield in Winkler County. By mid-1927 the Wink Townsite Company was selling lots in Horse Wells pasture of the T. G. Hendrick Ranch. The oil boom brought new people to Wink, causing a shortage of housing. Newcomers set up tents and built makeshift houses. Wink was originally named Winkler for the county. When a post office was requested, postal authorities notified the applicant that there was a Winkler, Texas, post office already in operation. The citizens shortened the name to Wink and received a post office in 1927. That year the first public school was organized, and a temporary building was constructed. A Sunday school was started by November 1927, and the population of the town was reported at 3,500. By 1929 that number climbed to 6,000. The boom brought lawlessness-bootlegging, prostitution, gambling-to Wink."
"Wink, Winkler County, Texas"; Julia Cauble Smith; Handbook of Texas Online; Published by the Texas State Historical Association; accessed June 27, 2021
Wink, Texas; Google Maps (Map View)
Boom Days; "Shooting in an Oil Well"; Wink, Texas (1928)
World-Famous "Wild Mary Sudik": "Clever equipment" brought a 1930 headline-making Oklahoma City gusher under control."
"The 1930 geyser of "black gold" was ideal for Hollywood newsreels as the worst of the Great Depression loomed. NBC Radio rushed to cover efforts to control the "Wild Mary Sudik" blow-out and gusher. Within a week the struggle to contain the Oklahoma City oilfield well made headlines worldwide.
The Mary Sudik No. 1 well had erupted after striking a high-pressure formation about 6,500 feet beneath the Sudik farm. The Indian Territory Illuminating Oil Companyís well flowed for 11 days before being brought under control.
The well produced an astonishing 20,000 barrels of oil and 200 million cubic feet of natural gas a day—too much for the drilling technologies of the day. Efforts to tame "Wild Mary" became a public sensation. The attempts were regularly featured in newsreels and on radio, according to Oklahoma Journeys, an audio program of the Oklahoma History Center in Oklahoma City.
"At about 6:30 the morning of March 26, 1930, the crew of roughnecks drilling a well on the property of Vincent Sudik paused in their work," the program begins about the well drilled near present day I-240 and Bryant Street in Oklahoma City. "The tired drillers had been waiting for daylight to continue their work," the audio tape notes.
The crew was unfamiliar with the formationís hazards, explains narrator Michael Dean, who says that after drilling to 6,471 feet, they overlooked signs of a dangerous pressure increase in the well. "The exhausted crew failed to fill the hole with mud" he reports. "They didnít know the Wilcox Sand formation was permeated with natural gas under high pressure, and within minutes that sand under so much pressure found a release."
The drilling crew was caught off guard when oil and natural gas suddenly "came roaring out of the hole," Dean adds. Pipe stems were thrown hundreds of feet into the air like so many tooth picks. First there was gas then the flow turned green gold and then black. Oil shot hundreds of feet into the air, and for the next eleven days, the Mary Sudik ran wild.
"Wild Mary Sudik" Daily Updates
On April 6, Floyd Gibbons of NBC Radio—who broadcast regularly about the well—reported that after two unsuccessful attempts, the well was closed with a two-ton "overshot" cap.
An Associated Press article described the "clever equipment" required to control the well without sparking a fire—a "double die was screwed into four inches of casing threads... a clever ball-shaped contrivance, called a fantail, was used to affix the double die to the casing."
The fantail was placed over the well, "and the 'Wild Mary's' pressure, playing through jets in the contrivance, aided in lowering the cap through the blast," the article explained. "With the petroleum geyser halted, operators in the field drew sighs of relief," it concluded. "A stray spark from two clanking pieces of steel and the territory might have become a raging inferno."
With the well was brought under control and the danger of fire eliminated, drilling continues at a frantic pace elsewhere in Oklahoma City. But the extremely high-pressure of the Wilcox sands formation continued to challenge drillers and the industry technologies.
The first ram-type blowout preventer had been patented by James Abercrombie in 1926, but many high-pressure oilfields would take time to tame. In December 1933, he patented a greatly improved version that set a new standard for safe drilling during the Oklahoma City oilfield boom.
"World-Famous 'Wild Mary Sudik'"; B. A. Wells and K. L. Wells, American Oil & Gas Historical Society (AOGHS); Original Published Date: March 24, 2013; Last Updated: March 20, 2021; accessed June 30, 2021.
Louis Blakeley either followed the West Texas rig crew he was working with to Oklahoma City or he just headed on his own searching for more work to support his family, with another on the way. On the 1930 Oklahoma City Census completed on April 7, 1930 he's listed as a boarder, occupation—oil field manager. The Oklahoma City Field, progressed so rapidly that with the completion of the Hall-Briscoe Number One Holmes on May 27, 1930, it entered the city limits of Oklahoma City.
"Large pockets of high-pressure natural gas and huge oil production characterized the Oklahoma City field. One well, the Number One McBeth, had a daily flow of 101,002 barrels of oil. When gas pockets were unexpectedly encountered, the result was a runaway gusher that often sprayed entire neighborhoods before the crew controlled the well. The most famous of these was the Wild Mary Sudik. For ten days between March 26 and April 4, 1930, the Wild Mary threw twenty thousand barrels of oil and two hundred million cubic feet of natural gas into the air daily as workmen struggled to cap the well. A black film of oil settled on Norman, eleven miles to the south, and when the wind shifted, the mist fell on Nicoma Park, eleven miles to the north."
Joinerville, Rusk County, Texas; Google Maps (Map View)
Upper East Texas
East Texas Defined:
The definition of East Texas varies. There's Upper East Texas and Deep East Texas, and even South East Texas. As a generality, East Texas is considered to be the region east of Interstate 45, and west of the Louisiana border. The northern border is Oklahoma, while the southern edge is the Gulf of Mexico.
Upper East Texas:
The 23–county Upper East Texas region stretches from the piney woods bordering Louisiana and Arkansas to the eastern edge of the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex.
Deep East Texas:
The 12–county Deep East Texas region stretches from Nacogdoches County south down to Tyler County, and from Trinity County eastward to Newton County on the Louisiana border. It includes cities such as Nacogdoches, Crockett, Lufkin, Center, Livingston, Woodville and Jasper.
South East Texas:
The 3–county South East Texas region includes Hardin, Orange and Jefferson Counties, and cities such as Orange, Beaumont, Lumberton, Silsbee, Vidor, Kountze, and Port Arthur. It borders the Sabine River to the east, and the Gulf of Mexico to the south.
News Article Headline: "Joiner Well, Rusk County, Makes Heads: Test West of Henderson Flows 70 Barrels in 22 Minutes; Heads Every 3 Hours"; The Times; Shreveport, Louisiana; 05 Oct 1930, Sun; Page 1.
Henderson, Texas, Oct. 4. (Staff Special). —After flowing over the top of the derrick about 8 o'clock Friday night, C. M. Jolner's Bradford No. 3 wildcat well seven miles west of here, was flowing by heads Saturday. Oil scouts here say it will make 6,000 barrels dally when cleaned out...
Hundreds of people watched Ed Lasseter [sic], head driller, send the bailer down twice and although there was plenty of gas pressure and some oil, the well failed to clean itself. The scene at the well was typical of such developments. A solt drink stand did a land office business and the empty bottle cases were appropriated by tired spectators as seats. Enterprising farmers rented parking space to the hundreds of motorists visiting the scene eacn hour and an equally enterprising youth scooped up several buckets full of oil from hollows in the ground near the well and sold it in bottles, neatly labeled, "Joiner's well, born Oct. 3, 1930" for 25 cents for about three thimbles full.
The showing of the well boomed prices for leases and royalty. Everyone in Henderson and Rusk counties had the "Joiner well" prospects on the end of his tongue. Map salesmen quickly sold all their blueprints. Chief of Police Henry Hays and his assistants were kept busy moving traffic in the Henderson downtown section, although parking space was provided for more automobiles than is usual in towns the size of Henderson.
One of the deals reported here Saturday was that made by the Orr brothers, who operate a filling station here. They sold a lease on 20 acres of land one and one-half miles southwest of the discovery well for $10,000 or at the rate or $500 per acre.
Oil operators are here from the entire nation but prospects for immediate development rest with Texas and Louisiana operators...
From Henderson, concrete pavement extends to within one mile of the well. That one mile is red clay and in wet weather will be very difficult to negotiate. That one mile is red clay and in wet weather will be very difficult to negotiate.
A town site has been laid out where travelers turn off the pavement to go to the well and several buildings, very neat appearing, already have been built. Other signs announce: 40-room hotel to be built here, first-class restaurant will be built here at once, and so on...
"Joiner Well, Rusk County, Makes Heads: Test West of Henderson Flows 70 Barrels in 22 Minutes; Heads Every 3 Hours"; The Times; Shreveport, Louisiana; 05 Oct 1930, Sun; Page 1.
Oil drilling heated up in the Piney Woods of East Texas after Columbus Marion "Dad" Joiner's discovery well located on the 970-acre Daisy Bradford farm—the Daisy Bradford #3 well, came in on September 5, 1930. The giant East Texas oil field which, with an estimated recovery of 6 billion barrels of oil, became the largest oil field in the world at that time. The original East Texas discovery well still pumps oil for the Hunt Oil Company from a field that was, at the time, the largest ever discovered and remains the largest and most prolific oil reservoir ever found in the contiguous US.
Roy James Blakeley (2-1/2 years old) and brother, David Cleveland (6 months old); July 1931
On February 21, 1931 the Louis and Violet Blakeley welcomed into the world their second son and final child, David Cleveland Blakeley.
Not long thereafter, oilfield work took the Louis Blakeley family to Joinerville, Rusk County, Texas in the heart of this huge East Texas oil field. Joinerville was originally called Cyril, and then Miller or Miller Schoolhouse. In 1930, the name was officially changed to "Joinerville", in honor of Columbus Marion Joiner, the wildcatter who discovered the East Texas Oil Field. The dirt road to the discovery well, Daisy Bradford No. 3, intersected the Henderson-Tyler highway at Joinerville.
Map of East Texas Oil Field (1933); Cartographer: E. D. Ray; Texas General Land Office Map #93949
"This pictorial map of the East Texas oil field was drawn by E. D. Ray in 1933. Representing over 10,000 wells, the map was drawn to convey the incredible growth generated in the region after the discovery of oil by C. M. 'Dad' Joiner in 1930.
Joiner drilled the Daisy Bradford #3 well on land that was long rejected for exploration near Turnertown and Cyril (renamed Joinerville in his honor) in Rusk County. After his strike, the biggest oil leasing campaign in history ensued, and the activity spread to include Kilgore, Longview, and a five-county region.
A disclaimer on the map indicates that cities and roads are not plotted to scale or with particular accuracy. Instead, the map features whimsical drawings of cars, people and buildings with many tongue-in-cheek labels such as 'Bus loaded with suckers,' or 'Load of Lawyers on way to Tyler to get injunctions.'
To this day the East Texas oil field remains the largest oil field in the contiguous United States and has produced some 5.2 billion barrels of oil."
Joinerville Section of Map of East Texas Oil Field (1933); Cartographer: E. D. Ray; Texas General Land Office Map #93949
Daisy Bradford #3 derrick; Rusk County, Texas
Roy James Blakeley and brother, David Cleveland (1933)
Roy James Blakeley and brother, David Cleveland (1933)
Roy James Blakeley (front row, 5th from left); 1st Grade Class, Gaston School, Joinerville, Texas (1935)
Roy James Blakeley (front row, far right); 2nd Grade Class, Gaston School, Joinerville, Texas (1936)
Roy James Blakeley (2nd row, 2nd from right); 3rd Grade Class, Gaston School, Joinerville, Texas (1937)
Relatively little known today, a terrible tragedy occurred at the London School in New London, Rusk County, Texas, less than five miles away from where the Blakeleys lived at the time in Joinerville at 3:17 PM, Thursday, March 18, 1937. The explosion blast at that school was reportedly heard four–five miles away. Whether anyone actually heard it in the Blakeley family—possibly, but I don't recall that tragedy being discussed around me, even by my grandparents. I've been aware of it for many years because my mother said something about it happening, but all she knew was that it happened while the Louis Blakeley family was living in Joinerville.
Acclaimed newsman Walter Cronkite later admitted in a 1977 interview, "I did nothing in my studies nor in my life to prepare me for a story of the magnitude of that New London tragedy, nor has any story since that awful day equaled it."
Roy James Blakeley and brother, David Cleveland (1936)
Roy James Blakeley (2nd from right) and brother, David Cleveland (far left); May 1938
Roy James Blakeley (left) and brother, David Cleveland (middle); May 1938
Roy James Blakeley and brother, David Cleveland on horse (May 1938)
1940 Rusk County Federal Census; (James Louis Blakeley family page)
Roy Blakeley; East Texas Area Council - Boy Scouts of America Certificate of Award; Second Class Rank; Troop No. 218, Joinerville, Texas (April 8, 1941)
"'The Big Inch and Little Big Inch' were two pipelines laid during World War II from East Texas to the northeast states. Secretary of the Interior Harold Ickes realized as early as 1940 that shipment of petroleum to the northeast by tanker ships would be impossible in time of war because of German submarines. In 1941, at Ickes's urging, oil industry executives began to plan the building of two pipelinesĖone, twenty-four inches in diameter, called the Big Inch, to transport crude oil, and another, twenty inches in diameter, called the Little Big Inch, to transport refined products. Although Ickes asked the Federal Allocation Board for steel to build the pipelines, he was turned down in September and again in November 1941. After the attack on Pearl Harbor another request, now to the War Production Board, was rejected, but Ickes still persuaded Jubal Richard Parten to head the Petroleum Administration for War transportation department. On June 10, 1942, the WPB gave approval for the first section of the Big Inch, which stopped in Illinois. Construction was through a private company, War Emergency Pipelines, Incorporated, but the pipelines were owned by the federal government through its Defense Plant Corporation, a subsidiary of the Reconstruction Finance Corporation.
Work began on the Big Inch on August 3, 1942. The WPB approved the second leg of the pipeline on October 26, 1942. A ditch four feet deep, three feet wide and 1,254 miles long was to be dug from Longview across the Mississippi River to Southern Illinois and then east to Phoenixville, Pennsylvania, with twenty-inch lines from there to New York City and Philadelphia. Crude oil was delivered to the end of the first leg, Norris City, Illinois, on February 13, 1943. By August 14, 1943, the Big Inch had been completed. In January 1943 approval was given for the first half of the Little Big Inch; approval for the entire line was given on April 2. This line, beginning in the refinery complex between Houston and Port Arthur and ending in Linden, New Jersey, was completed on March 2, 1944."
"Big Inch and Little Big Inch"; Jerrell Dean Palmer and John G. Johnson; Handbook of Texas Online; Published by the Texas State Historical Association; accessed July 06, 2021.