Hopes and dreams were noticed floating upon well water in New Castle in 1887. Oil and gas, the stuff of future riches, had been discovered there. A year later, oil and gas would be found across Garfield County. In 1902, the first major development began of the oil and gas fields near DeBeque and throughout Mesa County. That January, reports listing locations of oil-bearing strata, the filings of oil location certificates, and the plans for development dominated the newspapers. However, five months later, the frenzied speculation quieted while investors watched the derricks and tried to determine how much oil and gas existed in the earth below. The boom was over. Only brief mention of the oil fields would be found in the newspapers over the next dozen years.A group of Glenwood Springs investors teamed with out-of-state oil men in 1915 to start fresh, local interest in oil and natural gas development. That September, these investors incorporated the Rifle-DeBeque Oil and Gas Co. With $10,000 in capital, mostly provided by Florida stockholders, and $500 in tools, the company began drilling operations near DeBeque in December 1915. Excitement over oil and natural gas production grew as the newspapers reported the weekly advancements made by the company. Before the month’s end, the company announced plans to pipe natural gas to DeBeque to light the town. The corporation had also filed leases on additional lands and made plans to construct a natural gas powered smelter to process zinc and lead sulfide ores.Broken drilling equipment, worker accidents and tools lost in the well plagued progress. By the annual stockholders meeting of June 27, 1916, the well had reached a depth of 1,135 feet, but no oil had been struck. The dreams of the Rifle-DeBeque Oil and Gas Co. never materialized. The company’s attention faded as the public focused on a new source of energy – oil shale.Frontier Diary” is provided to the Post Independent by the Frontier Historical Society and Museum, 1001 Colorado Ave., Glenwood Springs. Winter hours are 1-4 p.m. Monday and Thursday through Saturday.
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