MASTERSON, TX (KFDA) - Every event has a "first."
The first oil well, the first automobile, the first man on the moon.
Then there's the first natural gas well that marked the discovery of what a historical marker calls the largest natural gas field in the world and the start of the oil and gas boom of the 20's and 30's.
The marker, about 30 miles north of Amarillo on U.S. 287 in rural Potter County, commemorates the finding of the Panhandle-Hugoton Gas Field by Charles Gould. It says he made the discovery of the geological formation suggesting gas underground in 1905.
It took about a dozen years to start getting natural gas out of what was later named the Panhandle-Hugoton field. Construction began in November 1917 and took slightly less than a year to complete.
In its early days, the Hapgood-Masterson No. 1 well put out five million cubic feet of gas a day. The field it is part of sends its abundance to many places in the Midwest like Chicago, according to the marker, and West Coast cities like Los Angeles.
Even better news is that the well is still producing natural gas that is being refined at the Pioneer Natural Resources Fain Plant just south of the Dumas Highway.
"These days we have science to help us find gas fields," said Cole Camp, an environmental specialist with Pioneer. "In those days they relied on their best guess, which is where the term 'wildcatter' came from," Camp said.
Amarillo has been called a "cow town, but it's also an oil and gas town … Think of the names associated with our industry," he said, ticking off the names Bivins, Harrington and Masterson. "That influence continues to this day, I suppose, with the Pools," Joe and Arlene, he said.
Camp said, "we have a saying around here that 'This isn't your father's oil field,'" meaning fossil fuel companies take extraordinary care to ensure worker safety and environmental protection.
"They didn't have OSHA back then … It is so much safer now," he said.
He noted that in the old days, the roughnecks would erect wooden derricks they would use to drill down and tap into natural gas in the ground.
When the well field ran dry, "They would just burn the derricks down … Imagine trying to dismantle a wooden derrick and transporting it to another location."
The original well cost $70,000 to develop. It began producing gas in December 1918 from 2,605 feet deep, according to the marker.
"This discovery initiated the development of this great gas field and of the Panhandle oil fields," it says.
The gas field now extends about 275 north into Kansas and is as wide as 90 miles in some places.