Editor’s note: Adapted from a column that was published in 2013.Barney Skipper, born in Alabama in 1882, was a farmer and real-estate man in Longview. For 25 years he’d tried to get petroleum companies to drill in Gregg County.
As early as 1915, Skipper assembled a block of leases and traveled to Shreveport to talk to an oil firm there. The firm’s officials said “no thank you.”
In 1919, with Skipper’s support, Longview published a large brochure extolling the city’s virtues. The brochure said:
“The vicinity of Longview has been regarded by geologists as a favorable locality for prosecuting by oil men … It goes without saying that if oil or gas in paying quantities is discovered, it will give Longview a tremendous boost and assure her rapid growth in population and productive industry.”
In truth, most geologists believed there was nary a pint of oil underneath Gregg County.
But Skipper wasn’t deterred. He eventually assembled a lease of several thousand acres northwest of Longview. In 1929, Skipper and his wife mailed out 750 letters to oil firms all over the country, trying to interest them in drilling in Gregg County.
All 750 companies turned him down.
One day a couple of oil men told Skipper they’d be glad to take the leases off his hands for several thousand dollars. Skipper said thanks but no thanks. His wife told the men, “I’m with my husband. I’ve worn patches before and I can wear them again if we’re wrong on this, but I won’t ask him to sell the leases.”
Skipper finally put together a deal with W.A. Moncrief and John Farrell to drill what would be called the F.K. Lathrop A-1 well.
On Jan. 26, 1931, thousands gathered to witness the well come in “with an estimated flow of 14,000 to 20,000 barrels of oil daily.”
The Gregg County discovery well today sits inside the Longview corporate limits off Brent Road, just north of Tenneryville Road (FM 2605).
Barney Skipper died in 1957. He had been proven right after all. There was oil — a lot of oil — under Gregg County.