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Norman No. 1, Neodesha, Wilson County

Norman No. 1In 1891, four Neodesha businessmen contacted William M. Mills, a Pennsylvania man who had drilled gas wells and installed gas distributions systems in several southeast Kansas cities. They asked him to drill exploratory wells in the area in the hope of producing a supply of natural gas for Neodesha.

T. J. Norman, a local blacksmith, owned a four-acre garden plot on the edge of town that was chosen for the first drilling site. Mills struck oil on Norman's land on November 28, 1892. Named Norman No. 1 in honor of the blacksmith, the well initially produced twelve barrels of oil a day. Norman No. 1 was the first oil well west of the Mississippi River to produce a commercial quantity of oil. It was also the first well drilled in the vast Mid-Continent oil field that covers parts of Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana, and Texas. The Mid-Continent field became the major oil-producing region in the United States through the late 1930s. Norman No. 1, by opening up the Mid-Continent field, made possible the competition that eventually broke Standard Oil's stranglehold on the American petroleum industry.

This major oil discovery ushered in a new era for Neodesha and the state. By 1904, Kansas was producing four million barrels of crude oil per year and, in 1925, ranked fifth among the states in oil production.

Norman No. 1 was abandoned in 1919 and remained overgrown along the banks of the Verdigris River until 1961 when a replica of the original derrick was erected on the old well site as a memorial. Today Norman No. 1 is a National Historic Landmark and listed on the National Register of Historic Places. A museum has been built in a city park surrounding the site--a fitting recognition of Norman No. 1's importance as one of the most significant oil discoveries in U. S. and Kansas history.

Entry: Norman No. 1, Neodesha, Wilson County

Author: Kansas Historical Society

Author information: The Kansas Historical Society is a state agency charged with actively safeguarding and sharing the state's history.

Date Created: December 2004

Date Modified: November 2010

The author of this article is solely responsible for its content.