Columbus Marion Joiner had two towns named after him. Just like the oil business the old wildcatter loved so much, one burg went bust while the other boomed.
“Dad” Joiner, best remembered for bringing in the 1930 discovery well of the East Texas Oil Field, was born March 12, 1860, in Alabama.
He grew up to be a lawyer in Tennessee, where he also served in the state Legislature. He moved to Oklahoma, got into the oil game, made a fortune and lost it.
By 1923 he was in Archer County (just south of Wichita Falls) drilling wells. Around Joiner’s oil leases grew a small community called Dad’s Corner, which boasted a hotel, school, several stores and an ice house.
Texas Rangers and Archer County sheriff’s deputies often dispensed heavy-handed justice on rowdy roustabouts in Dad’s Corner. Eventually, the oil played out and so did the community.
By 1927 Joiner was in East Texas drilling for oil. Geologists were convinced no major fields lay under the Piney Woods. Indeed, numerous dry holes had been drilled in Rusk County when “Dad” came along.
Joiner’s first two wells on Daisy Bradford’s farm west of Henderson were failures, but he hoped the third would be the charm. In early October 1930, the Daisy Bradford No. 3 blew in before several thousand excited spectators.
“Hour after hour was spent in persistent swabbing and finally, just as the sun was sinking behind the western hills, with a roar that could be heard for a mile or more, the oil came gushing over the top of the derrick,” Joiner recalled in 1934. “The assembled crowd went wild with enthusiasm as the flood gates of potential wealth were opened and East Texas came into its own.”
Many folks thought Joiner simply had been lucky, that he’d played a hunch and discovered oil.
But Joiner insisted his decision to drill on Daisy Bradford’s farm had followed “many months of painstaking and weary exploratory work, checking surface formations, (and) as much other scientific research as was possible under the strained financial circumstances under which I labored at the time.”
When wells soon came in near Kilgore and Longview, the oil boom was on. What became known as the East Texas Oil Field (covering parts of five counties) turned out to be the biggest field in the United States.
H.L. Hunt bought Joiner’s leases for some $1.3 million, but the two later went to court over the deal. By 1934 Hunt was being sued by his ex-wife for half of his fortune. Reported Time magazine: “‘Dad’ Joiner has been in courts for the better part of the last four years.”
Joiner never found another great field. He died in Dallas on March 27, 1947. He was 87.
Originally called Cyril, the Rusk County area where the Daisy Bradford well came in became known as “Joinerville.” Unlike Dad’s Corner, Joinerville survived and today is home to 140 residents.
Kilgore’s impressive East Texas Oil Museum, located on the campus of Kilgore College at U.S 259 and Ross Avenue, has plenty about “Dad” Joiner and the oil-boom days.
In October 1980, the East Texas Oil Museum was donated to Kilgore College by Placid Oil Co. It’s considered one of the premier petroleum museums in the nation. Visit easttexasoilmuseum.kilgore.edu for more information. The museum is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday and closed on Sundays, Mondays and Tuesdays.
Then there is Joinerville’s Gaston Museum. Located on Texas 64 six miles west of Henderson, the museum has a large collection of boom-era exhibits, memorabilia and historic structures. The Gaston Museum is open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays, and from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturdays.
Visit gastonmuseum.org for more information.