publications

Drilling for Oil at Shelton

Nebraska’s first producing oil well was drilled in Richardson County in 1940, but prior to that date some drilling had been done in other parts of the state. One such project was at Shelton in Buffalo County. The Kearney Daily Hub reported on June 23, 1910: “The Shelton Oil Well company is pushing work as fast as men and material will allow. There is now on the ground four carloads of material, two cars of oil well machinery, the heaviest and best that has ever been shipped into the state, including a powerful engine and all necessary tubing and drills. The large tower is now up to seventy feet in height and will be completed in a few days. Then the balance of the work of placing the engine and other machinery will be pushed and boring will be begun some time in July.” Local farmers and businessmen were said to be supporting the project liberally “to make this test the most complete ever attempted in the state.”



Work on the well progressed and by October 26, the Hub reported that backers were elated over the prospects for success: “Every indication of oil has made its appearance. The dirt that is now thrown out is tainted with crude oil and when thrown into the river a coat of oil immediately forms on the surface of the water.” Local expectation was that striking oil would “make” not only Shelton, but every town in central Nebraska.



Newspaper coverage during the next five years reveals that the drillers worked on through various mechanical and financial problems to sink several wells but never achieved their goal. The Hub reported on December 11, 1915: “After a five-year lease of life and the expenditure of over $20,000 the Shelton Oil well prospect has gone glimmering. The original company which ‘shot a well’ in the village of Shelton has been defunct for some time and all that remains of the original project is a hole in the ground choked with a diamond drill and a dilapidated collection of shafting and machinery.”



The Hub then summarized the history of the ill-fated project: “The Shelton Oil and Gas company was organized in 1910 and about 200 Shelton men took stock in the company. They spent $20,000 and managed to sink a drill to the depth of 1300 feet when it became fast and work was abandoned. In 1911 the well was sunk to an additional depth of about 1000 feet and then the work was stopped on account of a lack of funds. In 1912 another money raising campaign was successful and drilling was again commenced, only to be abandoned and a receiver appointed for the defunct concern. The property was sold to pay the outstanding indebtedness. A suit was filed to recover $3,435 with interest which still remains unpaid. Later the stockholders were assessed $10 per share and the indebtedness paid and the balance pro rated among the members of the company.”



The remaining company holdings were finally sold in 1915 for $750 to a Tulsa firm, which removed the machinery and equipment to Oklahoma.





oil derrick

Solomon D. Butcher photographed the Morris oil derrick at Shelton, Buffalo County, in 1910. NSHS RG2608-2413



shelton

Bird’s eye view of Shelton in 1910. NSHS RG2608-2420


Become a Member!

Our members make history happen.

Join Now

Other Publications

The Bachelors’ Protective Union of Kearney

When the Bachelors' Protective Union gave a gala reception for two of its newly married, former members and their brides in March of 1890, the social club for young, ...

U.S. Weather Bureau in 1890s Nebraska

The U.S. Weather Bureau was established by an act of Congress on October 1, 1890. It took over the weather service that had been established in the office of the Chief ...

Canning the Way to Victory

During American participation in World War I the U.S. Food Administration, under the direction of Herbert Hoover, launched a massive campaign to persuade Americans to ...

The Shoemaker’s Ashes

"Edward Kuehl, one of the most peculiar characters that ever lived in Omaha, or anywhere else, was found dead in his bed last night in the back room of his place of ...

Crazy Horse Surrender Ledger Foreward

Red Dog, an Oglala Lakota who lived at the Red Cloud Agency, Nebraska, 1876-77 (Nebraska State Historical Society RG2955.ph).   In the summer of 1876, following the ...

Darryl F. Zanuck

Darryl F. Zanuck Darryl F. Zanuck (1902-1979), a native Nebraskan, produced some of Hollywood's most important and controversial films. He helped found 20th Century Fox ...

The Burlington’s Profitable Pork Special

Nebraska railroads were much concerned with developing an adequate economy in the areas they served. The Burlington, for example, had a long history of caring for the ...

Bungalow Filling Stations

After the giant Standard Oil Company was broken into thirty-four separate companies in 1911, the newly independent Standard Oil of Nebraska dominated the state's market ...

The Bull Fight

This is the perfect time of year for a visit to the old fishin' hole. But a group of fisherfolk from Plainview discovered that this bucolic pastime sometimes has ...

Buffalo Soldiers West

African-American soldiers on the western frontier are the focus of an exhibit at the Nebraska History Museum in Lincoln. Buffalo Soldiers West, on loan from the Colorado ...

Protection for Buffalo

The extermination of the buffalo on the Plains occurred largely between 1870 and 1885. The Nebraska State Journal of Lincoln on February 1, 1874, editorialized in vain ...

Buffalo Hunting

In late October 1877 young Rolf Johnson and three friends left their homes in Phelps County, Nebraska, for a buffalo hunt in northeastern Colorado. The hunt was not very ...
About History Nebraska
History Nebraska was founded in 1878 as the Nebraska State Historical Society by citizens who recognized Nebraska was going through great changes and they sought to record the stories of both indigenous and immigrant peoples. It was designated a state institution and began receiving funds from the legislature in 1883. Legislation in 1994 changed History Nebraska from a state institution to a state agency. The division is headed by Interim Director and CEO Jill Dolberg. They are assisted by an administrative staff responsible for financial and personnel functions, museum store services, security, and facilities maintenance for History Nebraska.
Explore Nebraska
Discover the real places and people of our past at these History Nebraska sites.

Upcoming Events

View our new and upcoming events to see how you can get involved.

Become a Member

The work we do to discover, preserve, and share Nebraska's history wouldn't be possible without the support of History Nebraska members.

Latest Hall of Fame Inductee

The Nebraska Hall of Fame was established in 1961 to officially recognize prominent Nebraskans.

Become a Member

The work we do to discover, preserve, and share Nebraska's history wouldn't be possible without the support of History Nebraska members.
Nebraska Collections

History Nebraska's mission is to collect, preserve, and open our shared history to all Nebraskans.

Our YouTube Video Collection

Get a closer look at Nebraska's history through your own eyes, with our extensive video collections.

Additional Research Resources

History Nebraska Research and Reference Services help connect you to the material we collect and preserve.

Support History Nebraska
Make a cash donation to help us acquire, preserve, and interpret Nebraska’s history. Gifts to History Nebraska help leave a legacy and may help your taxes, too! Support the work of History Nebraska by donating to the History Nebraska Foundation today.

Volunteers are the heroes of History Nebraska. So much history, so little time! Your work helps us share access to Nebraska’s stories at our museums and sites, the reference room, and online.