in a Pecan Shell
In 1901 farmer and rancher J.W. Lochridge
was having a water well dug on his property when the hired well-digger struck
oil. This opened Texas’ first North
Texas oil field. When word got out, absentee landowners returned by the droves
to claim the mineral rights to their holdings and the resulting community became
known as Oil City. The boom town applied the name to its post office when it opened
in June of 1904. Later, with the arrival of the Wichita Falls and Oklahoma Railroad
(1904), another town named Petrolia (after a Pennsylvania town of that name) came
Oil City residents moved the few miles to Petrolia, and then
Petrolia opened its own post office. After 13 months in operation, the Oil City,
Texas post office closed its doors.
In late 1905 Petrolia was thriving
with all essential businesses, including a furniture store and an ice house. Clay
County was technically “dry” but being a boom town, the community lived up to
the reputation of boom towns everywhere. The sale of liquor, along with gambling
and prostitution were tolerated, even as the community developed five church congregations
(by 1914). From just over 500 residents in 1914, the town peaked at 914, in the
mid-1920s. Petrolia decided to incorporate sometime prior to 1930 but the Great
Depression took its toll and the number of resident declined to a low-water mark
of just under 600 in the 1940s.
WWII, the Wichita Falls
and Oklahoma Railroad abandoned its line and the rails went to the war effort.
The population began a slow recovery, reaching 762 residents in the early 1990s.