Thomas Baker Slick Sr.

Thomas Baker Slick Sr. (12 October 1883 – 16 August 1930) was born in Shippenville, Pennsylvania, to Johnson M. and Mary A. Baker Slick. He was notable for discovering Oklahoma's then-largest oil field, the Cushing Oil Field.[1]


Oklahoma's largest oil field up to about 1920 was discovered in 1912 by Pennsylvanian Tom Slick who became known as the "King of the Wildcatters". Determined to become a millionaire, Slick came to Oklahoma during the winter of 1911 to find "the big one". Although Slick initially found nothing but "dusters" (dry holes), perseverance and luck eventually brought him to the farm of Frank Wheeler, located approximately 12 miles east of Cushing, Oklahoma, in what became Drumright, Oklahoma, where "the smell of oil sands was perfume to his nostrils". Wheeler had purchased his land, located in the midst of allotments forced upon reluctant Creek Indians, for sixty-five cents an acre shortly before statehood in 1907. Slick soon would make Wheeler a rich man.[2]

Wheeler had heard of the riches of the Osage Nation and Glenn Pool, and he readily agreed to lease his land for a dollar an acre. Slick obtained financial backing from bankers at Bristow and a Tulsa attorney, and soon drilling was underway on the Wheeler No. 1 well. The wary investors pulled out of the project, however, when the well reached a depth of 2,000 feet without results. Slick borrowed a few dollars, traveled to Chicago, and eventually secured the backing of C. B. Shaffer, who had made his fortune in the Pennsylvania oil fields. Then returning to the Wheeler farm, Slick selected a more promising site and began drilling once again. On March 12, 1912 his dreams became reality as his drill bit struck a gigantic gas deposit in a thick stratum of oil-bearing sand. Crude oil spewed forty feet above the derrick. Eventually the well was deepened to between 2,319 and 2,347 feet and produced 400 barrels of oil per day. Within one month Wheeler was receiving $125.00 in royalties every day. Two years later the total royalties had doubled as other producers were brought in on Wheeler's land.

Slick hurriedly informed Shaffer and instructed him to send experienced lease traders. Meanwhile, he quickly capped the well and spread fresh dirt on the pools of oil spilled by the gusher, thereby hoping to keep the new find a secret. The wildcatter also quietly made cash deposits to reserve all the horses and buggies in Cushing to hamper the efforts of competing lease bidders who were sure to descend on the area when news of the strike became widespread. Slick's efforts were successful for a few days, but on March 21, 1912 the Cushing Democrat proclaimed to the world that a "Splendid Oil Find" had taken place. The great rush to the area began.[3]

On 6 May 1916, he became father of a son, Tom Slick, Jr.


  1. Pittman, Kitty. "Slick, Thomas Baker (1883-1930)". Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture - Oklahoma Historical Society. Retrieved May 11, 2013.
  2. Franks, Kenny A. "Petroleum". Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture - Oklahoma Historical Society. Retrieved May 11, 2013.
  3. Franks, Kenny A (September 1981). "Early Oklahoma Oil: A Photographic History, 1859-1936". Montague History of Oil. Texas A & M University Press. p. 245. ISBN 978-0890961100.
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