Stutsman County oil boom a bust in 1922

The first North Dakota well started pumping crude in 1951 near Tioga.

JSSP Keith Norman Column Sig
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A century ago, in late December 1922, Stutsman County was planning for an oil boom.

The Jamestown Alert proclaimed “Signs of oil in Pingree and Jim Lake districts” in its Dec. 28, 1922, edition.

The article went on to report a new well drilled to provide water to a farm near Pingree not only struck water but natural gas and crude oil.

“With the water, much gas and some oil were found,” wrote the Alert editor. “The gas was sufficient to ignite and produced a good sized flame… The oil in the water soon afterward accumulated so much it could be skimmed off like cream.”

It would seem the drilling effort was a bust as far as the water went.


“The oil is said to be so plentiful that at times horses refuse to drink the water,” the Alert continued.

Oil and gas weren’t the principle energy sources 100 years ago.

“It is known that oil is generally found in connection with coal deposits,” wrote the Alert.

Obviously, the great Pingree oil boom never occurred.

While the first oil well in the United States was drilled in Pennsylvania in 1858, the first oil boom occurred in Texas in 1901.

The first North Dakota well started pumping crude in 1951 near Tioga. Exploration for oil in that region had started in the late 1930s but only produced dry holes.

It appears the promotion of oil and gas drilling companies was far more active than actually drilling wells in North Dakota during the 1920s and 1930s. Occasionally, the promotion involved more than a little fraud.

A reported 1925 discovery of oil in Kidder County was found to actually have been commercially available gasoline poured into the well and then “discovered.”


Over the years, there have been additional explorations for oil and gas in Stutsman and the surrounding counties. None of them have paid off.

And since 1951, the amount of oil produced in North Dakota has increased from zero to a peak of 1.12 million barrels per day in 2021.

None of that is produced in Stutsman County but at least the horses can drink the water.

Author Keith Norman can be reached at

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