Black Gold on the Blackland Prairie

A special thanks the Round Rock Leader for letting
the Historical Commission post these wonderful articles.

The Time Capsules stories are prepared by Bob Brinkman

Texas Historical Commission


Black Gold on the Blackland Prairie

In September 1926, when the country's attention was fixed on the Dempsey-Tunney fight, folks in Central Texas were flocking to Round Rock to marvel at a recent discovery. Prospectors had hit oil northeast of town, and there were hopes of the kind of boom that was turning places like Ranger and Breckenridge into cities overnight. The same land had first yielded oil in 1919, which prompted E. M. Walsh to form the Round Rock Oil Company. And, the county had seen a boom before, when a field south of Thrall raised the population there from 500 to 3,000 in 1915. This time around, hopes were running high for another economic boost, especially since the boll weevil had decimated the county's cotton crop the year before. Cotton production from 1924-25 fell from 106,000 bales (second in the state) to 16,000 (75th).

The wells on the Fause farm yielded up to a dozen barrels each per day at a depth of just 150 feet, a small output but at a very shallow depth, making the venture profitable.

J. V. Edwards and Hoxie Ladd of Austin joined with H. H. Goldman of San Antonio in leasing 4,000 acres in Palm Valley.

The Missouri, Kansas and Texas railroad ran right past the properties, so that the whole operation was convenient and marketable. People drove by every evening for months to watch the activity, with representatives of the major oil companies following with keen interest. Edwards, Goldman and C. V. Lansberry of Round Rock incorporated the Williamson County Development Company to sell the oil to market at $1 per barrel. The activity was fast and furious for months, but the oil companies eventually focused on larger fields near Kilgore and Odessa.

Over the years, Williamson County has produced 9 million barrels of oil, which ranks it 170th of 254 counties. There are still derricks pumping south of Taylor and Thrall, and though the oil boom never stuck in Williamson County, it testifies to the bounty and variety of resources found in the acreage below.