El Dorado: Legacy of an Oil Boom
In 1915, workers struck oil at a well in Butler County, Kansas, called Stapleton #1. Over the next several years, civilian and military demand for oil transformed what had once been the farm towns of Augusta, Towanda, and El Dorado (pronounced El Dor-AY-do in local parlance) into petroleum communities. Risk-taking entrepreneurs supported drilling and exploration that brought wealth to some and loss to others. Teams of geologists, using what were still novel and experimental techniques, fanned out across the prairie to find the right places to drill. Workers found employment that was hard and dangerous but offered excitement and opportunity. Families of those workers set up new lives in company towns such as Oil Hill and Midian. Drilling, refining, and related industries supported a wide range of activities. Oil money financed the budding aviation industry in neighboring Wichita, which literally launched the resources from under the ground into the sky. While the petroleum industry changed in the years that followed, the Butler County oil boom has lived on in the companies, the people, and the very landscape of the region.
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