Columbus Marion “Dad” Joiner was a familiar name to folks in the early days of the oilfields in Oklahoma and Texas. The East Texas town of Joinerville is named for him. Joiner is credited for having discovered the East Texas oil field in 1930 when his third wildcat well came in west of Henderson, Texas.
He was born in Alabama in 1860. He had little, if any, formal schooling. Orphaned at an early age, Joiner was raised by a sister and had learned to read and write by reading Shakespeare and the Bible. It was said, perhaps jokingly, that Joiner quoted the Bible to the men and quoted poetry to the ladies. Even in his later years though, he had an astounding ability to quote Bible passages. Joiner married while still a young man. Despite not having much formal education, entered the practice of law in Tennessee. He also served in the Tennessee state legislature from 1889 to 1891. Around 1900, he was inspired to move to Oklahoma, drawn by the prospect of cheap land. Once there, he speculated in land sales, accumulating as much as 12,000 acres before losing it in 1907, in one of the economic boom and bust downturns that occurred in the area.
Around that time, he became acquainted with another individual named Joseph I. Durham, also known as A. D. “Doc” Lloyd, an uneducated but self-styled geologist, who interested Joiner in his most recent venture, predicting where oil could be found. The pair came close to discovering two fields in Oklahoma but had stopped drilling just short of the pays. Around 1926 the pair came to Texas. Lloyd was focused on East Texas, and the duo started buying up mineral eases in the yet undeveloped area. They worked for years without success until the fall of 1930. On the land of Daisy Bradford just outside Henderson in Rusk County, they began drilling using a rickety pine rig, with their operation being financed on a shoestring budget. There was nothing impressive about their setup, which was powered by a sawmill boiler. After two test wells with no success, Joiner brought in a new and more experienced driller. They began drilling the Daisy Bradford No. 3, which Joiner had financed by bringing in outside investors that he had attracted with his salesmanship. After one month of drilling, the well came in.
(Image credit: American Oil and Gas Historical Society)
The Daisy Bradford No. 3 was the first successful discovery well in the area. Others were drilling around the same time. Deep Rock Oil Company’s Ashby No. 1 came in about a mile from the Bradford and it was quickly followed by the Lou Della Crim No. 1 at a location 12 miles north of Joiner’s well. Yet another well, the Lathrop No. 1, came in at a location 12 to 15 miles further north of the Lou Della Crim. In an interesting sidelight, Lou Della Crim, after whom the well was named, had inherited the farm where the well was being drilled in her front yard. When the last of her parents died, the heirs including Lou Della split up the various assets including gold coins and other valuables. Lou Della took the old farm, perhaps more for sentimental reasons than for its value. She was described as a devoutly religious woman and it is fitting that she was away at church on the morning that the well came in. No one could have known, but the oil under the farm was far more valuable than all the other assets combined. Another tale about the Lou Della Crim was that Lou Della’s son Malcolm Crim had reportedly been told of the oil deposit by a fortune teller, though that was not an unusual occurrence in those days. Apparently since the very early days of the Texas oil boom, it was a common prediction.
The initial supposition was that the Bradford, Ashby, Crim and Lathrop wells were each separate discoveries, until comparisons were made of the depths of the wells, the sands the pays were in and other similarities. These lead to speculation that the East Texas find could be as much as fifty times larger than Spindletop, which itself had dwarfed Navarro County’s field.
Regarding the Daisy Bradford No. 3, Joiner’s creative but complicated financial arrangements led him into a number of lawsuits from investors which, at the age of 70, he was not looking forward to dealing with. He had become acquainted with H. L. Hunt, who after meeting with Joiner for two days in a Dallas hotel, had offered him $1.26 million for his leases (quite a sum in 1930) and 4,000 acres of land, and Joiner accepted. Though reportedly also cash poor at the time, Hunt, was able to hold on to these mineral interests and others and make a fortune from them.
Joiner ultimately left his wife and family, remarried and effectively retired, living on his windfall. He lived another 17 years but died with no appreciable estate in 1947. Doc Lloyd’s East Texas success was not repeated and he never again found a strike like the Daisy Bradford No. 3. He, like Joiner, also had died at the age of 87 in 1941. The East Texas oil boom they began has continued on and as many as thirty thousand wells were producing at one time. It was the largest single oil find in the United States other than in Alaska, and it still continues producing today.
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