Texas Tea...In Nebraska??
On November 2, 1939, the Falls City Journal's banner headline trumpeted "State's First Commercial Oil Well
Believed Struck Near City." High hopes rested on Boice One, an oil well being developed on the nearby Boice farm. The well
was being drilled by the Pawnee Royalty Company of Odessa, Texas, which was owned by brothers Bill and Burl Guinn.
Boice One appeared capable of producing 130-150 barrels of oil daily. That amount would easily qualify for the bonus
created by the Legislature in 1903 for the first oil well in the state that could produce fifty barrels of oil a day for sixty
The Guinns were confident that Boice One would capture the $15,000 bonus offered by the state that had remained unclaimed
for more than 35 years. "It took some of us Texas rookies to show you there was oil in Nebraska," Bill Guinn said. Local newspaper
accounts record crowds mobbing the Boice farm to see the well and fill a pop bottle with oil from the well as a souvenir.
Alf Comes to Town
Richardson County boomed with excitement as news of the oil strike
brought royalty and lease buyers as well as other oil industry players to the area. Even Alf M. Landon, the successful Kansas
oil man, but unsuccessful 1936 presidential candidate, stopped in Falls City. Landon was enthusiastic about the oil field
and the possibility of establishing a refinery in the city.
After nearly two weeks of pumping, two truckloads of oil totaling
6,972 gallons were hauled to the Searle refinery in Omaha. A welcoming convoy accompanied the oil truck as it paraded through
Omaha on its way to the refining plant.
The landowners on which Boice One was located made only $19.50 on the first truckloads
delivered to Omaha. Under the lease, the landowners received an eighth of the oil without paying any of the expenses. The
refinery paid 94 cents per barrel, about $10.56 in today's dollars.
Wax and Water Woes
Pumping to qualify for the $15,000 bonus offered by the Legislature began
on November 20, 1939. As production began to fall at Boice One, efforts to boost production only resulted in an increase in
water with the oil. The Journal's December 9 headline told Falls Citians the news: Boice One Fails. Pumping at the well came
to a halt because of paraffin clogging (Paraffin is a hydrocarbon-based component of oil that is separated from oil during
the refining process. Excessive amounts of paraffin in the oil often led to abandonment of wells).
Undaunted, the Guinn
brothers persevered in their attempts to bring in a commercial well in Nebraska. But, the second well on Mabel Meyer's farm
also encountered excessive water problems, yielding several barrels of water for each barrel of oil.
Third Time A Charm
The brothers' third attempt was at the Bucholz farm. On May 29, 1940, official
testing of Bucholz One began, and on July 27, 1940, the Pawnee Royalty Company's Bucholz One was declared the winner of the
$15,000 bonus, about $170,000 in today's dollars. Bucholz One had produced an average of 169 barrels of oil a day.
As a commercial well, Boice One was a failure. Its success was that it created interest in oil well prospects around
Falls City and verified that commercial production in the state was possible.
Production in Richardson County peaked in 1941 with 1.88 million barrels just two years after Boice One and
quickly subsided to 1.3 million barrels in 1942. In spite of the oil production decline, Falls City was still calling itself
"Oil Capitol of Nebraska" in 1951.
While oil wells are still pumping in Richardson County more than 55 years after Boice One, the region long ago relinquished
the state's oil crown to Red Willow and Hitchcock Counties