Barret, Lyne Taliaferro (1832–1913)

By: Linda E. Devereaux

Type: Biography

Published: 1976

Updated: May 1, 1995

Lyne Taliaferro (Tol) Barret, pioneer oilman also known as Lynis T. Barrett, the youngest of nine children of Charles Lee and Sarah (Taliaferro) Barret, was born at Appomattox, Virginia, on November 7, 1832. After her husband died in 1842 while the family was on its way to Texas, Mrs. Barret moved her children first to San Augustine County and then to the Barret plantation at Melrose, where she employed a tutor when school was not in session. Lyne Barret's writings attest to his excellent training. He began his career as a clerk and by 1862 had become a partner in the mercantile firm Hardeman Brothers and Barret. He first became interested in the oil industry before the Civil War. He contracted with Lucy W. Skillern to lease 279 acres near Oil Springs on December 15, 1859, but the war stopped his preparations. On July 31, 1862, he received an exemption from military service to oversee his mother's plantation. From about 1863 to 1865 he served as captain of the Quartermaster Corps, Confederate States of America, for the Nacogdoches district.

On December 21, 1865, Barret, Benjamin P. Hollingsworth, Charles A. Hamilton, John T. Flint, and John B. Earle organized the Melrose Petroleum Oil Company. Three drilling contracts had already been made for the benefit of the company, including another one with Skillern heirs on October 9, 1865. Drilling began during the summer of 1866 and resulted in the first producing oil well in the state, which came in at a depth of 106 feet by September 12, 1866. The well, located at Oil Springs, produced about ten barrels a day. Samples were forwarded to the Department of Emigration in New York, which pronounced the oil "superior in all its properties." On the advice of oilmen in Shreveport, Barret went to New York and Pennsylvania to examine equipment before purchase. There he met John F. Carll, a civil engineer, and on March 1, 1867, Barret and others made financial obligations to Carll, who had agreed to run tests and assist in development of the property. According to Barret, Carll's financial backer, Brown Brothers of Titusville, Pennsylvania, wrote on the day of the test that the low price of oil and the political unrest caused by Reconstruction made the development of the field unfeasible. Impatient investors wanted to sell their interest in the company but turned down Barret's offers of land and demanded cash. Despite encouragement by Carll in 1868, when oil prices went up again, the field was never developed. Barret suffered extensive financial loss and returned to the mercantile business in Melrose. Later he saw the field developed with an oil boom in 1887 at what became known as Oil City.

Barret was the first secretary of Ochiltree Masonic Lodge No. 143 of Melrose when it was founded in 1855, and was later master. He was secretary of the Melrose Methodist Church in October 1865 and served as justice of the peace in Melrose in 1862 and 1899. He married Angelina Martha Thomas on August 26, 1857, and they had eleven children. Barret died in Melrose on March 23, 1913. Though he received little acclaim during his lifetime, in 1966 memorial markers were dedicated at his grave in Melrose Providence Baptist Church Cemetery and at Stephen F. Austin State University to mark the 100th anniversary of the drilling of the first producing oil well in Texas. In 1981 a marker was also placed at Barret's home, off Farm Road 2863 five miles south of Nacogdoches.

Lyne Taliaferro Barret Papers, Special Collections Department, Ralph W. Steen Library, Stephen F. Austin State University. C. K. Chamberlain, "Lyne Taliaferro Barret, A Pioneer Texas Wildcatter," East Texas Historical Journal 6 (March 1968). Linda Ericson, "A History of Oil Springs: Texas' First Oil Field, " Texas Historian, January 1972. Charles K. Phillips, Builder of Texas Collection to 1942: Honoring Lyne Taliaferro Barret (MS, Steen Library, Stephen F. Austin State University, Nacogdoches).
  • Oil and Gas Industry
  • Oil Entrepreneurs and Wildcatters

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Linda E. Devereaux, “Barret, Lyne Taliaferro,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed May 21, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

May 1, 1995