The first offshore drilling for oil in Texas occurred along Goose Creek in southeast Harris County, twenty-one miles southeast of Houston on Galveston Bay. In 1903 John I. Gaillard noticed bubbles popping to the surface of the water at the point where the creek empties into the bay. With a match he confirmed that the bubbles were natural gas, a strong indication of oil deposits. Royal Matthews leased the Gaillard property and drilled for 2½ years but could not bring in a continuously producing well.
Not until a Houston-based syndicate, Goose Creek Production Company, drilled on the marsh of the bay was oil found, on June 2, 1908, at 1,600 feet. On June 13 the Houston syndicate sold out to Producers Oil Company, a subsidiary of the Texas Company. After drilling twenty dry holes in two years they abandoned the field. The American Petroleum Company, new holders of a lease on Gaillard's land, finally drilled close to the shore. On August 23, 1916, contractor Charles Mitchell brought in a 10,000-barrel gusher at 2,017 feet. Initially the well produced 8,000 barrels daily, a quantity indicating that Goose Creek was a large oilfield. The community changed overnight as men rushed to obtain leases, drill wells, and build derricks. Tents were everywhere, teams hauled heavy equipment, and barges brought lumber and pipe from Houston. Within two months the well leveled off to 300 barrels a day, but by December 1916 drilling along the shores of Goose Creek, Tabbs Bay, and Black Duck Bay had raised production to 5,000 barrels daily. The flow of the average well drilled in 1917 was 1,181 barrels a day. The largest well of the field was Sweet 16 of the Simms-Sinclair Company, which came in on August 4, 1917, gushing 35,000 barrels a day from a depth of 3,050 feet. This well stayed out of control for three days before the crew could close it. World War I oil prices of $1.35 a barrel encouraged Humble Oil and Refining Company and Gulf Production Company to try offshore drilling. The Goose Creek field reached its peak annual production of 8,923,635 barrels with onshore and offshore drilling by 1918.
In 1917 Ross S. Sterling, a founder and president of Humble Oil (now Exxon, U.S.A.), bought the Southern Pipe Line Company to route oil from the field to the Houston Ship Channel. Two 7,000-foot lines of four-inch pipe crossed Black Duck Bay storage tanks and a wharf on Hog Island in the channel. Since Goose Creek oilfield was a prospective long-term producer, Humble constructed its major refinery, which was completed by April 21, 1921, adjacent to the field and named the plant and townsite Baytown. The Dayton-Goose Creek Railroad Company, built in 1918, connected the refinery to the Goose Creek field.
The Goose Creek field is a deep-seated salt dome with overlying beds slightly arched; its discovery spurred exploration for deep-seated domes, and led to the discovery of some of the largest oilfields in the United States. Production declined from 1918 until 1943, when it was only 388,250 barrels; 2,146,450 barrels was produced in 1965. Principal operators in the field in 1984 were Exxon, Gulf Oil, the Monsanto Company, Coastal Oil and Gas Corporation, and Enderli Oil. The total production of the field in 1983 was 366,225 barrels. The first Gaillard well and the Sims Sweet 16 were still producing in 1984. In 1990 the field's 192 wells produced 742,934 barrels. Total production of the field's lifetime stood at 140,644,377 barrels.