Nobles, Millard Clinton (1856–1943)

By: H. Allen Anderson

Type: Biography

Published: May 1, 1995

Updated: March 23, 2019

Millard Clinton Nobles, oilman, was born on January 30, 1856, in Henderson County, Tennessee. He moved with his widowed mother, Elizabeth Mann Nobles, and five brothers and sisters to Texas in the late 1870s. Later he moved to Kaufman County, then to Deport, in Lamar County, where his older brothers lived. He returned briefly to Jackson, Tennessee, in 1883 and married Martha James Watson there on August 21, 1884; they had two daughters and two sons. In Deport, Nobles and his brother Henry ran a mercantile store. The Nobles brothers sold their store in January 1892 and moved to Amarillo. There they purchased an interest in the D. W. Wooten Dry Goods Company and changed the name to Wooten and Nobles. After four years Wooten sold his interest to the brothers, who then incorporated as Nobles Brothers Grocer Company on October 1, 1900, with M. C. as president, Henry as vice president, and their brother-in-law A. J. Standley as secretary-treasurer. M. C. served on the Amarillo City Council from 1899 to 1906 and was on the school board. He was a charter member of the Amarillo Masonic lodge and an elder in the Presbyterian Church. Both he and his brother helped organize the Amarillo Street Railway Company in 1907.

Nobles and his associates took an increasing interest in the new oil and gas discoveries in East Texas and Oklahoma. In 1916 they obtained three-year leases on 70,000 acres of land on both sides of the Canadian River. Most of the leased tracts were on the ranch holdings of R. B. Masterson and Lee Bivins. On April 24, 1917, Nobles and his colleagues formed the Amarillo Oil Company and in November secured a contract with C. M. Hapgood, president of the Hapgood Oil and Development Company of Oklahoma City, to construct and drill the Panhandle's first well at a cost of $70,000. Their persistence paid off in December 1918, when Masterson Number 1 was brought in at a depth of 2,605 feet and produced about 15,000,000 cubic feet of gas per day. The success of the Amarillo Oil Company prompted M. C. to pursue further oil investments, and over the next several years he served on the boards of at least twenty local companies, including Sherman D. (Tex) McIlroy's Dixon Creek Oil Company. Much of Nobles's fortune was channeled into civic improvements. He was chairman of the finance committee that built the new Presbyterian church, and he and his children gave church an organ in memory of his wife, who died on October 10, 1920. Through the years, Nobles remained active in the wholesale grocery business until failing health forced his retirement. He spent his last years at the home of his daughter, May Nobles Williams, in Amarillo. He died there on April 15, 1943, and was buried in the Llano Cemetery.

Charles N. Gould, "The Beginning of the Panhandle Oil and Gas Field," Panhandle-Plains Historical Review 8 (1935). Henry E. Hertner, ed., Three Questions, Three Answers: A Story from the Life of Dr. Charles Newton Gould (Amarillo: Potter County Historical Survey Committee, 1967). Della Tyler Key, In the Cattle Country: History of Potter County, 1887–1966 (Amarillo: Tyler-Berkley, 1961; 2d ed., Wichita Falls: Nortex, 1972).


  • 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.

H. Allen Anderson, “Nobles, Millard Clinton,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed September 25, 2021,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

May 1, 1995
March 23, 2019