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Woodbine Fault-Line Fields

Julia Cauble Smith General Entry

The Woodbine Fault-Line fields stretch along the Mexia Fault Zone, which runs through Milam, Falls, Limestone, Freestone, Navarro, Henderson, and Kaufman counties in east central Texas. The six oil and gas fields on the fault are Mexia (Limestone County, discovered 1920), Currie (Navarro County, 1921), North Currie (Navarro County, 1922), Powell (Navarro County, 1923), Richland (Navarro County, 1924), and Wortham (Freestone County, 1924). Powell, Mexia, and Wortham are the most productive of the fields. In all fields oil and gas are drawn from the Woodbine sands at depths of 2,800 to 4,500 feet. The producing structures in the fields are simple monoclines and primary recovery is driven by water. The fields were developed rapidly with no regulation of production and with well density averaging from two to seven acres each. Production in each field peaked near the first anniversary of discovery, and water encroachment followed immediately. Although secondary recovery attempts in the fields have been limited, infill drilling in 1940 and 1941 enabled the fields to give up oil into their eighth decade. By January 1, 1993, the Woodbine Fault-Line fields reported combined cumulative totals of 280,948,170 barrels of oil.

The first field to be found was Mexia in northwestern Limestone County, and it introduced the concept of fault-line production in the Woodbine sands. Although dry gas wells had been produced around Mexia since 1912, the first oil producer from the Mexia Fault Zone was completed on November 25, 1920, at a total depth of 3,100 feet. Colonel A. E. Humphreys, who had taken a farmout well from Mexia Oil and Gas Company on the L. W. Rogers farm, brought in a 150-barrel-per-day pumping producer. In the summer of 1921 an offsetting well, the Humphreys Company No. 1 Berthelson, came in with an initial production of 4,000 barrels of oil per day. The well sparked an immediate boom in the Mexia area, and by August ten producers were completed. However, wide-open production was delayed by inadequate storage and transportation facilities. At the end of 1921 annual Mexia Fault Zone production was more than 6.1 million barrels of oil, as eighteen loading racks handled 761 railroad tank cars with a capacity of 182,680 barrels of oil per day. Unregulated production from closely-spaced wells continued into 1922, when its effects were evidenced in a weakened reservoir, resulting in water encroachment and sudden decrease in well production. One such well was the Magnolia Petroleum Company Desenberg well. On January 1, 1922, it produced 16,000 barrels of oil, but just two days later the well could manage only 10,000 barrels. Also in January 1922, just 14 months after its discovery, Mexia field reached peak monthly production when more than 5 million barrels of oil were reported from 300 wells. The flush production found at Mexia encouraged prospectors to seek other fault-line fields. In October 1921 Currie field was opened near Currie in south central Navarro County, when the Humphreys-Mexia Company No. 1 Meador was completed with initial production of 400 barrels of oil per day. Peak production was reached in the small field in 1922, when just over 2 million barrels were reported. By the end of 1927 the field had produced a cumulative total of nearly 5.9 million barrels of oil. A second, smaller field also near Currie, called North Currie, was introduced in January 1922 by Seay and Cranfill when a gas well with initial production of 60 million cubic feet was taken to a total depth of 2,996 feet. In August 1922 the Sun Oil Company No. B1 West came in with initial production of 850 barrels of oil from a depth of 2,987 feet. Peak production occurred in 1926 with 82,307 barrels of oil. By the end of 1927 North Currie field had produced a cumulative total of 277,851 barrels of oil. The excitement of booming fields in the three-counties area fostered crime and social problems that forced Governor Pat M. Neff on January 12, 1922, to order martial law for Justice Precinct No. 4 in Limestone County and No. 5 in Freestone County to deal with robberies, gambling, and alcohol sales. But the boom rolled on, and at the end of 1922 the fields showed a markedly-increased combined yearly yield of nearly 34.8 million barrels of oil.

On January 8, 1923, the fourth fault-line field, Powell, was found in east central Navarro County when the Corsicana Deep Well Company No. 1 Burke was completed to a total depth of 2,963 feet for an initial yield of 400 barrels of oil per day. Gusher production was found at Powell when the J. K. Hughes Development Company No. 1 McKie was brought in on May 8, 1923. It flowed 8,000 barrels of oil per day from a depth of 2,841 feet. Intense development commenced at once, and by November 1923 the field was completely drilled. Peak yield was attained that month when 8.1 million barrels of oil came through 513 wells, and on the heels of the high-mark production followed an abrupt production slump. Daily production plummeted by almost 75 percent from November to December 1923. At the year end Woodbine Fault-Line fields realized their peak combined annual production, as more than 50.8 million barrels of oil were registered. In 1924 two more fault-line fields were located. In February the McDonald Brothers No. 1 Brown was completed as a strong pumper to introduce Richland field in south central Navarro County. In April the Sun Oil Company No. 1 Brown reached a depth of 4,500 feet and brought in a pumper for 325 barrel of oil per day. Production in Richland field peaked in September when seventy-five wells brought up 679,162 barrels of oil. By the end of 1927 the field had a cumulative production of more than 5.8 million barrels of oil. On November 22, 1924, the last fault-line field was found in the northwestern corner of Freestone County when the Boyd Oil Company No. 1 Boyd came in for an initial yield of 1,000 barrels of oil per day in the Woodbine. Four days later the Boyd Oil Company No. 1 Simmons roared to life with an initial production of 8,000 barrels of oil per day. The Boyd wells opened the field to vigorous drilling. Within a week of the discoveries, forty drilling rigs were under construction. Within four months Wortham field was 95 percent drilled. Peak production came in January 1925, when more than 3.5 million barrels of oil were noted from 158 wells. By December 1927 Wortham field had produced a cumulative total of 20.7 million barrels of oil. With new production from Richland and Wortham, the fault-line fields had a combined annual total in 1924 of nearly 49.3 million barrels of oil. By 1925 the best days for the fields were already behind them, as their combined yield ebbed to 42.3 million barrels of oil. In 1926 production from fault-line fields skidded to less than 20.5 million barrels of oil, and by the end of the decade the total plunged to only 5.9 million barrels. By 1931 the fields were brought under regulation by the Railroad Commission, but they were already making large volumes of salt water. Another problem in the fields was the fact that lifting costs for crude exceeded its market price. The less productive fields, Currie, North Currie, Richland, and Wortham, appeared to be nearing depletion. Many operators in those fields were selling out to salvage companies and removing gathering lines for use in more viable fields. At the end of 1936 the fields produced less than 1.7 million barrels of oil, most of which left the fields by pipelines. By the end of the decade the yields dipped below 1.4 million barrels.

In 1940, when yearly yields from the fields slipped to less than 1.3 million barrels of oil, operators began infill drilling on both productive leases and on those abandoned after water encroachment appeared to have ruined their reservoirs. Most infill wells produced oil at economic rates, proving that the reservoir compartments were not completely drained in the early years by closely-spaced wells and heavy overproduction. In 1941 new production from infill wells increased annual production in the fields by 85,042 barrels of oil over the 1940 figure. In November 1969 a waterflood project, using salt water, was initiated in Powell field, but the injections were abandoned by January 1980 with no reported success. By January 1, 1993, the reporting fault-line fields yielded annual production of 292,250 barrels of oil and 13,553,000 cubic feet of casinghead gas. Combined cumulative production for the fields climbed to 280,948,170 barrels of oil by 1993, after more than seventy years of operation.

William E. Galloway et al., Atlas of Major Texas Oil Reservoirs (Austin: University of Texas Bureau of Economic Geology, 1983). Frederic H. Lahee, "Oil and Gas Fields of the Mexia and Tehuacana Fault Zones, Texas," in Structure of Typical American Oil Fields, Vol. 1 (Tulsa: American Association of Petroleum Geologists, 1929). Mineral Resources of the United States, 1930, Part II (Washington: GPO, 1932). David F. Prindle, Petroleum Politics and the Texas Railroad Commission (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1981). Railroad Commission of Texas, Annual Report of the Oil and Gas Division (Austin, 1992). U.S. Bureau of Mines, Minerals Yearbook, 1937, 1938.


  • Oil and Gas Industry
  • Oil Fields and Wells

Time Periods:

  • Texas in the 1920s

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

Julia Cauble Smith, “Woodbine Fault-Line Fields,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed October 31, 2020,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.