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Midwest in Natrona County, Wyoming — The American West (Mountains)
 

Society in an Oil Patch

 
 
Society in an Oil Patch Marker, top panel image. Click for full size.
By Barry Swackhamer, September 16, 2015
1. Society in an Oil Patch Marker, top panel
Caption: Pep Club in front of the Peake Gymnasium, Midwest, 1927.
Inscription. center panel:
In the early 1900s, hopeful oil workers flooded Salt Creek - especially "boomers" from "gone bust" oilfields in other states. Many companies built camps next to wells to house employees. As companies changed hands and shifted from drilling operations, camps changed names and locations. Some 200 camps thrived in Salt Creek, housing over 10,000 people during peak years of the 1920s.

Boom Towns, Ragtowns
Some workers built their own camps, and towns, including "ragtowns" made of tents. Local homesteaders also turned ranches into towns, such as Layoye, Snyder, and Edgerton.

Home Camp, aka Midwest
The most significant of the camps was Home Camp. Its first buildings were erected in 1910 by the California Oil Company. After World War One, Midwest Refining Company transformed the camp into an ideal company town with standardized houses, lawn care requirements, boarding houses, mess halls, schools, hospital, commissary, drug store, playing fields, theater, and community hall. Being a company town, one thing it didn't have was nightlife. But surrounding towns amply supplied saloons, dancehall, and brothels. Standardized homes can still be seen in Midwest and its suburb Gas Camp.

Civic Survival
To attract
Society in an Oil Patch Marker, middle panel image. Click for full size.
By Barry Swackhamer, September 16, 2015
2. Society in an Oil Patch Marker, middle panel
Capions: ( left to right) "Camp Teapot Creek," early 1920s.; "Ohio & Mid-West Camp."; Bootlegging in the Salt Creek rimrock, 1920s.
residents, boom towns competed in entertainment offerings as well as civic organizations and commercial development. These included drugstores, barbershops, banks, automobile dealerships, garages, clubhouses, civic buildings, movie theaters, oak-floored dancehall, orchestras, performers, pool halls, and cabarets (supplied by stills in the hills during Prohibition, which outlasted most of the settlements). The paved Salt Creek Highway and North & South Railroad greatly enhanced the towns and gave them hope for permanence by making them more accessible and attractive to residents.

bottom panel:
The inevitable "bust" sent many oilfield workers packing in search of other work, yet many people who live in the Casper/Salt Creek area have ties to boomers. They recall the glorious days and exciting times that their forebears experienced: the hope and optimism shared by many during the post-World War I era. The people of Salt Creek were building new communities, realizing dreams, and achieving wealth.

The Saga of Lavoye
An unsettling episode in Salt Creek social history is the saga of Lavoye. Homesteader Louie Lavoye developed this railroad stop and thriving town of 1,000 residents on his land; however, in 1923 the Ohio Oil Company contested Lavoye's claim and wanted to drill under the town. In a fight that went to the Secretary
Society in an Oil Patch Marker, bottom panel image. Click for full size.
By Barry Swackhamer, September 16, 2015
3. Society in an Oil Patch Marker, bottom panel
Captions: (left) Thriving town of Lavoye, 1924; (right) Mammoth Camp structures from Teapot Dome sold to local homesteader, Jacques Allemand, and now situated on the 7L Ranch.
of the Interior, the oil company won.
Some residents moved to surrounding towns, but many started the new town of New Lavoye near Teapot Dome. Its claim to fame was a large indoor swimming pool fed with naturally hot water piped from Tisdale Mountain. For almost ninety years this pool was visible from the Salt Creek Highway (Highway 259).

Lasting Community
Salt Creek's boom days ended in the late 1920s with diminished oil production due to reduced gas pressure and decreased supply - and the arrival of the Great Depression. Wages dropped, and people left for more active oilfields. Devastating fires and closure of the North & South Railroad hastened the death of boom towns, except Edgerton and Midwest.
Much reduced from its earlier magnitude, Midwest remains today because the company that owned it became the oilfield's sole operator. It was also the largest and most established oilfield community. In 1975-76 Midwest became and independent, incorporated town. Edgerton remains today because it complemented Midwest through provision of services and amenities that the straight-laced company town did not allow.

Dreams & Recollections
Although the oil industry overshadowed other activities in this area during the excitement of the 1920s, the land was (and is) also used for ranching. Even public
Society in an Oil Patch Marker image. Click for full size.
By Barry Swackhamer, September 16, 2015
4. Society in an Oil Patch Marker
land (encompassing most of the oilfield) is leased for grazing. Abandoned boom town and camp structures that survived fires were bought, moved, and repurposed by ranchers and are still in use today.
 
Erected by Wyoming State Parks & Cultural Resources.
 
Location. 43° 24.793′ N, 106° 16.647′ W. Marker is in Midwest, Wyoming, in Natrona County. Marker is on C Street near Navy Row. Click for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 614 C Street, Midwest WY 82643, United States of America.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within 7 miles of this marker, measured as the crow flies. Salt Creek Oil Field (within shouting distance of this marker); Oil Boom Towns (within shouting distance of this marker); Midwest Veterans Memorial (within shouting distance of this marker); a different marker also named Salt Creek Oil Field (approx. half a mile away); Gushers, (approx. half a mile away); Geology (approx. 1.5 miles away); a different marker also named Salt Creek Oil Field (approx. 7 miles away); Scandal! (approx. 7 miles away). Click for a list of all markers in Midwest.
 
More about this marker. This marker is in front of the Salt Creek Museum.

This marker is part of the Black Gold Byway.
 
Categories. Industry & CommerceSettlements & Settlers
 
 
Credits. This page originally submitted on , by Barry Swackhamer of San Jose, California. This page has been viewed 133 times since then and 3 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3, 4. submitted on , by Barry Swackhamer of San Jose, California. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016.
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