Lafayette appeared to be unlikely center for oil industry

Lafayette is known as a center of oil activity in south Louisiana, which is kind of surprising, considering how little of it is actually produced here.

One of the earliest mentions of oil here was on Jan. 29, 1891, when the New Orleans Picayune reported: "Only a short time has passed since Mr. Israel Falk discovered a small deposit of petroleum on his property near the railroad depot and within the city limits of Lafayette. In hopes of finding the oil in paying quantities he has been drilling down to considerable depth, and yesterday, having bored some 50 feet, was rewarded by the discovery of a solid bed of coal equal in quality to the best sold. He is certain that he has made a valuable find of coal if not of oil."

Unfortunately, Falk's discovery proved valueless.

In 1899, G.D. Harris uncovered what probably was part of the Anse la Butte oil field, reporting, "... considerable quantities of gas escaping from a natural gas spring 2 1/4 miles west of Breau (sic) Bridge." Lafayette businessmen joined the rush to tap into the rapidly growing oil business. By May 1901, the J.M. Guffey Co. had begun drilling a well and at least two other companies - Lafayette Oil and Mineral Co. and the Moresi Co. - had rushed into the area, buying up land for drilling. A little over a year later, the Moresi Co. struck oil at Anse la Butte. The Advertiser reported, "It will like magic stimulate business in every line and, connected with the other industries of Lafayette, make this city the most important one in Louisiana."

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Jim Bradshaw
jbradshaw@theadvertiser.com