Three Sands

Three Sands, Okla. History

"This information was gathered from various sites throughout the Internet. The numbers behind the sentences correspond to the web page I got the information from during my research. It is a conglomeration of information that has it's resources on the corresponding webpages. Please visit those web pages as the people there have done hard work in making history more available to all of us.

Paul Reeves

At the bottom of the page are 'Places of Interest' where I have captured some of the history of the local area.

Three Sands was a wide open oil boomtown, located on the line between southern Kay County and northern Noble County. Lawbreakers could escape the jurisdiction of the county sheriff by walking to the other side of Main Street. At its height, Three Sands boasted two high schools, six grade schools, five gasoline plants, eleven boarding houses and a three-mile boardwalk.[2] The community was first called Comar, after the Comar Oil Company, but local merchants and oilmen later settled on the name of Three Sands for there were three different sands or strata that the oilmen encountered as they were drilling for oil. In fact at Three Sands, which only covered eight square miles, oil and gas deposits were eventually found in more than twelve different strata, or layers, a fact that made the area a so-called “marvel of the petroleum world.” The oil came from Three Sands in enormous amounts and along with natural gas deposits made many people very wealthy. It was the find at Three Sands that provided E.W. Marland with his initial fortune and set him on the road to the governor’s mansion. Residents who owned the oil rich land also profited with some land owners turning down offers of two million dollars and more for their 160 acre plot. The oil boom at Three Sands lasted only a few short years but changed forever the lives of many Oklahomans.[4]

n 1920 oilman Ernest W. Marland, on the advice of E. Park "Spot" Geyer, who headed his geology department, became convinced that there was oil southwest of   Ponca City near the town of Tonkawa. He persuaded the Humphreys Petroleum Company, Cosden Oil Company, Prairie Oil and Gas Company, and the Kay County Gas Company to enter a cooperative venture to drill ten wells in the area to test the idea. After drilling nine dry holes, they spudded in during the fall of 1920 on a location about eight miles south of Tonkawa in northern Noble County. The well, called the J. H. Smith School Land Number One, came in on June 29, 1921, at a depth of 2,660 feet in the Tonkawa sand as a thousand-barrel-per-day producer. By the time the discovery became well known, the field had crept north into southern Kay County to eventually cover eight square miles. The price of leases became so high that only the larger companies were active in the area. Ultimately, nine separate pay horizons were discovered in the field, with three of them, the Carmichael, the Wilcox, and the Tonkawa, being the largest oil producers, giving the field its better-known name of Three Sands. Despite its small size, the field produced a significant amount of oil, due to the large number of producing horizons. Flush production from 1923 through 1925 ranged from twenty-three million to twenty-eight million barrels annually but diminished rapidly until by 1947 the field was producing less than 400,000 barrels per year.[3]

Three Sands was located on the Kay-Noble line, five miles south of Tonkawa and thirteen miles east of Marland (Bliss). An oil boomtown, most of the drilling was centered around the Sam McKee farm, but activity shifted northward along the highway that lead to Tonkawa. At each successive crossroad a cluster of stores and   houses would spring up. Businessmen sought to profit by providing goods and services to the oil field workers-groceries, dry goods, equipment, repair shops, entertainment, food and places to sleep. As the drilling activity would move, another town would spring up at the next crossroads. Hatchville, a grocery store east of the discovery well, was operated by Charlie Hatch, mayor of his establishment. Murray, two miles into Noble County, consisted of a barbershop, grocery store, filling station and dry goods store on the F. H. Murray farm. Four Ways, Kanolka and Three Sands made their appearance known at three corners east of Marland’s discovery well. Other business centers in the area were East Side, one mile east of Three Sands’ original intersection; Foster City, one mile west; Riverview, seven miles west, (Three Sands’ greatest rival); and Blue Ridge. These business districts never disappeared completely as oil activity moved and the business district for the oil field eventually stretched three miles.[1]

Three Sands was like other oil boomtowns of the day, started out as a grocery store and cafe in a shack on the C.C. Endicott farm. At first it was called “Comar”, after on of the seven major oil companies engaged in exploiting the (Tonkawa) field. (“Comar” meant “companies of Marland”). The Tonkawa News complained about the confusion of names in the oil field business district. Merchants and officials from the Comar Company met and agreed on the name “Three Sands” because, at the time, oil was being produced from three different oil sands- Endicott, Carmicheal and Tonkawa. (If they had waited six months, they could have named the town “Seven Sands” for the same reason.)

By December 1922, 11 boarding houses and several cafes served meals to hungry oil field workers. These types of businesses usually came first, followed by oil tool supply houses, machine shops, boiler shops, markets and stores. Within a month, the Cozy Theater was under construction and the town’s first two-story building, a dance hall, was planning to offer entertainment. By March of 1923, citizens were petitioning for a post office, claiming there were 2,000 people living in town with around 3,000 more in the vicinity. On June 15, 1923, the post office located at Four Corners (also known as Murray Corner) was moved to Three Sands. Carpenters worked day and night to put up frame buildings for businesses and housing. Neat company houses were built and painted green for Comar, grey for Gypsy, grey with red roofs for Amerada and gold for Carter. Lumber was so much in demand that carpenters did not dare leave it unattended at night. Until houses were built, many people lived in tents, shacks or dugouts. Accommodations were less important than making a quick profit from the oil being produced at 200,000 barrels a day. ”Two-Ton Tilly” and “Three Sands Blanche”, boarding house operators, and the “hunchback” who made deliveries for a local bootlegger, rubbed elbows with geologist, oil field workers and housewives. A writer for the Daily Oklahoman in April 1923, described Three Sands as “...a crowd not a city. A struggling, shoving, pushing, determined, reckless, maddened, coldly calculating mixture of human beings who have forgotten for the time being that they are alive-who don’t seem to care how long they live-who, in fact, are bent on one thing-the getting of all the money they can as fast as they can. The person visiting Three Sands today finds himself in a traffic jam surpassing that of any city of 300,000 inhabitants. There isn’t such a thing as the ‘right-of-way’, The man who tries to make his way through the street is ‘in-the-way’ of everyone, including himself. All he can do is keep going. He can’t turn around, he can’t stop, he can’t become impatient-he can only keep going and at the same speed decided upon by a mile of automobiles, motor trucks, and pedestrians. If he took a notion to get away from the throng and speed through the fields to his destination, he would find himself trying to dodge oil well rigs that are so thick it’s pretty hard, sometimes, to walk between them without getting oil on your clothing.”

The oil boom began dying during the last months of 1926 as oil productivity began to fluctuate and by 1930 only a few hundred of the original 2,000 inhabitants still resided in Three Sands. The High School closed in the 1930's and the Three Sands school closed in 1946 and a grocery store-the first, as well as last business in Three Sands-closed in 1951. The last of the large gasoline plants stopped operation in 1951 and the post office shut its doors in 1957 and like many a boomtown before it; Three Sands became little more than a memory.

Places of Interest:

© Lord Gazmuth 2012