History of Hugoton Gas and Historical Museum

Author Joyce Lutz shares a detailed history of the Hugoton Gas and Historical Museum.

Gas and Historical Museum

Kanas Miniature rotary drilling rig on display, Stevens Gas and Historical Museum, Hugoton, Kansas. Photo courtesy of Clyde J. Hagman, Hugoton, Kansas.


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Learn about the history of the Hugoton Gas and Historical Museum. 

The following article was sent to us by Clyde J. Hagman, 501 South Main St. Hugoton, Kansas through the courtesy of The Hugoton Hermes of Hugoton, Kansas. Gary D. Hale is Editor-Manager and gave us permission to use it. The Hugoton Gas and Historical Museum history was written by Joyce Lutz.

Gone are the screams of the Indian war cries, the thunder of buffalo hooves, the creak of the covered wagons as they rolled over this great land. Today these sounds are paralleled in the sounds of the giant industry of Southwest Kansas. The scream of the turbins, and thunder of the gas compressor stations which move natural gas to the Great Lakes and the East Coast for heating homes and supplying economical fuel for industry.

The first discovery gas well was drilled in 1929 within four miles of Hugoton, Kansas. Since that time close to 3700 wells have been placed in production in the Kansas portion of the field. At the present time the Hugoton Field reaches into the Oklahoma Panhandle and into Northern Texas. Monthly production for the Kansas portion of the field is near the two billion cubic foot mark. The average depth of the Hugoton pay zone is 2800 feet. The expected life of this field is estimated to be between 25 to 40 years.

The first well drilled in the Hugoton field was steam powered using a wooden derrick with the churn type drill or "Cable Tool" that is, it used what is called a walking beam and attached to this beam was a cable with a feed attachment. On the end of the cable was a heavy steel bit called a "fish tail bit." The fish tail bit is best described as being hammered flat on the drill end like a wooden axe.

In this type drilling water was used to soften and wash away the dirt and rock as the drill progressed downward. Due to an ample supply of water available underground in Southwest Kansas, water wells were drilled near the drilling rig, eliminating the necessity of hauling much water in. This type drilling is one of man's oldest drilling techniques, used by ancient Chinese, many centuries ago. It is believed that Cooley labor was used to operate them.

The steam rigs were used up until the middle thirties, being replaced by the rotary rigs which were much like the ones used today. The first rotary type rig was moved to the Hugoton field in 1930 or 1931 by Walt and Howard Kuhn. These rigs were powered by gasoline and later diesel engines.

Not only was steam a great help in developing the Hugoton Gas Field, it was used also in many other areas and extensively in the agriculture end, such as for wheat, maize and broom corn threshing.

Much of southwest Kansas was open prairie land until the early 1900's when it was put to the plow using giant oil pull Rumleys and steam powered tractors pulling large 10 bottom plows.

In order to preserve as much of this history as possible for future generations to see and possibly relive the anticipation, heartaches and successes of the pioneers, in  1954 the Hugoton Chamber of Commerce began to build and collect items for a municipal museum.

The museum would be used to house relics of the gas industry and items used by the pioneers.

By good fortune those in charge were able to secure a Cable Tool Drilling Rig with a steel tower about 100 feet high. The drilling rig is located on the site of the municipal owned gas well near the museum. Part of the rig was made by Parkersburg Rig and Reel Co. The steam engine is an Ajax, made by Ajax Iron Works, Cory, Pa. The boiler is a Broderick, made by the Broderick Co., of Muncy, Ind. It is rated at 150 lbs., pressure and the serial number is 213 HBS 3474. The rig is nearly complete and it is set up in nearly the same position as it would be if it were in actual drilling operation. This rig was donated to the museum by Walter Kuhn.

Inside of the museum building are many more items pertaining to the natural gas industry and local history. The museum is divided into two sections — gas and historical.

In the gas section of the museum are pictures, tools and graphs showing the strata of the Hugoton gas fields. There are also two miniature operating models of the old steam cable tool or churn type drilling rigs. One has a small blacksmith shop complete with forge, anvil and blacksmith tools. The other is a miniature operating rotary rig with mud circulating pump to show how drilling mud is used to drill gas and oil wells. The miniature models are electric powered so that interested persons can as them in operation.

Panhandle Eastern Pipe Line Producers donated a well head and meter run to the museum. Also included in the gas display are many rocks, fossil and core samples of the various strata. Having this type display under one roof gives the Hugoton Gas Museum a most complete story on the Natural Gas Industry.

In the historical section of the museum there are many interesting and valuable antiques, relics and souvenirs. One of the first John Deere tractors made is on display. The serial number is 3776, it is a Model DHP 15-27. Another tractor on display is a Moline Universal owned by Bob Walker. The serial number on it is OR 50-779. This was one of the first tractors to have a starter and generator on it. There is on display a Model A Fire truck and a 1923 Model T Ford Touring car. This car has not been restored but is in its original condition.

It would be almost impossible to numerate all of the articles on display. The Indian artifacts display is just beginning to take form. The local Lions and Rotary Clubs purchased it for $2,000 and donated to the museum the Dr. Pierce collection of arrow heads and Indian artifacts. Many old fire arms, pioneer relics, antique dishes, toys and old time furniture are also on display. There are some World War One and Two relics and souvenirs on exhibit.

Mrs. Fannie Flower of Hugoton, who is a member of the National Button Society, has loaned her button collection for display in the museum. She has won many prizes on her collection.

They are in the museum protective display cases holding old books, some of which are school books.

Recently a newspaper was donated to the museum by Mrs. Jake Chilcott. The newspaper is a copy of The New York Herald. The date line on the paper is New York, Saturday, April 15, 1865. This newspaper was purchased on the streets of Washington, D. C, April 15 by Leonard H. Moses, grandfather of Mrs. Chilcott. The headline story in the newspaper is the story about the assassination of President Lincoln.

At about the same time the newspaper was donated to the museum, the Rev. Edward J. Young, pastor of St. Helen's Catholic Church in Hugoton, donated to the museum two busts of Lincoln.

Another of the more interesting items on display in the museum is a wooden grave marker dated 1886. It was found on the Santa Fe Trail.

In 1961 the Hugoton Chamber of Commerce and the Stevens County Historical Society combined and at that time the Gas Museum was changed to the Stevens County Gas and Historical Museum. It is now county and city operated and maintained. With the help of many organizations, gas company and municipal employees, and individuals the half-block that contains the 120 ft. by 50 ft. block building and the outside drilling rig has been landscaped with many beautiful trees, flowers and shrubs making it a place the people of Hugoton are justly proud of.

The museum was officially opened in 1961, during the Kansas Centennial. The museum receives approximately $3200.00 a year in funds from County Levy to the museum. The museum building was constructed so that if the need arose it could be expanded. The Tiny Dumcum Construction Co. of Hugoton deserve most of the credit for the original plans and did a great deal of the actual construction work. The building proper contains rest room and lounge areas.

During 1965 there were 2282 persons who visited the museum. The visitors come from all over the United States, many of whom made a special trip into Hugoton to visit the museum. The museum is open during the summer months from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. each day. The remaining months of the year the museum is open each day from 1 p.m. until 5 p.m. Mrs. James Ausbun is the attendant at the museum.

Although regular visiting hours are maintained at the museum, anytime a group of persons arrive in Hugoton by pre-arrangement persons will be shown through. Persons may call the Chamber of Commerce Office, Mrs. Ausbun or any persons in Hugoton will assist with getting the group into the museum for a tour.

Members of the museum board are Gladys Wilson, president; Clyde Hagman, vice president; Grace Drew, secretary and Glenn McQueen, treasurer.

The Stevens County Gas and Historical Museum is an asset to this community. Each and every citizen should take pride in it and should work continuously to promote it.

The Hermes would like to thank Clyde J. Hagman for his help in preparing this article.