Sharp, Walter B. (Walter Benona), 1870-1912 - Social Networks and Archival Context

Sharp, Walter B. (Walter Benona), 1870-1912

Alternative names
Dates:
Birth 1870-12-12
Death 1912-12-28

Biographical notes:

Walter Benona Sharp (1870-1912) was an oilman and inventor. He began his career contracting for the drilling of water wells in and around Dallas before working as a driller for Gladys City Oil and Gas Manufacturing Company in its first test for oil on Spindletop Hill. Because of quicksand Sharp was forced to abandon the well at 418 feet only thirty yards from the spot where, eight years later, the first gusher of the Spindletop oilfield came in. Sharp was also a pioneer driller at Sour Lake and Corsicana. Over the years he perfected a method for drilling in soft soil, which allowed drillers to finally penetrate the quicksands at Spindletop. After Spindletop's success he began trading in oil leases and did a large drilling-contracting business. In 1902 he formed the Moonshine Company with J. R. Sharp, Ed Prather and Howard R. Hughes, which would later become the Texas Company. Together with Hughes and J. S. Cullinan he also developed the Sharp-Hughes Rock Bit.

From the description of Sharp, Walter Benona, papers, 1865-1957. (University of Texas Libraries). WorldCat record id: 467922343

Walter Benona Sharp was born on December 12, 1870, in Tipton county, Tennessee. His parents, James R. and Amanda Forrest Sharp, moved to Texas when Walter was still a young child. Sharp began his business career at a very early age, and by 1890, he was operating a successful water well drilling company with his brother James R. Sharp. Walter Sharp then branched out to the drilling of oil wells and in 1893 drilled a dry hole in what was to be the famous Spindletop Field. Sharp next moved to the Corsicana and Sour Lake areas where he found limited amounts of oil. In 1901, soon after the first gusher at Spindletop, Sharp secured his fortune by trading leases and contracting for numerous wells. He next helped form the Moonshine Oil Company and later became president of Producers Oil Company. Sharp held an interest in the Texas Company and worked closely with J.S. Cullinan in developing that company's oil holdings. Sharp was also co-founder of the Sharp-Hughes Tool Company, and aided Howard Hughes, Sr. in developing that company's famous Rock Bit. Sharp was a daring innovator, always seeking better methods of drilling and producing oil, and to him can be traced many of the techniques which made the gigantic expansion of the oil industry in Texas possible. His willingness to innovate and to be involved first hand with the problems of the oil field led him to exert tremendous effort to extinguish a large oil field fire in the fall of 1912. Weakened from his exertions, he died at age 42 on November 28, 1912.

(Bibliography: W.P.Webb, et al, Handbook of Texas, II, 597.)

Estelle Boughton Sharp was born in Flint, Michigan on June 19, 1873. Her parents, George A. Boughton and Delia Frost Boughton, were divorced when she was about 16. She later attended Oberlin College, but discontinued her education after meeting Walter Sharp on a visit to Dallas. Married in 1897, the couple were the parents of three children, Walter Bedford, Kathleen, and Dudley Crawford. Kathleen died in early childhood, but the two boys gave the Sharps a happy family life. They lived in Dallas until about 1904 when the discovery of major oil fields near Houston prompted them to move to that Gulf Coast city. While still in Dallas, Mrs. Sharp began the charity work which was to occupy so much of her later life. After the death of her husband in 1912, she turned increasingly to what she called her hobbies : social welfare and world peace. Something of a progressive, she was one of the founders of United Charities in Houston, which later became the United Fund. She was also interested in the settlement house concept, and during the interwar years, she espoused the cause of several peace movements. Although this country was not a member of the League of Nations, Estelle Sharp served as a member of the National Advisory Council of the League of Nations Association and worked to gain U.S. entry into the League. In the 1930's, she was a member of the Texas Centennial Commission, and continued her long-standing interest in the Federated Women's Clubs of Texas. In the 1940's and 1950's, she was a member of the Community Council and contributed greatly to the Community Settlement Association. Interested also in education and the history of the oil industry in the Southwest, Mrs. Sharp gave the first endowed lectureship to Rice Institute in 1918, and gave additional gifts through the years. In the 1950's, she helped finance the Oral History of Texas Oil Pioneers at the University of Texas. After a long and active life, Estelle Boughton Sharp died on August 30, 1965, at the age of 92.

From the guide to the Walter Benona Sharp and Estelle Boughton Sharp - Collection, MS 271., 1868-1978, (Woodson Research Center, Fondren Library, Rice University, Houston, TX)

Walter Benona Sharp (1870-1912) was an oilman and inventor. He began his career contracting for the drilling of water wells in and around Dallas before working as a driller for Gladys City Oil and Gas Manufacturing Company in its first test for oil on Spindletop Hill. Because of quicksand Sharp was forced to abandon the well at 418 feet only thirty yards from the spot where, eight years later, the first gusher of the Spindletop oilfield came in. Sharp was also a pioneer driller at Sour Lake and Corsicana. Over the years he perfected a method for drilling in soft soil, which allowed drillers to finally penetrate the quicksands at Spindletop. After Spindletop’s success he began trading in oil leases and did a large drilling-contracting business. In 1902 he formed the Moonshine Company with J. R. Sharp, Ed Prather and Howard R. Hughes, which would later become the Texas Company. Together with Hughes and J. S. Cullinan he also developed the Sharp-Hughes Rock Bit.

Bibliography: Handbook of Texas Online, s.v. " SHARP, WALTER BENONA," (accessed September 18, 2009).

From the guide to the Walter Benona Sharp Papers, 1865-1957, (Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, The University of Texas at Austin)

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Subjects:

  • Oil fields--Texas
  • Core drilling
  • Petroleum industry and trade
  • Spindletop Oil Field (Beaumont, Tex.)
  • Oil exploration--History
  • Oil fields
  • Petroleum industry and trade--Texas
  • Technological innovations
  • Charities--Texas
  • Core drilling--History
  • Oil exploration
  • Oil field equipment and supply industry--Texas

Occupations:

not available for this record

Places:

  • Houston (Tex.) (as recorded)
  • Spindletop Oil Field (Tex.) (as recorded)
  • Corsicana (Tex.) (as recorded)
  • Corsicana (Tex.) (as recorded)
  • Sour Lake (Tex.) (as recorded)
  • Houston (Tex.) (as recorded)
  • Dallas (Tex.) (as recorded)
  • Houston (Tex.) (as recorded)
  • Shreveport, (La.) (as recorded)
  • Baytown (Tex.) (as recorded)
  • Beaumont (Tex.) (as recorded)
  • Dallas (Tex.) (as recorded)
  • Baytown (Tex.) (as recorded)
  • Texas (as recorded)
  • Shreveport, (La.) (as recorded)
  • Beaumont (Tex.) (as recorded)
  • Sour Lake (Tex.) (as recorded)

Alternative Names

Sharp, Walter Benona, 1870-1912 Sharp, Walter Benona Sharp, Walter. Sharp, Walter B. (Walter Benona) Sharp, Walter B. Walter Benona Sharp Walter B. Sharp


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