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No ‘fooling’ – there could be oil

By Staff | Apr 5, 2015

Sorry folks, I have some bad news for you.

Especially for our readers in the Kiester area.

You are not getting rich because of an oil boom in the Kiester hills.

The story on page three of last week’s Faribault County Register isn’t true. I made it up.

There isn’t any Robert “Bobby” Coombs from Enderlin, N.D. No company named Black Gold Oil, or Dakota Drillers.

And, the Faribault County Economic Development Authority and the Faribault County Development Corporation were probably quite surprised to see a photo of their members touring an oil well in North Dakota because they never went there. I have absolutely no idea who the people in the picture are. I found the photo on the Internet.

Why on Earth would we print such a false story, you may ask.

Well, it is our annual attempt at pulling an April Fools Day prank on you, our dear readers.

And, once again, some readers admitted to being totally “sucked in,” especially since this year the paper came out days ahead of April 1st (right, Billeye Rabbe?).

Others claimed to have spotted it as the April Fools story right away (sure you did, John Roper), while others are probably just now learning that it was our annual spoof because they are reading about it in this column.

But, now I confess there is part of this story that is actually true.

You see, there really might be gold in them thar hills of Kiester. Black gold, that is. Texas ‘T.’

Oil. And natural gas.

Really. Would I lie?

In the fake story last week I wrote that there had been some drilling for oil near Kiester in the 1930s. And that is absolutely true.

In a Jan. 22, 1931 local newspaper a story relates how a group of 12 men from the Bricelyn area formed a company (Community Gas and Oil) to prospect for natural gas. It goes on to say that it has been well known that there is natural gas in Faribault County.

In fact, the paper relates a story from 35 years earlier (1896) when a Herman (John) Lorenz, who lived 6 miles north of Bricelyn, drilled a well looking for water and at 182 feet deep, “gas poured out of the two-inch pipe with such force that the pipe was blown out of the well and a considerable distance into the air.”

The story goes on to relate that someone lit a match and the ensuing flame shot seven feet into the air. It took several days to control the gas and then Herman decided to pipe it into his kitchen and used it for cooking for a year.

Really, if I didn’t know any better I would think this was an attempt at the very first April Fools Day story in Faribault County, almost 120 years ago.

The 1931 story continues that the company hired Ole M. Hanson to drill the gas wells in the Kiester hills because he had drilled one 13 years earlier.

Hanson is quoted as saying that if developments prove what the promoters confidently expect, “Bricelyn and all the neighboring towns will be furnished gas at a rate they can afford to pay for heating homes, cooking and all the uses to which this product may be put.”

I honestly don’t know how Ole Hanson and the boys of Community Gas and Oil made out or actually found any gas.

But natural gas is one thing, oil is another.

So also in 1931, the Faribault County Register quoted it’s Kiester correspondent as reporting “the latest agents are the oil and gas men trying to get a lease on the land to dig for gas and oil. We think it is more ‘hot air’ than anything else.”

(As an aside, Blue Earth attorney Daniel Lundquist tells me they handle land sale transfers now that have those old oil and gas rights included on the deeds. But I digress.)

Then in 1935 the newspapers had banner headlines noting that a 96-foot tall wooden oil derrick had been erected on the Henry Katzung farm two miles north and one east of Kiester.

Consequent stories told of all kinds of delays and snags, different out of state oil companies being involved, and more farmers being needed to sign leases.

But, no stories about any actual oil being found were ever related. Only stories of how there were many tourists who came from all over the Midwest to see the novelty of an oil well in Faribault County, Minnesota.

Then in 1936 strong winds toppled the oil derrick and smashed it to the ground. I am not sure if it actually ever did any drilling of any kind. But it certainly never found any oil.

The search for oil in Faribault County would not be undertaken again for another 24 years. But in 1950, a company called Gopher Oil and Drilling of Mount Carmel, Ill., brought drilling equipment to Kiester.

The president of the company was Bricelyn Lumberyard owner Herman Johnson. The company leased at least 16,000 acres of land in Faribault County, according to newspaper reports.

They drilled three wells on the Ollie Yost farm, near the junction of Highway 22 and County Road 28, five miles west of Mansfield.

They said they would drill to a depth of 3,200 feet or until granite was reached. But, the first well hit granite at 1,000 feet and they quit without finding any signs of oil.

The second and third attempts also failed to hit any of the precious black liquid. But on the third try they did hit another type of liquid, quicksand, and the stem bent and the drill bit and pipe were lost underground. Efforts to “fish” the equipment back to the surface were unsuccessful.

As far as I know, the pieces of equipment are still under the ground north of Kiester.

But the question remains, is there also oil under the ground north of Kiester?

On the one hand, there are those stories from 100 years ago about natural gas being found in water wells. And don’t gas and oil go together?

To be perfectly honest, a state geologist in 1950 said there is practically no hope of finding oil here. Another study, however, suggested the possibility of oil (and gas) from just south of Easton, continuing near Bricelyn, then southeast all the way to Kiester. But, another study says finding oil here would be “impossible.”

So what is the real story on oil? Maybe we will never really know.

Unless someone named Robert Coombs actually does show up ready to drill for oil once again, and answer the question once and for all.

And wouldn’t that be somethingespecially if he found some.

No foolin.’