Thirty years before the first producing gas well was drilled in this county, traces of salt water, sulphur, gas, and oil in water wells gave hints of the presence of petroleum here. For years wildcat drilling went on, but with only moderate success. Then in 1908, a well on Charles Byrne's land began to blow warm sulphur water and gas 120 feet into the air every 8 days, arousing much interest. After this discovery, Byrne, a promoter, set out to locate capitalists to develop his petroleum deposits.
Armed with a picture of the gusher and a bottle of area oil, he attracted the attention of W. M. "Bee" Stephenson, his sons Light and Donald, and others. The well they drilled here in 1917-1918, on the Tom Brown Tract, blew in at 816 feet with 62,000,000 cubic feet of natural gas a day, but for 3 months it spewed out of control because of the intense subsurface pressure and inadequate equipment. After other producers were drilled, W. M. Stephenson arranged to pipe gas to San Antonio, 68 miles north, in 1922. Among those joining this enterprise was H. A. Pagenkopf, Wichita Falls oil man. Thus petroleum took a leading role in the economy of McMullen County.