Price of Land
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Price of Oil Land

(Galveston Daily News, February 26,1901)

Beaumont, Tex.--Positions of The Large owners, The Small Owners, and The Would-Be Purchasers--Owners Are Waiting--They Are Independent and Desire To Share In The Profits of Development--Afraid of The Standard Oil--Desire to Have Pipe Lines Controlled, Wonder Possibilities in The Oil Industry.

And here is another story, whether of bear or bull origin the reader can judge for himself. One of the embarrassments of the situation is the former cheapness of the land. These men accumulated it in large bodies and turned loose on it the rustling Long Horn. The latter did not bring a high price, but however low in the scale of price, he was no lower than the pasture on which he grazed. The Long Horn is almost a thing of the past, though he may be in greater number here than elsewhere. The land remains. The man who got wealthy off the beef and the grass still owns the land. He understands as others the problematical value of his dirt. He is able to hold it. He says as one said to me, "We made our money and bought our land, and if there is anything under it, we are as much entitled to it as other people." So, the story is, that he sits back and refuses to part with his real estate possessions for anything like what they ought to bring even with the great gusher in sight. His herd grazes there and multiplies. Cattle are good in price and his cows can be sold to North Texas people for breeding purposes, even if for beef they are not extra fine. With a fat purse and the grazing fine, why should he not take chances. Why is he not able to risk being a millionaire. If it should not turn out to the general opinion, he is no worse off, for the land and cattle are still there, and the latter has multiplied. If it should turn out according to the general belief, then he is a millionaire, probably many times over.

The man who wants to lease is in despair when he hears this argument and the man who wants to buy is in agony over the price demanded, if the concession of price is granted.

Then there is another element which owns a few acres. This element is made up of small farmers, and this is the way they argue: If we lease and a dry well is struck, then our land is reduced in value. No one wants land on which there is no oil. Anyhow, the price offered on the whole amounts to but little more than the royalty to be got off the oil, and if it is not found, then the price is nothing.

Hence, two (choices) are left: One is to sell outright for a price based on the probabilities, or to hold off until more oil is discovered, and then we can sell just as we set our figures.

Now, the price set on the probabilities just makes the hair of the would-be purchaser curl in anger. There are hundreds of thousands of acres of land in South Texas held out against would-be purchasers and lessers in just this way. The man who would really like to sink a hole and find out what is at the bottom of it; as well as the speculator who wants to lease and hold until some other person sinks the hole, meets in this case with the speculator who owns the land. That, I am told by a real estate man, is the reason that there has been no greater push in the development. To this I do not wholly agree. For, as has been stated in these columns, that delay has been more attributable to wild excitement, the unprepared condition of the business mind for what happened, as well as the bad weather, than anything else.

There is a general fright at the Standard Oil Company. This being a mammoth institution, such a fright is wholly natural. A new man in town is at once spotted as an agent. A fellow dressed in good clothes is followed by suspecting eyes. "They," still meaning the same company, "are getting their hands in already by building pipe lines. Now, even if we find out, with the pipe line of transportation in their hands, how are we going to transport it and to whom are we going to sell it. Why, with the transportation facilities all against us, the price could be fixed by the company, even to the most greedy extent. A pipe line is no more than a railroad and hence is a common carrier.

Everyone knows what the man who argues this way means. He wants the pipe lines placed on the same level with railroad companies and subjected to railroad jurisdiction. No one admits that he is connected in any way with the Standard Oil Company. Indeed, every one is vigorous in denying even any friendship for it. The men with the leases and the men building the pipe lines and tanks declare they are acting wholly in their own private interests, or in the interests of companies which are commercially and socially at variance with the great company mentioned.

But let it not be understood that there are not thousands of leases and thousands of sales made. There are a few more than a hundred thousand acres of land in South Texas. Besides, there are a few more people than the number who can afford to hold, because they have cattle and other things, which are accumulating. There are those who have taken chances on some other people discovering oil for them and giving them a share of the discovery. Hence, the busy time many are having getting leases, making purchases, and selling. One thing should be mentioned here. That is the construction of tanks in the vicinity of the great gusher. Some of these tanks are made of wood. One or two are of iron. They are about 20 feet high and apparently of a like diameter. The men working on them are hammering out the confidence that the people who employed them felt. They would not be putting up oil tanks if people did not believe there was oil to put in them.--W. G. S. (comp. by W.T.Block)

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