Captain Lucas
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Biography of Captain A. Lucas

(Galveston Daily News, February 28, 1901)

Mr. Anthony F. Lucas is a native of Austria and is a graduate of the Polytechnic College of Gratz. He has spent many years in making geological investigations and has explored for minerals in many parts of the United States and in other countries. Just before coming to Beaumont, he had been engaged for several years in developing salt deposits in (on islands in the southern marshes of) Louisiana. The first of those mines was developed on Jefferson Island, the property of Joe Jefferson, the famous actor. He expended between $15,000 and some $18,000 on this property of Mr. Jefferson, and the development enhanced its value to about a half-million dollars. Next he turned his attention to Belle Isle, where he developed salt and sulphur mines, and following that he developed the salt mines on Weekes' Island. The salt deposits on these three islands are practically the same---a fine rock salt, so transparent that print can be read through it. How thick the deposit is, Mr. Lucas does not know. He drilled one hole 2,160 feet deep, passing through 1,900 feet of rock salt, without reaching the bottom of it. Belle Isle is located 30 miles from Morgan City and has fine facilities for water transportation. The mines on that island are being worked by a Chicago corporation; those on Weekes' Island by a local company; the Jefferson mines are not being worked.

Mr. Lucas tells an amusing story in connection with his salt exploration. He says when he began work on Jefferson Island, people in that vicinity warned him of failure, telling him that others had bored and found nothing. But he had confidence in the geological indications and persisted in drilling. To carry on this work, it was necessary for him to ship several box cars loads of salt, and this fact being known, the story was circulated industriously that he ws "planting" salt in the ground, intending to sell out to "suckers" - "salting" a salt mine, as it were. But this salt was used in an entirely different way. The boring was done with a diamond drill, the diamonds being set in the end of the pipe. As the pipe revolved, the drill cut a circle in the salt, leaving a core of salt within the pipe. At the lower end of the pipe and inside, there were a number of clamps forced outward by springs. When the pipe was raised these clamps would grip the core and break off, so that it might be taken out of the well with the pipe. In drilling it was necessary to pump cold water into the well quickly to keep the rapidly revolving pipe from melting. Had pure water been used, a certain amount of the salt core would be dissolved so that the clamping device could not clutch it. Being so saturated, that is, brine water saturated to the utmost limit with salt, it would not dissolve a particle of the salt core and the clamps worked all right. And that is how the salt was used which was supposed to be intended for "salting" a mine.

About two years ago, Mr. Lucas came to Beaumont direct from the Louisiana salt mines and began prospecting for oil. The story of his efforts, the difficulties and discouragements he encountered, is highly interesting and would fill a book. "I was told," said he in speaking of his experiences, "that I could not succeed; that parties had been boring for oil in that vicinity at intervals for 12 years past and had not succeeded." I was told that I would be throwing my money away. But I was spending my own money, so I claimed that privilege---was satisfied from the geological indications that I would strike oil, and I persisted. It was true that I did not expect a gusher. While I was at work, a party of geologists came down from Washington and went over the field. They asked me what I had, and I explained the geological phenomena to them. "Well," they said, with a shrug of the shoulders, "you may strike oil." Of course, that made me feel a bit uneasy. They were capable and scientific men. Nevertheless, I persisted, and the result is known.

One night shortly before the discovery of oil in the gusher, Mr. Lucas was accosted by a man on the street who said, "Aren't you the fellow who is boring out there." "I am," Mr. Lucas replied. "What do you expect to get."

"Oil," the driller replied. "Well, I own some land out there near your well, and if you strike oil, it will make me rich, won't it."

"Yes, if I strike oil, it will make you rich," said Mr. Lucas and then, thinking he would test the man's generosity and gratitude, he approached him for a loan of $2.

"What. Loan you $2. Well, I guess not," was the reply, and the prospective millionaire quickly vanished.

Another instance of this kind occurred after the discovery of oil. An Italian immigrant, who owned a five-acre tract near the gusher, had sold it for $5,000, being $4,700 more than he had paid for it. Tony had Mr. Lucas sized up to be a fellow countryman, because of the five languages that Lucas speaks fluently, Italian being only one of them. So Tony came to tell Mr. Lucas of his good fortunes.

"Captain Tony, you maka me reech!" said the local Italian. "You strike de oil; you maka me very reech. I pay tree hun'da dollar; I get fifty hun'da dollar. You maka me beeg reech!"

"I told him I was very glad to hear of his good fortune," said Mr. Lucas while repeating the story, "but I thought I would have a little fun with him."

"Tony," I (Lucas) said, "If I've made you rich, don't you think you ought to do something for me."

"Yes, I gonna maka you all right," he answered as he rushed away.

"The next day, Tony sent me two heads of cabbage to my house," Lucas added. "Did I keep them----why, of course I did!"

The Lucas well is not the first well that Mr. Lucas put down in that district, nor is it the original discovery of oil. He put down a well about two years ago, but just as he struck oil, the pipe broke and he had to abandon the well and begin anew. He says the geological formation differed from anything encountered elsewhere, and that some very experienced men now drilling in the field are having trouble with the pipes, several of them being stuck. He says he has had to learn by experience as he went along how to handle the problems presented.

Mr. Lucas believes that the oil discovery at Beaumont marks the beginning of a new era for Texas, an era of great industrial development which cheap fuel will render possible. While he does not believe that oil will be found everywhere in Texas where it is proposed to bore for it, he does believe that a great deal of mineral wealth of various kinds will be exposed, and this prospecting will be vastly beneficial to the state.

Mr. Lucas has written a technical report on the oil deposits of Texas, and it will soon be published by the American Institute of Engineering, of which he is a member. When Mr. Lucas went to Beaumont, he was called "Capt." Lucas. Since he struck oil, he has been advanced to the rank of "Colonel," and by some to the rank of "General." Mr. Lucas was not entirely adverse to being dubbed a Captain, but he has drawn the line at that, and won't stand for Colonel or General. Those titles are somewhat out of line with the branch of service in which he served. You see, he was a former lieutenant in the Austrian Navy. (compiled by W. T. Block)

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