Summer is a time for children to have fun, relax and hang out with friends, but for some they had the opportunity to learn about the area around them and how Barton County has played a role in the oil and gas industry.
The Kansas Oil and Gas Museum is hosting a two-week summer camp for local children where they got the chance to learn about the oil and gas industry and how it has played an important role throughout the surrounding communities. The first week concludes today.
“The kids really enjoy the camp,” Museum Curator Danielle Ricklefs said. “Five of them have never been to a museum, so they are very excited about being here.”
The children were able to explore how oil and gas play a part in their daily lives, they learned about geology and how it plays a part in oil and gas drilling and they had the opportunity to explore the exhibits at the museum.
According to Ricklefs most of the children were able to attend this camp through private donations that were paid to the museum.
“It was by an happy accident that this happen this way.” Ricklefs said. “We had one person pay for their child and that child was not able to attend and the parent told me to keep the money and give to another child that could use it to attend the camp. After this, donations just started to come in.”
There is another camp scheduled for July. It, too, will be broken up over two weeks with two different themes and the cost is $25. According to Ricklefs there are plenty of seats available for the July installment.
The museum’s goal is to provide educational information about present industry activities, to preserve the past history of the oil and gas industry in Great Bend and surrounding areas, and to honor those who have dedicated their lives to the industry,she said.
For more information about the camp or to make a donation contact Ricklefs at 620-617-8335.
Great Bend oil
The first exploration for oil in the area was financed in 1886 by a group of Great Bend speculators. By 1930, it was estimated that the county received more than $20 million annually from the oil and gas industry. From 1930 to 1940, the town’s population nearly doubled as some 3,000 oil wells began to produce in the surrounding area.
According to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, Kansans have been trying to gather and market petroleum since before Kansas was made a state in 1861.
As early as 1855 petroleum was being found in springs and seeps near Osawatomie and Paola.
The oil would be skimmed off and bottled to be sold as medicine, since industry had not realized the massive potential of petroleum.
However, a number of things had to happen before petroleum could become anything resembling an industry in Kansas.
The first oil well in the pioneering oil fields in Pennsylvania wasn’t drilled until 1859 and the Civil War interrupted Kansas’ economic development.
The refining and uses of petroleum had not yet been developed.
Kansans were still traveling over wagon trails; the railroads wouldn’t crisscross the state until nearly the 1870s. But since then oil and gas has become a $4.3 billion industry in Kansas, employing tens of thousands and providing an essential tax base for the state.
Only agriculture exceeds oil and gas in economic importance.
Finding, drilling, and extracting petroleum is only the beginning of the story.
Oil is little more than a useless potential pollutant until it can be refined and marketed.