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  • In North Dakota, Boom, Bust and OilAugust 7, 2015

    By

    On U.S. 2 in North Dakota, just west of the turnoff for Tioga, you will spot two little brown highway signs pointing left:

    Historic Site
    5 Miles

    And:

    Lewis and Clark State Park
    30 Miles

    It would be natural to assume that the historic site has something to do with Lewis and Clark, but it doesn’t. Drive too fast or ignore your odometer and you will miss it: a narrow dirt drive that leads to a stout monument of reddish stone, maybe seven feet high. It reads:

    Oil was first discovered in North Dakota by Amerada Petroleum Corporation April 4, 1951. This Williston Basin discovery, Clarence Iverson No. 1, opened a new era for North Dakota and reaffirmed the confidence of her people in the opportunities and future of this great state.

    The monument was dedicated on Oct. 25, 1953, just two and a half years after the event it commemorates, but people had wildcatted for oil in North Dakota since 1916. After 35 years of fruitless drilling, you can understand why contemporaries would have regarded that first strike as historic. Continue reading…