John G. McCaskey
|John Gruard McCaskey|
John Gruard McCaskey in 1917
July 3, 1874|
|Died||January 12, 1924
|Spouse(s)||Mary Florence Ashford McCaskey|
John Gruard McCaskey born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on July 3, 1874, was an essential factor in opening up the oil fields of Oklahoma and Texas. By his early 30s McCaskey was President of The National Sauerkraut Association, had become a self made millionaire and won for himself the cognomen of “the Sauerkraut King” after his friend E. W. Marland arranged for a contract with the farmers of Dutchess County, New York, giving McCaskey an option for the annual cabbage crop. From this he had built an extensive commercial enterprise, owning a large number of factories making sauerkraut in Ohio, Pennsylvania (the SnowFloss brand) and New York (the Seneca Kraut and Pickling Company). Controlling two-thirds of the U.S. market for this product, it was the largest in America. It was from this base that he chose to engage in the new oil business on a large scale, founding a number of oil companies in Oklahoma and Texas.
Oil business ventures
His initial oil venture started with a young manhood friend, E. W. Marland. In 1908 McCaskey became an investor and a director of the 101 Ranch Oil Company of Ponca City founded by Marland to explore for Oklahoma oil. By 1910 however, the company was on the verge of failure having run out of money and only having found natural gas. McCaskey reorganized the company, was elected President and associating his activities with Pittsburgh capital he raised funds from W. H. McFadden, a retired Carnegie Steel executive, who was elected Vice President, General Manager and J. M. Weaver, who was elected Treasurer. A drilling lease was obtained on the Willie Cry Ponca Indian allotment and on June 11, 1911 the well “Willy-Cries-For-War” struck oil, bringing wealth to the company and its investors. The company’s 1911 oil discovery in North Eastern Oklahoma opened up oil development in a great region from Eastern Oklahoma west to Mervine, Newkirk, Blackwell, Billings and Garber and led to the founding of the Marland Oil Company, later renamed the Continental Oil Company, or Conoco.
McCaskey quickly moved on to other opportunities, organizing the Southwestern Oil Company of Texas and took into this new venture Lewis Haines Wentz, a former sauerkraut salesman in his brokerage company and J. J. McGraw, a Ponca City Banker. In this capacity he promoted the Newkirk, Blackwell, Billings, Graber and the Tonkawa Three Sands Field, one of the best known oil fields of its day, producing income of over one million dollars per month in the 1920s. During this time he also formed and was President of a number of companies in the area including the Kay County Gas Company, The Kiowa, and the Peoples Fuel and Supply Company.
Ventures in Fort Worth
About 1917, in exchange for cash and company stock, McCaskey sold his interests to the Marland Refining Company (later Incorporated in Delaware, January 3, 1921 as the Marland Oil Company, trading on the New York Stock Exchange. The company was renamed the Continental Oil Company on June 26, 1929. He then associated himself with Lewis Haines Wentz under the McCaskey/Wentz Corporation (later the Wentz Corporation). From its start the company prospered and brought wealth to both McCaskey and Wentz. Leaving Wentz in charge of the Ponca City operations McCaskey moved his family to Fort Worth acquiring a home that had been deserted by the German Consulate at the beginning of World War I, 1316 Pennsylvania Avenue; later the clubhouse for the Woman’s Club of Fort Worth. He then formed and was President of the Duquesne Oil Corporation, States Oil Corporation, West Texas Oil Corporation and others. By 1920 he and his partners were reported to control about 10 percent of the world’s oil production.
Death and philanthropic activities
The remarkable achievements of McCaskey were compressed into the short span of forty-nine years, for he died in Pittsburgh, January 12, 1924, leaving five orphaned children, only a few years after his wife died, July 11, 1921 in an automobile accident while motoring to their summer home on Lake Erie. This ended her extensive philanthropic activities in Fort Worth to include active membership on the board of All Saints Hospital of Fort Worth (since 2001 the Baylor All Saints Hospital of Fort Worth), President of the Woman’s Service league of Trinity Episcopal Church of Fort Worth, and her funding a summer camp for Fort Worth’s 75 newsboys.
The John G. McCaskey Trust, 1924
In 1927 the Pennsylvania Orphans Court removed Wentz as trustee of the J. G. McCaskey Trust that benefited McCaskey’s five orphaned children. The court had discovered that since the trust could not fund the oil properties’ development, Wentz had purchased the oil and gas properties from the estate without a competitive bid (an egregious violation of his fiduciary duties) and had paid for the properties with his personal unsecured note. The family chose to honor the purchase. By 1927 these properties were earning a million dollars per month.
- "E. W. Marland: Life and Death of an Oil Man", John Joseph Mathews, Pg. 80. (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, (1985): ISBN 0-8061-1238-7
- American Biography a New Cyclopedia, Volume LXV. Published under the direction of The American Historical Society, Inc. New York. 1931. pg. 126 and 127.
- Offering Bill for the 101 Ranch Oil Company. 1908: Held by the CONOCO Museum, Ponka City, Oklahoma.
- The Pittsburgh Dispatch, 1913. Page 1.
- Moody’s Industrial Manual 1960. Pg 249.
- Court Record: Pennsylvania Orphans Court, Allegheny County, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
- "Kay County Oklahoma", Published by Kay County Gas Co. Ponca City, OK. 1919. pp. 38–43.
- "The 101 Ranch", Ellsworth Collings, University of Oklahoma Press; Reprint edition (March 1986) ISBN 0-8061-1047-3.
- "CONOCO The First One Hundred Years", CONOCO, Dell Publishing Company (1975) ISBN 978-0-04-404809-1