Oilfield Stories: The man who knew the mysteries of the earth

Doc Lloyd, left, stands with Daisy Bradford and Dad Joiner during the search for East Texas oil.

Doc Lloyd read the soil as easily as he read books, and, for him, the soil was easier to understand.

Dad Joiner did not regard sinking a wildcat well beneath the pine needles such a long shot.  He knew all about the major oil companies that had made a few tests, taken a few core samples, and finally walked away from land they considered unproductive and worthless.

But then, those oil companies did not possess a report titled the “Geological, Topographical, and Petroliferous Survey, Portion of Rusk County, Texas.” Dad Joiner did.

It had been prepared exclusively for him by the renowned, self-styled geologist, physician, and petroleum engineer, Adelbert Durham “Doc” Lloyd, a burly man who lived hard, drank hard whiskey, and was convinced that his riches lay somewhere deep in the hard ground.

He had spent most of his seventy-three years searching for them, had been the mastermind behind discoveries of oilfields, large and small, from one end of the country to the other, and now he was on his way to unlock the secrets buried beneath a pine-straw landscape that lay south of Kilgore.

Doc Lloyd liked to study the color of rocks above the ground and the earth below. The right combination of colors meant oil, he always said, and East Texas, as much as any place he had ever been, certainly had the right combination.

He read the soil as easily as he read books, and, for him, the soil was easier to understand.

He wore Jodhpurs, knee-high laced boots, and a Mexican sombrero, and few in East Texas knew that Doc Lloyd had graduated with a Doctor of Medicine degree from the American Electric Medical College.

During a turbulent and peripatetic lifetime, Doc had served time as a druggist, veterinarian, and a government chemist who trekked westward during the Idaho gold rush.  He prospected for gold, then oil, in the Yukon, then Mexico.

He gained notoriety as the impresario of Dr. Alonzo Durham‘s Great Medicine Show, wandering like a vagabond from town to town and peddling patent medicines he concocted from the blessed oil he had coaxed from the earth.

His was not a carnival show out to make a quick dollar and then escape town before the unsuspecting realized the medicine was little more than a mixture of herbs and oils.

Doc Lloyd, if nothing else, was a serious physician.  His Health Herald in 1899 described his show as bringing “Glad Tidings to Suffering Humanity.”

Doc Lloyd sold his patent medicines to crowds who gathered around his traveling, horse-drawn wagon, and physicians across the country lined up to purchase them for their own patients.

Doc Lloyd, who referred to himself as a finder of fortunes, and Dad Joiner swore they knew things about the mysteries of the earth that the great oil companies would never understand.

He and the medicine show man preached it, promised it, and promoted it.

They would find oil.

They would make men rich.

They would find the well of the world.

Only the poor believed it.

My novel, Back Side of a Blue Moon, is based on many of the oilfield stories I heard growing up in the East Texas boomtown of Kilgore. Please click HERE to find the book on Amazon.

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