The derrick, located west of Main Street on Commerce along the railroad tracks, is dedicated to Paul Lewis Miller (1894-1990) by Ann Ida Buchanan Miller and Ann Ida Miller II.
Although Dad Joiner’s Daisy Bradford was the first well completed in the East Texas Oil Field, Mr. Miller bought the leases and was the operator on the Lou Della Crim No. I and No. 2. He drilled the first oil wells inside the city limits of Kilgore beginning on May 23, 1931.
Prior to coming to East Texas, the Kenton, Ohio, native sought his fortune in Canada searching for gold. And when the gold vein didn’t show, he moved to California where his mother and twin brother lived. He found a job selling expensive real estate in Hollywood in the mid-1920s. He went to school to learn to sell, but had chosen the wrong partners and soon, except for a few leases, was broke. A fateful telephone call and another man’s persistence turned his life around. The man insisted on seeing Miller’s leases. After purchasing them, he hired Miller to buy up leases with oil potential. The man turned out to be the president of Star Petroleum Company (later Cal-Star Petroleum Company) and was buying up leases after a 5,000 barrel well had come in California. In 1928, two years before the Daisy Bradford blew in and changed this region of the country forever, Mr. Miller moved to the Kilgore area to gather leases for Star Petroleum. A favorite family story of Mr. Miller goes thusly:
“He did find a gold vein in Canada. He went back to camp to stake his claim and had a message that his mother had died, so he left to go back to California. Later he bought stock in numerous mining companies in that area. He sold his stock in one company at a profit of nearly $100,000. So he did strike gold after all!”
The derrick is provided by N.P. Powell Estate, Caldwell #1.