The derrick, located west of Main Street on Commerce along the railroad tracks, is dedicated to John Cyril Robbins (1897-1978) by his children Betty Robbins Lloyd, John Clinton Robbins and Dorothy Robbins Kennedy, and his grandchildren Charles Robbins Davis, Rebecca Lynn Robbins, Mary Susan Robbins Dickson, Carrie Christine Boren, George Earnest Kennedy III, Elizabeth Joyce Davis, Lila Gail Robbins Murphy, Beverly Ann Robbins. David Daniel Boren and Neina Mead Kennedy.
Born in Dona Ana County near Las Cruces, N.M., in 1897, he served as a lieutenant in the tank corps in Europe in World War I. Mr. Robbins organized and owned Southwestern Drilling Company and drilled wells in New Mexico and West Texas. He graduated from New Mexico A&M in 1923, serving as student body president in 1922-23. He married Mary Lee Donaghey in 1932. He came to East Texas in April 1931 for the opportunity to be in on the development of the East Texas Oil Field. Over the next five years (1931-36), he bought and sold numerous leases and was instrumental in drilling and completing 33 producers in the field. One-third of these wells are still producing today after 73 years and are expected to last another 10 to 15 years.
He formed Robbins Petroleum Corporation in Longview in 1939. Mr. Robbins, later joined by son John Clinton Robbins, discovered or participated in drilling the discovery well of the following fields: Pine Mills, Wood County, Texas; Caledonia, Rusk County, Texas; Danville, Gregg and Rusk Counties, Texas; Pone, Rusk County, Texas; Oldtown-Lewisville, Lafayette County, Arkansas; Champagnolle Landing, Union County, Arkansas; Robbins, Gregg County, Texas; Peatown, Gregg County, Texas and Pine Hollow, Houston County, Texas. In all, he was as an interest owner in 300 wells but the most important wells were here in the East Texas Oil Field. They were his bread and butter, and are still important to his heirs. A civic leader in Longview, he was senior warden emeritus of his church, Trinity Episcopal Church of Longview. He was also a philanthropist, giving scholarships to needy students and his time and money to numerous causes and projects. According to his family, his motto summed him up best: “Esse Quam Videri” – “To be rather than seem to be.”