TIOGA — Jim Iverson says he has a hard time remembering when oil was discovered on the family farm near Tioga back in 1951.
He was awfully preoccupied back then. “We’d had dry holes before and I was chasing a woman that I
didn’t want to lose,” he said, a twinkle still showing in eyes behind thick glasses.
As it turned out, he got the girl and his dad got the oil. That Clarence Iverson No. 1 well was the beginning of a long, colorful history of oil production in North Dakota. It was celebrated Wednesday in Tioga at a grand party to commemorate daily production of 1 million barrels of oil.
It took 63 long years to get from that lonely well out on the Iverson place to this new frenetic world of more than 10,000 wells and 1 million barrels a day, with most coming on in the past seven years, thanks to hydraulic fracturing technology.
Iverson and his wife, Deanie Iverson, have been married 60 of those years, still delighted with each other’s company and equally so with the good fortune that has come to so many as a result of oil. At least that’s the way they see it.
They reflected on all the change around them before heading off to a finger-licking barbecue of 200 pounds of boiled crawdads and
300 pounds of Gulf shrimp, spicy corn on the cob and juicy watermelon.
The food reflected how much of this oil boom is being developed by company men and women from southern states.
Not all oil booms are equal.
“The wealth of this oil discovery is so much bigger,” Deanie Iverson said. “We have farmers that scratched the dirt all their lives and now they’re multimillionaires,” she said.
Jim Iverson said he was glad for his father as he watched the speakers, the prizes, the hoopla and listened to the Texas Flying Rangers put on a roaring jet-fueled air show overhead.
“It’s wonderful. Our schools are bigger and lots of nice people moved to town,” he said. The couple raised
10 kids in New Town, where they were grocers up until three years ago, oil money not withstanding.
Lorin Bakken is locally famous because it was on his family’s land that the third producing well was drilled, also in 1951 — but that one in the Bakken Formation, named for his dad, Henry O. Bakken, and his uncle, Harry O. Bakken, who jointly farmed the land.
The well produced 257,000 barrels of oil before the pump jack was pulled in the late ’60s. It was finally plugged in 1974.
It was another 30 years before that formation yielded its real potential under the explosive pressure of fracking, setting off a drilling frenzy and making the Bakken Formation and name known around the globe.
Bakken, who’s single and something of a numbers savant, lives alone in Tioga. He’s the last of that family and he said his forebears have been in the back of his mind all this week.
“It’s an honor and a privilege. As long as the Bakken name is treated with dignity and respect, we’re honored,” he said.
The party was held at the Neset Consulting building outside Tioga, and most of the 3,000 people who attended were shuttled to the site on long coach buses.
Nancy Olson, a Tioga music teacher, said she came to celebrate all that’s happened to her town and region.
“It’s getting better every day,” she said of the almost immeasurable change boom town people have experienced. “This is a big day in the history of Tioga.”
The party was sponsored by the North Dakota Petroleum Council, and director Ron Ness said he was pleased to see so many community folks, reminiscent of the celebration picnics farmers would have if oil was discovered on their land.
He said the next milestone for the oil patch will be the completion of highway bypasses around the busy towns, already underway in Dickinson, Watford City, Williston, New Town and Alexander.
The next obvious milestone for oil production is 1.5 million barrels. It’s hard to say when that will happen, but with 2,000 new wells coming on a year, it might not be long.
“I would guess we’ll get there faster than we got to this one,” Ness said.