Pattillo Higgins

Texas oil pioneer
Born: 12/5/1863
Birthplace: Sabine Pass, Tex.

His family moved to Beaumont when Higgins was six. He attended school until the fourth grade and then dropped out to work for his father, a gunsmith. As a teenager, Higgins was often in trouble with the law. At 17 he got into a shootout and killed a sheriff's deputy who had tried to stop Higgins from harassing African Americans. Higgins was wounded and his left arm was amputated above the elbow. Claiming he acted in self-defense, Higgins was acquitted of murder.

After several years of working in lumber camps along the Texas-Louisiana border, Higgins attended a Baptist revival meeting. He embraced Christianity and came to oppose alcohol and any form of public entertainment, including theaters, dancing, and beach resorts.

Higgins worked as a real estate broker and a brick manufacturer before getting involved in oil exploration. Higgins was an early believer that East Texas contained oil, and in the 1860s he purchased half of Spindletop Hill outside Beaumont. After a number of dry wells were drilled, oil was finally struck at Spindletop in 1901. Higgins was not part of the consortium that was leasing the site at the time. Claiming their lease was invalid, Higgins sued the consortium, which settled his claim out of court. In 1902 Higgins sold his company, Higgins Oil and Fuel, for $3 million, making him one of the early Texas oil tycoons. He then formed Higgins Standard Oil Company to search for oil along the Texas Gulf Coast. He remained active in the business for 50 years.

In 1908 Higgins married Annie Johns, and the couple had three children.

Died: 6/5/1955