History was on display at the Chautauqua Auditorium in Getzendander Park Saturday during the Chautauqua Assembly 2011.

Speakers from throughout Texas talked about this year’s theme, which focused on both the history and current developments of oil and gas in our region.

Dr. Tommy Stringer, vice president for institutional advancement and the director of the Navarro College Foundation, served as the event’s keynote speaker.

Stringer spoke on the early beginning of the oil industry that started Corsicana more than a century ago.

“Oil has shaped the Texas economy and the Texas oil dream actually began about 40 miles from Corsicana. The one thing missing from Corsicana was a water supply which would help to bring businesses in,” Stringer said.

The Texas oil industry began during the drilling of four water wells in 1894, Stringer said. “When they reached 1,000 feet they struck oil. The oil industry was new so samples were sent to Pennsylvania to see if the oil was commercially viable and the results turned out positive.”

Stringer said Joseph Cullian was brought in to work as a consultant to the city, bringing 13 years of experience from the Standard Oil Company. As results of Cullian’s work, city oil storage tanks were constructed along with a pipeline and later a refinery was established. By 1900 the city was producing 836,000 barrels of oil a year.

Stringer said Waxahachie was not involved with drilling oil wells, but was indirectly involved through the transportation of materials via rail lines, moving oil through a pipeline and refining oil.

Stringer said a refinery was established near the present location of Texas Work Force Commission located at 1712 U.S. Highway 287 Bypass in Waxahachie. He added it was shut down several years later due to water and air pollution in the Waxahachie region.

As a result of the oil boom Corsicana was able to build a new city hall and high school, as well as paying off existing debt. Oil revenue also helped the city purchase a new fire truck, Stringer said. 

Milton Enderlin, research associate with Texas Christian University Energy Institute, spoke about the geology of Ellis County and the surrounding areas. Enderlin said the current method of drilling for gas in the Barnett Shale is to put the layer of rock under stress. Rocks react from drilling by fracturing, cracking, bending or moving out of the way of the drill bit. During his talk, Enderlin used several models and visuals to explain to the audience how rock react during the fracking process.

Sig Brandenburg was one of the attendees of Saturday’s Chautauqua Assembly.

Brandenburg said he enjoyed learning about how the discovery of oil made Texas grow into the state it is today. 

Beverly Worthington agreed with Brandenburg, saying people who didn’t attend the presentations really missed out by not being here on Saturday afternoon.

A video presentation of the documentary “Haynesville: A Nation’s Hunt for an Energy Future” was part of the program on oil and gas.

The film follows the discovery of the largest natural gas field in Louisiana called the Haynesville Shale.  A presentation was also held on hydraulic fracturing and was followed by question and answer session about matters effecting oil and gas exploration in the region.

Entertainment was also included in this year’s Assembly with music provided by the jazz bands from Waxahachie High School and Southwestern Assemblies of God University as well as the Old Fashioned Singing Project. The Waxahachie Community Theatre presented a short melodrama “Mischief in the Magnolias” while members of Waxahachie CARE hosted a pie social fundraising event on the grounds in front of the Chautauqua.

The Waxahachie Band Boosters sold food in conjunction with Chick-fil-A throughout the day.

Chautauqua was an adult education movement in the United States, highly popular in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Chautauqua Assemblies expanded and spread throughout rural America until the mid-1920s bringing entertainment and culture for the whole community, with speakers, teachers, musicians, entertainers, preachers and specialists of the day.

Waxahachie is home to one of the few remaining Chautauqua buildings in the country.

Sponsored by the Chautauqua Preservation Society, which revived the Chautauqua Assembly concept more than a decade ago, is held every fall, each year focusing on a different theme.

Contact Andrew at andrew.branca@wninews.com or 469-517-1451.