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Fowlerton Texas Eagle Ford Shale Leasing Issues

Do you own property near Fowlerton Texas, in the Naylor and Jones Subdivision? If so, the following article be of interest to you.

If you look at a map of drilling activity in McMullen and LaSalle Counties, such as the one below from the Texas Railroad Commission, you’ll see an almost blank space on the map where few wells have been drilled.   Fowlerton Texas sits along the border between the “gas and condensate”  and  the “oil window” of the Eagle Ford shale and represents a tiny hole in EOG Resources’ massive half million acre lease area.  Fowlerton Texas was once a thriving community and center of a speculative land development scheme which attracted hundreds of settlers in the early 1900′s.

Below, Texas RRC Map Of New Wells Near Fowlerton, in the old Naylor and Jones Subdivision.

fowlerton drilling activity

A Brief History Of Fowlerton Texas.

At the turn of the twentieth century a couple of shrewd businessmen, (the Fowler brothers,) decided to form a land company and promote the dry, cactus and mesquite covered country along the Frio river in LaSalle and McMullen counties as the “Wintergarden”. They attracted well over two thousand buyers, many of whom migrated from the East Coast for the chance to own a plot of fertile farmland for a few dollars. A farm could be had for as little as twenty five dollars down and ten dollars a month. Many have called the brothers “swindlers” but some historians maintain that they did have a vision of the area as a farming utopia. The Fowler Brothers reportedly  toured the  country just prior to their development plans, during one of the “wet” cycles, when almost any crop could grow there.

Below is an advertisement that appeared in a 1913 edition of the “Fowlerton Reporter” for the First State Bank Of Fowlerton Texas. Like most of the buildings in the town of Fowlerton, nothing remains today.

Photo Of The First State Bank Of Fowlerton Texas

History of Fowlerton Texas And The Naylor And Jones Land Company

Two brothers with the surname of Dull, who had made their fortunes in Pittsburgh, PA, once owned the vast 400,000 acre Dull Ranch. The Dull brothers later sold 240,000 acres to B.L. Naylor and Judge A.H. Jones.  Naylor died in 1910 and Jones in 1912. Jones had contracted with the Fowler Brothers to develop 100,000 acres around what would eventually become the town of Fowlerton, Texas. Growth of the town really took off in the years between 1913-1915.

The Fowler Brothers, in conjunction with Naylor and Jones Land Company, laid out the town  they named after themselves on a grid system and over two hundred miles of roads were built. Lots were divided up, some as small as a sixteenth of an acre in the town-site,  as well as numerous farm plots of anywhere from an acre to a hundred acres or more. When someone bought a ten to 160  acre tract of farm land, they automatically were given a lot in the townsite of Fowlerton.

A cotton gin, large rail depot, hotel, two banks, department stores and schools were all built. There was even a seafood restaurant featuring fresh oysters and shrimp that were brought in on ice from the coast by rail car.  Fowlerton Texas featured several paved streets, sidewalks, fire hydrants and free flowing artesian water wells, (which unfortunately contained some salt.)  The “Artesian Route” as described on the SaU&G railroad advertisement, referred to the areas numerous flowing wells.

The San Antonio, Uvalde & Gulf Railroad Company, nicknamed the “Sausage” connected the new farming center with faraway markets for produce such as onions, cabbage, spinach and other vegetables that were grown by the farmers. The following flyer is from Fowlerton’s newspaper, the Fowlerton Reporter. You will notice many town names, such as Prince and New California that exist in no form today.

old flyer from SAU&G railroad in South Texas

At the height of Fowlerton’s heyday, somewhere between 2000 to 4000 people called the town and immediate vicinity home. Over the years a series of droughts, combined with the negative effect of watering the farms with saline artesian well water, forced almost all the farmers to leave the country. A few remained and switched to ranching but by the 1960′s the town of Fowlerton Texas was down to about two hundred residents. Now census figures show that only about a hundred hardy souls remain.

What does remain in great number are hundreds of small lots, many of which have dubious ownership. Because of the “buy ten acres, get a town lot” system, many farmers never used or even claimed ownership of their town lots from the very beginning of the subdivision, starting in the 1900′s. Over the years many of these lots were sold for back taxes or claimed under the “quit claim deed” law, that enables one to claim ownership simply by occupying the land and paying taxes. Other owners kept up their taxes, though those parcels have no  road access and have been used for generations by local ranchers as their own. Another issue is that the town was incorporated, with official roads and streets, which still  may be legally opened up and which run right through tracts of land, next to (and even through) existing houses and barns, etc. There is no city government so who get any oil and gas royalties from the land occupied by the dozens of active and abandoned streets?

All of this is an attorney or landman’s nightmare  and when it comes to tracking down the owners of these lots it won’t be easy especially since the records are many, are kept in two different county courthouses (LaSalle County and McMullen County). For this reason the township of Fowlerton will likely be the last acreage to be leased by major oil companies.

Below is a recent photo of Fowlerton as it appears today.  Of all the buildings that were built in the once prosperous town only a handful of non-residences remain standing. The old Red Store, (rear left), which was once owned by Mr. O.W. Herman and sons, now serves as the post office.  (Ironically and sadly,  as the biggest economic boom in Fowlerton’s history arrives, the government is considering closing down the post office there.) The Baptist church is located two blocks off of highway 97 and the old Catholic church, now boarded up, sits surround by cactus and mesquite just off of Texas street.

Fowlerton Texas U.S. Post Office

What To Do If  You Own Mineral Rights In The Fowlerton Townsite Area

The certainty that significant quantities of oil and gas lie in the Eagle Ford Shale underneath the Naylor and Jones Subdivision is nearly absolute. The town is surrounded on all four sides by producing wells and situated at a very good position in the volatile oil window of the shale play. While it’s true that it could be few years before drilling comes to the townsite of Fowlerton, it most likely will happen at some point in the future.  It is true that land titles are a mess here, however, the amount of mineral wealth located underneath the old townsite (which could be in the hundreds of millions of dollars,) will most likely prove too much for oil companies to resist. If you are offered a fair price for leasing your property in the area, by all means consider accepting it after discussing the offer with an oil and gas attorney. If you are contacted by an oil and gas company’s “landman” who is requesting your assistance in seeking out long lost owners, etc., it is generally in your best interest to work with them. There are many producing wells now surrounding the old Fowlerton townsite, (some with initial production rates as high as 1,800 barrels of oil per day.)  Mineral owners could eventually reap thousands of dollars of royalty income off of only a small parcel of land. Selling your mineral rights in the Fowlerton Texas area is usually a very bad idea, since oil and gas does lie beneath the area and in a fairly uniform manner. If you accept an offer to sell all of your minerals outright, you will forfeit any chance of receiving royalty checks when a well is drilled. For Fowlerton Texas area landowners, patience should eventually pay off in the long run.

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