History of oil and gas business will be covered in historical society meeting

T. Greg Merrion will screen two videos, deliver presentation

Mike Easterling
Farmington Daily Times
  • The meeting will be held at 6 p.m. Wednesday, April 13 in the Banquet Room at the Farmington Civic Center.
  • Admission is free, and everyone is welcome to attend.
  • Doors will open at 5:30 for those who wish to pay new membership dues.

FARMINGTON — It took the oil and gas business many years to make a significant impact in San Juan County, but once it did, that industry came to define life here in many ways.

The story of how that happened will be told in a presentation by T. Greg Merrion, the recently retired president of Farmington's Merrion Oil & Gas, during a San Juan County Historical Society general meeting next week. Merrion will screen two short videos dealing with that history and talk about the role his own family's company has had in energy development in the San Juan Basin.

"When you're talking about history, what I think most people find interesting is the characters involved in creating those historical events," Merrion said. "And, of course, the characters I am most familiar with are those in my family."

A drilling rig is drawn by horses and mules in San Juan County in 1922. The history of the oil and gas business in the San Juan Basin will be covered in a presentation by T. Greg Merrion during an April 13 meeting of the San Juan County Historical Society.

The origin story of Merrion Oil & Gas is certainly a colorful one, to hear Merrion tell it. Though the company officially traces its founding to 1960 when its first well was drilled, Merrion said his grandfather — a Chicago wool trader who later bought and sold ranches all over the West — laid the foundation for the family business when he acquired a ranch in Counselor in the 1940s.

Leo Merrion sold the ranch seven years later, but when he did, he made the fateful decision to retain the mineral rights to the property. Though he would die a few years later without having seen those mineral rights developed, his son J. Gregory Merrion — at great financial peril — drilled the family's first well on the ranch in 1960, developing an asset that would get the new company off to a running start.

The Edna #1 well in Counselor was the first well drilled by Merrion Oil and Gas and became the foundation of the company's success.

"Dad did just risk it all," Merrion said. "That was our first well, which was named the Edna 1. Thankfully, it was a success."

One element of Merrion's presentation that is sure to draw special interest is a letter J. Gregory Merrion wrote to his mother when he made the decision to quit his high-paying job with an oil company in Midland, Texas, and gamble on drilling a well on the Counselor property. Merrion said that letter has become part of family lore, and he plans to share it with the historical society audience.

"He contemplates that it very well could be a complete failure," Merrion said.

The opposite turned out to be true, of course, but that doesn't subtract from the wildcatter spirit that was required to take such a gamble. Merrion said the history of the San Juan Basin is likely rife with such tales.

"It's no more spectacular than a lot of other stories that could be told about the area," he said. "That's just one story I know very well."

The meeting will be held at 6 p.m. Wednesday, April 13, in the Banquet Room at the Farmington Civic Center, 200 W. Arrington St. Admission is free, and everyone is welcome to attend. Doors will open at 5:30 for those who wish to pay new membership dues.

T. Greg Merrion, the recently retired president of Merrion Oil and Gas, will talk about the industry's history in the San Juan Basin during a presentation next week for the San Juan County Historical Society.

Another historical society event will take place at 1:30 p.m. on Saturday, April 16, when a plaque commemorating the drilling of the first commercial natural gas well in the San Juan Basin is dedicated at the site of the well on the west side of U.S. Highway 550 just south of Aztec. Jason Sandel of Aztec Well Service will serve as the keynote speaker for that event.

Mike Easterling can be reached at 505-564-4610 or measterling@daily-times.com. Support local journalism with a digital subscription: http://bit.ly/2I6TU0e.