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Rangely Page 1

Quondam Rangely(2): The Really Old Days

A view of Rangely in 1945, looking north up main street.

Raven A well, drilled in 1933, capped and produced in mid 40s.

Rangely the boom town, 1946.

Art Smith's Guam Trailer Park in 1946.

Post Office in 1946.

Real Estate office in 1946.

Tent City in 1946.

Nichols Store, 1946.

Main Street, 1946.

1947 flood.

Tent City in 1947.

Art Smith's tent motel, 1947.

Flooding at Cramer Bell Court, maybe 1947.

Swimming in White River, 1947, by the old bridge.

Silver Dollar Club and Tiny's Cafe, early 50s.

Ace Hi Club taken in early 50s.

Main Street in early 50s.

Another view of Main Street in early 50s.

Dinosaur in Jensen, Utah.

New Jr Hi built in 1953.

Stroud Well at Eddy Farm, about 1955.

California Camp, 1951.

California Camp, 50s.

California Camp, 50s.

Flash flood in 80s.

Hale Bobb Comet over Rangely pump, 1997.

Ice Jam on White River, 1983.

Oil Well, 1968.

Another Oil Well, 1968.

A view of Rangely in 1945, looking north up main street.

Raven A well, drilled in 1933, capped and produced in mid 40s.

Rangely the boom town, 1946.

Art Smith's Guam Trailer Park in 1946.

In the mid to late 1990s, a marvelous Rangely website was launched. It's been gone for years, but the miracle of the Wayback Machine allows us a glimpse of what it was like. If some of the links are broken, you can poke around a little and try a different date of archival. Or search the Wayback Machine for the site.

In 1908 the USGS published a report on the Geology of the Rangely Oil District. It mentions my Grandfather, Joe Trachta, and quotes him (page 46) about the strata underlying the Rangely field. You can read the report at the link below.

Kathy Hurt, former Rangely resident, has written the definitive, and maybe only, comprehensive history of the Rangely Area. It may not be availabe. There is a site claiming to offer it as a PDF download but this has not been verified because the site is registered in the New Zealand .tk domain, which is notorious for bad actors. Below are a few links that at least have heard of the book.

Pre-1946 Clippings

Joe Trachta began his oil drilling career in the Rangely area, in 1902.

The pictures on this page were selected from the family albums of Joe and Glenn Florence Trachta, who lived in the Rangely area from 1910 to about 1923, and again from the early 1940s into the 1950s. A few pictures were annotated, and some can be identified by context. The Trachta children appear in some, and their apparent ages serve as a chronometer. Stanley was born in 1911 and he appears between one and three in the early pictures, placing them around 1912-1913. Joe Junior was born in 1915 and brother Eldy in 1917. They date the next batch of pictures to around 1919-1922. Anne was born in 1923 in Montana, and she first appears in the Chinook, Montana pictures, indicating the early Rangely pictures ended about that time. Nevertheless, dates, and some identifications, are speculative, and feedback is welcome. If you recognize someone, you can let us know through the Rangely Facebook page.

According to Kathy Hurt, "Roads to Rangely," oil discoveries in the Rangely area began around 1890. The California Company came in 1901 and began drilling test holes. The first shallow well, using cable tools, was drilled around 1902 with George Eldred as driller, and my grandfather, Joe Trachta, as tool dresser. They had various problems of crooked holes, lost bits, and cussed luck. I recall my grandfather talking about these failed attempts several times, but I was about nine years old, and had no clear notion of what he was talking about.

Local author Hallie Blunt published this (click to pop up story) account of early Rangely Oil exploration in 2013. Notice the similarity of her gusher picture to one from the Trachta archives, below.

This picture was labeled by Joe Trachta's sister-in-law as depicting the Raven 1 well, in 1933. Joe Trachta was working in Montana in 1933, and probably had nothing to do with the 1933 deep test that ushered in the Rangely boom. He and master driller George Eldred attempted to punch through the Rangely Dome, Mancos Shale in 1902-03, but they were unsuccessful.

Bridge over the White River in Rangely. This picture was in the Joe Trachta family album and someone dated it 1902, an apparent error since there was no such bridge at that time. See 1912 bridge, below.

Joe Trachta's sister-in-law, Leila Jones Cutter, captioned some of the pictures included here, and called the first one, upper left, the original deep test that ushered in the Rangely Boom. It may be what is now called Raven "1," but Joe Trachta was in Montana when it was drilled, and probably had nothing to do with it.

My father, a mystical machine whisperer himself, later spoke in awed tones about my grandfather being able to put his hand on the cable, as the well was being drilled, and determine the hole direction and material being passed through, and whether any adjustments of force and tension were required. Joe Trachta took over drilling duties from Eldred on a Union Oil deep test and took their well down to 3800 feet, the deepest cable tool well ever drilled in the area. Still, that didn't penetrate the Mancos Shale guarding the Rangely Dome.

Glenn Trachta and son,Stanley, about 1912.

Joe Trachta in Rangely, about 1912.

Crossing White River in Rangely, about 1912.

Trachta family in Rangely, about 1913.

Men under the ridge, about 1912.

Transportation was iffy, about 1912.

Reliability requried horsepower, about 1912.

Rangely, Colorado, viewed from drilling site, about 1912.

Delivering supplies, about 1913.

Drilling in the horse-frieght days, about 1913.

Looking for the Mancos shale, about 1913.

Dapper oil man, about 1913.

The crew, about 1913.

Ed Walsh, Joe Trachta, and Stanley, about 1913.

Stanley at the rig, about 1913.

Joe Trachta and unknown crew, about 1913.

Drilling site, about 1913.

Possibly Rangely, about 1914.

Joe Trachta in Rangely, about 1912.

Sleigh ride in Rangely, about 1912.

Joe Trachta drilling a well, unknown location and unknown time.

Rangely School, about 1916.

Lode and Grace Jones, probably in Rangely, about 1918.

Trachta boys, Joe, Stanley and Eldy, plus Virginia Jones, about 1920. Dates of pictures around this one, in the album, based on apparent age of children.

Joe and Glenn Trachta, about 1920.

Drilling site, about 1920.

Unknown boys, probably children of some of Joe Trachta's crew, about 1920.

Unknown driller, at well site, about 1920.

Gusher near Rangely, about 1920.

Gusher near Rangely, about 1920. This is probably the same picture freatured in Hallie Blunt's story (link above).

Rangely from the drill site, about 1920.

Drilling crew, about 1920. Joe Trachta second from left.

Probably Glenn Florence Jones Trachta (Joe Trachta's wife), and Louie Wurtz, tool dresser for Joe Trachta.

A fire, presumably near the drilling site, about 1920.

Joe Trachta (right) and his brother-in-law, Dick Cutter (left), about 1920.

Presumably these houses are in or near Rangely, about 1920.

Neither the significance of, nor the participants in this and the next picture are known. Presumably near Rangely.

The next pictures show the rig being toppled after drilling was complete, about 1920. Unknown buildings in the background.

The annotations on this picture are reversed. Lodeman Jones is on the left, and his brother Willar is on the right.

Members of the crew. Lode Jones is second from left.

This dapper fellow is unknown. He is probably a member of the crew. About 1920.

The drilling crew. About 1920.

Delivering supplies. About 1920.

The rig. About 1920.

The Rangely stage, during the 1920s.

Rangely and the Coltharpe Store, in the 1920s.

The Rangely Lion's Head, in the 1920s. Unknown person.

The Rangely Lion's Head, in the 1920s.

Joe Trachta drilling a well near Rangely during the 1920s.

Drilling near Petrolite, unknown date, but that looks like a wooden rig.

Joe Trachta and Lodeman Jones in Rangely during the late 1930s.

Jones Avenue and unknown person, 1954. Art Smith's Chevy dealership in background, left.

Building housing Art Smith's Chevy dealership of the 1950s. Picture taken in 2005.

Joe Trachta began his oil-drilling career in DeBeque, Colorado, after a military stint during the Spanish American War, and early dabblings in farming, stage driving, and railroad construction. He moved to Rangely around 1908. After failing to get a well down to the Dakota sandstone, he moved in the 1920s with the California Company to Montana and spent several years drilling in that region. After retiring from the California Company he returned to Rangely and did contract drilling with his brother-in-law, Lodeman Jones. He built a house in 1946-1947 on Jones Avenue, and the house is still in use.

My family moved to Rangely in 1953 after my grandfather, Joe Trachta Sr, passed away. My grieving grandmother didn't talk much about her late husband, but did mention how he loved playing pool with some of the high school boys. We left for New Mexico in 1955, and in 2005 my wife and I drove through Rangely, my first time back in half a century. Much had changed; much hadn't. My grandfather's house looked about the same. Main Street was different but familiar. The building that housed Uncle Art Smith's Chevy dealership was still there. The school I'd attended was gone, but the Cramer Bell Court was still there, as was our little house.

My wife and I stopped at the cemetery on our way out of town to visit my grandparents' graves. I noticed another gentleman in the cemetery. As I left he introduced himself as Jerry Hays.

Jerry told me he'd known my grandfather, and played pool with him as a young high school student. He owned some of the wells my grandfather had drilled. As I was driving away I remembered my grandmother's story, and realized I'd finally met, after fifty years, and thousands of miles, one of those young men she'd been talking about. I also remembered, belatedly, that Jerry and his brother Stanley were boyhood heroes, exuberant stars of football and basketball. Rangely has always seemed home, despite my little time there. When Jerry Hays connected extempore a thread spun out by my grandmother fifty years before, Rangely became a transcendent bit of geography.


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