ORCUTT, Calif. - Oil is a big story in the Santa Maria Valley, but it is by no means a new story. Drilling has been going on in the Orcutt Hills for more than 100 years. It was in 1904 when the man who the town would be named for hit upon the biggest gusher anyone had ever seen.
"It was quite a remarkable gusher," Cindy Ransick from the Santa Maria Valley Historical Society said. "There were many gushers. It's just that Old Maud was a phenomenal gusher. She was phenomenal because she was the world's biggest. A million barrels in 90 days. I think anybody would take that."
Petroleum Geologist William Warren Orcutt was working with George Allan Hancock drilling wells around the Oructt Hills when they found the big one. The discovery of such a large amount of oil led to the development of the town.
"It was a phenomenon in the early 1900's," Ransick said. "In fact it's what drew Hancock to our area because he and Orcutt, W.W. Orcutt, were fascinated with the idea of using science to find oil underground as opposed to a divining rod looking for water which then precipitated that there was oil there."
"So they wanted to use science and see if they couldn't find something amazing and Old Maud sort of proved them wrong because she was a total accident," Ransick continued. "They were carrying a whole lot of heavy equipment up a hill to drill for oil and all the equipment fell off the back of a wagon and they said let's drill here. That's where they found the world's biggest oil well."
The gusher produced a million barrels of oil in 90 days. In the 110 years since, operations at Orcutt Hill have produced 180 million barrels of oil.