McCamey is a city in Upton County, West Texas. The population was 1,805 at the 2000 census. The Texas legislature has declared McCamey "the Wind Energy Capital of Texas" because of the many wind farms that have been built in the area. Its history, however, is primarily that of an oil boomtown.
McCamey City Hall at 207 E. 6th St.
Location of McCamey, Texas
|Coordinates: 31°7′56″N 102°13′20″W|
McCamey is named for George B. McCamey, whose 1925 wildcat well brought about the oil boom in the region. He brought in a real estate developer from Corpus Christi, Texas, to lay out a townsite near the oil field and along the Kansas City, Mexico and Orient Railway capable of housing 10,000 people. The town was initially a jumble of tents and frame shacks; order came slowly, replacing the lawlessness of the early boomtown environment. A post office was built in 1926, and the town was incorporated near the end of that year. In 1927, the McCamey Independent School District was formed, and an enterprising newspaperman printed the first issue of the Tri-County Record, the first town newspaper.
Water supply was a problem in the early years of McCamey, as the nearby water sources were not drinkable. Water came in by train from Alpine, almost 100 miles (160 km) away, at a cost of $1 a barrel. (McCamey was served by the Kansas City, Mexico and Orient Railway.) A potable water supply was found in a geologic unit only 17 miles (27 km) distant, and pipes were built to transport it to town in 1929.
McCamey was the location of a Humble Oil Company Refinery, one of the first built in West Texas. Humble Oil & Refining Company later changed its name to Exxon Company. An early experiment by Shell Oil Company in massive oil storage in McCamey proved a failure: local oilmen built a reservoir to hold up to one million barrels of oil in an earthen tank, but the limestone formation underneath the tank cracked under the weight of the crude, allowing much of it to leak into the subsurface.
The population of the town declined during the Great Depression along with the price of oil, and as the discovery of large oil fields elsewhere pulled workers away. In 1940 there were 2,600 people in McCamey; in 1980, there were 2,436; and the 2000 census showed the population had shrunk to 1,805.
In 1940, the Texas oilman and industrialist Bill Noël moved to McCamey, where he joined M. H. McWhirter of Monahans and J. B. Tubb of Crane County to establish the Trebol Oil Company. He worked eighteen-hour days as Trebol's tool pusher, pumper, and production supervisor. The company drilled fifty-two producing wells before it struck the first dry hole. Noël was so occupied in the pursuits of the business that he claimed to have been unaware that he had become a millionaire until several years after the accumulation of his early fortune.