Front of Yates offices

Yates Petroleum Corporation

The Illinois State #3 was the first commercial oil well drilled in Southeast New Mexico and the first well on state-owned lands in New Mexico.

The operators of the original well were Flynn, Welch, and Yates. Tom Flynn and Van Welch had a partnership called Illinois Producers, and had brought a cable tool rig and crew to New Mexico in search of oil. Several failures had them packing to leave the state when Martin Yates convinced them to stay and try again on New Mexico state leases Yates had obtained. The #1 well was dry, the #2 discovered a large, unwanted volume of natural gas (in a time of limited natural gas markets), so the #3 had to be successful, and at 1,947 feet, it was.

The geologist was V.H. McNutt, who, after the #1 and #2 failures, waved in a general direction but wouldn’t be more specific as to the #3 site. The decision was passed on to Martin, who, in turn, elected for a woman’s intuition, asking his wife, Mary, to pick the site, and she did.

“They rode out over the country in a Model T Ford. When they came to what felt like the right spot she said, ‘Stop here,’ and that’s where they drilled the well.” - S. P. Yates

The rest is history. From the time Martin arrived in 1907 the area challenged him with hardship, financial woes, stiff competition and - most importantly - a quest to find commercial quantities of oil. Out of this challenge he created a company that stands today as a monument to perseverance.

The Yates’ lives have always been filled with uncommon experiences. From surviving a tornado to hanging on against the fierce winds of regulatory adversity, the Yates have stood together. Despite all the physical and technological changes over the 75 years, one constant remains - the spirit of Martin Yates Jr. irrevocably influenced his descendants, decades of employees, and an entire industry.

Tour Yates Petroleum Corporation