History of the Permain Basin, TX

From the Beginning to How We Got to Today!

Odessa was established in 1881 as a railroad construction campsite on the Texas and Pacific Railroad. It is believed that Odessa was named in 1884. Records state that the name was acquired from founding promoters that thought that the wide flat prairies of the local terrain resembled the good wheat country like Odessa, Russia, which was the wheat distribution center of the world.

While the coming of the railroad shortly after 1880 established Odessa as an actual town, there were less than 1, 000 people in the entire county up until late 1920. The discovery of petroleum in Ector County during 1926-1927 caused rapid changes in the area. The population increased to 4,000 people by 1930 and 15,000 by 1940!

Today Odessa’s main industry is oil and gas. Oil and natural gas are the most valuable minerals produced in Texas. It wasn’t until the early 1900’s that this part of West Texas was even considered for oil and gas production. Two oil wells were finally drilled which pointed to the Permian Basin as an extremely productive oil and gas area. The Abrams No. 1 was drilled in Mitchell County in 1920 and then the discovery well for the entire Permian Basin – the Santa Rita No. 1, drilled in 1927 – confirmed the promise of the area. Both wells were commercially productive, however the Santa Rita marked the beginning of large-scale production, making the Permian Basin the most important oil producing region of Texas and the United States. Some 25 billion barrels of oil have already been produced from West Texas and Eastern New Mexico.

Odessa had been a small cow town for over 40 years, located on the western edge of the Permian Basin. Then in 1927, its population of about 400 residents jumped to more than 3,000. Vacant houses were non-existent. During the first 10 months of 1927 a water system, electric light and power, an improved telephone system and five blocks of brick buildings downtown were completed. Odessa was well on its way to becoming the supply center of the Permian Basin.

During World War II, Odessa played an important role in supporting military efforts by providing training facilities for pilots and mechanics at nearby air bases. The city also became home to many military families who settled there after their service ended. In later years, Odessa faced some challenges including declining oil prices and increasing crime rates but managed to overcome these obstacles through community efforts and innovative solutions.

Today, Odessa is a thriving city of over 100,000 people, with plenty of opportunities in a diverse array of businesses. It is home to the University of Texas Permian Basin (UTPB), the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center Permian Basin Campus, and Odessa College.


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