Breckenridge Texan

Tommy Wimberley dedicates vintage oil derrick to community and in memory of his son

Tommy Wimberley dedicates vintage oil derrick to community and in memory of his son
January 04
09:51 2022

By Carla McKeown/Breckenridge Texan

At the height of the initial oil boom, a little more than 100 years ago, there were hundreds of oil derricks in Breckenridge, and according to some reports, 2,000 derricks could be seen from atop the Stephens County Courthouse. Today, one derrick from that era can be seen in town, thanks to the diligence of local businessman Tommy Wimberley.

Tommy Wimberley, right, tells the story of his vintage oil derrick, while musician Kyle Fambro looks on. (Photo by Tony Pilkington/Breckenridge Texan)

Just before Christmas, Wimberley hosted a dedication and lighting ceremony for the oil derrick that he recently relocated for the third time to what he hopes is its final home on West Walker Street. He dedicated the derrick to the memory of his son, Wendell “Wimp” Wimberley, who died in November, and to the local community.

At the ceremony, Wimberley told of his longtime fascination with the oil derricks that once were plentiful in this area. “I first fell in love with a derrick 72 years ago,” he told the crowd of more than 100 community members gathered for the ceremony, describing a wooden derrick on Yellow Ford Road that he and a friend would climb. After the kids got caught climbing on the derrick a couple of times, the landowners tore it down, ending their fun.

Later, he bought another oil derrick and had it moved to an RV park he owned west of town in the 1980s. Wimberley left the derrick on the property when he sold it, and it was sold for scrap iron, he said.

“I knew there wasn’t but two left in Stephens County, and I was going to do my best to get one of them,” he said. “So I went out and looked at the one on the Graham Highway and traced down the owner from the oil lease on it. It was Kimble Oil Company that owned it, so I talked to Ralph Kimble and talked him into selling it to me.”

That derrick was built in 1928, Wimberley said, and he originally installed it in downtown Breckenridge, across from the courthouse. It stayed there for about 15 years, and in 2015 Wimberley moved the vintage oil derrick to a spot in front of his Buffalo RV Park in the 2800 block of West Walker and outfitted it with lights.

When Wimberley recently sold the property where the oil derrick was to Allsup’s, he had to move the oil derrick again. It’s now located in the 2100 block of West Walker, next to Ken’s Chicken and Fish restaurant. His grandsons Coby Wimberley and Josh Patterson, as well as several others, helped him take down, move and re-install the oil derrick. After moving it to the new location, Wimberly repaired the lights and officially re-lit the derrick during the ceremony.

Tommy and Sharon Wimberley pose for a picture in front of the vintage oil derrick, following the lighting and dedication ceremony. To see more photos from the event, click here. (Photo by Tony Pilkington/Breckenridge Texan)

Also speaking at the event were County Judge Michael Roach, who opened the ceremony with a prayer, and Colton Buckley, CEO and executive director of the Breckenridge Economic Development Corp. and the Chamber of Commerce, who provided the welcome.

“It’s important to know that, originally, Breckenridge and Stephens County started as a good farming and ranching county … and then the boom hit in the late 1900s, early 1920s, and we went from a town of roughly 1,500 folks to nearly 40,000 people in the next three years,” Buckley said. “We were the fastest growing city, behind the city of Austin, our capital city, in the state. We became the fastest growing oil and gas community in the country, in all of North America. By the end of the ’20s when this derrick was installed, prohibition was in place, we were getting ready for the Great Depression, and the community here in Breckenridge and the greater Stephens County area had dropped off below that 10,000 (population) mark and has hovered around there ever since. So as you pass by this derrick and the folks that come across (U.S. Highway) 180 each and every day, for the next generations, they’re going to be able to learn — because of the work Tommy’s done in planting this here — of the importance of oil and gas, not only to this community and to this county, but to this great state and this country. So Tommy, we appreciate you doing this for the community.”

Before and after the speeches, Kyle Fambro played the guitar and sang for the crowd, which included many community members watching the event from their vehicles parked across the street and on the shoulders of the highway.

“I hope this is something the county and the city can enjoy long after I’m gone,” Wimberley said. “I’m going to put a dedication plaque on this for Wimp, and then I’m going to dedicate it to the city and the county and the citizens. Anybody who wants to come out here and look at it and take pictures, they’re welcome to come out here anytime they want to.”

To see more photos from the lighting ceremony, click here for Tony Pilkington’s Photo Gallery. To read more about the process Wimberley went through to move the derrick the few blocks down the road, check out the Breckenridge Texan’s previous article, “Wimberley’s vintage oil derrick to be relocated, lights restored” and the photo gallery that accompanied that story.

 

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