In 1903 at Delaware, Indian Territory, Claude C. Harmon and his wife Pearl McCoy Harmon unloaded from the Iron Mountain Railroad an old drilling machine they had brought with them form Ohio. Staked by some partners to a one-third interest in the drilling machine, he and Pearl came West to seek their fortune.
Harmon settled in the area which at statehood became Nowata and Rogers Counties. It was ideal for oil exploration given the crude drilling machines of the early 20th century; producing formations were as shallow as 300 ft. In its early days, the field had many a picturesque gusher then settled down and flowed a lot of oil. Operators burned off troublesome natural gas which accompanied the oil. They had no idea it was the gas which forced oil from the ground. As the gas dissipated, production sagged and many operators left for more promising territory. As they left, C.C. Harmon acquired as many leases as he could.
Harmon and the field faced a serious problem. Core tests showed thick producing formations but no way to lift the oil. Prolific new fields in Oklahoma and Texas flowed without effort and were therefore cheaper to produce. Harmon knew from his Ohio experience that loss of gas pressure was what had caused production to drop and was aware of efforts in
Ohio to re-pressure formations. He began experimenting with forcing compressed air and natural gas into the sand. He changed to water-flooding (forcing high pressure water into producing sands) as the idea was proposed. C.C. Harmon's pioneering large-scale application of water flood technology proved its value, made him a wealthy man, and through study and publication by the U.S. Geological Survey, served as an example to oil operators the world over.
During its forty most productive years the Nowata /Rogers County field was considered the world's greatest shallow depth oil field. C.C. Harmon, together with his partners and related corporations, was its largest operator.
Pearl M. Harmon died in 1944. In 1947 C.C. Harmon married Tulsan Julia Jasper. He and his new wife moved from Nowata to Tulsa in 1948. The Harmons purchased a beautiful home on four acres on the most desirable street in Tulsa, and began a very different and upscale life from his years as a hard-driving hands-on oilman.
In 1952, Mr. Harmon sold his producing properties in what at the time was reported as the largest single sale of oil and gas operating properties in the history of Oklahoma. Then age 74, he reinvested in proceeds in oil and gas mineral interests from Ohio to California and from Texas to Michigan. In a high tax bracket, he bought municipal bonds. He played the stock market for fun. Although he had a driver and luxurious air-conditioned auto, in a small eccentricity he took the city bus downtown where he took a seat with several other older gentlemen in front of the ticker at his broker's office. At noon, he adjourned for lunch to the Tulsa Club. Of course, at any time he might be purchasing mineral interest through the Liedtke brothers, who grew up to become famous when their company, Pennzoil, collected a record-setting amount from Texaco, or through the Liedtke's young associate, George H.W. Bush. Mr. Harmon also collected oriental art and, with guidance from his friend Thomas Gilcrease, made a few selective purchases of Americana.
Mr. Harmon's main objective was to preserve his wealth. Julia J. Harmon was financially independent when they married but he settled additional funds on her raising her to the status of millionaire in her own right. Mr. Harmon's main investment objective was the preservation of capital. He knew himself to be "rich enough" for there was nothing worthwhile his wealth could not provide. For this reason, his investments, other than oil and gas properties, were extremely conservative. He toyed with the stock market but difinitely did not trust it. With no children, and his wife well taken care of, Mr. Harmon created the Pearl M. & Julia J. Harmon Foundation in 1962. On his death in 1967, C.C. Harmon left the foundation its first endowment. On her death in 1985, Julia J. Harmon substantially increased the foundation's worth.
In 2010 Pearl M. & Julia J. Harmon Foundation's assets are in the range of $55 million. This sum includes investment assets, charitable use assets, and loans to charitable organizations. Many of the oil properites Mr. Harmon bought fifty years ago are still producing substantial income, a testament to his skill as an oilman. These millions represent a large part of the accumulated wealth of one of Oklahoma's most successful and innovative oil pioneers, and its investment and reinvestment over a century.